Astros Competition: Scouting the Angels
For the next three days, I will be writing scouting reports on three different A.L. West division foes that the Astros will be seeing plenty of throughout the course of the 2015 season. My family and I have made the Cactus League a spring break tradition and I would recommend a visit to Spring Training for any baseball junkie like myself.
Yesterday I visited Camelback Ranch, the spring training home of the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Chicago White Sox, to take in an Arizona version of the L.A. crosstown rivalry between the Dodgers and Angels. While I was intrigued by the new-look Dodgers led by Yasmani Grandal and Enrique (Kiké) Hernandez, I focused on the Halos, who went 12-7 against the Astros last season.
Mike Scioscia sent out left hander Andrew Heaney as his starting pitcher. The 23 year-old is vying for the fifth spot in the Angels’ rotation, currently listed at sixth on the depth chart. He is competing with Hector Santiago and Nick Tropeano (sound familiar?). When he trotted out to the mound, the Angels fans around me seemed pretty high on the young prospect, saying that he might be the next young pitcher to break out in 2015. After the first inning, I believed them. Heaney struck out the likes of Carl Crawford and Chris Heisey, and forced Adrian Gonzalez to ground out while only throwing seven pitches.
Then, the youth began to show. In the second inning, Heaney retired Yasmani Grandal before walking Scott Van Slyke on four straight balls and then giving up two straight singles to Justin Turner and Andre Ethier. The killshot then came from shortstop Alex Guerrero when he took Heaney deep with a three-run home run down the left field line. His outing was over after giving up six runs in three innings.
Overall, I think Andrew Heaney still has some work to do before making it in the major league rotation, but I wouldn’t be surprised at all to see him make a start against the Astros this season. As far as the rest of the rotation goes, I see an above average group if both Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson can remain healthy. Those two along with Garrett Richards will form a solid top three, but the back end of the rotation still has plenty of questions and should be easily exploited by the Astros’ improved offense.
Speaking of offense, the Angels still have one, and it’s pretty good. That Trout guy is still doing Trouty things and that Pujols guy is still capable of crushing the hearts of Houston fans at any given moment. I watched Pujols crush a ball nearly 400 feet to left-center field in the 1st inning like it was 2005 all over again. Then I saw Mike Trout line a clutch two-out RBI single to centerfield to extend the Angels’ lead to 3-1. These two beasts will certainly be at the center of the Angels’ attack and big concerns on the mind of Astros pitching coach Brent Strom again this season.
One surprise that I took away from the game was Kole Calhoun. Hitting from the leadoff spot and playing right field, Calhoun went 3 for 4 with three singles, one RBI, and one run scored. With Josh Hamilton‘s fate very much uncertain at this point, it will be crucial for Calhoun to provide solid production as a leadoff hitter in that lineup. Another player that I didn’t get to see yesterday but that I think will have an immediate impact on that lineup is Josh Rutledge. If he can stay around a .270 batting average and keep the strikeout count low, he can be another solid “get on base” guy for the Angels.
Overall, I see the Angels as a legitimate contender in the A.L. West. I think the Astros will have their hands full with the improved lineup and solid bullpen. The starting pitching is their main vulnerability, as C.J. Wilson generally lacks consistency and the back end still needs to be solidified. Either way, I would be shocked to see this Angels team finish outside of the 74-84 win range, which puts them right alongside the projections for the 2015 Astros.
Next: Brady Aiken Removed From Game With Possible Injury
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