Predicting the 2014 Starting Rotation for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
Will the Rotation Fare Better for Mike Scioscia in 2014 than it Did Last Season?
After a very disappointing 2013 season, the Los Angeles Angels head into Spring Training with a renewed sense of hope. Albert Pujols, who thus far hasn't even come close to living up to his contract, is back and is seemingly healthy. Coming off of his two worst seasons as a pro, he says that he's “still in his prime” and that he's going to “shut a lot of mouths” with his play on the field this season. Which, if true, is going to be a huge shot in the arm for an Angel offense that sorely needs it. Outfielder Josh Hamilton is looking to have a bounce back season after a 2013 that saw him with a .250 batting average and a meager 21 home runs. If Pujols and Hamilton can round back into the form that led the Angels to lavish such enormous contracts on them to begin, they can help lead the team's offense to incredible heights.
If there is a weakness in the Angels, it has to be their pitching. As a collective staff, Angels' pitchers ranked near the middle to the bottom of most significant categories. Their collective 4.23 ERA was good for 24th in the 30-team league, while the 685 earned runs they surrendered was the sixth most in the league and opposing hitters posted a robust .261 batting average against Halo pitching.
Suffice it to say, pitching was a glaring weakness for the Angels in 2013 and somewhat helps explain their 78-84 finish. They've made some moves this offseason that should help their pitching situation, though, and should give Angels fans some hope. They locked up Ernesto Frieri and added Joe Smith, which should solidify the bullpen, and make it difficult for hitters in the late innings.
In MLB you have to give to get, so the Halos had to ship off slugger Mark Trumbo to acquire a couple of young arms to help bolster the rotation. Aside from the two pitchers at the top of the rotation, it's not one of the more intimidating staffs in baseball. But they have the potential to be solid, and if they handle their business the way the Angels front office believes they will, they could quietly become one of the better, more solid pitching rotations in baseball.
Barring any significant injuries during Spring Training, here is one projection of the Angels' 2014 starting rotation.
1. Jered Weaver
With his mental toughness, fierce competitiveness, drive to win and nasty stuff, Jered Weaver is the unquestioned staff ace and leader of the Angels' rotation. A fractured elbow cost him two months and limited him to 24 starts in 2013, but Weaver put together an 11-8 record, struck out 117 while walking only 37. He's got six different, entirely lethal pitches and is one of the more intimidating hurlers in the Majors today.
2. CJ Wilson
CJ Wilson was one of the only pitchers who was solid for the Angels in 2013. He posted a 17-7 record with a 3.39 ERA. On a staff as bad as the Angels' was last season, being able to post 17 wins was quite an accomplishment. He racked up 188 strikeouts to go along with just 85 walks in 212 innings pitched. There weren't a lot of bright spots for the Halos in 2013, but Wilson was definitely one of them. We can likely expect to see more of the same from him this season.
3. Garrett Richards
Garret Richards' Major League debut in 2011 was a disaster. He gave up six earned runs in five innings to the New York Yankees and finished the season with a 0-2 record with a very healthy 5.79 ERA in his seven appearances -- which included three starts. But he's steadily improved since then, spending time on the Angels roster in 2012 and 2013. He's pitched progressively better and his ERA has dropped in successive seasons -- 4.69 ERA in 2012, 4.16 ERA in 2013. He's got a lot of upside, throws a number of different pitches well, and so long as his improvement continues, he projects to be solid in the middle of the rotation in 2014.
4. Tyler Skaggs
Tyler Skaggs was the key piece of the Mark Trumbo trade for the Angels. They wanted younger arms to help complement the top of the rotation, and Skaggs may be just that piece. Skaggs throws three solid pitches, a four-seam fastball that's in the high-80s to low-90s, a curve and a changeup. He didn't get much of a chance to pitch with the Arizona Diamondbacks, compiling a 3-6 record over 13 appearances in his two seasons there. But he has a decent strikeout to walk ratio and the sort of live arm the Angels are going to need.
5. Joe Blanton
2013 was an unmitigated disaster for Joe Blanton, posting a 2-14 record and a bloated 6.04 ERA. But the Angels are in a bit of a bind pitching-wise. They lack a lot of depth -- okay, they lack any depth -- so Blanton might become the No. 5 starter by default. Blanton believes he has corrected a major mechanical flaw in his delivery that helped lead to his 2013 disaster. He will likely earn a spot in the rotation coming out of Spring Training, but expect Scioscia to have Blanton on a very short leash. If he falters, he will likely be yanked out of the rotation quickly and replaced with new acquisition Hector Santiago.