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What Shohei Ohtani’s injury means for the Angels rotation in 2019

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Looking at options for a successful 2019 season.

Houston Astros v Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Photo by Jayne Kamin-Oncea/Getty Images

There were many question marks going into the 2018 season in terms of the pitching rotation, a rotation that has had its share of problems the past few years. Two potential ace-like pitchers at the top of that rotation in Garrett Richards and Shohei Ohtani, which dictated the outcome for much of the season.

Here is what our opening day rotation looked like earlier this year:

  1. Garrett Richards
  2. Matt Shoemaker
  3. Shohei Ohtani
  4. Andrew Heaney
  5. Tyler Skaggs
  6. JC Ramirez

Minors:

  1. John Lamb
  2. Parker Bridwell
  3. Nick Tropeano
  4. Jaime Barria
  5. Troy Scribner

There certainly was some huge potential with those top 5 guys as well as some of those depth pieces. Let’s take a look at what happened:

Richards: 16 games, 76.1 innings, 3.66 ERA, out since July 11th for TJ surgery
Shoemaker: Missed from April 1st to September 2nd due to a nerve issue.
Ohtani: 10 starts, 51.2 innings 3.31 ERA, missed from June 7 to September 1st and now out for the rest of the season
Heaney: The one “rock” in the rotation this year with a 4.16 ERA over 26 starts and 158 innings
Skaggs: Pitched in 21 games with 116.2 innings. On the DL the past month with a groin injury.
Ramirez: TJ surgery on April 17th
———
Lamb: Only 3 short starts in the big leagues. TJ surgery announced at end of June.
Bridwell: Just 1 short start in the big leagues. Elbow surgery in July (not TJ)
Tropeano: Has made 14 starts with 76 innings. Dealing with shoulder issues on and off all season.
Barria: The next “rock” after Heaney with 22 starts and 11.2 innings. The rookie also has 10 wins which is the most on the team.
Scribner: Designated for assignment on April 3rd and signed with the Diamondbacks off waivers

Where this leaves us for 2019

Out for the year or part of the year:

Shohei Ohtani
JC Ramirez (TJ Surgery in April so maybe ready mid season?)

Question Marks:

Alex Meyer - Torn labrum recovery. Had a setback last month. “Should” be ready by spring training but performance TBD.

Probables:

Andrew Heaney - See above. He’s had a pretty respectable season for a #4 starter or so
Jaime Barria - Pretty much the same as Heaney
Tyler Skaggs - Pretty much the same as the two above. Sense a trend? These guys have been pretty good this year, but none of them are pitching like a top of the rotation guy.
Matt Shoemaker - He’s an interesting one. He’s not getting any younger but his top of the rotation potential days (basically just 2014) are over. I’d expect him to be a middle to back of rotation type guy in 2019.
Nick Tropeano - Probably not quite as good as the 3 above. Looking at back end #5/#6 guy here.
Parker Bridwell - He was a mess in the minors this year but who knows how long he was dealing with elbow issues. He had a pretty impressive 2017 but I wouldn’t expect anything like that next year.
Felix Pena - Pena has been surprisingly decent this year. He probably has a mid rotation ceiling though if he has a good 2019.

I’m going to let you down gently here - you are NOT going to have a good season with just those 7 guys in your rotation. What else do we have??

Minor League Reinforcements:

Ivan Pineyro - The guy who had a 6.66 ERA and 1.52 WHIP last year in the minors? Move along. If he pitched for the Angels next year we are having big problems again.
Jose Suarez - This 20 year old is probably not ready for prime time yet. Maybe some time in 2019? Unless his spring is AMAZING, I wouldn’t expect to see him until someone goes on the DL next yaer.
Griffin Canning - He is not our savior. Not yet, at least. Front of rotation potential but he was moved aggressively this past year and floundered when he hit AAA. The Angels may want to season him a bit more but we will see him at some point in 2019.

Free Agents

This could certainly be a whole other article, and probably will be. The Angels should sign a free agent pitcher but they are risky. Here are some of those options less than 33 years of age and have produced greater than 1 WAR this season. Who would you sign?

  • Patrick Corbin (29, 4.3 WAR)
  • Dallas Keuchel (30, 2.6 WAR)
  • Trevor Cahill (30, 1.6 WAR)
  • Wade Miley (31, 1.6 WAR)
  • Hyun-Jim Ryu (31, 1.6 WAR)
  • Derek Holland (31, 1.5 WAR)
  • Jeremey Hellickson (31, 1.4 WAR)

As you can see, the numbers trail off pretty quick after Corbin and Keuchel. There are some greater than 33 years old guys like Gio Gonzalez, but I wouldn’t rush out to sign an older pitcher unless you get a good deal on him (and shorter contract). David Price and Clayton Kershaw can both opt out of their current contracts but they would both be crazy to do that given their injury history and how much more they stand to make.

In summary, the Angels have some work to do. There really aren’t a lot of great options for the starting rotation but I think they pick up a piece or two (or should). In addition, they could reinforce the bullpen with some good multi innings guys and shorten the game a bit that way. The lack of those multi inning bullpen guys was a failure in roster construction this year that should be rectified for 2019.