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Predicting the Angels opening day pitching rotation

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There are a lot of contenders, but there can be only 5

MLB: Los Angeles Angels at Texas Rangers Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

Any reader of Halos Heaven knows that the Angels have stockpiled A LOT of starting pitching arms. As the old adage goes “you can never have too much pitching”. The problem is that you can only have 5 guys in your starting rotation on opening day - unless of course you go one bullpen arm short and run with a 6 man rotation. Let’s assume the later is NOT going to happen.

This will be a two-part series. Tomorrow we’ll look into the remaining starting pitchers, who makes the roster in Salt Lake, and who the Angels may call up to start as the season moves along. The following also assumes all these guys make it though spring training unscathed.

Rotation Locks:

1. Garrett Richards

Richards will probably be on a short leash this year and with the new 10 day DL, could end up on it a lot quicker with any signs of arm stress. That being said, he’s a lock for the rotation if he stays healthy and will be key to the Angels having a good season. He only threw 34 innings in 2016 but had a 2.34 ERA. Richards is capable of being a sub 3.00 ERA guy again in 2017 as well as a potential poster candidate for alternative UCL treatments.

2. Matt Shoemaker

Ole Shoey finished second in rookie of the year voting back in 2014 when he had an absolutely dominate second half as one of the best pitchers in the league. Then 2015 came along and Shoemaker slid backwards a bit through most of the year aside from his stellar July. Last year Shoemaker showed that ROY contending season was no fluke and he became the Angels top starter of 2016. He’s relegated to a #2 or #3 spot with Richards back in the rotation but he should continues to be a reliable go-to man for the Halos.

3. Tyler Skaggs

Skaggs only threw 49 innings in 2016 and his 4.17 ERA with 1.49 WHIP was more indicative of him still finding his groove after TJ surgery. He was lights out through his 32 rehab innings in Salt Lake and tied Jered Weaver’s 14K strikeout record in a 7 inning outing back in July. Skaggs will look to get his walks under control in 2017 (he had a career high 4.2/9IP last year), and should settle in as the Angels #2 or #3 guy.

4. Ricky Nolasco

When Billy Eppler traded Hector Santiago away, no one really planned on missing him. On the other side, no one also really planned on Nolasco being such a big upgrade over Santiago. In 73 IP, Nolasco put up a 3.21 ERA (3.87 FIP), 1.068 WHIP and even threw a complete game shutout. Granted, some of those numbers were the best of his career, but even a 4ish ERA and 1.25ish WHIP in 2017 will be more that enough to get the job done and and slot in as the #4 guy in the rotation.

Back of rotation contenders:

This is where it gets a bit tricky. I’m only going to cover the guys I think have the best shot at landing this job on opening day: Alex Meyer or Jesse Chavez. I’ll talk about the other fringe candidates in part 2.

5. Alex Meyer

Personally, I think he has the best shot at the spot. It’s a tough battle though because Meyer has an option left and Jesse Chavez is making 5.75 million with no options. This means Chavez would end up in the pen if Meyer get the starting gig. Chavez hasn’t started a game since September 11, 2015 though. Meyer had an impressive 29 Ks through 25 IP in 2016, however his achilles hill is his walk rate and the fact he gave up 17 free passes in just 25 innings. Meyer has always had a fairly high walk rate, but if he can get that down to something below 4, he may find himself in the rotation. I don’t think he ends up a reliever if he fails to make the starting 5 on opening days since he has an option and the Angels will likely want to keep giving him reps as a starter.

5. Jesse Chavez

Chavez used to be a starter, even though he spent 2016 in the bullpen with a pretty blah (for a reliever) 4.43 ERA and 1.328 WHIP. In his last full year as a starter for Oakland in 2015, he put up a 4.18 ERA (3.85 FIP) and 1.350 WHIP. I’m not so sure I want to see him as a starter but he could be a great mid relief innings eater. He’s going to have to stretch it out in spring training since he hasn’t thrown more than 47 pitches in a game since September of 2015 and most of his 2016 outings were in the 15-30 range.

So there you have it, the top two contenders for the #5 spot. One of them walks almost 1 batter per inning and one hasn’t started a game since 2015. In reality, the edge probably goes to Chavez, I just really want to see Meyer impress in Tempe and land the gig. It sure would make Eppler look like a genius if the Angels have two solid starters in the 2017 rotation that came from the Hector Santiago trade.

In a little teaser for part 2 - we’ll look at:

Current 40 man roster:

Daniel Wright
Nate Smith
JC Ramirez
Brooks Pounders

AAA

John Lamb
Blayne Weller
Vicente Campos (out till mid season)
Manny Banuelos
Bud Norris
Troy Scribner

AA

Alex Blackford
Jordan Kipper
Chris O’Grady