ANAHEIM — After the Angels fell five games short of securing an American League Wild Card berth, general manager Billy Eppler made it clear in October that one of his primary objectives this offseason would be to improve the Angels’ offense.
After re-signing left fielder Justin Upton, landing Japanese two-way phenom Shohei Ohtani and acquiring infielders Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart, Eppler has seemingly accomplished that goal. The series of moves should go a long way toward revamping the Angels’ lineup, which ranked 11th in the American League in both on-base percentage and runs scored last season.
MLB.com is taking a look at the projected lineup of all 30 teams ahead of Spring Training. Here’s a look at how those new pieces will fit into the Angels’ projected lineup in 2018:
LINEUP IF SEASON STARTED TODAY
Ian Kinsler, 2B
Mike Trout, CF
Justin Upton, LF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Kole Calhoun, RF
Zack Cozart, 3B
Shohei Ohtani, DH
Andrelton Simmons, SS
Martin Maldonado, C
The Angels ranked last in the American League in slugging percentage in 2017, but should have significantly more pop in ’18 with a full season of Upton and the additions of Kinsler, Cozart and Ohtani. The pairing of Trout and Upton also gives the club a dynamic one-two punch in their order.
The Angels’ new-look lineup skews heavily right-handed, leaving Calhoun and either Ohtani or Luis Valbuena as the only lefty bats. Still, Eppler has said he isn’t too concerned about the Angels having an unbalanced lineup, as Kinsler and Cozart have hit right-handed pitching well in the past. Cozart posted an .896 OPS against righties in 2017, while Kinsler recorded a .680 OPS (.809 in 2016).
WHAT MIGHT CHANGE
It’s unclear how often the Angels will use Ohtani in the DH spot, as doing so would require Pujols to either play first base or sit out games. Pujols, who turns 38 later this month, played first only six times in 2017, though the Angels are hopeful he’ll be able to play the field more this year after a full offseason of conditioning. The Angels also have a logjam at first, where Pujols, Valbuena and C.J. Cron are currently listed on the depth chart — so they’ll have to find a way to divide at-bats at that position, as well.