SB Nation Blog
The Opponent in one sentence
The Angels have gotten off to one of the best starts in baseball and are arguably the most exciting team in the game right now with Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout and a great defense.
Up. Way up. The Angels could very well be the hottest team in all of baseball, though the Mets and Red Sox are in the conversation as well. Nobody has a longer win streak than Los Angeles, however, as the Angels have won seven in a row including back-to-back sweeps on the road of Texas and Kansas City. Their last game, like Boston, was postponed, though that came on Sunday so the Angels will be coming off a pair of days off rather than just the one like Boston.
4/17: David Price vs. Shohei Ohtani, 10:07 PM ET
Tuesday is the game in this already-intriguing series between two of the best teams in the early parts of 2018. For the Red Sox, Price is looking to recover from a really tough one-inning outing last time out. He left that Yankee game, of course, due to a tingling sensation in his throwing hand, and it was clear that something was wrong the entire time he was throwing. Prior to that outing he had been hitting his spots at an incredible rate and was flat-out dominant. He’ll be going up against a good and deep Angels lineup, so the Red Sox will need that hand to be back to normal and Price to be back to the guy he was in his first two outings. He made two starts against the Angels last year and pitched to a rough 5.73 ERA over 11 innings of work.
They’ll especially need that kind of Price because they’re going up against the hottest name in baseball right now. Ohtani has earned every bit of hype he’s received so far this year. We’ll get to the hitting a little bit later, but he is an absolute stud on the mound. He generates whiffs, shows great command and just simply makes major-league hitters look silly. He’s made two starts this year and he’s allowed just three runs in 13 innings on four hits, two walks and 18 strikeouts. In his last outing, he carried a perfect game into the seventh inning. The right-hander throws a high-90s fastball to go with an eye-popping splitter and a slider.
4/18: Rick Porcello vs. Tyler Skaggs, 10:07 PM ET
Chris Sale has been the best starting pitcher for the Red Sox this year, but one could make the argument that, relative to preseason expectations, Porcello has been the most impressive. He has an ERA under 2.00 through his first three starts of the year and he’s walked just one batter in 19 2⁄3 innings, looking more like his 2016 self than his other two years in Boston. The righty is coming off a particularly impressive outing last time out when he tossed seven shutout innings against the Yankees — taking a no-hitter into the seventh — and striking out six with no walks. Last season he faced the Angels twice, pitching to a 3.77 ERA with 14 strikeouts and two walks in 14 1⁄3 innings.
Skaggs has long been an intriguing young arm, but he’s failed to make good on his potential over the years largely due to health issues. Finally feeling good, the 26-year-old is off to a great start this season, with a 1.69 ERA through his first three starts of the year. He has had some increasing control issues in each of his starts this season, but he misses plenty of bats and limits damage with a slight skew towards ground balls. Skaggs throws both a four-seam and two-seam fastball, both in the low-to-mid 90s, as well as a slow, looping curveball that he throws about a third of the time. He’ll also mix in a changeup, though it’s not a major part of his repertoire.
4/19: Eduardo Rodriguez vs. Nick Tropeano, 10:07 PM ET
It’s been a tale of two starts for Rodriguez, who’s 2018 obviously got off to a late start after he underwent knee surgery this past offseason. He’s back now, though, and following a rough first outing in which he showed off strong stuff but rough command, he had everything working against the Orioles his last time out. Consistency from start-to-start has been an issue for the young lefty for his entire career, so just because his last outing was strong doesn’t mean he’s back to normal. That being said, he’s commented about how the bum knee has affected him in the past, and if the surgery truly cured his ailments we could be seeing a breakout for Rodriguez in 2018. He looked the part against Baltimore, and he has the talent to keep it up even against a talented Angels lineup.
Tropeano, like Skaggs, has had a ton of trouble staying on the field in recent years and he is coming off a 2017 in which he missed the entire season. The righty only has one start under his belt in 2018, too, though it was strong as he tossed 6 2⁄3 shutout innings against the Royals with six strikeouts and two walks. He doesn’t have a ton of major-league experience (25 career starts), but he’s shown some ability, though also has been prone to the long ball. In his first outing, Tropeano threw a low-90s fastball with a splitter, a slider and a changeup.
Chris Young has a sort of complicated history with the Red Sox, despite having spent two years here and winning divisions in both of them. The outfielder was a huge part of the team’s success in 2016, proving to be a tremendous, low-profile signing that winter. However, he came back in 2017 and struggled from the start of the year all the way through, and one of the biggest criticisms of John Farrell last year was continuing to lean on the fourth outfielder. He’s struggling again early on with the Angels.
Noe Ramirez was the personification of the bus ride between Pawtucket and Boston over the last few years. He was designated for assignment towards the end of last season, and the Angels claimed him and kept him on the roster all winter. He’s not a high-leverage arm in that bullpen, but he does already have eight appearances for the Angels under his belt and he’s got 13 strikeouts in just seven innings.
Dayan Diaz never played in the majors for Boston, but he had a couple of intriguing years out of the bullpen in the high minors.
Notable Position Players
Mike Trout is the best player in baseball and is off to the best start to a career the game has ever seen. He’s amazing at everything on a baseball field and is somehow underrated even though everyone knows he’s the best player in the game. It’s a weird sensation. Either way, Red Sox pitchers should have fun pitching to him this week.
A Mike Trout dilemma— David Adler (@_dadler) April 16, 2018
Trout's chase rate is just 15.7%, 8th-lowest of 162 hitters to see 100+ out-of-zone pitches. So what can you do but come to him?
On in-zone pitches, Trout is slugging .771 -- 3rd-highest in MLB, min. 40 AB decided in-zone. So how can you throw him a strike?
Shohei Ohtani is pitching on Tuesday, but he’s also a hitter. This has obviously become a big deal, as he’s shown he can succeed in both roles early on this season. He’s done a little bit of everything at the plate, but his power in particular is shocking. Oh, and he’s only 23, which is often forgotten. He may not get a start at the plate in this series, however, as he hasn’t really been playing the days after starts and the Red Sox are starting a lefty in the third game.
Justin Upton was sent to Los Angeles in a trade last year and re-signed with them at the very start of this past offseason. He gives them a big power bat to pair with Trout in the top-third of that lineup.
Andrelton Simmons was a sneaky MVP candidate last year thanks to improved offense and the best defense at shortstop in all of baseball. He’s been even better at the plate to start this season.
Albert Pujols is well past his prime, of course, but he can still hit the ball out of the park and he’s 12 hits away from 3000 for his career.
Ian Kinsler looked to be toast last season and he started this year on the disabled list, though he had a nice series in Kansas City for his first time back this year.
Zack Cozart has a big breakout last year and is also one of the best defensive shortstops in the game, though he’s moved to third base because Simmons exists.
Kole Calhoun has been a quietly solid player over his career, though he’s off to a rough start after a down 2017.
Martin Maldonado doesn’t provide a ton with the bat, but he provides plenty behind it and took home the Gold Glove last year.
Keynan Middleton is a very good young reliever that’s already taken over the Angels closer job at just 23 years old in a bullpen full of veterans, or at least talented relievers with more major-league experience. He doesn’t get a ton of whiffs compared to the typical modern-day closer, but he’s done nothing but post results in his career.
Blake Parker, Blake Wood, Jim Johnson, Cam Bedrosian are all talented-but-flawed righties who came into the season with a chance at the closer job and figure to form some sort of rotation for the late innings all year long.
Jose Alvarez is the lone lefty in the Angels bullpen and he’s managed to hold opposing lefties to a .283 OBP over his career. He’ll be busy this series.
Matt Shoemaker is yet another Angels starter with an injury history, and he was placed on the disabled list after just one start with a forearm issue. The problem is not yet clear and there’s no timetable on his return.
JC Ramirez started the year in the Angels rotation (do you sense a trend?), but after two starts he was placed on the disabled list and now he’ll miss the entire season after undergoing Tommy John surgery.
Alex Meyer is a former Twins prospect who will miss all season after undergoing major shoulder surgery last September.
Diaz, mentioned with the Old Friends, isn’t injured, but he’s on the restricted list after a visa issue prevented him from reporting to spring training. Apparently, there are still some issues but I couldn’t find many specifics.
It’s going to be nice all week in Southern California. What a shock.