Shohei Ohtani

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Los Angeles Angels?

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USA TODAY

White Sox opposition research: What's there to know about the Los Angeles Angels?

As the 2018 season nears and the White Sox get ready to take on the rest of the American League, we're taking a team-by-team look at all 14 of their opponents.

What’s there to know about the Los Angeles Angels?

A lot, actually.

But there’s only one thing we really want to know: Are we ever going to see Mike Trout in the playoffs again? You shouldn’t feel bad if you blinked and missed the best player in baseball’s lone postseason appearance, three losses to the Kansas City Royals in 2014. This guy’s been the face of the game, and he’s got only 12 more postseason at-bats than I do.

That’s a shame, of course, and the Halos have done quite a bit to try to change that this offseason. And they very well might. The new additions in Anaheim have provided plenty of interest, but will that translate to wins? Time to find out.

Obviously, Trout won’t even be the most paid-attention-to Angel come Opening Day, when we finally get to see if Shohei Ohtani lives up to the hype. Baseball had their own version of that reality show that everyone loves so much — Something to do with roses, I think? Is it a show about gardening? America’s Next Top Gardener! Nailed it. — with teams courting the talents of the two-way Japanese superstar. Ohtani is projected to slot into the No. 2 spot in the Angels’ rotation and play regularly as a designated hitter.

That seems like a lot to ask of a 23-year-old who’s never seen major league pitching or faced major league hitting, a lot of pressure on the guy instantaneously crowned baseball’s top prospect.

What Ohtani will do is a complete mystery — but that’s kind of the case for the Angels’ entire rotation. These guys should at least be well rested considering they’ve logged hardly any big league innings over the past two seasons. Seriously, look at the number of starts the Angels’ projected starting staff made last year:

— Garrett Richards: six (after just six in 2016)
— Shohei Ohtani: zero (no career MLB appearances)
— Matt Shoemaker: 14
— Andrew Heaney: five (after just one in 2016)
— J.C. Ramirez: 24 (the first 24 starts of his four-year big league career)
— Tyler Skaggs: 16 (after just 10 in 2016 and zero in 2015)

So that adds up to 65 from six pitchers. Add up the combined 2017 regular-season and postseason starts by Justin Verlander and Dallas Keuchel, the co-aces for the division-rival Houston Astros, and it’s 66. These Angels pitchers need to stay on the field.

But while that might not sound too promising, the Halos made some typical Halo-style additions, getting a bunch of All Stars on the other side of 30 to try and get Trout — still one of their youngest position players, despite being in the league for seven years — to the playoffs. Justin Upton, acquired in a trade last season with the Detroit Tigers, and Zack Cozart, signed as a free agent this offseason, are both coming off awesome seasons. Upton posted career highs in homers, RBIs and doubles and nearly had career highs in plenty of other categories. Zack Cozart was one of the National League’s best hitters last season, finishing 11th in on-base percentage and OPS. Ian Kinsler? Not coming off a good season. He was statistically bad for the bad-in-every-way Detroit Tigers, but he’s only two years removed from a .831 OPS and 28 homers in 2016, so who knows.

Will it all pay off? Will those moves make the Angels any better? Will it really matter all that much in an AL not exactly bursting with playoff contenders?

All I know is this: America is clamoring for its favorite baseball icon to return to the postseason. We need it. Nothing would make us more happy than to see a symbol of the game, why we watch the game, on the game’s grandest stage. So do it, Angels. Get the Rally Monkey back to October.

What, you thought I was talking about Trout?

2017 record: 80-82, second place in AL West

Offseason additions: Shohei Ohtani, Ian Kinsler, Zack Cozart, Rene Rivera, Chris Young, Jim Johnson, Luke Bard

Offseason departures: Cliff Pennington, Ben Revere, Jesse Chavez, Ricky Nolasco, Bud Norris, Yusmeiro Petit, Fernando Salas, Huston Street

X-factor: Former Cubs reliever Blake Parker was excellent for the Angels last season, making 71 appearances and finishing with a 2.54 ERA. But for X-factor, let's go with heretofore unmentioned Andrelton Simmons, who was very good in 2017, perhaps the Angels' best non-Trout player. He plays great defense at shortstop, baseball's leader in defensive runs saved last season. He also slashed a very respectable .278/.331/.421 with 14 dingers and a career-best 19 steals. And all-around impact player to say the least.

Projected lineup:

1. Ian Kinsler, 2B
2. Mike Trout, CF
3. Justin Upton, LF
4. Albert Pujols, DH
5. Kole Calhoun, RF
6. Zack Cozart, 3B
7. Luis Valbuena, 1B
8. Andrelton Simmons, SS
9. Martin Maldonado, C

Projected rotation:

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

Prediction: Second place in AL West, AL wild card

Catch up on the AL:

Oakland Athletics
Texas Rangers
Seattle Mariners
Los Angeles Angels
Houston Astros
Tampa Bay Rays
Toronto Blue Jays
Baltimore Orioles
Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees
Detroit Tigers
Kansas City Royals

Catch up on the NL:

San Diego Padres
Colorado Rockies
Arizona Diamondbacks
San Francisco Giants
Los Angeles Dodgers
Miami Marlins
Philadelphia Phillies
Atlanta Braves
New York Mets
Washington Nationals
Pittsburgh Pirates

CubsTalk Podcast: Cubs continue hunt for pitching while Kyle Schwarber is again linked in trade talks

CubsTalk Podcast: Cubs continue hunt for pitching while Kyle Schwarber is again linked in trade talks

MLB Network’s Dan Plesac stops by the CubsTalk Podcast to discuss Kyle Schwarber’s trade value, how the Cubs can solve their pitching deficiencies and why Wade Davis should still be on their radar even after the soon-to-be-official signing of Brandon Morrow.

Plus, Kelly Crull and Tony Andracki break down why they are now even more convinced Schwarber won’t be traded, how far the Cubs got in Giancarlo Stanton talks, why Kyle Hendricks was part of the Shohei Ohtani recruiting package and how the 2018 bullpen may look.

Listen to the entire podcast here:

Shohei Ohtani fallout: How Cubs got a seat at the table with baseball's hottest commodity

Shohei Ohtani fallout: How Cubs got a seat at the table with baseball's hottest commodity

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - The Shohei Ohtani Sweepstakes will go down as one of the wackiest — and most fascinating — free agent courtships in the history of Major League Baseball.

The fact the Cubs were even in the conversation down to the end is fascinating in its own right.

As he whittled down teams to a Final 7 before ultimately choosing the Los Angeles Angels, Ohtani made his terms public: He preferred a West Coast team to make travel to his home country of Japan easier and an American League team made the most sense because it had been several years since he had played the field, serving as a designated hitter/pitcher in Japan.

The Cubs obviously cannot meet either of those requirements, yet Theo Epstein and Co. found themselves in the conversation, as the Eastern-most team left alive.

How?

"First and foremost, I think the Cubs have a lot to offer any player," Epstein said at the Walt Disney World Dolphin Resort Monday during MLB's Winter Meetings. "It's a really strong brand right now, it's a great environment, our fans are amazing, Wrigley is a great place to play and we're the only team in baseball that's made the Final 4 the last three years.

"Just a really bright outlook. And beyond that, we pulled many all-nighters just to get this document done and created a pretty substantial document that we submitted that was really thorough and detail-oriented that I think got his attention so he wanted to hear more about it."

Epstein is proud of how the Cubs banded together to get such an impactful pitch to Ohtani ready in rather short notice after the 23-year-old pitcher was posted last month.

"A lot of people worked really hard on it," Epstein said. "No regrets. It reinforced some great bonds in the organization. A lot of people pulled together under a pretty difficult deadline to make something really impressive happen.

"It got us to the final table and it didn't turn out our way, but I think we overcame a lot in the process. We're all glad we went through it, despite the result."

Epstein wouldn't — and couldn't — get into too much detail about the Cubs' pitch, but Kyle Hendricks and Joe Maddon were there among uniformed Cubs members. Epstein and Co. also did not give Ohtani a virtual reality tour of life as a Cub like it was initially reported.

The Cubs spent two hours talking baseball with Ohtani and came away feeling OK about their chances despite the limitations they had no control over (geography, lack of DH).

Epstein admitted he didn't come out of that meeting rationally thinking the Cubs had a shot, but he did think they increased their odds with the final presentation.

"I was so proud of the work the organization had done and I had felt so passionate about the fit that I probably fooled myself into thinking we had a real chance," Epstein said. "It was a great process and I have no regrets. I certainly wish him well; he was a really impressive kid.

"I think health-permitting, he's gonna do really, really well and have a long career. He'll be fun to follow."