Angels 2017 preview: Mike Trout leads Los Angeles into high-risk, high-reward season

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The two-time AL MVP has missed 39 games since injuring his left thumb May 28 but still leads his team with 16 homers.

Mike Trout expected to return Friday to Angels lineup, team confirms

The two-time AL MVP has missed 39 games since injuring his left thumb May 28 but still leads his team with 16 homers.

Garrett Richards is theepitome of what the Angels represent for the 2017 season: A team that could rebound from an injury-plagued campaignto shock the AL West, or one that will fall closer to a rebuild with another losing season.

Richards (elbow) was limited to six starts last season andopted for rest and stem cell treatment for a tear in his ulnar collateral ligament instead of Tommy John surgery — abold move that could pay dividends for the Angels, who are in need of an elite arm in a rotation with breakout potential.

OrRichardscould get injured again and the bounce-back seasons of pitchers Matt Shoemaker,Tyler Skaggs andHuston Street don't go as planned en route to another losing season despite MVP-worthy heroics from Mike Trout.

The Angels shored uptheir defense this offseason by addingLuis Valbuena, Danny Espinosa and Cameron Maybin. Projection data fromBaseball Prospectusand FanGraphseach like the Angels to improve from last year's74-88 season. We think the Angels will improve slightly, as well, but anotherfourth-place finish in the AL West is their likely destination with a weak bullpen and makeshift rotation full of injury concerns.

Los Angeles Angels schedule 2017

The Angelsbegin the 2017 schedule on baseball's opening day April 3 against AL West rivals the Athletics in Oakland at 10:05 p.m. ET on ESPN2.

The first home game of the Angels' season is April 7 against theMariners at 10:07 p.m. ET and begins a six-game homestand with the Rangers to follow atAngel Stadium.

Los Angeles Angelsroster

Angelsprojected opening day lineup

1.Yunel Escobar, 3B

2.Kole Calhoun, OF

3. Mike Trout, OF

4.Albert Pujols, DH

5.Luis Valbuena, 1B

6.Danny Espinosa, 2B

7.Andrelton Simmons, SS

8.Ben Revere, OF

9.Martin Maldonado, C

Angels projected rotation

1.Garrett Richards, RHP

2.Matt Shoemaker, RHP

3.Ricky Nolasco, RHP

4.Tyler Skaggs, LHP

5.Jesse Chavez, RHP

Angels projected bullpen

Closer:Huston Street, RHP
Setup:Andrew Bailey, RHP
Setup:Cam Bedrosian, RHP

Angels fantasy baseball sleeper

Tyler Skaggs, SP —The southpaw returned from Tommy John surgery last seasonand posted a serviceable 4.17 ERA, 1.49 WHIPand 9.1 K:9in just under 50 innings. He will be on an inning count this season but should provide great strikeout value as a late-rounder or spot starter.

Angelstop prospect(s)

MORE: Baseball Prospectus' 2017 PECOTA projections love Dodgers, still hate Royals

After two All-American seasons at the University of Virginia,Matt Thaiss was selected with the 16thoverall pick in the 2016 Draft and has showed great promise. He batted.292/.361/.462 in 67 minor league games last year andmay be in Double-A by June.

Jahmai Jones also tore up the minors last season to the tune of .302/.379/.422 with 20 stolen bases. The 19-year-old outfielder has room to grow and learn but you can't teach speed and Jones has plenty of it.

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