Ankiel: Mets, Angels Could Surprise People

The Mets can "shut any lineup down" if their pitching staff stays healthy, Rick Ankiel says

Taz and the Moose
May 21, 2018 - 9:59 am

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The beauty of Opening Day is that everyone is 0-0, everyone is tied, and everyone has a shot at the World Series – at least in theory.

In actuality, only a handful of teams have a legitimate shot of winning it all, especially this year.

“I think seven to eight, maybe nine or 10 – there could be two more that sneak in there,” Fox Sports Midwest analyst Rick Ankiel said on Taz & The Moose. “But realistically, you would think those are the only teams that have a shot. Everybody else is pretty much trying to play for last place and restock their minor league system and get the No. 1 draft pick. I think it was (Mariners general manager) Jerry Dipoto that said it’s going to be harder to come in last place that it is to win the World Series – and I think he’s right, which is kind of funny.”

If you’re looking for a sleeper – or simply a team that could surprise people – Ankiel believes the Mets are a prime candidate. New York advanced to the World Series in 2015 and the Wild Card in 2016, but finished 70-92 last season – its worst record since 2009.

“I could see the Mets surprising people with their pitching staff if they’re healthy,” Ankiel said. “That’s a pretty dominant pitching staff, so I could see them being better than people think.”

The Washington Nationals have won the NL East in four of the last six seasons, including each of the last two, but Ankiel believes the Mets could be in the mix at the end of the year.

“(The Nationals are) definitely paying attention to (the Mets), there’s no question,” Ankiel said. “They understand how good that pitching is, and that is going to be their competition. The Nats themselves are a stacked team. You talk about speed, defense, power, depth – they definitely are in position to win the National League. But I think the Mets, with their pitching, being healthy is the big key. With that starting staff that they have and even at the end of the bullpen, they could be really dominant. Pitching wins, defense wins, and they’d be able to shut any lineup down if those guys go out there and pitch like they can.”

In the AL, meanwhile, Ankiel believes that the Angels could contend for a playoff spot. Los Angeles last made the playoffs in 2014 and is 239-247 over the last three seasons.

“I think Shohei Ohtani is going to have to be as good as advertised,” Ankiel said. “I know he’s dealing with transitioning into America, but I think once he gets his feet settled, if he turns into the player that we all think he can be, then the Angels could be a surprise team.”