Garrett Richards is the epitome of what the Angels represent for the 2017 season: A team that could rebound from an injury-plagued campaign to shock the AL West, or one that will fall closer to a rebuild with another losing season.
Richards (elbow) was limited to six starts last season and opted for rest and stem cell treatment for a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament instead of Tommy John surgery — a bold move that could pay dividends for the Angels, who are in need of an elite arm in a rotation with breakout potential.
Or Richards could get injured again and the bounce-back seasons of pitchers Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs and Huston Street don't go as planned en route to another losing season despite MVP-worthy heroics from Mike Trout.
The Angels shored up their defense this offseason by adding Luis Valbuena, Danny Espinosa and Cameron Maybin. Projection data from Baseball Prospectus and FanGraphs each like the Angels to improve from last year's 74-88 season. We think the Angels will improve slightly, as well, but another fourth-place finish in the AL West is their likely destination with a weak bullpen and makeshift rotation full of injury concerns.
Los Angeles Angels schedule 2017
The Angels begin the 2017 schedule on baseball's opening day April 3 against AL West rivals the Athletics in Oakland at 10:05 p.m. ET on ESPN2.
The first home game of the Angels' season is April 7 against the Mariners at 10:07 p.m. ET and begins a six-game homestand with the Rangers to follow at Angel Stadium.
Los Angeles Angels roster
Angels projected opening day lineup
1. Yunel Escobar, 3B
2. Kole Calhoun, OF
3. Mike Trout, OF
4. Albert Pujols, DH
5. Luis Valbuena, 1B
6. Danny Espinosa, 2B
7. Andrelton Simmons, SS
8. Ben Revere, OF
9. Martin Maldonado, C
Angels projected rotation
1. Garrett Richards, RHP
2. Matt Shoemaker, RHP
3. Ricky Nolasco, RHP
4. Tyler Skaggs, LHP
5. Jesse Chavez, RHP
Angels projected bullpen
Closer: Huston Street, RHP
Setup: Andrew Bailey, RHP
Setup: Cam Bedrosian, RHP
Angels fantasy baseball sleeper
Tyler Skaggs, SP — The southpaw returned from Tommy John surgery last season and posted a serviceable 4.17 ERA, 1.49 WHIP and 9.1 K:9 in just under 50 innings. He will be on an inning count this season but should provide great strikeout value as a late-rounder or spot starter.
Angels top prospect(s)
After two All-American seasons at the University of Virginia, Matt Thaiss was selected with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 Draft and has showed great promise. He batted .292/.361/.462 in 67 minor league games last year and may be in Double-A by June.
Jahmai Jones also tore up the minors last season to the tune of .302/.379/.422 with 20 stolen bases. The 19-year-old outfielder has room to grow and learn but you can't teach speed and Jones has plenty of it.