I’m jacked up! There, I said it. It’s February 10th & we’re 4 days away from the Angels first workout with pitchers & catchers. Normally everyone gets excited about the first workout because it breaks up the monotony of the long winter but this year it’s a tad different for Angels fans. Like most of them, I’ve been ‘jonesing’ for baseball since the early December announcement of the signing of Shohei Ohtani by the Angels. The process & subsequent announcement happened in an incredibly rapid pace & has only heightened the excitement/expectations of the 2018 season.
From everything I’ve read, Ohtani seems to be a very grounded, hugely talented athlete that continues to seek out ways to better his game. That in itself is astonishing because of the numbers he’s already put up in Japan along with the expectations that were put on him from an early age. Whether fair or not, when you get ‘labeled’ with Babe Ruth, expectations come with it. I remember not too long ago when a young kid by the name of Mike Trout was dealing with the Mickey Mantle comparisons & I believe he handled the hoopla rather well. In Ohtani’s case, it may be a little different just for the mere fact you have the entire world curious as to whether or not he can live up to the hype of becoming a superstar at the highest level while playing TWO positions…hitter & pitcher. Something no one has really done since ‘the Babe.’ Ironically, 2018 will be the anniversary of the last time a player in MLB was able to rack up double digits in Wins & Home Runs…Ruth accomplished the feat in 1918 with 13 W’s & 11 HR’s (the first time in his illustrious career he reached the double-digit plateau in Big Fly’s…the start of a trend).
While videos of Ohtani taking batting practice have started to leak out of Tempe, Arizona, he won’t be the only new face the Angels will be unveiling this year. The Halos were able to swing a trade with the Tigers for 2B Ian Kinsler to fill the void at the position they’ve had since Howie Kendrick was the everyday guy. While Kinsler is coming off a down year offensively, he’ll fit in incredibly with this team & he’ll be reunited with his former Tigers teammate, Justin Upton. The Upton ‘signing’ doesn’t get much play this off-season but it was the first order of business for GM Billy Eppler. While Upton had 4 years left on his contract, he had the right to opt-out after last season & test the free agent market (smart read by his agent, Larry Reynolds, considering how things have played out). Eppler and Upton were able to re-work the deal & now LF is locked up for the next 5 seasons. Quick note on the Upton trade last season…we were in Arlington when Upton arrived & while he was taping a pre-game hit in the dugout, I had the chance to catch up with Larry. I remember him telling me how excited Justin was to be with the Angels & added that he felt Upton & Trout were going to get along great from a personality standpoint. I don’t know how much that played into Upton deciding to stay but it certainly can’t hurt to be next to the best player in baseball on a daily basis.
In addition to Kinsler & Upton, the Angels addressed 3B by signing former SS Zack Cozart to a 3-year deal. The former Cincinnati Reds player is coming off his first All-Star appearance after hitting .297 AVG/.385 OBP/.548 SLG, all career highs for the 32 year old.
While the offensive side of things has been locked up, the pitching side will welcome Ohtani, in some form, to the rotation. There’s been talk of the Angels working with a 6-man rotation which, considering the injuries of the past, may not be a bad idea. The hope is Garrett Richards can regain his form & stay healthy with the same being said for Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker & JC Ramirez (a very nice surprise in ’17). Speaking of nice surprises, Texas’ own Parker Bridwell had a really nice ’17 season & if you know anything about Parker, he’ll be fighting his way to somehow be a part of the rotation.
The familiar faces in the bullpen include Blake Parker, Keynan Middleton, Cam Bedrosian & Jose Alvarez. The Angels picked up veteran big leaguer, Jim Johnson, from the Braves & if he can get that bowling ball sinker going again, he could be huge for the ‘pen considering he’s had closing experience in the past.
So many things can happen between now and the end of Spring Training & that includes additional signings. That being said, there’s a buzz about this franchise & much of it is on an international level. I’ll never forget how I learned of the Ohtani signing…riding in my car and getting a text from Paul Severino (formerly of MLB Network & new Marlins play by play man) & simply said, ‘Trout & Ohtani! You lucky dog!’ I looked at my wife and said, ‘I think we got Ohtani! Holy $@&t!’ Think about it for a second, Mike Trout’s the best player in the game & now joining him will be an international sensation…it’s going to be crazy, exciting, fun, thrilling, etc. So yeah, I’m a little jacked about the upcoming season & hopefully you’ll come along for the ride.
As always, feel free to reach me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Livin’ the dream…