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Series Preview: Royals vs. Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, April 12-15

The Angels have long been a team of some decent pieces and then the best player in baseball in Mike Trout. Now they’re a team pretty much loaded after offseason acquisitions turned their already stellar defense into something that has potential to be otherworldly and an offense that can do some damage beyond the superstar. Ian Kinsler is set to return from the disabled list in this series and that isn’t great news if he’s actually healthy. The concern in the rotation is their health as every possible starter this year is either on the disabled list now or has had some injury issues in the past. If they can hold up, I think this is a really good team. If they don’t, well at least for their sake, they can hit their way to a few wins.

Note: All stats are for 2017 unless noted. 2018 stats will start with the next preview.

Angels Vitals

2017 Record 80-82, 2nd Place, AL West
Team TAv .250
Team SP DRA 5.06
Team RP DRA 4.02
Team WARP Leader Mike Trout, 6.6
2017 Record vs. Royals 1-6

Royals vs. Angels

Royals vs Angels Runs

Offense

Royals vs Angels Offense

Pitching

Royals vs Angels Pitching

Angels Projected Lineup

AVG OBP SLG TAv WARP
Ian Kinsler .236 .313 .412 .240 1.0
Mike Trout .306 .442 .629 .360 6.6
Justin Upton .273 .361 .460 .295 4.8
Albert Pujols .241 .286 .386 .225 -1.8
Zack Cozart .297 .385 .548 .321 5.3
Kole Calhoun .244 .333 .392 .259 2.1
Andrelton Simmons .278 .331 .421 .262 4.8
Shohei Ohtani (Japan) .332 .403 .540
Martin Maldonado .221 .276 .368 .224 3.0

Pitching Matchups

Thursday

G IP W L ERA DRA WARP
Nick Tropeano (2016) 13 68.1 3 2 3.56 5.95 -0.5
Ian Kennedy 30 154.0 5 13 5.38 5.68 -0.2

Tropeano was never a top prospect or anything, but he had a pretty nice minor league track record when he came over to the Angels in a minor deal a couple years ago. The issue for him is health as he’s been pretty solid when healthy for the Angels. He missed all of last season after Tommy John surgery, but has pitched in 21 games over two years with Los Angeles and has a 3.65 ERA with a strikeout per inning. In a small sample in 2015, he was especially effective as his control improved quite a bit in his 37.2 innings before regressing in 2016 prior to the injury. He comes at hitters with three pitches, a fastball, changeup and slider, and the slider is his out pitch as opponents have hit .161 with a .307 slugging percentage against it in his career. Given that he’s coming back from an injury and hasn’t really been one to get deep into games anyway, this isn’t an ideal guy to start a four-game series, so the Royals will really need to work the count on him to get him out sooner than later to get into the Angels bullpen early, both in the game and the series.

It’s hard to argue with what we’ve seen from Kennedy in his first two starts this year, having allowed just one run in 12 innings with 13 strikeouts and only two walks. He’ll pitch in baseball weather for the first time and will face the best lineup of the three he’ll have seen, so this will be a real test for him. He’s now thrown 30 innings between spring training (in the Arizona air) and regular season and hasn’t yet allowed a home run, a streak I think will be broken in this one. But even so, he’s showing that a healthy version of himself is worlds better than we witnessed last season. Last season against the Angels, he made two starts and gave up just one run in 14 innings with 14 strikeouts and three walks. Pujols and Kinsler have crushed him, but the former isn’t what he used to be and the latter might be a bit rusty, so maybe that’ll help.

Friday

G IP W L ERA DRA WARP
Andrew Heaney 5 21.2 1 2 7.06 5.01 0.1
Jason Hammel 32 180.1 8 13 5.29 4.78 1.6

Heaney will be making his season debut in this one. He has some exceptional talent, but has just had so much trouble staying on the mound. He’s thrown only 55.1 innings the last two seasons, so who knows what he can be at this point? He throws a two-seamer, changeup and curve, and doesn’t get a ton of ground balls, so if the wind is blowing out, he could be in trouble. If he’s healthy, he should be able to put it all together and be a solid rotation piece for the Angels, based on his minor league work, but that health is such a question that it’s nearly impossible to predict any of it for the lefty. He’s been fantastic against lefties, but right-handed bats have hit him well, so if the Royals are going to get it done, they’ll likely need contributions from Cheslor Cuthbert and Jorge Soler.

Hammel has been mostly quite good in his first two starts, but it still remains iffy at best to let him face a lineup a third time. That’s what bit him in his first start, and though he navigated it against Cleveland, it’s obviously an issue for him, and I think partially it’s because some of his secondary stuff just isn’t doing the job for him, so when he introduces the third pitch later in the game, everything goes to crap. I think it’s worth mentioning that Hammel has allowed just two hits in 16 at bats on his fastball this year. Of course, that’s a departure from last year when he gave up a .284 average and .422 SLG. Kinsler, Trout and Upton have all homered against him, but amazingly he’s performed quite well against Pujols.

Saturday

G IP W L ERA DRA WARP
Garrett Richards 6 27.2 0 2 2.28 3.28 0.7
Jakob Junis 20 98.1 9 3 4.30 4.70 0.9

Richards has some nasty stuff, but he’s yet another Angels pitcher who struggles with health. He’s made just six starts in each of the last two seasons, but with absolutely stellar results. He relies heavily on a heavy fastball that averages nearly 97 MPH to go along with a slider and curve that can be absolutely nasty. The slider has been responsible for 13 of his 19 strikeouts so far this season. His stuff is so good that he doesn’t really have a huge issue when turning over a lineup three or even four times, but the Angels are pretty careful with him on his pitch count. He’s gotten up to 102 pitches in one of his three starts this year, but even so, the odds are they won’t let him go deeper than that, so working the count is imperative against him. The Royals were actually seeing 3.93 pitches per plate appearance heading into Wednesday’s action, which is about league average and a lot more than in previous years, so maybe they can do just that.

What more is there to say about Junis? He’s been unreal good and he didn’t appear to have his best command in his fantastic start against the Mariners on Monday and still threw another seven shutout innings. Again, this is his biggest test, though the weather looks like it might help him out again as the temperatures are supposed to drop back down to more what we saw the first couple weeks of the season. You all know I think Junis is for real. He made one start against the Angels last year and was rocked, but that was before he came back from the minor leagues to get going at the end of the season. Two of the Angels most potent hitters, Trout and Upton, have both struggled with the slider this year, so if he can exploit that, he can have another good outing.

Sunday

G IP W L ERA DRA WARP
Shohei Ohtani (Japan) 5 25.1 3 2 3.20
Eric Skoglund 7 18.0 1 2 9.50 9.24 -0.8

Oh man, the Royals get to see the phenom on the mound. After struggling so much in spring training that it wasn’t even a guarantee he’d be on the big league roster to start the year, Ohtani has been absolutely dazzling as a pitcher in his first two starts. Last time out against Oakland, he took a perfect game into the seventh and ended up striking out 12 in seven innings. He’s been truly unbelievable. His fastball clocks in at 98 MPH with a solid slider and a fantastic split that has given hitters fits this year (hitters are 0 for 19 against it with 13 strikeouts). The guy is the real deal. The sample is really small, obviously, but lefties are just 1 for 17 against him with seven strikeouts, so he hasn’t even shown a platoon split that says some hitters will be better against him than others. With his stuff, the best bet is to hope his control is off like it often was in spring training. Or to guess right on a get me over fastball that a hitter can pump over the wall. He won’t always be unhittable, but when he’s on, it looks like he might be as god as anyone.

And then there’s Skoglund who might be as bad as anyone right now. He settled down a bit after a rough first two innings against Seattle, and I think it’s only fair to note that he hadn’t pitched for a full 24 days prior to his last start, so rust makes a lot of sense. Even so, it’s a continued string of horrible starts for him, and hasn’t done anything to change my belief that he isn’t a big leaguer. The Angels have so much right-handed pop in Trout, Upton, Kinsler, Pujols, Simmons and Cozart that I think this could be a nightmare game for him. And it doesn’t help that all eyes will be on this game due to his mound opponent. I don’t expect him to do well, which means this is the start he goes seven shutout innings. Maybe. Probably not.


The Angels have come out of the gates very hot this year and a lot of that is due to their offseason acquisitions, not the least of which is the sensation that is Ohtani. They appear due to get Kinsler back, which is bad news for the Royals given how he plays against them. I do think the Royals play this series to a split though, so that might be something to build on as they hit the road again.

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