AP ANGELS ROYALS BASEBALL S BBA USA MO

Thursday is ALDS day, with the Angels and Royals following up Baltimore and Detroit from Anaheim. First pitch is set for 9:00.

The Royals get just one off-day before setting out to Anaheim to take on the Angels, who had the most wins in baseball this season. On the heels of a thrilling come-from-behind  extras win, the Royals will look to make the most of their first postseason appearance in 29 years.

Starting Pitching: Jared Weaver (18-9), Matt Shoemaker (16-4), CJ Wilson (13-10), Hector Santiago (6-9) vs. Jason Vargas (11-10), Yordano Ventura (14-10), James Shields (15-8), Jeremy Guthrie (13-11)
Having been off since Sunday, the Angels have enjoyed the luxury of getting healthy and setting up their rotation. The success of this starting group will likely rest on the shoulders (or left oblique) of Matt Shoemaker, who had a breakout year this season and appears to be set to return from injury for a game 2 start. This has led to rumors circulating that the Angels could go with a starting stretch of Weaver-Shoemaker-Wilson-Weaver-Shoemaker in a five-game series scenario. If this were the case, it would definitely make things interesting in terms of setting things up for the ALCS (should they advance) but it definitely gives them the edge over KC. After pitching on Tuesday night, ace James Shields will only get to pitch once in this series and the remainder of the rotation is either inexperienced, mediocre (or both).
Edge: Los Angeles

Catcher: Salvador Perez vs. Chris Iannetta
Salvador Perez showed why he’s among the AL’s elite behind the plate on Tuesday’s win. Coming up to the plate in the 12th 0-5 in the contest, Perez made his at-bat count by drilling a walkoff win down the 3rd-base line. Ianetta provides a veteran presence for the Angels and is certainly serviceable at the plate, batting .252 this season, but Perez gives Kansas City a decided edge here.
Edge: Kansas City

First Base: Eric Hosmer vs. Albert Pujols
Eric Hosmer certainly deserves a ton of credit for putting up multiple clutch hits on Tuesday night, but there is no comparison here. Sure, Albert has fallen off from his video game-number days but he is still an elite 1B, as seen in his .272/28/105 slash, and offers important protection for Mike Trout in the batting order.
Edge: Los Angeles

Second Base: Omar Infante vs. Howie Kendrick
Howie Kendrick was among the best in baseball this past season at second, batting .293 with 75 RBI and 14 SB. As noted in my Wild Card game preview, Infante is nothing special. Easy call here.
Edge: Los Angeles

Third Base: Mike Moustakas vs. David Freese
This matchup is interesting in the sense that it involves two young(er) players who haven’t really lived up to the hype. In Moustakas, a highly touted prospect who has gone up and down from the minors after a promising start to his big league career. In Freese, a player who has really done nothing since playing hero in the ’11 World Series as a 28 year-old. Freese gets the edge here, not because of his postseason experience (see his total ineptness in last year’s World Series against Boston), but because he was able to comfortably stay above the Mendoza line this season.
Edge: Los Angeles

Shortstop: Alcides Escobar vs. Erik Aybar
This series involves two of the most underrated shortstops in the game. Although Aybar can put the ball in play just as well as Escobar (.278 and .285 respectively), he can’t match the elite speed of Aybar, putting a respectable 16 SB, but nowhere near the 31 of Escobar.
Edge: Kansas City

Outfield: Alex Gordon, Lorenzo Cain, Nori Aoki vs. Collin Cowgill, Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun
These units are extremely difficult to compare because the Royals own the more complete outfield but the Angels have the best player in the series roaming in center. Cowgill (.250 in 260 AB) and Calhoun (.272/17./58) are not up to par with the KC group, so if Josh Hamilton is unable to participate in this series (right ribcage injury), the Royals appear to have the better group overall.
Edge: Kansas City

Designated Hitter: Billy Butler vs. Brennan Boesch
If the Angels really do end up going with Boesch at DH, this will be an instant where the Royals have a rare edge from the designated hitter. The former highly touted prospect for the Tigers hit just .187, albeit in 27 games, with the Angels this season.
Edge: Kansas City

Bullpen: Greg Holland (C), Wade Davis, Kelvin Herrera vs. Houston Street (C), Joe Smith, Kevin Jepsen
The acquisition Houston Street from San Diego was certainly critical for LAA, who seemed to have difficulty finding someone to fit into the closing role all season long. Even with a reliable arm coming in for the 9th, the Angels still have a below average ‘pen and are facing one of the best in the game, as highlighted in the Wild Card preview.
Edge: Kansas City

 

In what would seem like a lopsided matchup at first glance, injuries are going to make this much more difficult for the heavily-favored Angels. Not only will they be without their best arm of the season in Garrett Richards, who was 13-4 with a 2.61 ERA before sustaining a season-ending injury in Boston, but another important arm in Matt Shoemaker is coming off the DL to pitch in this series, and it is unknown if Josh Hamilton will be returning to the lineup. The Royals will likely have to rely on some mistakes from the Angels’ bullpen, but if Vargas, Ventura, and Guthrie are able to put up quality starts and the lineup can make some timely hits (as against the A’s), the upset is definitely in play.

Winner: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in 5