The best hitter still standing in Anaheim? (MLB Gifs)

The Yankees kick off their final homestand of the year with a visit from the Angels.

Their Story So Far

The Halos, at 68-82, are at heart a stars and scrubs roster without enough star power around the best player in the game. The stars that they do have are mostly out for this series, and their pitching staff never had much going for it to start.

You won’t see Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani or Justin Upton this series. Ohtani is probably the team’s best starter when healthy, and their second best starter tragically passed away this summer.

The Angels have now spent five seasons in the wilderness since their last postseason berth. They have Trout under contract for 11 more seasons. Without a serious infusion of pitching from outside the organization, it’s hard to see a return to the postseason in the near-term future.

Injury Report

Trout (foot surgery), Ohtani (knee surgery), Upton (patella tendonitis) and Zack Cozart (shoulder surgery) are all out for the season. As are pitchers Cam Bedrosian, Griffin Canning and Felix Pena.

Starting second baseman Tommy La Stella is recovering from a leg injury, but he’s made the trip with the team and could be activated from the IL. Backup catcher Max Stassi has missed the last two weeks with an oblique injury.

Spotlight/Milestone Watch: Albert Pujols

The Angels chapter of Albert Pujols’ career has been a sad slog for the most part, far from the fantastic heights he reached in St. Louis. Still, there are some signs of life in the 39-year-old’s bat.

Pujols has been perfectly league-average at the plate this season (101 OPS+, 100 wRC+), but he’s come on in the second half. Since the All-Star break, he’s batting .276/.328/.492 with 10 home runs and a 116 wRC+.

With his 656th career home run Sunday, he’s just four homers behind Willie Mays for fifth on the all-time list. Pujols has hit 23 home runs this season and two more years on his contract. It’s not inconceivable, even with his decline, that he could reach 700 and move into the top four in history.

Ohtani’s injury has allowed Pujols to shift back to DH, where he can actually provide value for Anaheim. He’s one of the 2-3 most fearsome hitters left in the lineup, which isn’t a great sign for the Angels, but Pujols still has pop.

Projected Lineup

  1. Brian Goodwin, CF (.272/.332/.487, 114 wRC+)
  2. David Fletcher, 3B (.288/.349/.385, 99 wRC+)
  3. Kole Calhoun, RF (.231/.325/.473, 108 wRC+)
  4. Albert Pujols, DH (.251/.313/.453, 100 wRC+)
  5. Andrelton Simmons, SS (.261/.304/.357, 76 wRC+)
  6. Jared Walsh, 1B (.211/.262/.333, 53 wRC+)
  7. Luis Rengifo, 2B (.239/.323/.366, 87 wRC+)
  8. Taylor Ward, LF (.111/.200/.222, 13 wRC+ in 20 PAs)
  9. Kevan Smith, C (.245/.324/.384, 91 wRC+)

Also available, the Angels have catcher Anthony Bemboom (-26 wRC+ in 35 PAs), 1B Justin Bour (69 wRC+), infielder Matt Thaiss (76 wRC+) and outfielder Michael Hermosillo (78 wRC+ in 14 PAs).

Pitching Matchups

Tuesday (6:35 p.m. EDT): Luis Severino (vs. Angels) vs. Jose Suarez

Suarez is a 21-year-old Venezuelan southpaw who, despite joining the rotation in June, will end up right near the team leaders in starts and innings. Though he has plenty of potential in his left arm, he hasn’t been effective on a Major League mound.

In 71 1/3 innings, he’s allowed 20 homers and has a 6.94 ERA (66 ERA+). His .398 wOBA is in the third percentile league-wide. He doesn’t strike out many hitters, issues a few too many walks and gives up more than a hit per inning. He’s been thrown out there in part because the Angels don’t have many other options.

Working in the low-90s with his fastball, Suarez is primarily a fastball-changeup pitcher. Hitters have teed off on his fastball while his changeup has proven more effective (used about a third of the time). He has a high-spin curveball in the mid-70s, though it’s been hit hard.

Suarez (Baseball Savant)

Wednesday (6:35 p.m. EDT): CC Sabathia (vs. Angels) vs. Dillon Peters

Peters, 27, joined the Angels in an offseason trade with the Marlins and has bounced between Triple-A and the Majors ever since. With a 4.83 ERA (96 ERA+), he’s actually been one of the more effective Angels pitchers in his 59 2/3-inning stint.

Like Suarez, he doesn’t have sterling strikeout or walk rates, and he’s given up two homers per nine. However, he’s survived this season (especially compared to his time in Miami) by suppressing hard contact, lowering his average exit velocity to near league-average.

Still, his repertoire can be hit hard. He works with a low-90s fastball and goes to a mid-70s curveball (high-spin, just like Suarez) and a mid-80s changeup. He’s throwing the change more than he did a season ago, and that could be part of his modest improvement on the mound.

*Note: Neither Suarez nor Peters have faced a current Yankee other than Edwin Encarnación.

Peters (Baseball Savant)

Thursday (6:35 p.m. EDT): TBD vs. Andrew Heaney (vs. Yankees)

A former top prospect, Heaney hoped to follow up his first full and healthy season in 2018 with a breakout 2019. However, despite further glimpses of potential, he had another injury-marred season.

He got off to a late start (May 26) to his season due to elbow issues and then missed nearly a month to a shoulder injury. In all, he has pitched to a respectable 4.76 ERA (97 ERA+) in 85 innings. He’s coming off one of his worst starts of the year in which he allowed three homers to the Rays in 3.1 innings.

Still, he can get swings and misses, sporting a 28.5 percent strikeout rate, 21st among pitchers with at least 80 innings. He leads off with his high-spin sinker, his bread-and-butter pitch and backs it up with a curveball and changeup.

Heaney (Baseball Savant)

Bullpen Status

Coming off a day off, here’s the rundown of relievers they have:

RHPs: Hansel Robles, Justin Anderson, Luke Bard, Ty Buttrey, Trevor Cahill, Taylor Cole, Luis Garcia, Jake Jewell, Keynan Middleton, Noe Ramirez, Jose Rodriguez
LHPs: Miguel Del Pozo, Adelberto Mejia

For those who watched the 2017-18 Mets, you may be surprised to see Hansel Robles as the Angels’ dominant closer. He’s converted 21 saves and has a 2.36 ERA (195 ERA+). The team recently got 2018 closer Keynan Middleton back from Tommy John surgery and he’s a late-game option.

Ty Buttrey and Taylor Cole see some high-leverage work, while lefty Adalberto Mejia is a former Twin who could see left-on-left work. Luis Garcia is a former Phillies reliever and has seen high-leverage work in Anaheim and Philly.

Meanwhile, Trevor Cahill’s decline has sent him to the bullpen to finish out the season. With just three more innings, he’d become the first Angel this year to eclipse 100 innings. No team in MLB history has ever had zero 100-inning pitchers.