How the Angels are chasing the Astros this offseason

HOUSTON, TX - SEPTEMBER 24: Jose Altuve /

If you have yet to notice, the rest of the AL West are having busy offseasons compared to the Astros.

We all know by now just how good the Astros are. The projections at Fangraphs currently have Houston winning 98 games next season, which would be the best in baseball. The roster is stacked with talent. More talent is on the way.

Barring a drastic change in fortune, Houston has the opportunity to rule atop the AL West for the foreseeable future.

In response, the rest of the AL West are chasing the Astros. Rather, challenging the Astros. Each of the other four teams are devoting a lot of time and resources to toppling Houston, so I’ll concentrate on one AL West team per post.

The most active team in the AL West this offseason have been easily the Angels.

Not only do the Angels still have Mike Trout, Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons, they’ve also acquired Shohei Ohtani, Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler. Their lineup will undoubtedly produce runs.

The Depth Chart projections at Fangraphs ranks the top three projected offenses for next season in the following order: Astros (30.4 Bat), Cubs (28.9 Bat), and Angels (26.8 Bat). The Angels’ offensive rating may rise if all of the moves haven’t been officially processed. Regardless, you should get the point. The Angels’ lineup will be quite good. And they’re projected to win 86 games, which would be enough for the second Wild Card.

The Angels’ plight lately hasn’t been necessarily the offense, but the injury-prone pitching staff. Specifically, it’s the starting rotation that could hamper their enthusiasm. Garrett Richards has only thrown 62.1 innings in the last two seasons combined. Elbow issues in 2016 and lingering bicep tightness in 2017 haven’t made life easy for arguably the best starting pitcher on the Angels’ roster. Along with Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker, Andrew Heaney, Nick Tropeano and JC Ramirez are all projected to throw 100 innings next season. All are listed on the Angels’ depth chart as starters. Parker Bridwell is also projected to throw meaningful innings in the rotation.

The unknown factor is Ohtani.

If the Japanese phenom can start and be effective out of the gate, he’s already the Angels best starting pitcher. Ohtani, by himself, may be a four-to-six win player. That’s not unreasonable with his skill set. But the unknown is still there. Also keep an eye on his UCL. If Ohtani falls to injury, the Angels may have to lean on the lineup and bullpen more than they would care to.

In short, this Angels’ rotation won’t be good if their starters can’t remain healthy. Now, there’s talent in the rotation. Don’t get that confused with the rotation not being good. Injuries will remain the major hinderance to this staff if history repeats itself. Unfortunately for the Angels, injuries will possibly also keep them from legitimately contending in 2018.

Next: Astros Bold Prediction: Don't expect more moves unless prices drop

Despite the possibility of new injuries to an injury-plagued pitching staff, the Angels remain the Astros primary challenger in the AL West. By virtue of adding Ohtani, Kinsler and Cozart, their lineup will be improved. They will also have Upton for a full season. Trout should be healthy all season. The question mark could come from with Simmons’ and his bat. Will regression rear its ugly head? Either way, the regular season matchup in 2018 with the Angels should be more challenging for the Astros.

**Statistics and information courtesy of Fangraphs**