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Former catcher Thaiss No. 10 prospect at first

MLB.com

Matt Thaiss is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Angels' No. 5 prospect and the No. 10 first-base prospect in baseball.

Los Angeles selected the 22-year-old with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 Draft out of the University of Virginia. He was the second New Jersey native drafted in the first round by the Angels, after Mike Trout in 2009.

Matt Thaiss is ranked by MLB Pipeline as the Angels' No. 5 prospect and the No. 10 first-base prospect in baseball.

Los Angeles selected the 22-year-old with the 16th overall pick in the 2016 Draft out of the University of Virginia. He was the second New Jersey native drafted in the first round by the Angels, after Mike Trout in 2009.

:: Top 10 Prospects by Position ::

Thaiss has produced well throughout his two Minor League seasons to this point, and while the power potential scouts saw in his bat hasn't shown up consistently yet, it is expected it will as he continues through the farm system.

A left-handed hitter and right-handed thrower, the 6-foot, 195-pound Thaiss has moved quickly through the Angels' organizational ranks so far. He split the 2017 season between Class A Advanced Inland Empire and Double-A Mobile while hitting .274/.375/.395 with nine home runs in 133 games. He'll likely begin the 2018 season at Double-A.

Video: Thaiss hits at Fall League Bowman Hitting Challenge

Thaiss was considered one of the purest hitters of the 2016 Draft class as a catcher for Virginia. He's shown patience and good pitch selection, walking 103 times and striking out 141 times in 903 professional plate appearances. He doesn't possess elite speed on the basepaths, but enough of it to be an extra-base threat -- he had 27 doubles and four triples in 2017.

Defensively, the Angels are seeing significant improvements from Thaiss at first base, particularly with his footwork. Part of the rationale behind moving him from behind the plate was to help him focus on the primary asset for which he was drafted: his hitting. Former Angels first baseman Wally Joyner worked with Thaiss during Spring Training last year as he learned the new position.

"I've gone from really not playing there at all, maybe 25 games total in my career, to feeling very confident over there," Thaiss told MLB.com's Jim Callis last spring. "The big thing is getting ground balls and game experience. I think it's going really well. First base is definitely less demanding. I don't get beat up like I did behind the plate."

With his rapid ascension through the farm system to this point, and his advanced hitting approach among those in his Draft class, Thaiss could rise to the big league level by the 2019 season.

When Thaiss is called up, the Angels could have a crowded situation for first basemen and designated hitters, given that C.J. Cron is under team control through 2020, and Albert Pujols' contract runs through the 2021 season.

Manny Randhawa is a reporter for MLB.com based in Denver. Follow him on Twitter at @MannyOnMLB.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Rising prospect Barria's next stop may be MLB

Angels righty, 21, attends rookie program after excelling at three levels in '17
MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- Last season was a breakthrough for Angels pitching prospect Jaime Barria.

After opening the year at Class A Advanced Inland Empire, the 21-year-old right-hander made a steep ascent through the farm system, earning a promotion to Double-A Mobile before finishing the season at Triple-A Salt Lake. Barria maintained his success even as he progressed through each level, logging a combined 2.80 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP over 141 2/3 innings.

ANAHEIM -- Last season was a breakthrough for Angels pitching prospect Jaime Barria.

After opening the year at Class A Advanced Inland Empire, the 21-year-old right-hander made a steep ascent through the farm system, earning a promotion to Double-A Mobile before finishing the season at Triple-A Salt Lake. Barria maintained his success even as he progressed through each level, logging a combined 2.80 ERA with a 1.07 WHIP over 141 2/3 innings.

"I had the opportunity to face batters at Triple-A, and it was a little bit difficult," Barria said in Spanish during the Rookie Career Development Program in Leesburg, Va., last weekend. "Hopefully I'll be able to improve in 2018 and have more consistency and continue to develop."

Video: Barria named Angels' Pipeline pitcher of the year

The next challenge for Barria seems likely to be the Majors, as he has emerged as one of the Angels' top pitching prospects in the upper Minors and was added to the club's 40-man roster in November. General manager Billy Eppler has also included Barria among his list of nine pitchers who he believes will contribute to the Angels' rotation in 2018.

The club figures to get a closer look at Barria during Spring Training, as the Panama native received his first invitation to Major League camp.

"I'm preparing myself physically and mentally for what's ahead, since they invited me to Major League camp," Barria said. "I know it's going to be a difficult challenge, but you have to face it and show up."

Barria, who is ranked as the Angels' No. 9 prospect by MLB Pipeline, features a three-pitch mix, wielding a low-90s fastball with good life, a deceptive changeup and a curveball. He has already shown that his stuff can play against high levels of competition, as demonstrated by his successful appearance at the SiriusXM All-Star Futures Game in Miami last summer.

Still, Barria said his goal for 2018 is to continue to refine his pitches, particularly his breaking ball.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Jaime Barria

Angels get 2nd chance to land Maitan, Soto

MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- Kevin Maitan was considered the top international prospect in 2016 when he signed with the Braves for $4.25 million, a Venezuelan bonus record.

The Angels were among the many teams eyeing Maitan back then, but they knew they stood virtually no chance of landing the highly touted teenage shortstop. Since the Angels had doled out nearly $15 million to sign Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin in 2014, far exceeding their available bonus pool, they were prohibited from spending more than $300,000 to sign any international prospect for two years.

ANAHEIM -- Kevin Maitan was considered the top international prospect in 2016 when he signed with the Braves for $4.25 million, a Venezuelan bonus record.

The Angels were among the many teams eyeing Maitan back then, but they knew they stood virtually no chance of landing the highly touted teenage shortstop. Since the Angels had doled out nearly $15 million to sign Cuban infielder Roberto Baldoquin in 2014, far exceeding their available bonus pool, they were prohibited from spending more than $300,000 to sign any international prospect for two years.

"We were at such a financial disadvantage for what those players were going to be receiving, there wasn't much that we could do," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. "When you're talking about that kind of separation between what they're perceived to get or what their expectations are and what in reality you can give, there's not a lot of conversations that can take place."

But in November, the Angels got a second crack at Maitan after he and 12 other Braves prospects were declared free agents as part of the penalties imposed on Atlanta for international signing rules violations. As soon as Major League Baseball sent out a memo informing teams of the group's availability, international scouting director Carlos Gomez and his staff got to work reconnecting with Maitan and fellow shortstop Livan Soto, another recently released Braves prospect who originally signed for $1 million in 2016, to express the Angels' interest.

"When they were put back in the marketplace and we were not in a restriction in that moment in time, it allowed us to have a second life to pursuing them," Eppler said. "We did exactly that."

The Angels already had scouting reports on Maitan and Soto from watching them play for Braves affiliates in 2017, but Gomez and his team still headed to Venezuela to watch the pair work out and meet with their families. During those meetings, the club outlined its expectations, developmental philosophies and explained why it thought it would be a good fit for the teenagers. Gomez spearheaded those efforts, though Eppler also helped in the recruitment by speaking with Maitan and his father via FaceTime.

The Angels also received an endorsement from former infielder Maicer Izturis, as he and his brother, Cesar, invited Maitan to work out at their baseball academy in Barquisimeto this offseason.

"I do know that Maicer gave us a vote of confidence and spoke very glowingly about this organization in general," Eppler said. "So I can only imagine that that was a helping factor."

On Dec. 5, the first day that the former Braves prospects were eligible to join new organizations, the Angels snagged both Maitan and Soto, signing them for $2.2 million and $850,000, respectively. Maitan is ranked as the club's No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline, while Soto is No. 26.

Video: Top Prospects: Livan Soto, SS, Angels

Maitan, 17, has drawn comparisons to Miguel Sano and countryman Miguel Cabrera, though the switch-hitter had a rather lackluster professional debut in 2017, batting .241 with a .290 on-base percentage in 42 games between two Rookie-level affiliates with the Braves. There are also doubts on whether he'll continue to play shortstop, as some scouts believe he'll eventually move to third or first base.

"Hard to say," Eppler said when asked if he envisioned Maitan sticking at short. "We're going to give him every opportunity to do that, and time will tell."

Soto, 17, is considered an excellent defender with the potential to become an everyday shortstop in the Majors. He hit .225 with a .332 on-base percentage in 47 Rookie-level games in 2017.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Angels agree with prospects Maitan, Soto

MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- The Angels officially agreed to terms on Saturday with 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, the top prospect the Braves forfeited for violating international signing rules. The agreement is worth $2.2 million, per MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.

The Angels have also agreed to terms with shortstop Livan Soto, another former Braves prospect, who will receive an $850,000 bonus.

ANAHEIM -- The Angels officially agreed to terms on Saturday with 17-year-old Venezuelan shortstop Kevin Maitan, the top prospect the Braves forfeited for violating international signing rules. The agreement is worth $2.2 million, per MLB.com's Jesse Sanchez.

The Angels have also agreed to terms with shortstop Livan Soto, another former Braves prospect, who will receive an $850,000 bonus.

Video: Top Prospects: Livan Soto, SS

Maitan is the Angels' No. 2 prospect, according to MLBPipeline.com, behind Shohei Ohtani, who is the No. 1 overall prospect in the game.

Video: Angels sign top prospect Kevin Maitan

Maitan originally signed with the Braves in 2016 for $4.25 million, a Venezuelan bonus record. The switch-hitter made his professional debut in the United States this past season and struggled across two Rookie-level leagues, batting .241 with a .290 on-base percentage and two home runs in 42 games.

Video: MLB Now on Maitan reportedly signing with the Angels

Soto, 17, signed for $1 million out of Venezuela in 2016. He hit .225 with a .332 on-base percentage in 47 Rookie-level games this past season and impressed scouts with his defense.

Tweet from @Angels: Today, the #Angels have officially signed Venezuela natives, SS Liv��n Soto and SS Kevin Maitan. pic.twitter.com/XU8S802fmy

Maitan and Soto were among the 13 Braves prospects who were declared free agents last month following Major League Baseball's investigation into infractions committed by the club on the international market. Tuesday marked the first day the prospects were eligible to sign with new teams, and the Angels wasted little time in scooping up the two young infielders.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Angels select Bard from Twins in Rule 5 Draft

MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels selected right-hander Luke Bard from the Twins' Triple-A roster during the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

In the Minor League portion, they lost right-hander Damien Magnifico, who was ranked as the club's No. 30 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, to the Pirates, and the Halos took shortstop Riley Unroe from the Rays and right-hander Matt Ball from the Rangers.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels selected right-hander Luke Bard from the Twins' Triple-A roster during the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

In the Minor League portion, they lost right-hander Damien Magnifico, who was ranked as the club's No. 30 prospect by MLBPipeline.com, to the Pirates, and the Halos took shortstop Riley Unroe from the Rays and right-hander Matt Ball from the Rangers.

:: Rule 5 Draft coverage ::

Bard, 27, logged a 2.76 ERA over 65 1/3 innings between Double-A Chattanooga and Triple-A Rochester in 2017, averaging 13.6 strikeouts per nine innings. Bard was a first-round Draft pick of the Twins in 2012, and he is the younger brother of Daniel Bard, a former pitcher for the Red Sox.

"He's got power stuff," Angels general manager Billy Eppler said. "A plus secondary pitch, the ability to miss bats. We're going to give him an opportunity to make our club."

Bard's selection will cost the Angels $100,000. If he doesn't stay on the team's 25-man roster for the full 2018 season, he must be offered back to the Twins for $50,000. The Angels now have 39 players on their 40-man roster.

The Angels left Magnifico exposed to the Rule 5 Draft by leaving him off their 40-man roster last month. The 26-year-old reliever was acquired from the Orioles in May, but he made only one appearance for the Halos and struggled at Triple-A Salt Lake, posting a 6.82 ERA over 34 1/3 innings. In August, Magnifico was outrighted off the 40-man roster and demoted to Double-A Mobile, where he recorded a 3.18 ERA over 11 1/3 innings.

Unroe, 22, batted .206 with a .614 OPS in 95 games between Class-A Advanced Charlotte and Double-A Montgomery in 2017. He was a second-round Draft pick of the Rays in '13. Ball, 22, recorded a 5.67 ERA in 33 1/3 innings for Class A Hickory last season. He was originally selected by the White Sox in the 11th round of the 2013 Draft.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Tigers trade Kinsler to Angels for 2 prospects

Club receives OF Montgomery, RHP Hernandez in exchange for All-Star 2B
MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The yearlong, off-and-on trade saga of Ian Kinsler ended with one real option between familiar trade partners. The Tigers took it, sending their veteran second baseman to the Angels for two prospects on Wednesday night to continue their rebuilding project at the Winter Meetings.

In return, the Tigers received center fielder Troy Montgomery and right-hander Wilkel Hernandez, prospects ranked Nos. 20 and 24, respectively, in the Angels' system per MLBPipeline.com. The Angels, meanwhile, will cover the entirety of Kinsler's $11 million salary for next season.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The yearlong, off-and-on trade saga of Ian Kinsler ended with one real option between familiar trade partners. The Tigers took it, sending their veteran second baseman to the Angels for two prospects on Wednesday night to continue their rebuilding project at the Winter Meetings.

In return, the Tigers received center fielder Troy Montgomery and right-hander Wilkel Hernandez, prospects ranked Nos. 20 and 24, respectively, in the Angels' system per MLBPipeline.com. The Angels, meanwhile, will cover the entirety of Kinsler's $11 million salary for next season.

In the end, it was the one trade general manager Al Avila could execute. Though the Tigers were talking with four interested teams on Kinsler as recently as Wednesday, including the Mets, all four were on Kinsler's 10-team limited no-trade clause, which he updated at season's end.

Avila, based off talks he had with Kinsler at season's end regarding the direction of the club, hoped Kinsler would accept a deal to a contender. Once the Tigers reached out to Kinsler and his agent on Wednesday afternoon, the only interested club to which Kinsler would accept a trade was the Angels. The presence of former Tiger Justin Upton, traded by Detroit at the end of August, played a large factor in making Kinsler feel comfortable going.

"He basically used his no-trade," Avila said, "and the club he agreed to go to was the Angels. ... I talked to three other clubs, and those three clubs he would not go to."

That left Avila with a choice: Trade Kinsler to the Angels, or hold onto him into next season in hopes that another team not on his list potentially would grow interested. After holding onto Kinsler through trade discussions last winter and again near the non-waiver Trade Deadline, Avila didn't see the value in waiting some more with Kinsler turning 36 in June.

Hot Stove Tracker

"We went through it at the Trade Deadline this past summer; that didn't work," Avila said. "And now here we are, and I think it's time to move on. The longer you wait in this scenario, I don't know that [the return] would've been any better."

The deal ends a lengthy stand on the trading block for Kinsler, whom the Tigers had tried to trade at various points since last offseason. The combination of a tepid trade market and Kinsler's no-trade clause kept Kinsler in Detroit last offseason, holding back the club's roster remodeling until this past summer.

The Angels had been interested in Kinsler last summer, but they acquired Brandon Phillips from the Braves in August once Kinsler was blocked on waivers. With the Tigers' rebuild well underway, and with one more season at $11 million, Avila moved to swing a trade.

"It was one team," Avila said. "I had no leverage."

The deal formally ended Kinsler's four-year tenure in Detroit, where he became a clubhouse leader, All-Star and Gold Glove Award winner. Kinsler's .288 average, 28 home runs, 83 RBIs and .831 OPS helped propel the Tigers into playoff contention in 2016. He fell back offensively this past season to a .236 average, 22 homers, 52 RBIs and a .725 OPS.

Kinsler's 17.4 fWAR over four seasons in Detroit ranks third among Major League second basemen in that span behind Jose Altuve (23.9) and Brian Dozier (18.8). Kinsler's 57 Defensive Runs Saved since 2014 are 27 more than the next highest second baseman.

The 23-year-old Montgomery, an eighth-round pick in the 2016 Draft out of Ohio State University, batted .271 with eight home runs, 38 RBIs, 15 stolen bases and a .771 OPS across three levels of the Angels' farm system in 2017, ending up at Double-A Mobile. The left-handed hitter can play all outfield positions, but he was behind younger outfielders on the club's prospect rankings.

"He's a high-energy guy. He's got tools," Avila said. "And he's not too old, either."

Hernandez was an amateur signing out of Venezuela three years ago who made his American debut at the Rookie level this past season. The lanky 18-year-old went 4-1 with a 2.64 ERA in 12 outings, seven of them starts, between two stops, allowing 25 hits over 44 1/3 innings with 22 walks and 44 strikeouts.

"The pitcher's very young, so there's still upside there," Avila said. "The guy has a good pitcher's body. He throws in the mid-90s, he's topped out at 96. Obviously with young pitchers, the younger the guys are, the farther away [from the Majors] they are, but you like the upside. There's definitely upside there. He's definitely a prospect, a legit prospect."

Kinsler did not receive concessions to waive his no-trade clause, according to a source with knowledge of the deal. He is the sixth Tigers veteran to be traded since July, joining J.D. Martinez, Justin Wilson, Alex Avila, Upton and Justin Verlander.

With the trade, Dixon Machado is expected to move to second base for at least part of his playing time. Avila said earlier this week the Tigers will also look for a Minor League signing or other acquisition, somebody who can play second base as well as other infield positions.

Neither prospect needs to be protected, leaving the Tigers' 40-man roster at 38 heading into Thursday's Rule 5 Draft. Detroit holds the top pick.

Jason Beck has covered the Tigers for MLB.com since 2002. Read Beck's Blog, follow him on Twitter @beckjason and Facebook.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Detroit Tigers, Ian Kinsler

Angels reaffirm confidence in Ohtani's health

Eppler says two-way star will enter spring with no restrictions
MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One day after a report set off alarms regarding the soundness of prized acquisition Shohei Ohtani's right elbow, the Angels reiterated their confidence in the Japanese two-way star's health.

"The only understanding we have is [it's] really just something that's behind him," manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings. "There's no concern, and there's no restrictions. He'll be full go in Spring Training."

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- One day after a report set off alarms regarding the soundness of prized acquisition Shohei Ohtani's right elbow, the Angels reiterated their confidence in the Japanese two-way star's health.

"The only understanding we have is [it's] really just something that's behind him," manager Mike Scioscia said Wednesday on Day 3 of the Winter Meetings. "There's no concern, and there's no restrictions. He'll be full go in Spring Training."

Buy Ohtani gear

Video: Ohtani received preventative procedure in October

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

Yahoo Sports reported late Tuesday that Ohtani has a first-degree UCL sprain in his throwing elbow, an injury that could put him more at risk for Tommy John surgery. Ohtani received a platelet-rich plasma injection to relieve elbow pain in October, according to the report, though the treatment was disclosed to all Major League teams during the recruitment process.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said Ohtani underwent a thorough physical examination at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles last Thursday before he signed with the Angels, and MRI scans revealed that the 23-year-old's right elbow "looked consistent with pitchers at his age and usage level."

"It is not out of the ordinary for a player to get a PRP at the end of a season," Eppler said Wednesday. "I'm ecstatic to have the player, as happy as anyone in baseball."

Hot Stove Tracker

Ohtani, who is now back in Japan, has been playing catch, and Eppler said he texted him on Tuesday night with the help of Google Translate.

The Angels are still in the process of finding a full-time interpreter for Ohtani. Eppler said he has collected a few resumes, though he does not expect to conduct interviews until after the Winter Meetings. Eppler said he plans to introduce several candidates to Ohtani, who will have the opportunity to give his input before anyone is hired.

Video: Scioscia ready to get creative with Ohtani in mix

Worth noting
• The Angels would like to bolster their corner-infield situation, and they have some flexibility because of Luis Valbuena's ability to play both first and third base. Eppler said he doesn't have a preference for where Valbuena is primarily deployed, though he told him to be prepared to play more third base.

The New York Post reported Wednesday that the Angels are among the 10 suitors for free-agent infielder Todd Frazier, a right-handed hitter who can play first, third and potentially even some second base. The 31-year-old Frazier, a New Jersey native like Mike Trout, batted .213 with a .772 OPS, 27 home runs and 76 RBIs in 147 games between the White Sox and the Yankees last season.

• Eppler said it's "hard to say" whether the Angels will be active in the Major League phase of the Rule 5 Draft on Thursday.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Angels get Kinsler in deal with Tigers

Club trades two prospects for All-Star second baseman
MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels plugged the biggest remaining hole on their roster Wednesday, acquiring veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers in exchange for two Minor League prospects.

Kinsler, 35, was the most established second baseman available on the trade market, though he is coming off a down year, batting .236 with a .725 OPS, 22 home runs and 52 RBIs in 139 games with Detroit in 2017. A four-time All-Star and an American League Gold Glove Award winner in 2016, he has hit .273 with a .789 OPS and averaged 23 home runs over 12 seasons in the Majors.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Angels plugged the biggest remaining hole on their roster Wednesday, acquiring veteran second baseman Ian Kinsler from the Tigers in exchange for two Minor League prospects.

Kinsler, 35, was the most established second baseman available on the trade market, though he is coming off a down year, batting .236 with a .725 OPS, 22 home runs and 52 RBIs in 139 games with Detroit in 2017. A four-time All-Star and an American League Gold Glove Award winner in 2016, he has hit .273 with a .789 OPS and averaged 23 home runs over 12 seasons in the Majors.

The Angels will take on the entirety of Kinsler's $11 million salary in 2018, the final year of his contract. The price for him was outfielder Troy Montgomery and right-hander Wilkel Hernandez, who were ranked as the Halos' Nos. 20 and 24 prospects, respectively, by MLBPipeline.com.

Video: Duquette discusses Kinsler going to Angels

The Angels were interested in acquiring Kinsler last summer, though they ultimately swung a trade with the Braves for veteran Brandon Phillips, who is now a free agent. General manager Billy Eppler said he has watched Kinsler play for a "long, long, long time," and he believes Kinsler can still perform to his standard levels despite his downtick in production in 2017.

"The people that we task with evaluating those things, both on-field evaluations and a little more metric-based evaluations, gave us some optimism that he's better than that line," Eppler said. "I think he knows that. We believe in him as a player."

The Angels were among the 10 teams on Kinsler's no-trade list, but he approved the trade after speaking with Eppler over the phone. In Anaheim, he will reunite with ex-Tigers teammate Justin Upton, who signed a five-year, $106 million deal to return to the Halos earlier this offseason, as well as his former manager Brad Ausmus, who joined the Angels' front office last month as a special assistant to the GM.

Eppler consulted Upton and Ausmus before making the trade, with both of them giving a "thumbs up" for Kinsler.

"He's a pretty complete baseball player," Eppler said. "Hits for average, has selectivity, can impact the baseball, plays outstanding defense, runs the bases well, phenomenal in the clubhouse, great teammate, from everything I've heard about him."

Video: Sherman on Angels' acquisition of Kinsler

Kinsler will also partner with shortstop Andrelton Simmons to give the Angels one of the elite double-play combinations in the Majors. The club's up-the-middle defense now features three Gold Glove winners in Kinsler, Simmons and catcher Martin Maldonado, as well as Mike Trout in center field.

"I like defense," Eppler said. "I like scoring runs and preventing runs. I'm excited to watch these guys play."

The Angels have struggled to get production out of their second basemen in the past couple of years, as their .592 OPS at the position ranked last in the Majors this past season. Last offseason, the Halos made a similar trade with the Nationals for Danny Espinosa, who provided above-average defense but underwhelmed at the plate, leading to his release in July.

Though Kinsler represents another short-term solution, he did not cost the Angels any top prospects. Montgomery, 23, was an eighth-round Draft pick in 2016, and he batted .271 with a .771 OPS and reached Double-A Mobile in 2017. Hernandez, 18, recorded a 2.64 ERA over 44 1/3 innings across two Rookie levels last season.

"Detroit got two really good players in this deal, but we felt that we were positioning the club to be a strong club next year," Eppler said. "This was the opportunity that presented itself, so we took it."

Video: Fred Zinkie on Angels' Kinsler trade

Fantasy spin | Fred Zinkie (@FredZinkieMLB)
Kinsler was a productive mixed-league option in 2017 despite a .236 average brought down in part by batted-ball misfortune (.244 BABIP), posting 22 homers, 14 steals and 90 runs scored. The four-time All-Star should go in the mid-rounds of mixed-league drafts this spring on the expectation that he will provide a solid batting mark with a triple-digit runs total as a table-setter for sluggers Trout and Upton.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels, Wilkel Hernandez, Ian Kinsler, Troy Montgomery

Angels satisfied with Ohtani's medical report

Eppler says October PRP injection was 'preventative' procedure
MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Angels general manager Billy Eppler confirmed on Tuesday that Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right elbow in October, which Eppler described as a "preventative" measure taken by Ohtani's former Japanese club, the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Eppler said Ohtani's procedure was mentioned in the medical report distributed by Major League Baseball and was not triggered by any kind of elbow discomfort, though Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported afterward that Ohtani has a "first-degree sprain" in his right ulnar collateral ligament, which is the least severe of UCL injuries, but could eventually lead to Tommy John surgery. A physical obtained by Yahoo Sports said Ohtani, who also has a "small free body" floating near his UCL, should still be able to participate in baseball activities with proper elbow care.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Angels general manager Billy Eppler confirmed on Tuesday that Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani received a platelet-rich plasma injection in his right elbow in October, which Eppler described as a "preventative" measure taken by Ohtani's former Japanese club, the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Eppler said Ohtani's procedure was mentioned in the medical report distributed by Major League Baseball and was not triggered by any kind of elbow discomfort, though Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports reported afterward that Ohtani has a "first-degree sprain" in his right ulnar collateral ligament, which is the least severe of UCL injuries, but could eventually lead to Tommy John surgery. A physical obtained by Yahoo Sports said Ohtani, who also has a "small free body" floating near his UCL, should still be able to participate in baseball activities with proper elbow care.

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Video: Guardado on Ohtani's UCL injury, injection

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

"He underwent a thorough physical with MRI scans to both his elbow and shoulder," Eppler told MLB.com. "Scans that we conduct whenever we sign a pitcher. Based on the readings of the MRIs, there are no signs of acute or new trauma in the elbow. His elbow looked consistent with pitchers at his age and usage level. We were pleased with the results of the physical and we are happy to have the player."

Ohtani also underwent a physical examination at the Kerlan-Jobe Orthopaedic Clinic in Los Angeles on Thursday before agreeing to sign with the Angels.

Some Major League pitchers have been able to pitch through partial UCL tears without requiring elbow surgery, including Ohtani's countryman, Yankees right-hander Masahiro Tanaka, and new Angels teammate Garrett Richards, who received a stem-cell injection to help regenerate his damaged elbow ligament last year.

The Halos clearly still felt comfortable going after Ohtani, who received a $2.315 million signing bonus after agreeing to a Minor League contract over the weekend. The club will also pay a $20 million posting fee to the Fighters, but the overall cost is still minimal for a player of Ohtani's caliber.

Hot Stove Tracker

Given Ohtani's potential to impact the rotation and lineup next season, the Angels are discussing other preventative steps to ease the 23-year-old's transition to the 162-game schedule in the Majors. (In Japan, clubs play 146 games and typically have Mondays off.)

Video: Eppler joins MLB Tonight to discuss Ohtani signing

Eppler said Ohtani will not hit on days he pitches, unless the team is playing in a National League park. The Halos are also seriously considering adopting a six-man rotation next season, a concept that intrigued Eppler even before the Ohtani signing.

"We've given a ton of thought to it," Eppler said. "A lot."

The Angels' current stable of starters with options, the four additional off-days granted by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement and a desire to mirror Ohtani's once-a-week pitching schedule in Japan are a few reasons why Eppler believes a six-man rotation would be more feasible in 2018.

An expanded rotation would also be a logical way to manage Ohtani's workload in his first full season in the Majors. Ohtani has never pitched more than 160 2/3 innings in a single season, and Eppler said the Halos do not foresee him making 33 starts, the number accrued by most pitchers in a five-man rotation in a year.

Video: Fantasy 411 predicts Ohtani's innings with Angels

Still, the rest of the Angels' starters might not be as enthused about the possibility of a six-man rotation, which would disrupt their routines between starts and could also carry financial implications for players due to the overall reduction in innings. Richards will be entering his final season before free agency, while Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney and JC Ramirez are eligible for arbitration, a process that considers figures like innings pitched when determining raises in salary.

Asked how he would respond to possible resistance from other starters, Eppler said he would have conversations with players and point to medical research touting the potential health benefits of a six-man rotation. That could prove to be a key selling point, as the Halos' rotation has been hampered by injuries over the past two seasons, with Richards, Heaney, Skaggs, Shoemaker, Ramirez and Nick Tropeano all spending significant time on the disabled list in 2017.

Video: On High Heat, Mike Scioscia discusses the Angels

"I can tell you medically that I've had reputable doctors and biomechanists say that a six-man would be advantageous," Eppler said. "And when we're rehabilitating players, they bring up a six-man [rotation] and the merits behind that.

"If you wanted to have a 10-, 12-, 15-year career, what would you want your employer to be mindful of? Your health," he continued. "We're tasked with doing what we feel is best for the long-term health of our players. That's an important thing to me. You're striking the core of my DNA. I'm not putting players at risk. And if there's a methodology that can help players out, we're going to present it to them, because I feel I have a moral responsibility to that."

Video: Scioscia ready to get creative with Ohtani in mix

If the Angels choose not to adopt a six-man rotation, Eppler said Ohtani's innings could also be kept in check by occasionally skipping his turns in a five-man rotation. A blend between the two configurations is also a possibility.

Eppler said he intends to consult his coaching, front office and performance staffs before making a decision, which he expects to come before Spring Training.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Eppler lauds staff for tireless pursuit of Ohtani

Angels' front office got 'locked in' to land two-way star
MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Shohei Ohtani chase sparked a full mobilization of the Angels' front office and led to a few sleep-deprived nights for general manager Billy Eppler, whose efforts were rewarded last week when Ohtani chose to come to Anaheim after drawing fervid interest from around the league.

Eppler said many of his lieutenants had to cut their Thanksgiving holidays short in order to help craft the Angels' written response to the questionnaire distributed by Ohtani's agency, CAA, which asked clubs to describe how the two-way phenom would fit into their organizations. On two occasions, Eppler said he stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning texting assistant general manager Jonathan Strangio to review the final edits for the document.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- The Shohei Ohtani chase sparked a full mobilization of the Angels' front office and led to a few sleep-deprived nights for general manager Billy Eppler, whose efforts were rewarded last week when Ohtani chose to come to Anaheim after drawing fervid interest from around the league.

Eppler said many of his lieutenants had to cut their Thanksgiving holidays short in order to help craft the Angels' written response to the questionnaire distributed by Ohtani's agency, CAA, which asked clubs to describe how the two-way phenom would fit into their organizations. On two occasions, Eppler said he stayed up until 3 or 4 in the morning texting assistant general manager Jonathan Strangio to review the final edits for the document.

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:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

"Thank God he's an English major," Eppler said.

The Angels learned they had made it past the first round around 11:15 a.m. PT last Sunday and were told they would have the opportunity to make a two-hour presentation to Ohtani the following night at 7. Eppler said he slept only three and a half hours as he and his team scrambled to prepare their pitch.

"Nothing about this was standard," Eppler said. "My whole group locked in. Everybody was all hands on deck. They worked their tails off so that we could make this a reality."

While the Angels are willing to accommodate Ohtani's desire to become a two-way standout in the Majors, Eppler said they made no long-term guarantees regarding his future as both a right-handed pitcher and left-handed-hitting slugger.

"Right now we're going to bring him in and he's going to do both," Eppler said. "Let's just see where it goes. We don't make any promises. But he knows our position at the outset, and he knows our commitment to his development. We know he's not a finished product."

Worth noting

• The Angels would like to add a fourth outfielder to back up Justin Upton, Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun, though Eppler said his staff is still debating whether they should target a particular handedness of hitter for the opening.

They have bolstered their internal outfield depth by signing right-handed-hitting outfielder and former top prospect Rymer Liriano to a Minor League contract. Liriano, 26, has batted .220 with a .580 OPS in 150 career plate appearances in the Majors. He appeared in 21 games for the White Sox last season.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Angels may use Ohtani in 6-man rotation

Club ponders options to maximize two-way star's impact
MLB.com

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With Shohei Ohtani in tow, one of the questions the Angels are now weighing this offseason is whether a six-man rotation would be the best way to fold the Japanese two-way star into the Majors next year.

General manager Billy Eppler is open to the possibility, though he has not yet broached the idea of an expanded rotation to the rest of his starters. Eppler said he expects a decision to be made before pitchers and catchers report to Tempe, Ariz., on Feb. 13 for the start of Spring Training.

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- With Shohei Ohtani in tow, one of the questions the Angels are now weighing this offseason is whether a six-man rotation would be the best way to fold the Japanese two-way star into the Majors next year.

General manager Billy Eppler is open to the possibility, though he has not yet broached the idea of an expanded rotation to the rest of his starters. Eppler said he expects a decision to be made before pitchers and catchers report to Tempe, Ariz., on Feb. 13 for the start of Spring Training.

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:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

"If we, in fact, go that route, I will have conversations with them," Eppler said Monday during Day 1 of MLB's Winter Meetings.

A six-man rotation would be an attractive option for the Angels for a few reasons. First, the configuration would be more similar the one Ohtani experienced with the Nippon-Ham Fighters in Japan, where pitchers take the mound every seven days instead of the traditional five-day cycle in the Majors.

Injuries have ravaged the Angels' rotation the last two seasons, so an extra day of rest could also help keep the rest of the club's starters healthy, including Garrett Richards, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Matt Shoemaker, Nick Tropeano and JC Ramirez.

Ohtani missed most of this past season with a right ankle injury, and the 23-year-old has never pitched more than 160 2/3 innings over a single season in Nippon Professional Baseball, which has a 146-game schedule. Ohtani underwent surgery on his ankle in October, but Eppler said the 23-year-old is not expected to face any restrictions come Spring Training.

Video: Angels, fans welcome Ohtani for the very first time

One challenge of moving to a six-man rotation would be that the Angels would have room for one less position player on their bench, as Eppler said he would like to maintain a seven-man bullpen. Such a scenario could prompt the Angels to prioritize players with more positional flexibility this offseason.

"I always put a premium on flexibility, but the utility of that is a little bit more evident right now," Eppler said.

One potential free-agent target for the Angels could be infielder Eduardo Nunez, a right-handed hitter who could platoon with Luis Valbuena at third base as well as play second and shortstop. Nunez, 30, batted .313 with an .801 OPS and 12 home runs over 114 games with the Giants and the Red Sox last season, though he missed time with a hamstring injury.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Eppler 'stunned' by Ohtani choosing Angels

'It was a pretty remarkable moment,' GM says of learning two-way star's decision
MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- General manager Billy Eppler quite literally fell out of his chair when he received a call Friday morning informing him that Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani wanted to sign with the Angels.

Earlier in the day, Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA, had called to tell Eppler that a decision could be coming soon, albeit at an unpredictable moment.

ANAHEIM -- General manager Billy Eppler quite literally fell out of his chair when he received a call Friday morning informing him that Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani wanted to sign with the Angels.

Earlier in the day, Ohtani's agent, Nez Balelo of CAA, had called to tell Eppler that a decision could be coming soon, albeit at an unpredictable moment.

Get your Ohtani jersey

"It might be today, it might be tomorrow," Balelo said. "It might be 10 days from now."

:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

An hour and a half later, at 11 a.m. PT, Eppler's phone buzzed again. On the other end was CAA's main line. Eppler, who was in assistant general manager Jonathan Strangio's office at Angel Stadium, immediately shut the door.

"Hey, there's one last thing I forgot to tell you," Balelo said.

"What's that?" Eppler asked.

"It's that Shohei Ohtani wants to be an Angel."

Strangio put his face in his hands and rested his head on his desk. Eppler stood up, tried to sit back down, and missed.

"I whiffed," Eppler said. "I fell all the way to the ground. There's so much adrenaline pumping at that moment, I didn't feel it.

"I was just stunned. It was a pretty remarkable moment."

Knowing that Balelo would soon be releasing a statement to the media, Eppler quickly phoned owner Arte Moreno to tell him the good news. Outside Strangio's office, the rest of the Angels' front office staff gathered and began clapping and cheering.

Video: Shohei Ohtani describes his excitement to join Angels

For Eppler, it represented the culmination of a journey that had begun four years ago, when he first saw Ohtani play for the Nippon-Ham Fighters during his rookie season in Japan.

"There was a wow factor to him," said Eppler, who estimated that he personally scouted Ohtani about 10 times since 2013. "He was a little bit of a showstopper. Big fastball, the ability to throw three offspeed pitches for strikes, get swings and misses. And he had a presence in the batter's box that we gravitated to."

Justice: Ohtani, Trout make Halos 'must see'

While Eppler continued to monitor Ohtani's development from afar, the two didn't meet in person until Monday night, when the Angels made a two-hour presentation to the 23-year-old in Los Angeles as part of the league-wide recruitment process organized by CAA. Eppler noted that manager Mike Scioscia brought some levity to the meeting by making Ohtani laugh, but he took away no other clues regarding the impression of their pitch.

"I don't want to liken this to a job interview or an episode of 'The Bachelorette,' but you really have no read," Eppler said. "I likened it a lot to how it felt going through the GM interview process. You don't know the impression that you made, but you're all hands on deck and you're ready to jump through hoops next time we want to meet."

Video: Scioscia talks about how he plans to use Ohtani

On Thursday night, Ohtani met with Eppler and his staff again and toured Angel Stadium. Ohtani's questions seemed to be more specific this time around, but Eppler still did not allow himself to become optimistic.

"I tried to keep myself in the moment," Eppler said.

When the wait finally ended the following morning, Eppler said he felt a level of elation that was comparable to only two other milestones in his life: his wedding and the birth of his son.

The jubilation soon spread to other Angels players. Soon after he heard the news, catcher Martin Maldonado immediately requested that video from all of Ohtani's games from 2015-16 be sent to his iPad. The Angels' front office complied.

Eppler also received a call from Mike Trout, who was with many of his teammates on the East Coast as he prepared for his wedding this weekend.

Trout put Eppler on speaker and said, "Let them all hear it, let them all hear it. Did we get him?"

"Yeah, we got him," Eppler said.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels

Angels officially welcome 2-way star Ohtani

Japanese rookie says he felt strong connection with club
MLB.com

ANAHEIM -- Even as he emerged as the most sought-after free agent of this offseason and sparked a captivating courtship that lured most Major League clubs, there remained an air of mystery around Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.

His unique skills as a two-way player were well-documented, but little else was known about the enigmatic 23-year-old, who left much of the baseball world guessing about his preferences and surprised many when his agency announced Friday that he had chosen to sign with the Angels over higher-profile teams such as the Dodgers or Yankees.

ANAHEIM -- Even as he emerged as the most sought-after free agent of this offseason and sparked a captivating courtship that lured most Major League clubs, there remained an air of mystery around Japanese phenom Shohei Ohtani.

His unique skills as a two-way player were well-documented, but little else was known about the enigmatic 23-year-old, who left much of the baseball world guessing about his preferences and surprised many when his agency announced Friday that he had chosen to sign with the Angels over higher-profile teams such as the Dodgers or Yankees.

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:: Shohei Ohtani coverage ::

But on a warm Saturday afternoon, the mysterious veneer began to crack as Ohtani was officially introduced during a press conference at Angel Stadium that drew hundreds of fans who crowded in front of the ballpark to get their first look at the Angels' newest star.

"Hi, my name is Shohei Ohtani," he said in perfect English after receiving a red Angels jersey from owner Arte Moreno.

Ohtani made the rest of his comments via his interpreter, Matt Hidaka, though he continued to charm the crowd with ease, expressing his gratitude to Angels personnel, his family and CAA representatives and concluding his opening remarks by congratulating new teammate Mike Trout on his marriage.

When he was asked later why he chose to wear No. 17, Ohtani drew laughs by quipping, "I actually wanted No. 27, but somebody else was wearing that number." (Trout wears No. 27.)

Ohtani joked he wanted Trout's number

It's clear that Ohtani already has the aura of a star, which the Angels hope will carry over to the Majors.

"This is a historic day for our organization," manager Mike Scioscia said. "Every player, to a man, is so excited about this acquisition. I think that our job, and we have a lot of work ahead of us, is to see exactly how you get a multi-dimensional, two-way athlete like Shohei to bring his talent to the field often enough to where he leads us to that championship… His ability both on the field and in the batter's box is something that doesn't come along -- it really never comes along. So our excitement is very, very high."

Hot Stove Tracker

While Ohtani enticed teams around baseball with his dual profile as a right-handed pitcher and a left-handed slugger, he said he felt a special connection with the Angels, who made their pitch to him during a two-hour presentation at the CAA offices in Los Angeles on Monday night.

During the meeting, general manager Billy Eppler and the rest of the Angels' delegation laid out a detailed plan for how they intended to accommodate Ohtani's desire to be a two-way player in the Majors over a full season. Eppler said Scioscia made Ohtani laugh with his brand of self-deprecating humor, while Trout, who was on the East Coast preparing for his wedding, also joined the recruitment effort by calling in via FaceTime to tell Ohtani about the merits of the organization and the Angels' clubhouse.

Ohtani greeted with a red carpet

Video: Angels GM Eppler on why he pursued Ohtani for club

"It's hard to explain," said Ohtani, who received a $2.315 million signing bonus and is under team control for at least six years, like any other prospect. "With the Angels, I just felt something click. I'm just glad to make this choice."

Ohtani met with Eppler and his team again on Thursday night, when he received a tour of Angel Stadium and asked more questions, an experience Ohtani said helped affirm his desire to come to Anaheim.

"I just wanted to reconfirm what they had presented on Monday and reconfirm my feeling toward the Angels' brass," Ohtani said. "I wanted to get that feeling again and make sure that this was the right call."

Eppler said the Angels will now work with Ohtani and his former trainers in Japan to develop a more precise framework for their two-way plan.

Ohtani wants a nickname

"When we sat down with Shohei, we presented a plan," Eppler said. "I don't want to say that that plan gets ripped up, but I bet you that a large portion of that plan now gets modified because it was from a one-party perspective, and now we have two parties."

Eppler said he is open to adopting a six-man rotation, which would more closely mimic the structure Ohtani experienced in Japan, where pitchers start once a week. Shifting to a six-man rotation could not only help ease Ohtani's transition to the Majors, but it could also benefit the rest of the Angels' starters who have struggled with injuries the past couple of years, including Garrett Richards, Andrew Heaney, Tyler Skaggs, Matt Shoemaker and Nick Tropeano.

Video: Callis discusses Ohtani's prospect attributes

Eppler also said Ohtani will not be used in the outfield, which he has not played since 2014 in Japan. The Angels expect to use Ohtani as a part-time designated hitter, an arrangement that would ostensibly require Albert Pujols to play more first base next season. Though Pujols played the field only six times in 2017, he is in the midst of his first surgery-free winter in two years, which the Angels believe will allow him to improve his conditioning for next season.

"Albert is full-blown into his winter workout," Scioscia said. "He definitely feels he's got the ability to go out there and play first base on a basis that will have Shohei get the at-bats that are warranted as soon as we decide on what the usage is going to be."

Still, there is no modern blueprint for what Ohtani will attempt to do next season. Only three players have started 15 games in the field and on the mound in a single season since 1900: Ray Caldwell (1918), Babe Ruth ('18 and '19) and Johnny Cooney ('24). And while Ohtani is often called the "Babe Ruth of Japan," he said he feels like he has a long way to go before he reaches that type of stratosphere.

"I'm honored to be compared to Babe Ruth, but in no way do I think I'm at his level," Ohtani said. "I think today actually is the real starting point for me, and I just want to get as close to him as possible."

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

 

Los Angeles Angels