The Angels pitchers and catchers arrive at Spring Training in Tempe, AZ tomorrow. Everyone in the baseball world is excited to see their teams getting back to action. With that comes predictions from almost every fan, myself included. These predictions don’t really mean anything because baseball is incredibly challenging to predict. Anyways, here are my 5 fearless predictions for the Angels in Spring Training.
1) Mark Mulder will surprise
After a long break from baseball, Mark Mulder is attempting to make another run at being a productive middle of the rotation pitcher. After watching Dodgers pitcher Paco Rodriguez one night at his Arizona home, he was taken away by Rodriguez separating his hands higher on his delivery. After toying around with the motion, Mulder started throwing and eventually threw in front of scouts. Reports said that his stuff looked surprisingly good for a guy who hasn’t pitched in the majors since 2008. The Angels signed him to a minor league deal earlier this offseason to see if Mulder can pull this off.
Mulder isn’t that old for a pitcher in the big leagues even after the break. His problems were due to mechanical issues that lead to injuries to drive him out of the game. Projecting Mulder is impossible because this type of comeback hasn’t happened under these circumstances. The chances of him doing good are slim but I have a strange feeling that Mulder will do well in Spring.
In fact, I think Mulder will make a serious case to make the team as the 5th starter or swingman. This is nothing more than a gut feeling on my part and chances are I’m wrong. However, I’ll stick with my prediction because this is a great story. Maybe he can’t hold up for a full season’s workload but he could possibly be effective for a few months. Nothing bad can come out of this.
2) Matt Long will turn heads
Many Angels fans may not know who Matt Long is. That’s expected as he was a 26 year old at Salt Lake last season who hasn’t had a major league at bat. Fans will get a better idea of who this guy is this spring. At some point, a guy with a .293/.370/.469 line has to get a shot at the majors.
Long has always been super old for his level of competition so it’s easy to write him off. With the recent breakout seasons of players like Josh Donaldson(age 27 season), Matt Carpenter(age 27 season), and fellow Angel Kole Calhoun(age 25 season), it gives me a bit of hope that Long can potentially turn into a useful player.
Don’t mistake this as me predicting that big of a breakout for Long. The scouts have never loved the total package but that some point he deserves a shot with the numbers he’s put up. I’m going to take a wild guess and say he has a monster Spring Training. Either he’ll make the team out of Spring or will be called up early in the season.
3) Mike Morin or RJ Alvarez will make Opening Day Roster
These are the 2 bullpen arms of the future for the Angels. That future will be realized when one of these youngsters will make the team out of Spring.
Morin was flat out dominant in High A ball and Double A last season, posting a sub 2 ERA and strikeout to walk ratio over 7. With a bugs bunny changeup and impeccable commands, Morin should really impress in Spring and is a dark horse to make the team.
Alvarez is a completely different animal. Equipped with a mid 90’s fastball and electric slider, it’s hard to not see the comparisons to Francisco Rodriguez. The 22 year old struck out a ridiculous 14.6 batters per 9 innings at Inland Empire last season. He still has ways to go with his command but even a moderate improvement would make him major league ready.
Look for these 2 to turn heads later this Spring.
4) Tyler Skaggs will dominate in Spring
Alright, this isn’t a great “fearless prediction” but I’m predicting it anyways. This comes as no surprise as he has always been a highly touted prospect. As the centerpiece in the Mark Trumbo trade, Skaggs gives the Angels another young, high potential starter.
Skaggs dealt with some mechanical issues and velocity issues in Arizona last season, which spurred Diamondbacks GM Kevin Towers to send him away. Usually, this would concern me but Kevin Towers has made some super questionable moves in the past season, which relieves me of any doubts. In fact, Towers’ comments about the drop in velocity were inaccurate according to Fangraphs’ pitch charts.
Angels GM Jerry Dipoto said he recognized the flaw in Skaggs’ mechanics, which should allow for him to regain his top level status. Look for Skaggs to impress with his low 90’s fastball, killer curveball and solid command, potentially starting the season as the team’s 5th starter.
For more on Skaggs, check out Scott Stedman’s breakdown of Skaggs here .
5) Brian Moran will become effective LOOGY
Brian Moran, acquired in the Rule 5 draft from the Mariners this offseason, will become a force in the Angels bullpen. With the uncertainty surround Sean Burnett’s health, Moran has a serious chance to become a factor in the Angels bullpen.
Moran held lefties to a .233/.272/.319 line last year in AAA Tacoma, striking out 48 and only walking 6. He’s a guy who needs a real shot in the majors because his numbers have been fantastic against lefties in the minors. With lefties specialists like Boone Logan and Javier Lopez getting multi year deals this offseason, the Angels may have found real value in Moran.
Moran is very deceptive and features a good breaking ball, which makes up for the lack of velocity on his mid 80’s fastball. These types of guys always tend to carve out long major league careers so look for Moran to be an effective weapon for the angels this year.
I’m also taking a wild guess and saying we’ll see this picture more than a few times whenever Moran makes an appearance this season.