The Los Angeles Angels’ pitching situation for 2020 seems bleak and many fans are hoping that Shohei Ohtani can save the day.
The Los Angeles Angels‘ biggest need heading into this winter was starting pitching and while the team has made some additions, they also missed out on some high-profile names that would have helped the team drastically.
The biggest name was Gerrit Cole, who seemed to be a lock to go to his hometown Angels in Orange County. However, Cole, who grew up a New York Yankees fan, fulfilled his dream of playing in pinstripes while also taking the highest offer.
After signing Anthony Rendon, the next big name that the Angels were tied to was Hyun-Jin Ryu, who just recently signed a four-year, $80 million contract with the Toronto Blue Jays. Other notable names that were available were Stephen Strasburg, Zach Wheeler, Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel and Wade Miley.
The Angels missed on all of those pitchers but have added two pitchers to the starting rotation in Julio Teheran and Dylan Bundy. Both are great additions in the sense that they are both durable; Teheran has started 30 games in every season dating back to 2013 and Bundy has started 89 games the last three seasons.
However, neither are guys that are going to flip the script on this starting rotation and if they are the two-best pitchers that the Angels get this offseason then it is going to be a problem. With those two, the team is fielding a starting rotation of Shohei Ohtani, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning, Teheran and Bundy.
Of those five, the one that has the biggest potential to break out and be the ace of the team is Shohei Ohtani. Without any other additions, Angel fans are going to have to hope and pray that Ohtani is reliable enough and proficient enough to provide the Angels an anchor atop the rotation.
However, we really have no reason to fully trust in Ohtani in 2020, which is the scary part. The pitcher with the most potential to save this rotation is someone who we cannot fully trust. That is an issue.
Ohtani did not pitch at all in 2019 after having Tommy John Surgery in late 2018. Ohtani was already having elbow issues prior to the surgery for most of 2018, as he was only able to make 10 starts and throw 51 and two-third innings.
Don’t get me wrong, Ohtani was electric when he was on the mound. He had a fantastic 3.31 ERA in those innings while striking out 63 batters. He actually had the 12th-highest K/9 among starting pitchers with at least 50 innings pitched in 2018.
Conventionally, Tommy John Surgery is no longer something to have too much concern over, especially after an entire season and two offseasons of rest. However, the one thing about Ohtani is that he is not conventional, which makes things vastly different for him and the Los Angeles Angels.
As great as Ohtani is on the mound and as good as he was at the plate this season, we have not seen enough out of Ohtani to determine whether or not he can handle the dual workload. Pitching once a week and being the DH in 2-3 other games is a lot to ask out of someone.
Fans don’t realize how much goes into behind the scenes and how much these guys really work. Whether it is off-day bullpen sessions or work out sessions for pitchers or batting practice both on the field and in the cage for position players, the grind never really stops.
These guys are usually in the door around five-six hours before the first pitch to work on their craft, day in and day out, for 162 games. Asking Ohtani to balance the workload of two different roles across six months is a huge ask.
And it doesn’t help that he is coming off of Tommy John. So, the Angels are going to have to do one of two things. They either need to designate who Ohtani is going to primarily be this season — a pitcher or a hitter. They could even get unconventional and hit him on his pitching days, but the daily batting practice probably cannot be done.
That, or they are going to have to limit his role on the mound early in the year to ensure that he is healthy and still has something left in the gas tank for a playoff push in August and September.
For a Los Angeles Angels team that is not deep in starting pitching, that could lead to some hiccups early on in the year.
Regardless of what the team does, we should not be penciling Shohei Ohtani in for 150 innings of great pitching atop the Angels’ rotation. It is simply too much to ask.