- Even with Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson coming off the books next winter, Pedro Moura of the Los Angeles Times doesn’t expect the Angels to be huge spenders in the 2016-17 free agent market. Assuming the Halos don’t pass their high of $165MM on player payroll, they will only have around $40MM to spend on 16 roster spots.
- The Angels selected the contract of left-hander Greg Mahle and optioned A.J. Achter to Triple-A in a corresponding move, the club announced. (The Angels already had a 40-man roster spot open, so no further transactions were necessary to add Mahle.) A 15th-round draft pick in 2014, Mahle has a 2.97 ERA, 10.8 K/9 and 4.00 K/BB rate over 97 career minor league relief innings. The 2016 Baseball America Prospect Handbook ranked him as the 13th-best prospect within the Halos’ thin farm system, noting that Mahle delivers his pitches from three different arm angles, including a sinking fastball that ranges from 85-94mph depending on from where Mahle is throwing it. He also has a plus changeup.
Angels righty and former ace Jered Weaver, who’s coming off a career-worst season in which his fastball velocity sat in the low 80s, made his 2016 debut Sunday and threw six innings of one-run ball in a 3-1 win over Texas. Weaver allowed seven base runners (six hits, one walk), struck out four, and was encouraged afterward. “It makes me look forward to the future in baseball as opposed to thinking about shutting it down,” he told reporters, including Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com (Twitter link). Weaver’s fastball resided in the 82 mph range Sunday and he didn’t generate many grounders (a common career trend), but he effectively used his curveball and changeup to keep Rangers hitters at bay. Whether he can continue to get by that way is up for debate, but Weaver seems confident, saying, “Haters equals motivation for me. I feed off of it.”
Athletics designated hitter Billy Butler has sat four straight days and could be relegated to facing only lefties, Jane Lee of MLB.com writes. Manager Bob Melvin wouldn’t commit to putting Butler back in the lineup Monday against Angels righty Nick Tropeano, per Lee, saying that he’ll definitely play Tuesday when the A’s deal with lefty Hector Santiago. Butler, whom the A’s signed to a three-year, $30MM contract in November 2014, has batted just .262/.323/.386 since the beginning of the ’14 campaign and been the least valuable player in baseball by the standards of fWAR during that time frame. The soon-to-be 30-year-old has been vastly superior against lefties than right-handers historically, though that wasn’t the case last season. So far this year, nine of Butler’s 10 plate appearances have come versus southpaws.
- Angels lefty Tyler Skaggs, who’s on the comeback from August 2014 Tommy John surgery, made his 2016 debut for Triple-A Salt Lake on Sunday. The 24-year-old threw 42 pitches over three innings, struck out one and allowed a run on three hits (two bunt singles) and two walks, according to Taylor Blake Ward of InsideTheHalos.com. Skaggs’ fastball sat in the 91-93 mph range, which is right in line with his 2014 average of 92 mph (Twitter links). That year, Skaggs tossed 113 innings of 4.30 ERA ball for the Angels to go along with a 6.85 K/9 and 2.39 BB/9. ERA estimators like FIP (3.55) and xFIP (3.65) indicated that Skaggs deserved a better fate with respect to results.
- The Angels entered Sunday having applied defensive shifts more than any team in the majors (79 times over five games), according to data from Fangraphs (link via Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com). Their 15.8 shifts per game represents a marked increase for a team that was around the middle of the pack in shifting over the previous four seasons. First-year general manager Billy Eppler is largely behind the Halos’ change in philosophy, having installed an analytics team that judges when the team should employ the shift, per Gonzalez.
The Angels have announced that they’ve claimed righty Danny Reynolds from the Astros and returned him to Double-A Arkansas, where he pitched last season. The Astros designated Reynolds for assignment on Thursday.
The 24-year-old Reynolds was previously a prospect in the Angels system, but he was claimed last December by the Dodgers and then the Astros. Last season, the 24-year-old posted a 4.57 ERA, 10.4 K/9 and 5.8 BB/9 in 43 1/3 innings of relief at Arkansas, increasing his strikeout rate but also his walk rate. Reynolds, a third-round pick of the Angels in 2009, has never pitched in the big leagues.
- The Angels have optioned hard throwing reliever Cam Bedrosian to the minors, the club reports. In a corresponding move, A.J. Achter has been promoted to the major league roster. Achter, 27, is a soft-tossing righty with an extreme fly ball tendency. In 13 major league innings last season, he allowed four home runs. Achter does have good command with a history of solid strikeout rates. Bedrosian continues to struggle with commanding his 95 mph fastball. The club likely hopes a stint in the minors can help him to locate better.
- Rangers third baseman Adrian Beltre told reporters, including Evan Grant of the Dallas Morning News, that he is still waiting on a contract proposal from the Rangers following yesterday’s loss to the Angels. Grant writes that the Rangers’ hesitation, unsurprisingly, is likely due to Beltre’s age. The three-year deal he seeks would cost Texas something in the vicinity of $60MM, and the Rangers must weigh whether that type of investment in Beltre’s age-38 through age-40 seasons is a better course of action than trusting a high-upside but unproven prospect, Joey Gallo, to man the position while making scarcely more than $1.5MM (total) in his pre-arbitration seasons over that same time frame.
- Angels left-hander Andrew Heaney was relieved after receiving encouraging news following an MRI, writes the Orange County Register’s Jeff Fletcher. “I saw the MRI for myself,” Heaney explained. “Obviously I’m not a doctor, but the way they explained it to me, it looked perfectly sound and healthy,” he added in reference to his ulnar collateral ligament. The words “forearm tightness” have become increasingly frightening in recent years, as that can often be a precursor to Tommy John surgery, but the MRI makes two waves of evaluations that seem to indicate a healthy UCL for Heaney. In his absence, the Halos will turn to Nick Tropeano to step into the rotation, though as Fletcher notes, Tropeano didn’t exceed four innings in an appearance in Spring Training. With Tropeano and Jered Weaver both limited in terms of endurance at this time, there could be some extra stress placed on the ’pen.
- Angels righty Jered Weaver tells reporters, including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, that he is “100 percent” certain that he will return to form. Weaver told the media that his velocity, which sat 80-82 mph late in Spring Training, reached 86 mph a couple of times in a four-inning simulated game earlier this week, and while skipper Mike Scioscia didn’t reveal specific velocity readings from the workout, he did acknowledge that there was improvement. Weaver conceded that he still has work to do both in terms of endurance and velocity, but he expressed confidence in his ability to make strides in both departments. He’s lined up to pitch for the Halos on Sunday, and with yesterday’s news that Andrew Heaney has been placed on the DL due to a forearm strain, Weaver’s performance is even more crucial to the Angels. It should be noted, too, that while 86 mph (especially from a right-hander) is well below average, Weaver enjoyed success in both 2013 and 2014 while averaging about 86.4 mph on his fastball. Scraping 86 and averaging 86 are different, of course, but the uptick in velocity is nonetheless an encouraging sign. Weaver averaged just 83.3 mph on his fastball last year.
The Angels announced today that left-hander Andrew Heaney has been placed on the disabled list with a strained flexor muscle in his left forearm (Twitter link). As Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register writes, Heaney’s velocity dipped from 93-94 mph in the first inning of last night’s season debut to 90-91 mph in the second inning, and he was working at 88-89 mph by the end of his six innings. Heaney complained of some “tightness” in his left forearm following the outing.
While forearm tightness is an ominous ailment, as it’s often a precursor to Tommy John surgery, MLB.com’s Alden Gonzalez tweets that doctors have assured the Angels that Heaney’s ulnar collateral ligament is healthy. In regards to the possibility of Tommy John, GM Billy Eppler told Gonzalez (Twitter link): “All I can say is that with the muscle strain, you’d rather hear the word muscle than ligament.” Gonzalez also tweets that an initial clinical exam showed Heaney’s UCL to be in good shape, and a followup MRI confirmed that diagnosis. The MLB.com scribe adds that there’s no timetable for Heaney to resume throwing, though Fletcher tweets that Eppler says Heaney will rest his arm for a couple of weeks before the club proceeds.
While the fact that Heaney appears positioned to avoid a catastrophic injury is good news for the Angels, the absence of their No. 2 starter from an already injury-ravaged rotation is disconcerting all the same. Anaheim already has C.J. Wilson on the disabled list, and with Heaney joining him, they’re left with Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago, Matt Shoemaker and Jered Weaver, the latter of whom has had his own physical issues and been struggling to get his velocity even into the mid-80s this spring. Nick Tropeano will likely be recalled to replace Heaney on the roster and in the rotation, and lefty Tyler Skaggs could eventually emerge as an option. Those options aside, losing Heaney for any significant amount of time would be a blow to an Angels roster that entered the season with a number of question marks.
- Angels left-hander C.J. Wilson is still waiting to be cleared to begin ramping up, Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register reports. Wilson, 35, is building up strength in his balky shoulder, and says he expects to need a full month to get ready once he’s allowed to begin a throwing program. Los Angeles will need everything it can get from the veteran, but it remains unclear at present how long it will take for him to make it back to the big league rotation.