The biggest story in baseball this year—and honestly, maybe the biggest story in the sport in decades (Ichiro? McGwire/Sosa dong chase? Bo?)—comes to Kansas City this week, not unlike Rowdy Roddy Piper bringing Hell to Frogtown. In the young season, Shohei Ohtani’s performance has been covered more than Eric Hosmer’s free agency this past offseason, capturing the imagination of the baseball world as he attempts to be the first MLBer—a few Negro Leaguers did it too—to successfully be a two-way star since Babe Ruth twirled balls in Boston.
Sure, Mike Trout is likely still the best player in baseball, but the only pitching he’s doing is for a sandwich chain whose previous pitchman is serving time for a slew of charges related to his being a pedophile. Ohtani sure seems like he can do it all, and given his speed (graded by most as a 65 on the 20-80 scale), he could easily be an above-average defender in a corner outfield spot.
Obviously everyone will be looking at Ohtani when he’s on the field, but the Angels are parsing out his playing time at present, so Ohtani will likely just hit in the first two games of the series and pitch in the last one. The rest of the Angels club is actually markedly improved from last year, as well. After Mike Moustakas passed on a multi-year deal from Anaheim, the Angels signed Zack Cosart, Ian Kinsler, Chris Young, and that Ohtani guy.
The Angels have gotten off to a 10-4 start, putting them one game up on the world champion Houston Astros in the race for the American League West crown.
The game times and pitching matchups are as follows:
- Thursday, April 12, 2018 - 7:15 PM CDT - Nick Tropeano versus Ian Kennedy
- Friday, April 13, 2018 - 7:15 PM CDT - Andrew Heaney versus Jason Hammel
- Saturday, April 14, 2018 - 6:15 PM CDT - Garrett Richards versus Jake Junis
- Sunday, April 15, 2018 - 1:15 PM CDT - Shohei Ohtani versus Eric Skoglund
The stats that follow come courtesy of FanGraphs and Baseball-Reference. Tropeano and Heaney haven’t pitched in the majors in 2018. Tropeano’s numbers are from 2016 (he missed all of last year), and Heaney’s are from last season.
Angels at Royals pitching matchups
|Andrew Heaney (L)||5||21.2||27||26.7||9||8.9||7.06||9.11||4.37||4.05||-0.7||-0.4|
|Eric Skoglund (L)||1||4.2||1||4.0||2||8.0||9.64||8.62||9.25||6.61||-0.1||-0.2|
Kansas City is hurtling towards a cold front that’s rolling in late on Friday, so two temperate games to start the series will be offset by two games on days that are unlikely to get out of the 40s. Nick Tropeano will make his first major-league start since July 18, 2016. The 27-year-old righty lost the last season-and-a-half to recovery from Tommy John surgery. He threw a four-seamer that sat right around 90 last time he pitched in the majors and mixed in a slider, change, and splitter in descending order of usage, and the contact he allowed leaned flyball. Unlike the back of the rotation arm that Tropeano looks to be, Heaney came up with a little more fanfare. A perennial top 50 prospect, injuries have limited his playing time and possibly effectiveness the last two seasons, and when he was healthy enough to pitch last year, he was serving up dongs like he’d opened up a stand at Disneyland (12 in 21.2 innings, which seems impossible). Still, Heaney’s got potential.
Garrett Richards is still at least arguably the Angels de facto ace. He’s had his own health issues that have seriously limited his playing time, but he looks every bit as good as he’s been when healthy in years past. Richards is Scoscia’s de facto ace largely because we do not yet know what Shohei Ohtani will be. Ohtani lights up the radar gun and has a dazzling splitter and slider. His repertoire causes priapism. Call your doctor if the symptom hasn’t subsided by the time credits roll on Silicon Valley.
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim position players
|Shohei Ohtani (L)||DH||24||3||4||8||0||.364||.417||.773||.509||238||0.4||0.3|
|Kole Calhoun (L)||RF||53||1||9||7||1||.255||.283||.353||.283||81||0.2||0.2|
|Luis Valbuena (L)||IF||48||2||7||6||0||.244||.292||.400||.308||99||0.2||0.0|
|Ryan Schimpf (L)||Util||7||1||2||2||0||.200||.429||.800||.501||233||0.1||0.2|
Usually the lineup is arranged in a way meant to at least loosely resemble what the batting order is likely to be. With Ian Kinsler, Nick Tropeano, and Andrew Heaney all looking like they’re coming off the DL during this series, roster machinations are likely to render such an attempt foolish. The Angels present a host of problems for the Royals. Stone-footed Albert Pujols notwithstanding, the Angels infield defense looks to be very good, thanks in large part to the best defensive shortstop in the game, Andrelton Simmons. Rather than Mike Moustakas—who the Angels pursued before landing where they did—the Angels moved a solid defensive shortstop down the spectrum to third, giving them a rangy left side of the infield.
As a whole, Anaheim’s position players have amassed 4.0 fWAR, more than a win better than their next closest challenger. Their 133 wRC+ and .357 wOBA are good for the best marks in the game. Their 2.8 Base-Runs (measuring their productivity on the basepaths) are tops in the game. Their team defense is the only aspect of their game that hasn’t been particularly impressive, but some of that could normalize and/or improve as Cosart gets more reps at his new position (and Pujols and Luis Valbuena play less in the field).
And then there’s the duo of Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani. Ohtani’s got massive power, actually runs pretty well, and has taken baseball by storm. Trout? He’s been the best player in baseball since he came up for good. There’s a lot to worry about for the Royals, but at least there’s going to be some star power at Kauffman Stadium this weekend.
How will the Royals fare against the Angels?
This poll is closed
Royals take three of four
Angels take three of four