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MLB Opening Day 2016: The Angels' starting rotation finally takes shape

Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

One of the most interesting Angels Spring Training story lines to follow this year was, without a doubt, their starting rotation. Pitchers and catchers reported in late February and we all assumed it'd still be a few more weeks before we got any sort of clarity on who the Angels would be going with, and who would be optioned or perhaps relegated to a bullpen spot. The confusion and desire for answers came from the age old problem of Too Many Pitchers. They had Jered Weaver, Hector Santiago, Matt Shoemaker, Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano, C.J. Wilson and Tyler Skaggs all in the mix. That's EIGHT guys that we were sure would be entangled in an epic battle for Mike Scioscia's endorsement and a seat at the Halos' 2016 table.

Of course, there were a lot of question marks within that bunch, and the "battle" was more like an imaginary sword fight. C.J. Wilson was coming off of some elbow issues in 2015, and as of this writing he's yet to throw a baseball for the Angels in 2016. Tyler Skaggs, coming off of Tommy John surgery, is in a similar predicament of working back from an injury while the Angels cautiously take things slow. They'll both start the season on the DL, so we can take them out of the mix, at least for the first month or so of the season.

Then, the Jered Weaver Velocity Apocalypse came. It was with sullen hearts that we had to come to the realization that Weaver could no longer throw faster than your average 17-18 year old, and for a guy that depends on his off-speed stuff, that's bad news. There was/is hope that it's just some residual effects of neck issues he'd be dealing with, but he's feeling better now and while he may start the season on the 15 day DL, he's more or less penciled into the rotation. For now.

The final piece of the puzzle came in the form of optioning young arm, and 2015 ray of hope, Nick Tropeano to Salt Lake City. Many felt that NiTro should be the one getting into the rotation on the backs of Weaver underperforming and Wilson/Skaggs being on the DL, but the Angels aren't rushing him into anything, obviously. The good news? For the first time in 2016, we had some clarity on the issue.

Here's what your 2016 Angels starting rotation is going to look like:

Name Projected ERA(ZiPS) Projected WAR(ZiPS)
Garrett Richards 3.21 3.6
Andrew Heaney 3.76 2.5
Hector Santiago 3.82 1.3
Matt Shoemaker 4.01 1.7
Jered Weaver 4.46 0.6

Go ahead, drink that rotation in deep. It...well...I wanted to say "it goes down smooth" but that'd be a lie. Richards and Heaney are as tasty as ever and primed for great years. Richards is set to be your Angels opening day starter(usurping Weaver, who had spot for the past six years in a row and seven times total for the Halos), finally taking the crown as the team's official ace. Heaney has had a great camp and looks to make those who invested in his stock look like geniuses. But the rest is kind of a crapshoot.

Hector Santiago can be sketchy at time, and has given us as many let down games as he has lights out affairs. That said, he's had a pretty good spring. 23 innings pitched and 26 strikeouts, with only six walks...not too shabby for the guy coming off an All Star season in 2015.

The most concerning aspect of the rotation at this point is Shoemaker, who by all accounts has had a very bad Spring. He's given up homer after homer, and has had a tough time just getting through innings without getting rocked. The decision to option Tropeano and give Shoemaker a run at starter is a curious one, to say the least, but I have to think it's due to Mike Scioscia's typical reliance on experience over youth. I'm really pulling for Shoemaker, per usual, but if Spring is any indication(and 2015, for that matter), he's going to be relying on good defense and some help on the offensive side.

We already discussed Weaver, but his situation bears a little more explanation. We may very well see the team go with a four man rotation to start the season, allowing Weaver to get another minor league game or two before getting his first start with the Halos, but it's pretty clear that they're going to pencil him in there sooner or later. The team, if they choose to give him a bit extra time, could roll with an extra bullpen member or bench guy in the interim.

So there is your 2016 Halos starting rotation, in all their glory. Now, keep in mind we still have a couple guys on the DL that are going to factor into this team somehow. I'm looking at April as an extended Spring Training dress rehearsal for these guys, as i'm sure the Angels brass is doing, as well. Shoemaker and Weaver are the obvious weak spots right now, so they better be on their best behavior or they'll have Tyler Skaggs breathing down their neck(unless C.J. Wilson totally surprises us in rehab assignments, he doesn't seem to have a true advantage over any the other guys so i'm not sweating him at this moment).

So what do you think? Are these guys going to be striking any fear into opposing lineups? Or will it be Richards & Heaney and three days of weenies?