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2018 Angels season preview: Eppleribus unum

MLB: Los Angeles Angels-Workout Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Eppleribus unum:


Definition: Out of many Billy Eppler moves, one.

Look, I didn’t take Latin in high school, so my understanding of that monumentally important, and monumentally dead, romance language is tenuous, at best. I am familiar enough with Latin, however, that I am able to extract the meaning of the (admittedly made-up and nonsensical) phrase you see up above this paragraph.

It’s not just a dorky bit of word play on an honest-to-goodness bit of Latin, which you have undoubtedly seen before, most notably on various pieces of United States currency. While the famous United States motto (e pluribus unum) evokes this country’s original 13 colonies joining together to become one nation, the Eppleribus unum creed is meant to simultaneously stoke those passionate flames of GM love we all have for our god, Billy Eppler, by way of dialectic humor, and serve as a reminder that the immeasurable hype surrounding the 2018 Los Angeles Angels has been borne out of many facets, but the end result is a single, unitary baseball behemoth.

Eppleribus unum, indeed.

Before I fired up the ol’ story editor and got knee deep in writing a preview of the upcoming Halos season, I figured I should take a quick glance at last year’s preview; what better way to fully understand and make a diagnosis on the organization’s current , overall health than to see what the outlook and tenor was at this time last year?

It was of my belief at that time that the Angels were, after a period of gloomy, internal, existential strife, finally in some good head space. There were smiles beaming not only from the clubhouse, but also from the front office and the fan base itself. Billy Eppler had begun to fully correct the course set from that those dark, Jerry Dipoto days. There were prospects to be excited about, there was an Arte Moreno who was publicly saying all the right things, and a product on the field that may not have been ready to take on the world, but at least there was some vim and vigor running through their collective competitive spirits.

Still, there was a lot of work to be done. The crux of last year’s preview was this: The Halos were entering what was to be the most important five year stretch of the club’s history, with tasks such as rebuilding their top prospect lists, which in the year prior had been lamented by many as the worst in all of Major League Baseball, and perhaps even more importantly, doing everything they can to keep Mike Trout happy, surrounding him with a group of guys that would finally kill any of those “Trout is being wasted!” notions.

I can’t help but feel as if Billy Eppler and his office of the GM had put the same level of importance on the coming years that I had, because going into the 2018 season, the Angels are now one of the most intriguing and talented squads out there, thanks to...yes, you guessed it...Billy Eppler. So, what’s it all mean for this upcoming 162-games-long battle, and beyond? Allow me to pull out my stethoscope and tongue suppressor for a bit and take this team’s temperature and vital signs, so we can get a better picture of their overall health.

The Arrival of Shohei Ohtani

When Japanese superstar Shohei Ohtani announced to the baseball world that he’d be coming stateside to play ball, I don’t think anybody really thought he’d succumb to the charms of the Big A and the Rally Monkey, but that’s exactly what happened. Ohtani’s choosing of the Angels as his landing spot was a shockwave, in a good way, that is going to not only have an immediate impact on the team, but should also be sending out ripples for a few years down the road.

They truly missed having a front line starter these past few years, as guys like Garrett Richards and Andrew Heaney, were either getting injured far too often or, when healthy, not delivering on the promise that we’d all harbored for them in our brains. Ohtani, if his work in Japan or his outings thus far in spring training are any indication, should give them a true ace on the mound. He will also provide a formidable plate presence, hopefully, rounding out the Halos’ lineup a few days a week and making Mike Scioscia more flexible in his usage of the bench.

Of course, Ohtani simply being on the Angels roster has already given the organization a much bigger spotlight on them, with all of the media attention he has following him on a daily basis, not to mention making MLB fans who had previously ignored the Halos want to tune in and see what Ohtani and the Angels are all about. That spotlight is going to dwindle a bit as his time in Anaheim goes by, but he’ll still be a huge factor in how these important years ahead pan out, both on the diamond and in the front office.

Making Mike Happy

The idea that Mike Trout, the game’s best player, bar none, would someday leave the Halos for greener pastures is one that gives nightmares galore to anybody in the Halosphere, fans and teammates and f.o. executives alike. So that’s why keeping Mike Trout happy and making sure he’s not lumped in with a bunch of mediocre squares for the final years on his current contract is so high up on Billy Eppler’s to-do list.

Right now, Mike Trout is more than happy; he’s absolutely ecstatic. He has been vocal about his excitement over the team snagging Shohei Ohtani (or rather, Ohtani snagging the Angels) and he was given some extra enthusiasm over some other recent Eppler acquisitions, as well. More on those in a bit, but the plain and simple truth is that Billy Eppler has put together what looks to be the best Halos team Mike Trout has ever been apart of, and that makes him all smiles out in Tempe.

Those smiles are huge, but not in a literal sense, but in the sense that it means the Halos can put all the side drama behind them and focus on kicking some AL rear end, which will then go a long way to cementing Trout’s place in the Big A for the rest of his MLB career.

The Many Moves of Billy Eppler

We’ve all gone over this in our heads, in lush baseball fantasies that seem like daydreams but are actually real life. But just to be comprehensive, let’s go over them again: Billy Eppler brought in Justin Upton last year, bolstering the best outfield unit in all of Major League Baseball, not to mention giving them the best defensive infield by adding Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler to play alongside Andrelton Simmons. He has great defensive catchers in both Martin Maldonado and Rene Rivera and he’s managed to find some pitching gems here and there in guys like Jim Johnson, J.C. Ramirez and Parker Bridwell.

This past off-season was a whirlwind of action for Eppler, and I personally loved every minute of it, as I’m sure you did, too. Kinsler, Cozart and Upton alone gave them a bevy of new badass ballers but then you throw in Ohtani into the mix and all of a sudden you have a star-studded team with expectations and hype levels through the roof. The Halos are not only on the right track, but they’re on the same track that most orgs end up following all the way to the promised land of the playoffs and, potentially, the World Series.

The Farm is Yielding Some Good Crops Again

On top of everything mentioned thus far, which is more than enough to reinforce the idea that Billy Eppler and the Angels are on an excellent trajectory, there is the whole situation with the farm system. Just a couple years ago, it was as barren as the Mojave desert. But, after two great drafts from the revamped front office, as well as a renewed and unencumbered focus on signing international talent, those minor league teams are now stocked with some guys that have enough talent and potential that it’s almost unbearable having to wait to see them make an impact with the club.

Guys like Jo Adell, Jahmai Jones, Matt Thaiss and Brandon Marsh are all athletic and/or baseball savvy as they come, something Eppler obviously values over some other sections on the scouting report, and they’re proving, via rookie ball stints, time in the Pioneer League, or some time at high or low A, that he knew what he was doing when he selected them. Then you’ve got players like Griffin Canning, or international phenom Kevin Maitan, who we’ve yet to really see much of but have a high enough ceiling to make many people full on believers.

Arte Moreno deserves credit for handling a few downtrodden seasons by not panicking too much or doubling down on bloated contracts. Instead, he hired a sensible, level-headed, sharp-as-a-tack GM in Billy Eppler, who in turn gave jobs to some other baseball minds and analytic studs, and coupling that with a determination to work with the ol’ skipper, Mike Scioscia, it’s plain as day why the Halos are one of the more intriguing dark horse teams as we enter this much-anticipated 2018 season.

Eppleribus unum. I’m all in for this, and I know that, if you’re a hardcore Angels fan, that you are too. To paraphrase the wise public announcement voice from the former Big Thunder Mountain ride at Disneyland...”Hang on to your hats and glasses, folks, cuz this here’s the wildest ride in the AL West.”