As the Los Angeles Angels head into Opening Day, their season looks about as bleak as it ever has.
Ricky Nolasco vs. Kendall Graveman. That is the pitching matchup for Angels Opening Day 2017 against the Oakland A’s. Not exactly a recipe for great baseball – but, perhaps, the perfect start to what promises to be a long, uninspiring season in Anaheim.
Garrett Richards and Matt Shoemaker are both better pitchers than Nolasco, but Richards is pitching with a torn elbow ligament and Shoemaker is recovering from being smashed in the skull with a 105-mph line drive. This leaves Nolasco as the de facto ‘ace’ of a starting rotation laden with uncertainty and makes this matchup as unappealing as possible from a baseball perspective.
On the other hand, there is Mike Trout batting in the three hole. Provided he stays healthy all season, Trout is going to be the main reason for Angels fans to not question their loyalty. He is, undeniably, the best player in baseball having finished first or second in MVP voting each of the past five seasons.
Otherwise, Mike Scioscia does have a few other offensive weapons at his disposal. The projected lineup should look something like: 3B Escobar RF Calhoun CF Trout DH Pujols 1B Cron LF Maybin SS Simmons 2B Espinosa C Maldonado. It is a team strength, though there is a dearth of production from the bottom half.
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Luckily, the Oakland A’s are in nearly the same condition as the Angels, widely predicted to finish last in the division. Their best players are two-time All-Star catcher Steven Vogt, shortstop Marcus Semien, and third baseman Ryon Healy (Encino Crespi HS). Though Graveman will anchor the young staff, the rotation is very much a crapshoot due to the influx of arms that will contribute this season.
In short, this game will be one of the least anticipated during a day otherwise fraught with optimism, as both clubs will be looking past 2017. Perhaps it is a good thing that the first pitch is not until 7:05 pm PDT, just in time for the east coast to be cozied up with their blankets and ready for bed. Because a Ricky Nolasco – Kendall Graveman pitching matchup is just not exciting.
Expect the Angels season to take a similar tone. Despite having the best player in baseball, the Angels are primed for yet another woeful season.