It's here. It's finally here. Opening Day 2016 has arrived for YOUR Los Angeles Angels, and not a moment too soon. It's kind of a weird feeling heading into a season with such a quiet Winter, what with the the lack of a big free agent signing, or the fact that there's no off-the-field shenanigans the team has to pretend to ignore. There are no lofty expectations of a team that won it's division in the year prior, or no expectations from a couple huge pickups(okay, they DID get Andrelton Simmons, who is amazing...but it's no Albert Pujols or Josh Hamilton signing, news-wise). If anything, expectations are LOW, and you know what? That's good!
Perhaps the team felt these low expectations, and we were able to see their relief on display in the form of a winning Spring Training. A load off their shoulders, some new faces in the field, some new minds on the bench and in the front office, and all of a sudden, this Angels team is...happy. Just plain, flat out happy, and maybe that'll translate into a good start, and after that who knows? But low expectations are good; for both the team AND the fan. That said, here are the things we should keep an eye on after the first pitch is thrown later this evening.
1. Mike Trout: God or man?
One thing to keep a watchful eye on in 2016 is Mike Trout. We know Mike Trout is the best the MLB has right now, but will we see him get EVEN BETTER? Is that even possible??!! Trout is going to be gunning for another MVP this season...well, he'll just be playing the game the only way he knows how...but that usually translates to MVP hardware contention, naturally. I'm just curious if we'll actually find out that he's not even. That revelation wouldn't surprise me at all. Mike Trout is on the Angels, therefore he's THE #1 story line to follow. Always.
2. Rotation good or nah?
We know what to expect, more or less, from Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney and Hector Santiago. The bigger questions arise when you throw Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Matt Shoemaker into that mix. Wilson is still rehabbing his elbow and hasn't even thrown a pitch to a batter since last season. Weaver...can't throw the ball very fast, and part of his job is throwing the ball fast, so...you know. And Shoemaker had an up-and-down 2015 and a horrendous Spring Training(although he looked better towards the end of camp).
How long until Scioscia puts Skaggs in the lineup? How long of a leash do guys like Weaver and Wilson have before Nick Tropeano is called up permanently? It's going to be shaky at times, but it'll be a hoot to see this collection of young, talented arms show us Halos fans a thing or two. Or it'll be a nightmare. Could go either way. We'll find out soon enough.
3. Eppler's LF solution:
Everybody wanted a big name in LF this Winter, but Arte and Billy Eppler said "No!" and here we are with Daniel Nava and Craig Gentry. You know what? This could work! Nava and Gentry both had good camps, and if Nava stays healthy and is able to replicate what we've seen in exhibition games, he'll be a good #2 hitter, setting the table for Trout.
Both(Gentry and Nava) are immediate defensive upgrades over last year's LF, and if they can get something going on offense, then we're playing with house money and shall anoint Eppler The Chosen One. Or, NavaGentry sucks and we dust off the pitchforks. This is going to be one of the more interesting things to keep track of, especially when we can compare their output to Could Have Beens like Yoenis Cespedes and Justin Upton.
4. Mike Scioscia living in the now:
Mike Scioscia lives in the past, managerial speaking. He does weird things like batting Trout 3rd all the time, or telling Kole Calhoun to bunt. He butted heads with former GM Jerry Dipoto over analytics and their dissemination among players. Not a good look for a guy running a ballclub in 2016, basically. But now there's a new GM, and Bud Black is back in town as a special assistant, and the Angels also have a brand new analytics department run by SB Nation alum Jon Luman. So, will this make a difference?
I'm really curious to see if there will be a noticeably different attitude towards certain situations on the field, or a deploying of new strategies. Billy Eppler has been doing interviews for pre-game shows the past couple days, and has said a couple times that he's had some "healing" to do. Are the bad vibes exorcised from the clubhouse and is Mike Scioscia ready to take some advice, when necessary? My gut says "no" but you never know.
What do you see being the biggest story lines to follow in 2016?