It’s extremely likely that veterans Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson will be in the starting rotation regardless of the fact that both have regressed in recent years. Weaver, a three time All-Star from 2010 to 2012, has never been a hard thrower and in 2015 his fastball declined in velocity by three full miles per hour. This is extremely concerning as it affects his ability to control damage on fly balls, not to mention that prior to his drop in velocity he had one of the slowest fastballs in all of baseball. However, that the team believes that with improved health and a stronger core, he should be able to get some of that velocity back.
Wilson is coming off of season-ending elbow surgery but after missing the final two months of the season he has had plenty of time to recover. Some see the two-time All-Star as a potential bounceback candidate, while others are not quite so sure. At 35 years old, Wilson has pitched more innings and allowed more walks since 2005 than any other pitchers during that time span except for Ubaldo Jimenez and Barry Zito according to Fangraphs. Still, the lefty is due $20 million this season and would be a hard sell to trade so he’ll probably remain atop the team’s rotation.
27-year-old right-hander Garrett Richards is likely the “ace” of a starting rotation that really doesn’t have one that truly stands out above the others. He has the strongest, fastest fastball of the entire bunch. In 2015, the finished the season at 15-12 with a 3.65 ERA in 32 starts and 207.1 innings. Those aren’t exactly “ace-like” numbers but he was coming off of the 2014 season in which he was injured making a play at first base and had to undergo major knee surgery. The Angels expect him to have an even better season in 2016, finally having had a full big league season under his belt.
The fourth spot in the rotation is likely to go to 24-year-old left-hander Andrew Heaney. Heaney is coming off of his first major stint in the majors in 2015. He struggled during the spring with his mechanics but was able to rectify the problem and ended up exceeding his rookie limits making 18 starts for the Angels after being called-up in late June. Heaney went 6-4 with a 3.49 ERA in 105.2 innings. The team is expecting big things from Heaney in his first full big league season based on the sample they saw last year. He is a virtual lock for the fourth rotation spot.
Unfortunately, or fortunately as the Angels look at the situation, that leaves them with four pitchers and just one spot in the rotation open. They should probably try and trade one of their remaining starters for some help in left-field but general manager Billy Eppler thinks that is an unlikely option for the Angels, being quoted recently as saying,
“What I witnessed in some experiences is that you think it’s eight [starting pitchers] in November and it turns out April 1 that there are six. You have to protect your depth.”
For a rundown on each candidate for the fifth starting position you can read the rest of my column on Today’s Knuckleball by following the link below: