TEMPE, Ariz. -- They were featured on the latest cover of Sports Illustrated, the best player in baseball standing beside the game's most intriguing newcomer. The pairing was appropriate, as Michael Trout and Shohei Ohtani figure to be the two most visible faces of the Angels, a franchise looking to
TEMPE, Ariz. -- They were featured on the latest cover of Sports Illustrated, the best player in baseball standing beside the game's most intriguing newcomer. The pairing was appropriate, as Michael Trout and Shohei Ohtani figure to be the two most visible faces of the Angels, a franchise looking to reassert itself after missing the playoffs in each of the last three seasons.
Trout and Ohtani have not only amplified the star power of the Angels' roster, but they've also helped shape the club into one of the most exciting teams to watch in 2018.
"Not only those guys," shortstop Andrelton Simmons said. "We have a lot more guys that are big names in the lineup, and if you put all that together, it's supposed to be a really good team. It's promising. I'm excited for the start of the season and seeing, once everybody gets settled in, how the team is going to play."
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Ohtani's arrival has deflected some attention away from Trout this spring, but the center fielder remains the Angels' unequivocal superstar, a generational talent who has enjoyed a brilliant and largely unprecedented start to his career. At 26, Trout is a two-time American League MVP, a six-time All Star and already the most valuable player in Angels history, with a 54.2 WAR over his first six full seasons in the Majors, according to Baseball Reference.
Trout's streak of five consecutive top-two finishes in the AL MVP balloting came to an end last year, in part because he missed 39 games with a thumb injury, but he still finished in fourth place and will likely be a preseason favorite to recapture the award in 2018.
"He's very talented," manager Mike Scioscia said. "I think Mike's challenge is going to be consistency. He's shown what he can do. I know his goal is to do it year in and year out."
For all of Trout's individual accomplishments, the Angels have struggled to build a competitive team around him and have yet to win a playoff game since he broke into the Majors. The Angels have received criticism for seemingly squandering Trout's prime, but general manager Billy Eppler and his staff were active in constructing a strong supporting cast this offseason that should put the club in position to contend in 2018.
"With all the new additions, we're just going to go out and try to win ballgames," Trout said. "People are going to think the expectations are higher, for sure. We're trying to get to the playoffs and make a push. We've got one goal in there, to win a championship."
No offseason acquisition generated as much buzz as Ohtani, who surprised many by choosing to sign with the Angels following a wild courtship from nearly all 30 clubs. Ohtani gained notoriety for his ability to fire a triple-digit mph fastball and launch 500-foot home runs in Japan, and he's drawn intense media scrutiny as he's attempted to carry over his two-way endeavor to the Majors.
While the 23-year-old has produced underwhelming results this spring, logging a 16.20 ERA in four starts on the mound and going 3-for-28 (.107) in 12 Cactus League games, the Angels have expressed confidence in his talent as both a pitcher and hitter.
"He's young," Simmons said. "I think he's going to take a little bit of time to make adjustments because it's a different league, new environment. There's a lot of attention, but once he gets settled in, I think he's going to be a good player. I don't know when that's going to be, if it's going to be early or if it's going to take a couple weeks or months, but once he settles in, I think he's going to be a really good player."
The spotlight will only intensify once the regular season begins, as Ohtani is expected to earn a spot on the Angels' Opening Day roster despite his struggles this spring. Ohtani will likely pitch on a minimum of five days' rest and hit two to three times a week, though the Angels will manage his workload carefully as he navigates his rookie season in the Majors.
Though his exploits have been the dominant storyline this spring, Ohtani has remained unfazed by all the attention and has integrated well into the Angels' clubhouse despite the language barrier and change in culture.
"I don't know how everybody else feels, but I feel like I'm fitting in well," Ohtani said via interpreter Ippei Mizuhara.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.