With Spring Training fast approaching, MLB.com will take a look at a different aspect of this year's Angels squad each day this week. Today's topic: Spring Training is here.
General manager Billy Eppler spent most of the offseason quietly reshuffling the Angels' roster by filling key voids in the lineup and improving the club's depth. None of his moves were met with much fanfare, but they have collectively helped brew optimism about the upcoming season and ignite hope that the Angels will rebound from their 74-88 finish in 2016.
"I think we will be better, no doubt, Opening Day of 2017 than we were probably after the first month of 2016," manager Mike Scioscia said during the Winter Meetings. "But yeah, we're going to welcome any depth that Billy can find, and we are better. To what extent, we'll see when you start playing games."
The Angels are counting on renewed health from their pitching staff and continued excellence from star center fielder Mike Trout, two factors that will be key to the club's resurgence. If all falls into place, the Halos could be on track for a return to contention in the American League West.
Here's a look ahead to what to expect as the Angels prepare to open camp.
Pitchers and catchers report: Tuesday
Position players report: Friday
First Cactus League game: Home vs. Brewers on Feb. 25 at 12:10 p.m. PT
The Angels' biggest free-agent addition was infielder Luis Valbuena, who signed a two-year, $15 million deal last month. Valbuena, whose left-handed bat will help balance the club's primarily right-handed lineup, is expected to see most of his time at first base, though he can also fill in at third and second.
The acquisitions of second baseman Danny Espinosa (via the Nationals) and left fielder Cameron Maybin (via the Tigers) also filled two key holes in the Angels' lineup. Catcher Martin Maldonado, who was acquired from the Brewers, is expected to provide elite pitch-framing and a defensive upgrade behind the plate. Veteran right-hander Jesse Chavez (one year, $5.75 million) will add much-needed pitching depth, while outfielder Ben Revere (one year, $4 million) will bring versatility and speed to the outfield.
Interesting non-roster invitees
One theme of the offseason was that Eppler stocked up on former top prospects who have not been able to realize their potential elsewhere, including Manny Banuelos, John Lamb and Dustin Ackley. Banuelos and Lamb, both left-handers, will be among the contenders for the fifth spot in the Angels' rotation. Ackley, the No. 2 pick in the 2009 Draft, is expected to compete for a utility role and could give the Halos another left-handed bat off the bench. Veteran right-handers Bud Norris and Yusmeiro Petit will also be arms to watch, as they have Major League track records and will be in the mix for both the rotation and bullpen.
Prospects to watch Matt Thaiss, the 21-year-old first baseman who was the Angels' first-round Draft pick last June, will get his first taste of big league camp this spring. He is ranked as the club's No. 1 prospect by MLBPipeline.com.
Taylor Ward (No. 3 on the Halos' Top 30 list) is the organization's top catching prospect and could be ready to contribute in the Majors as early as next year. Left-hander Nate Smith (No. 5) and right-hander Alex Meyer (No. 11), the top two arms in the farm system, will both be given a shot at the rotation and could end up in the big leagues by the end of the season.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.