Inbox: Could Shohei Ohtani start in the Minors?

Beat reporter Maria Guardado answers Angels fans' questions

March 22nd, 2018

Trout, who tends to set various goals for himself at the start of each spring, said last year that he wanted to steal 40 bases over the 2017 campaign. He ended up stealing only 22, in part because he missed 39 games after tearing a thumb ligament while making a headfirst dive into second base on a stolen-base attempt.

I don't think the injury will dissuade him from being active on the basepaths in 2018, as he now wears a protective glove on his left hand when he gets on base, but he didn't make it an explicit goal again this year and instead said he wants to improve his defense.

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I still think Trout's speed will allow him to rack up quite a few stolen bases this season. He hasn't approached 50 since 2012, when he stole 49 in his first full season with the Angels, but as you point out, he's certainly capable of reaching the threshold.

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I think will be on the Angels' Opening Day roster despite his rocky spring. While he's currently sporting a 16.20 ERA over four starts on the mound and is 3-for-28 as a left-handed hitter, the Angels have emphasized that their internal evaluations of Ohtani aren't being driven by those statistics.

To give you a sense of how the Angels brass views Spring Training numbers, general manager Billy Eppler was asked the other day if he was concerned by the results that some of his relievers had produced in Cactus League games. Eppler responded by claiming that he couldn't even name a single Spring Training statistic off the top of his head.

"Spring Training stats?" Eppler said. "I can't talk about Spring Training stats. I don't even know what they are."

Yes, and I think the Angels would be perfectly happy with that outcome. Had he waited two years to come over to the Majors at 25, Ohtani might have commanded a $200 million price tag, but the Angels got him at a fraction of that cost, giving him a $2.315 million signing bonus and sending a $20 million posting fee to his former club, the Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Even if Ohtani is ultimately forced to abandon his two-way endeavor and focus solely on pitching, he's still an incredible bargain for a player of his talent.

I think I would take the under, just because the Angels have a lot more starting options now compared to last year and will likely shuffle a lot of guys in and out of that final rotation spot.

Bridwell has a chance to crack the Angels' starting rotation now that is expected to miss some time with left elbow inflammation, but I think he's more likely to shuttle between the Majors and Triple-A Salt Lake if the bulk of the club's rotation can stay healthy and be effective this year.

Carter has enjoyed a nice spring, batting .306 with a 1.005 OPS and three homers over 36 Cactus League at-bats after signing a Minor League deal, but the Angels don't seem to have a spot for him right now, as and are projected to split most of the playing time at first base. Barring an injury to Valbuena or Pujols over the next week, I think it's unlikely Carter will make the team.

Fletcher has made an impression after delivering his second consecutive strong spring and remains in the mix for the final bench opening, but I think the Angels will probably prefer to have him start in the Minors so he can play every day and continue to develop rather than be used sporadically as a reserve infielder in the Majors. I think he'll be with the Angels at some point this season, though.