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Los Angeles Angels Series Preview: A Trout-less trip out west

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There’s a lot of star power in LA, but not enough wins.

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at San Francisco Giants Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

The Royals haven’t traveled to the west coast since September 2019, but that ends with this series when they head to Anaheim to take on the Los Angeles Angels. The Royals benefit from the Angels still are without their best player in Mike Trout and continue to struggle to find wins even though they have some of the most electric players in baseball even with Trout out. When these two teams met in April, the Angels were playing well but the Royals took two of three from them, even with the first game of the series a blowout loss that included Shohei Ohtani hitting a ball 119 MPH off Scott Barlow.

They can hit. With Trout out, they can still hit, but it’s a little bit less daunting. Justin Upton has really turned things on lately and they still have Ohtani and Jared Walsh, who have been fantastic this season. At some point, Anthony Rendon is going to get going, which would be great if it could wait until Thursday to start. But the rest of the lineup leaves something to be desired, which is kind of the story of the last decade for them. And on their pitching staff, they’ve really struggled outside of Ohtani and Alex Cobb to some extent. They continue to work to figure out the bullpen and they have a fantastic closer in Raisel Iglesias, but there are just way too many holes for a team that has such a great head start on everyone else.

Royals vs. Angels Tale of the Tape

Category Royals Angels
Category Royals Angels
Winning % .509 .458
Team wRC+ 92 102
Team xFIP 4.31 3.94
Run Differential -6 -42
H2H Wins 2 1
Highest fWAR Danny Duffy, 1.6 Shohei Ohtani, 2.6

Angels Projected Lineup

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Justin Upton LF 197 .225 .310 .486 10.7% 31.5% 120 0.6
Shohei Ohtani DH 223 .256 .332 .588 9.0% 30.0% 150 1.7
Anthony Rendon 3B 161 .236 .311 .347 9.3% 14.9% 88 0.5
Jared Walsh 1B 227 .301 .361 .563 7.5% 25.6% 154 1.6
Juan Lagares CF 89 .209 .236 .302 3.4% 23.6% 49 -0.2
Jose Iglesias SS 177 .266 .299 .373 3.4% 15.8% 90 0.4
Taylor Ward RF 107 .223 .302 .415 7.5% 26.2% 102 0.2
Max Stassi C 45 .275 .356 .450 11.1% 28.9% 128 0.4
David Fletcher 2B 231 .265 .295 .306 4.3% 11.3% 71 0.1

Angels Projected Bench

Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Player Pos PA AVG OBP SLG BB% K% wRC+ fWAR
Kurt Suzuki C 103 .200 .277 .267 5.8% 19.4% 59 -0.5
Phil Gosselin INF/OF 66 .290 .333 .419 4.5% 28.8% 113 0.1
Kean Wong INF/OF 20 .235 .278 .412 5.0% 25.0% 89 0.0

Angels Key Relievers

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP fWAR
Raisel Iglesias 22 23.0 3 2 37.4% 3.3% 3.91 2.22 0.3
Tony Watson 22 20.0 2 2 19.2% 7.7% 3.60 3.93 -0.1
Steve Cishek 27 25.1 0 0 23.1% 13.7% 3.91 4.47 0.4

Probable Pitching Matchups

June 7 - Jackson Kowar vs. Dylan Bundy, 8:38pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Jackson Kowar (AAA) 6 31.2 5 0 33.9% 8.3% 0.85 3.70 ---
Dylan Bundy 10 51.1 0 6 23.9% 6.8% 6.49 4.07 0.1

It’s been a wild ride for Bundy throughout his career. He was a high draft pick and made it to the big leagues in 2012, but injuries kept him out of the big leagues until 2016 where he struggled to stay healthy, maintain velocity and just generally be effective. But after being traded to the Angels last year, it looked like something clicked. His fastball velocity this season is actually 1.5 MPH higher than in 2020, which is back to what it was before last season. He’s been a bit unlucky on it, but the real issues have come with his changeup, which was a really good pitch for him last year but has been hit very hard this season. He can still get swings and misses on all of his pitches, but he’s been crushed by lefties, really struggled at home and has allowed a .343 average with a .743 SLG when he falls behind in the count. He does throw strikes, so he’s not always behind in the count, but when he is, it’s time to do damage.

We finally get to see Jackson Kowar’s big league debut. It was possible the weekend before this past one, but they went with Carlos Hernandez, but now the 2018 draft pick will get his shot in the big leagues. You can see the stats above. They’re incredible. With Kowar, you’ll see a fastball in the upper-90s and a legitimately fantastic changeup. It might already be the best in the Royals rotation, though Bubic’s will give it a bit of a run for its money. Either way, his success will depend somewhat on his curve which is much improved, but can still disappear at times. As an example, one game a week or so ago looked great in the stats, but as Clint Scoles reported, he had long at bats because he just couldn’t put hitters away because the curve wasn’t there. It’s a tough top half of a lineup for a debut, but he’ll be fun to watch.

June 8 - Kris Bubic vs. Andrew Heaney, 8:38pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Kris Bubic 8 34.0 1 0 20.1% 11.5% 2.12 4.60 0.4
Andrew Heaney 10 51.0 3 3 29.1% 8.0% 4.76 3.68 0.7

The Angels have been waiting a long time for Heaney to put it together and he’s somehow now 30 years old and probably about a finished product as a back of the rotation starter who can flirt with better from start to start. This season, he’s been about the same as last year with a 4.45 xERA compared to 4.42 last year. Oh, and it was 4.44 in 2019. He throws a low-90s fastball and a curve that has been really good this season. Where he’s gotten in trouble is on his fastball, but he’s throwing it 58 percent of the time. That seems to be a fixable issue, but one that maybe he isn’t going to fix. Like Bundy he’s also been pretty horrible at home, which isn’t great for him since he’s pitching at home. He also suffers from the third time through the order penalty more than most. He’s allowed a .394/.429/.636 line the third time through the order. The odds are Heaney won’t be in this game long.

Kris Bubic had his first rough start his last time out. He wasn’t horrible, but he couldn’t make it through five innings, which isn’t great. He did strike out six and walk two in his 4.1 innings, but didn’t really get many swings and misses in the game. Of course, it was his second start against the Twins in a week and that’s tough for anyone, but with the right-handed bats the Angels have that can do damage against lefties, his changeup will be a big pitch for him. That’s usually good news with how good it is, but a young lefty facing a team for the first time is one of those things that you just don’t really know until you see it.

June 9 - Brad Keller vs. Griffin Canning, 8:38pm

Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Pitcher G IP W L K% BB% ERA xFIP WAR
Brad Keller 12 55.2 6 4 19.5% 9.5% 5.50 4.26 0.2
Griffin Canning 10 43.1 4 4 26.2% 10.5% 5.82 4.11 0.0

It looked like Griffin Canning was about ready to take off last season with a solid year that included a Gold Glove. But he’s really struggled this season, mostly due to the home run ball. He’s allowed 11 in his 43.1 innings this season, which is a bit of a problem. While his fastball was hit hard last year, he was able to get great results with his slider. This year, though, the fastball continues to struggle but the slider has been hit hard with a .531 SLG against it. Stop me if you’ve heard this before, but he has really struggled at home. Additionally, he’s given up a 1.155 OPS when behind in his count, but also 1.000 when he’s even in the count. That’s not great. But maybe the most troubling stat for him is something that might regulate at some point and it’s the fact that he’s been far worse with runners on and runners in scoring position. The Royals need to take advantage and get the big hit they couldn’t during the last two games of the Twins series.

Brad Keller had both an easy and difficult task in his start. On one hand, he had a 13-0 lead after two innings, but on the other hand, he sat a long time between innings, which very well could have impacted his command. He ended up going just five innings, but the Royals also emptied out their lesser half of the bullpen, so it wasn’t the worst thing in the world. He notably did strike out five in five innings, which means he’s now struck out 35 in 33.1 innings over his last six starts. It’s the first six-start stretch in his career where he’s struck out at least a batter per inning. His slider had been so much better, but he struggled a bit with it against the Twins. He did have one of his best starts of the year in April against the Angels, so hopefully he can build on that.

Prediction

I know the Royals offense went quiet in those last two games, but I still think they have a chance to beat up on Angels pitching. Because of that, I’m picking them to win two of three.

Poll

How does the Royals first series out west in two seasons go?

This poll is closed

  • 18%
    It’s a Royals sweep.
    (26 votes)
  • 60%
    The Royals take two of three.
    (86 votes)
  • 17%
    The Angels take two of three.
    (25 votes)
  • 3%
    The Angels sweep and send the Royals into another losing streak.
    (5 votes)
142 votes total Vote Now