Player Profiles 2020: Los Angeles Angels Starting Pitchers

Michael Ajeto analyzes the Los Angeles Angels rotation for 2020 with in-depth player profiles.

Throughout the winter months of the offseason, the Pitcher List staff with be creating profiles for every fantasy-relevant player for 2020. Players will be broken up by team and role through starting pitchers, bullpen, lineup, and prospects. You can access every article as it comes out in our Player Profiles 2020 hub here.

Updated Shohei Ohtani‘s projection on 2/12/20.

Angels At A Glance

I’m quite fond of the Angels’ starting rotation. Julio Teheran is unspectacular, but he’s kind of a unicorn. I’m a noted Andrew Heaney truther. I’m pretty high on Dylan Bundy and can see him getting a great deal better. We’re quite fond of Griffin Canning here at Pitcher List, and the same goes for Patrick Sandoval. Then there’s Shohei Ohtani, whose potential is undeniable, but his durability and path to a meaningful amount of innings are unclear. Aside from Ohtani, I think you could make the argument that every pitcher in the Angels’ rotation is underrated.

 

 

Julio TeheranLocked Starter

Nickname: Tunnel Vision

 

2019 In Review

Since 2013, Teheran has put up a .268 BABIP, which most would think is unsustainable, with a 3.64 ERA, 4.22 FIP, 4.36 xFIP, and 4.26 SIERA. He’s continued this trend by putting up a 3.81 ERA, 4.66 FIP, and 5.26 xFIP. It’s incredible. His 21.5% K rate is pretty typical, but his 11% BB percentage is much higher than his career average. Peripherals be damned, it’s hard to complain about these results.

 

Fastball (67% usage)

As you’d expect from a pitch with a career .274 BABIP, Teheran’s fastball returned a .255 BABIP. Despite how unremarkable the pitch seems to be, it’s been a reliable pitch and consistently generates rather friendly contact. In the Statcast era, his .366 xwOBAcon is great, but his .347 wOBAcon is even better. That’s due to his park and defense, but since 2015, his wOBAcon and xwOBAcon are both among the best numbers in the league. I’m not sure how he does it, but it might have something to do with deception.

Over his career, his fastball has led the charge with a 34.4 pVAL, but this year it was bested by his sinker. By pVAL, Teheran’s sinker has been the second-best pitch of his career, but with an 18.7 pVAL in 2019, it was his most valuable pitch, thrown 23% of the time. As weird as it feels to say, most pitchers would kill for the results Teheran has had with his fastball.

 

Slider (21% usage)

Teheran has been throwing his slider in the zone less and less since 2016, and while it’s retained a 35.2 O-Swing% and and 15.2 SwStr%, it isn’t getting strikes — likely due to its 25.2% zone rate. His career slider CSW is 33.5%, and despite a 35.7% CSW in 2018, it dropped precipitously to 25.2% in 2019.

It’s hard to say why this happened with certainty, but it could have something to do with his average fastball location being lower than it’s been since 2010, and significantly lower than his career average. Regardless of the reason, it returned a -11.8 pVAL, although its .401 xwOBAcon is probably unsustainably high. Once a quasi-Money Pitch, his slider has seen better days.

 

Changeup (8% usage)

Teheran’s changeup is another pitch with a zone rate that took a nosedive. Despite a solid 2.5 pVAL and career-high 10.3% swinging-strike rate, an anemic 27.5% zone rate netted Teheran a career-low 17.7% changeup CSW. Its .228 wOBAcon and .284 xwOBAcon both suggest the success it did have isn’t sustainable.

 

Curveball (7% usage)

And yet another pitch that saw a reduction in zone rate, and thus a career low in CSW as well. His curveball has never been good, and while the .427 wOBAcon and .464 xwOBAcon seem like it can’t possibly continue to be this awful, he has a .508 wOBAcon and .442 xwOBAcon on his curveball since 2017. It’s not a good pitch, and he shouldn’t throw it any more than he does now.

 

2020 Outlook

Teheran is getting an upgrade in regards to the defense behind him, and although there’s a drop in framing proficiency from Tyler Flowers to Jason Castro, it isn’t especially steep. Steamer and ATC are awfully down on Teheran, but I still think he’s got some magic left in him. I’m envisioning a 4.00 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, and 21% K rate, where he over-performs his peripherals yet again.

 

Realistic worst-case projection: 4.80 ERA, 1.45 WHIP, 18% K rate in 170 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 3.80 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 23% K rate in 190 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Julio Teheran 2020 projection:

4.20 ERA, 1.35 WHIP, 21% K rate in 170 IP

 

 

Andrew HeaneyLocked Starter

Nickname: Heandog

 

2019 In Review

Heaney had a breakout of sorts in 2019, putting up a 21.% K-BB rate that slots him between Jack Flaherty and Chris Paddack. He had his typical issues — injury, a lot of hard-hit balls, and a 1.89 HR/9 that he needs to tamper down. In any case, I am encouraged by what he showed in 2019.

 

Sinker (58% usage)

Heaney’s sinker is unlike any other. Ranking in the 95th percentile in fastball spin rate, it also has a 94.0% active spin rate that ranks in the 96th percentile. What this means is that his sinker doesn’t sink, and instead gets perceived rise. For all intents and purposes, it’s a four-seam fastball by movement and active spin rate.

Heaney started elevating his sinker more than ever in 2019, which meant a lot more whiffs — he had an 11.5% SwStr in 2019, relative to his career 7.6% mark — but also was perhaps not a good combination with the juiced ball. His 18.3% HR/FB rate in 2019 wasn’t any higher than his 18.2%, but his FB% also raised from his career 39.0% to 46.9%. In any case, between his .332 xwOBA in 2018 and .334 xwOBA in 2019, his sinker was still overall a great pitch: And now he’s added a bunch of whiffs.

 

Curveball (27% usage)

Heaney’s curveball is really interesting. Relative to other curveballs, it gets less movement. It’s not a super hard curveball, nor is it exactly the do-nothing curveball it once was either (in terms of movement). He commands it super well and throws most of his curveballs just out of the zone — close enough to be alluring, but far enough that hitters can’t do much with them. And while he doesn’t throw it in the zone often, he gets hitters to chase quite a bit.

If you want to see it in action, here’s him getting Mallex Smith to chase not oncenot twice … but three times in a row.

 

Changeup (15% usage)

My Going Deep article was titled “Have You Seen Andrew Heaney‘s Changeup?” for a reason. In the beginning of the year, he struggled to find his feel for it, so he didn’t throw it very often. Beginning in late June, he began throwing it about as often as he used to, and it was incredibly helpful.

He began throwing his changeup again on June 25th, and here’s what it did for him.

Pre-6/25: 20.6 K-BB%, 2.49 HR/9, 126 ERA-, and 122 FIP-

Post-6/25: 21.9 K-BB%, 1.67 HR/9, 103 ERA-, and 94 FIP-

Heaney’s curveball is a fantastic pitch, but with a 27.5 Zone%, he needs his changeup to be successful, because he can throw it in the zone a lot more and still get whiffs. This will be the pitch to watch in 2020, as, right now, hitters have mostly just had to look sinker-curveball.

This is what his changeup can look like at its best, and it’s beautiful.

 

2020 Outlook

I’m as much of a Heaney optimist (borderline truther) as it gets. I’ve heard Eno Sarris express doubts because Heaney has a sinker arm slot with rising action on it that means it’s best elevated. Those two things can be incompatible, but I love a guy with a good, high-spin fastball, good command, and two plus secondary pitches. I’m all in on Heaney in 2020. I’ll go with a 4.00 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, and 30% K rate. I am the grand Heaney optimist, I tell you!

 

Realistic worst case projection: 4.60 ERA, 1.30 WHIP, 23% K rate in 110 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 3.60 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 30% K rate in 180 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Andrew Heaney 2020 projection:

4.00 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 27% K rate in 160 IP

 

 

Dylan BundyLocked Starter

Nickname: Mr. One Day

 

2019 In Review

Most of our optimism for Bundy has to do with what we think he can do going forward, not what he’s done. Bundy put up a respectable 14.8% K-BB rate in 2019, but home runs have remained an issue. Per usual, he was about league average in ERA, and his 1.35 WHIP was fairly typical. Hopefully he leaves his 2019 in 2019.

 

Fastball (50% usage)

Bundy continued to deploy his awful four-seam fastball 42.4% of the time, while throwing his sinker 7.5% of the time. It’s noteworthy that this began to change toward the end of the year, but it’s reasonable to expect the Angels to address this. Just in 2019, his fastball had a -21.7 pVAL, while his sinker had a 2.5 pVAL. That’s not to say that his sinker is a good pitch, but Bundy’s fastball is kind of a disaster, and his sinker isn’t. A switch alone should help him out in the home run department, but there are a few other changes he should make, too.

 

Slider (23% usage)

There’s something to be learned from Patrick Corbin. That is, Corbin throws his slider nearly 40% of the time. Bundy could do this — with a 41.6% O-Swing, 40.9% zone rate, and 22.2% swinging-strike rate, it’s easily a Money Pitch — but he doesn’t need to. I’ll get to it, but because of his deep repertoire, he can increase its usage since it’s an elite pitch, but he doesn’t need to lean on it so heavily. I would love to see his slider get into the 30% to 35% range.

 

Changeup (17% usage)

Bundy’s changeup is quite the underrated pitch. With a 48.7% O-Swing rate, 42.3% zone rate, and 18.1% swinging-strike rate, it’s also a Money Pitch. This is Bundy’s main weapon against lefties, so it’s not like he can throw it a ton more — he already throws it 28% of the time against lefties — but can probably bump its overall usage up to 20% without any hiccups.

 

Curveball (10% usage)

Bundy’s four-seam fastball has a higher career SwStr% than his curveball. It was a little better in 2019, and rather unspectacular, but it’s not doing him any harm. He logged a .244 wOBA with his curveball in 2019, just below his career .264 wOBA.

 

2020 Outlook

Assuming Bundy moves to a sinker and increases his slider usage, we should see more balls put in play (because of his sinker), but more whiffs (because of his slider). This could be a wash in regards to his strikeout rate, but I think there’s an equal chance that we see his K-BB% increase. Chris Archer had a 27.2 K%, and Noah Syndergaard had a 24.5 K%. It seems reasonable that Bundy ends up somewhere in that range. Put me down for a 4.15 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 26.0 K%.

 

Realistic worst-case projection: 5.00+ ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 22% K rate in 160 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 3.90 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 27% K rate in 180 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Dylan Bundy 2020 projection:

4.50 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 24% K rate in 170 IP

 

 

Griffin CanningLocked Starter

Nickname: The Bird

 

2019 In Review

Canning is a Pitcher List darling. With a 102 ERA-, 17.2% K-BB rate, and 1.22 WHIP, he had as good of a 2019 as we could have expected out of him. He showed a ton of promise, and he looks to have the building blocks to be a great starter.

 

Fastball (42% usage)

It all starts with the fastball. By fastball spin rate and velocity, Canning grades out an above-average, but his 88.9% active spin rate is great too. He’s good at keeping his fastball out of the heart of the zone, relative to other pitchers, but he could do a better job of commanding his fastball. At times, he did a good job of elevating his heater, but he could do this more consistently. His 27.1% CSW ranks in the 52nd percentile, too, which is just above the likes of Reynaldo LopezTanner Roark, and Jakob Junis. He’s behind Homer Bailey, too. Not ideal! I’d like to see him get strikes with his fastball more often — I think he’s certainly got the ability to.

 

Slider (29% usage)

Easily his best pitch and a quasi-Money Pitch, Canning’s slider netted a 37.6% O-Swing, 40% zone rate, and 21.7% swinging-strike rate. By slider CSW, he’s in great company. His 35.5% is one of the best in the league, ranking just behind Matthew Boyd and ahead of Chris Sale and Gerrit Cole.

His slider started to drift upward over the course of the year, increasing his zone rate by over 10% over the season, and decreasing his SwStr%. Clearly, he needs to strike a balance between bouncing his slider off the plate and throwing it right down the middle. However, I would presume he can manage to throw it out of the zone more often than not, considering he got hitters to chase throughout the year.

 

Curveball (16% usage)

Canning used his curveball effectively too, as his 36.1% CSW tied with Shane Bieber‘s. It’s potentially his worst secondary pitch, but it was the most valuable of his pitches, with a 3.5 pVAL, and also had the highest strike percentage at 38%. This was supposed to be a fringe pitch, but he’s done a good job of optimizing its value thus far. He uses it to steal first-pitch strikes often, but it’s not a pitch he uses when behind in the count.

 

Changeup (13% usage)

Canning’s slow ball falls just short of every criterion to be a Money Pitch, but he’s close in all three. It’s disappointing to see his changeup return a CSW of 23.6%, but that actually ranks in the 55th percentile for starters. While it doesn’t have a good velocity differential from his fastball, it separates itself well via horizontal and vertical movement. It got touched up by left-handed hitters, with a .400 xwOBA, but his changeup has potential.

 

2020 Outlook

I love Griffin Canning. He has a good fastball, a plus slider, and two other good pitches to pair with the other two. His command could improve, and he gives up a decent amount of home runs, but the ball was also juiced, and he’s just 23. My bet is on a 4.30 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 26 K%.

 

Realistic worst-case projection: 4.70 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 23% K rate in 120 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 3.70 ERA, 1.15 WHIP, 28% K rate in 180 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Griffin Canning 2020 projection:

4.10 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 26% K rate in 160 IP

 

 

Patrick SandovalLocked Starter

Nickname: The Irish Panda

 

2019 In Review

Sandoval was far from perfect in his cup of coffee in 2019, but he flashed a bunch of nice skills. The downside? His fastball was bad, and his command wasn’t great either. The upside? Well, he has upside. He demonstrated multiple pitches that could make up for his fastball and below-average command.

 

Fastball (46% usage)

Sandoval’s fastball is bad. There’s not really any way around it. It’s all because of his average fastball velocity, paired with a 3rd-percentile spin rate.

With a 49.1% zone rate and 5.7% swinging-strike rate, it’s no surprise to see his 21.1% fastball CSW fall among the likes of Ivan NovaMichael Wacha, and Daniel Ponce de Leon. That’s going to stop him from being a good pitcher, especially considering he throws his fastball about half of the time.

 

Changeup (31% usage)

By velocity differential, Sandoval’s changeup has about a 10 mph difference from his fastball, and the horizontal break that differentiates itself from his fastball is obscene as well.

By SwStr%, Sandoval’s changeup ranks third in the league, in terms of starters. When you expand that to consider called strikes — also known as CSW — Sandoval falls to the 80th percentile. That’s still incredible — it ranks just below Luke Weaver and above Chris Paddack, but it doesn’t jump off the page like his 25% swinging-strike rate does. This was supposed to be Sandoval’s worst pitch, but it’s easily his best, and the biggest reason he’s relevant.

 

Curveball (13% usage)

Sandoval didn’t pitch much last year, so he has a pretty low sample of curveballs to dissect, with just 96 thrown. In any case, I can try to read into it. His 35% Z-Swing rate is interesting — it explains the 37.5% CSW on his curveball, because hitters didn’t whiff much, but took a lot of curveballs in the zone for strikes.

That’s not a sustainable route to an effective pitch, so right now this is looking like it’s barely better than a get-me-over curveball. Although, I will note that its 11.5% SwStr is okay, and it’s supposed to be his best pitch. We’ll keep an eye on this.

 

Slider (9% usage)

We’re looking at an even more minuscule sample with his slider, but with what we do have, his slider was a quasi-Money Pitch — falling just short with a 37.8% O-Swing. This is supposed to be an above-average pitch too.

 

2020 Outlook

Unfortunately, I was higher on Sandoval at the end of 2019 then I am now. It’s hard to overcome having a poor fastball as a starter, and he doesn’t have good command, either. We’ll have to wait and see how his secondaries look, but to me it seems like Sandoval is going to end up being a back-end rotation guy or a fun multi-inning reliever. It pains me to say that my bet is on a 4.50 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, and 24 K%. The error bars are wide with this one.

 

Realistic worst-case projection: 5.00+ ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 22% K rate in 70 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 4.00 ERA, 1.28 WHIP, 25% K rate in 180 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Patrick Sandoval 2020 projection:

4.30 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 23% K rate in 130 IP

 

 

Shohei OhtaniLocked Starter

Nickname: Showtani

 

2019 In Review

Ohtani missed all of 2019 as a pitcher, and the only glimpse we’ve gotten to see of him was essentially the same amount we’ve seen out of Patrick Sandoval. He’s just fresh off of Tommy John rehab.

 

Fastball (32% usage)

Ohtani’s fastball is interesting. By fastball velocity, it’s elite. By fastball spin rate, it’s below-average. By active spin rate, it’s below-average too (81.9%). You’d expect, then, for his fastball to lack perceived rise, but it doesn’t. According to Eno Sarris, it was one of the better fastballs in terms of velocity and rise in 2018. QOP Baseball corroborates this notion, as Ohtani ranked in the 62th percentile in rise in 2018. On the other hand, Ohtani ranked poorly in command (153rd of 162).

His 9.1% swinging-strike rate isn’t blowing anyone away, but he pitched down in the zone with his fastball when he should be elevating it, and the Heart% on his fastball ranked in the 63rd percentile. There were plenty of pitchers who had higher percentages, but Ohtani got beat up to the tune of a .434 xwOBA on fastballs over the heart of the plate. With a fastball that is ostensibly an 80-grade pitch, it should be a lot better than that, and I think elevating his fastball could help.

 

Slider (25% usage)

Ohtani had one of the best sliders of 2018. His 40.5% CSW ranks in the 96th percentile — better than Patrick Corbin! — and his slider’s pVAL/C ranked in the top 25 too. A lot of this success if from his 51.6% Z-Swing rate, which means hitters took his slider for strikes when it found the zone about 50% of the time. I would think his slider won’t be this strong of a pitch in 2020 — his 34.2% O-Swing rate, 44.3% zone rate, and 16.7% swinging-strike rate indicate that it’s a good pitch, but it’s banking on called strikes to be elite. I’m not willing to take that bet.

In any case, this is a great pitch, and it’s not even his best.

 

Splitter (23% usage)

Ohtani’s splitter was insane. He didn’t throw it in the zone nearly enough to be a Money Pitch (26.7% zone rate), but its 40.7% O-Swing rate helped to put up a 27.8% swinging-strike rate. That is all of the following: Outrageous, disgusting, delicious, incredible and, of course, bananas. It fell just short of leading the league in SwStr%, trailing only the splitter of Matt Shoemaker and Patrick Corbin‘s slider. He only trailed Shoemaker in splitter CSW, too.

Splitters are notorious for going in and out in terms of feel and command, so that’s not ideal, but Ohtani’s splitter is amazing. The sample is, once again, minute, but his splitter was the most valuable pitch of 2018, by pVAL/C. This is his main out pitch.

 

Curveball (7% usage)

Ohtani’s curveball, in isolation, is bad. It’s a big, loopy curveball that he almost strictly uses to steal strikes on first-pitch counts, so it doesn’t really matter. But it surely explains his 26.8% swing rate on it. He used it well, accruing a 0.7 pVAL in just 56 pitches.

As an aside, maybe this would be more serviceable if he elevated his fastball — just a thought!

 

2020 Outlook

When he’s on the mound, Ohtani has as much upside as anyone. Unfortunately, he’s only pitched 51.2 innings in two years, and he’s only projected to pitch a little over 100 in 2020. Regardless, the upside is undeniable. It will be interesting to see how he shakes off the rust and continues to develop. I’m going to have to follow his projections closely here and go with a 3.75 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, and 29.0 K%.

 

Realistic worst-case projection: 3.90 ERA, 1.20 WHIP, 25% K rate in 80 IP

Realistic best-case projection: 3.00 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, 30% K rate in 140 IP

 

Nick’s reluctant Shohei Ohtani 2020 projection:

3.50 ERA, 1.13 WHIP, 28% K rate in 110 IP

 

 

Jose SuarezFringe Starter

Nickname: Rico

2020 Outlook

Suarez is interesting enough. He doesn’t throw all that hard, and his fastball isn’t good, but he’s got some interesting secondary pitches. He’s good enough for some spot starts, but as is, his skills aren’t super compelling.

 

 

Jaime BarriaFringe Starter

Nickname: West Side

2020 Outlook

Barria at least knows his flaws: His fastball is bad. He makes up for this by throwing his slider a ton, but his changeup needs to be better. Did I mention his fastball is bad?

 

 

Dillon PetersFringe Starter

Nickname: The Lightswitch

2020 Outlook

Pretty much everything about Peters is mediocre apart from his command and general pitchability. Typical crafty lefty stuff. If he were to ever regain the fastball velocity he used to have, he would be a lot more interesting (he used to touch 96 mph). But he doesn’t have that velocity, and probably never will. In the meantime, throw the curveball less and changeup more.

 

Nickname explanations:

Julio Teheran: Tunnel Vision. It’s a JT song, and I feel if you own Julio, you have Tunnel Vision.

Andrew Heaney: Heandog. It was his Players Weekend nickname.

Griffin Canning: The Bird. Hopefully he upgrades to The Plane next, followed by Sup…er…man…

Dylan BundyMr. One Day. We just hope that he’ll put it together. We really do.

Patrick SandovalThe Irish Panda. Patrick = Irish name. Sandoval = Pablo Sandoval (who is known as Panda).

Shohei OhtaniShowtani. Mike Trout gave us this nickname. It’s wonderful.

Jose SuarezRico. I know it’s not “Suave,” I just can’t not think of it for some reason.

Jamie Barria: West Side. I just met a pitcher named Baarrrriiiiiiiiiiia. (From West Side Story.)

Dillon PetersThe Lightswitch. He’s either Dillon or Dilloff. Yep.

Featured image by Justin Paradis (@freshmeatcomm on Twitter)

Michael Ajeto

Michael co-founded Sounding Off Blog, where he wrote about the Mariners. Now he writes Going Deep articles here. You can follow Michael on Twitter @mikeyajetoPL, or you can not.

  • Avatar Brian says:

    Has there been any indication how Ohtani will be used? I’m guessing they will just have a 5 man rotation and push everyone back a day whenever Ohtani starts. In 2018 he was the designated Sunday starter. I’m wondering if they’ll go that route again or if it will be more spread out, like once every 10 days or something.

    • Avatar Michael Ajeto says:

      From my understanding, they’ll decide on that as they get closer to spring training. At this point, I’m just expecting somewhere around 100 innings, give or take. There are many routes they could take with him, unfortunately! (Sorry I can’t offer a better answer!)

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