Important offseason ahead of Angels before Opening Day

Important offseason ahead of Angels before Opening Day

ANAHEIM -- Opening Day can't come soon enough for the Angels.

The Angels fell short of their goals during the 2016 season, in part because of a rash of injuries to their pitching staff and an inconsistent offense, both of which were difficult to remedy with a lack of depth.

It all added up to a fourth-place finish in the American League West and a 74-88 record, the lowest win total in 17 seasons under manager Mike Scioscia.

The Angels have an important offseason in front of them, and Scioscia believes his club is not far off from returning to contention in 2017.

"I don't think we're back as far as maybe the perception is," Scioscia said roughly 48 hours after the '16 season ended.

The Angels could make some major upgrades to their offense over the winter, and they are anticipating the return of a number of pitchers who ended the year on the disabled list, providing optimism to the organization moving forward.

Here's a look at what to expect when the Angels visit the A's for Opening Day on April 3.

Opponent
The Angels went 12-7 against the A's in 2016, the third consecutive year the Halos captured the season series against their division rivals. The A's are likely to start right-hander Sonny Gray on Opening Day. Oakland is coming off consecutive losing seasons, and the club is expected to continue its youth movement and rebuilding efforts.

Opening Day starter
Garrett Richards projects as the Opening Day starter for the Angels, though that's contingent on health. Richards sustained a partially torn right UCL in May and has thus far avoided Tommy John surgery. The Angels expect their No. 1 starter to be a "fully able pitcher" by Spring Training. Richards drew the honor in 2016, ending a string of six straight Opening Day starts by Jered Weaver, who is now a free agent.

Opening Day lineup
1. Yunel Escobar, 3B
2. Kole Calhoun, RF
3. Mike Trout, CF
4. Albert Pujols, 1B
5. C.J. Cron, DH
6. Cameron Maybin, LF
7. Andrelton Simmons, SS
8. Carlos Perez, C
9. Cliff Pennington, 2B

The Angels are set at the top of their lineup, but it will be interesting to see how Scioscia fills out of the bottom of the batting order. The Angels acquired Maybin in an offseason deal with the Tigers, which addressed a need in left field. It's possible the Angels also look for offensive upgrades at second base and behind the plate.

Three reasons to be excited
1. Trout is arguably the best position player in the Majors.
2. Richards will likely make his long-awaited return.
3. Pujols continues his march toward 600 home runs. He is nine homers shy of the milestone.

Austin Laymance is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.