Opening day is now just three weeks away - who will be on the mound April 5 and better yet, what quartet of men will follow? Let's look at the Angels starting pitching for the 2015 season:
#1 - Jered Weaver
The Weave added on forty pounds over the offseason and needs to tinker with his mechanics in that new frame but at age 32 there is still plenty of gas in the tank and savvy in the brain. Despite all the alarmist spazzings out by commentators over his diminished velocity his 7.1 K/9 last year was his highest of the last three seasons. And yet, 2014 was the worst season Weaver has had since 2008. He was very good, but not great, not the All Star form he carried in 2010 or '11. He did not even amount to the 3.4 Wins Above Replacement he managed in an injury-marred 2013. Will 2015 see him match the three wins above replacement he did put on the board in 2014? A bit of a rebound by Weaver would go miles and miles toward taking the Angels to the division title. He has the stamina, strength and smarts to get into a groove that carries the team every fifth day and the clubhouse leadership to make it a great work environment the four other games in between.
#2 - Garrett Richards
A funny thing happened to Garrett Richards on the way to accepting the crown of "Ace" of the team. He started to peter out in August, pitching more professional innings than he had ever clocked in. Just as this might have begin to pull the team down, though, he was injured in a freak play and gone for the season. The team rallied and now Richards has a chance to become the ace with a narrative unscathed by pooping out down the stretch. He will start the season on the disabled list but all systems are go for him to be starting for the club before the end of April. He is just starting to reach the potential that Eddie Bane saw when he drafted Richards, the potential that Arte Moreno let Tony Reagins fire Bane over. Oh sorry, this is a preview looking ahead, not back, right? Well, let's look forward to a great year by Garrett Richards - pay attention to the late August and September stamina, that is the only red flag so far in his career.
#3 - Matt Shoemaker
Neither Shoebacca nor Kole Calhoun ever made top prospects lists and yet each were integral to the 98-Win 2014 season the Halos put together. Why is that? Well, both were older and overlooked - by everyone but the Angels apparently. Shoemaker did what no other pitcher could do in 2014. Can he do it in 2015? The sophomore slump seems like a strong possibility with this one. He has the journeyman stuff of a fifth starter with the lore of having been an ace for five weeks down the stretch in replacing a top pitcher. With the unknowns that follow him on this list, though, he is still the number three for now despite what might be an uncomfortable drop-off in production and success called "The League Catching Up To Him". We can hope for the best but Shoemaker must sustain the '14 dominance to stay a fan favorite, let alone a major leaguer.
#4 - C.J. Wilson
A terrible overthinker on the mound who has more big baby excuses for lousy performance than any player this side of Josh Hamilton. Wilson is the most frustrating Angel to watch. The good news for 2015 is that he cannot be as bad as he was in 2014 and stick in the 2015 rotation. The best news is that his no-trade clause has expired and he can be traded and hit the corners of the plate that the umpire repeatedly calls a ball without making an adjustment all for some other team.
#5 - Hector Santiago
Because of the Garrett Richards injury we are almost guaranteed to see five innings of Hector every fifth game for the first few turns in the rotation. When he is on he gives up two runs, when he is off he gives up four or more. If one of the youngsters behind him here figures things out in a big way, look for Hector to be the long man/spot starter out of the bullpen.
#6 - Nick Tropeano
Jerry Dipoto added pitching depth when he acquired this young starter from the Astros. He may start the season in Salt Lake but we will see The Trop on the mound in Anaheim in 2015. He might have a lower ceiling than number seven on this list but he is more developed in the majors right now and will be a big part of the staff should CJ really tank, Shoemaker find his carriage turn into a pumpkin or Santiago just stink things up.
#7 - Andrew Heaney
The return on Howie Kendrick, Heaney is a slam dunk to be in the 2016 rotation but may spend most of the year at Salt Lake. He still has a few things to figure out but when he does arrive, he will likely stay put.
#8 - Jose Alavrez
The Angels have not been shy about putting Alvarez on the mound this Spring. He turns 26 in May so there is still some hope for development. Look for him to be part of a trade at some point, the pitching depth here is just too darn thick.
SO... what do we got:
Best Case Scenario: Richards is an ace, Weaver's bulk takes him back to 2010, Shoemaker remains the unsolved riddle, C.J. Wilson pitches great and gets traded, Santiago is a pleasant spot-starting insurance policy, Tropeano is baseball's best #5 and Heaney gives us glimpses of future glory.
Worst Case Scenario: C.J. Nibbles when we need him most.
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Complete Halos Heaven 2015 Season Previews: