Impact Player: 1B Kendry Morales
Impact Pitcher: RHP Jered Weaver
Best Reliever: LHP Scott Downs
Top Prospect: OF Mike Trout
General Manager: Tony Reagins
Manager: Mike Scioscia (980-802, .550)
LHP Scott Downs, LHP Hisanori Takahashi, OF Vernon Wells
C/1B Mike Napoli, OF Juan Rivera, DH Hideki Matsui, RHP Scot Shields
The Angels aging lineup never really produced in 2010. They struggled to play consistent baseball all season and the loss of their best player, Kendry Morales, after he broke his leg during a walk-off homerun celebration didn’t help. The Angels finished 9th in the AL in runs scored and were 13th in on-base percentage; on the pitching side the Angels were 6th in ERA and 12th in walks allowed. This inconsistency led to their first losing season since 2003 and caused them to miss the playoffs for only the third time since winning the World Series in 2002.
The Angels had a terrible offseason losing out on Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford and cultivated their desperation into trading for Vernon Wells and his huge contract. The trade ranks as one of the more confusing in a long, long time, but shows you that the Angels were clearly on tilt after losing out on other big names. If Wells can contribute along with the returned health of Morales and Joel Pineiro, the Angels could be better than they were last year and get back above the .500-mark. However, an aging core and an inability to get on base will hold them back from really contending in the AL West.
Jered Weaver may have only been 13-12 last season, but his 3.01 ERA and 3.06 FIP suggest that he is a true number one pitcher. His 4.31 K/BB ratio was third in all of baseball behind Cliff Lee and Roy Halladay. He was also fifth in the AL in FIP.
A full season with Dan Haren in the fold should help the Angels. He was acquired mid-season from the Diamondbacks and posted a 2.87 ERA and 3.45 FIP in 14 starts with the Halos. Haren has a career walk-rate under 2.00 which can make him one of the more dominant pitchers in the game when he’s on.
Ervin Santana led the Angels in wins but had an average 4.28 FIP. He’s only posted one season in his career with a FIP lower than last year’s and his strike-out rate has been down two years in a row. Although he’s generally thought of as a very good pitcher, there’s a case to be made that he is merely average.
Pineiro missed significant time last year due to injury, but still managed a 3.84 ERA and an identical FIP. He’s as solid a number-four pitcher as you’re going to find and although he doesn’t miss too many bats, he’s consistently solid with his command and doesn’t give up many homeruns. He’s in the final year of his current contract.
Scott Kazmir is penciled in as the fifth starter, but at just 27-years-old could already be washed up. After establishing himself early in his career in the Rays organization, Kazmir has fallen off the map. He lost a ton of velocity off of his fastball last season and that hurt him a lot. His 5.83 FIP was the highest of any pitcher in the league with at least 150 innings pitched. I would be surprised if he’s still pitching in the Angels’ rotation by the end of the season. Most experts believe he is done. If Kazmir struggles, young Trevor Bell could step in and start.
When Brian Fuentes was traded to Minnesota last season, Fernando Rodney stepped in and provided 14 saves, but had a 4.24 ERA and 4.05 FIP and has never been a truly reliable reliever. The Angels signed two veteran lefties in Scott Downs from Toronto and Hisanori Takahashi from the Mets. Downs has become one of the most consistent relievers in baseball and could even close of Rodney proves incapable of handling the role.
Takahashi was the Mets’ most valuable reliever last season and filled every role you could imagine. He started a number of games compiling at 10-6 record and also closed some when injuries hit. He doesn’t throw hard, but still manages to miss bats and has terrific command.
The bullpen also contains two other very effective right-handers in Kevin Jepsen and Rich Thompson. Jepsen posted a 3.03 FIP in 2010 and had awesome peripherals, while Thompson had a 1.37 ERA in 13 games after being called up from AAA. Jason Bulger should also have a spot in the ‘pen.
The final bullpen spot could go to a number of candidates including Francisco Rodriguez (no, not that Francisco Rodriguez), Ysmael Carmona, Bobby Cassevah, or Matt Palmer. Michael Kohn and Jordan Walden will also very much be in the mix after terrific stints in call ups last season.
The Angels as an organization clearly undervalued Mike Napoli and almost refused to play him at catcher last season; he actually spent more time at first base. Then the team traded him to Toronto in the Wells deal and he was later flipped to Texas. This means the Angels will get to see their former catcher a lot and realize quickly what they’re missing.
When I said the Boston Red Sox may have the worst catching situation in the league, I was clearly ignoring the Angels. Anaheim will start the year with Jeff Mathis as their starter even though he had a negative WAR rating in 2010. He can’t hit (.195 average and .278 slugging percentage), get on base (.219 OBP) and he’s not good defensively (-1.0 UZR). There aren’t many good starting catchers, but Mathis probably would not be starting on any other team.
If the Angles realize how bad Mathis is, they may give prospect Hank Conger a shot. His defence is terrible, but he can hit better than any other catcher in the organization. Bobby Wilson is the current backup and even he finished with a higher WAR than Mathis last season.
Morales’ ridiculous broken leg shouldn’t hold him back in 2011. The Angels need him to continue being one of the more underrated first basemen in the game to contend this season. He got off to a slow start last year but was heating up when he got hurt. He still finished with an .833 OPS.
Howie Kendrick puts up decent offensive numbers for a middle infielder, but is a terrible fielder at second base. The only position he projects well at is first and he doesn’t put up the numbers to play there. He’s also not very patient at the plate.
Erick Aybar has been struggling through injuries the past few seasons and simply hasn’t looked like the same player that many thought would be a perennial all-star. Like most Angels’ hitters, he simply does not get on base enough and that part of his game gets exposed when he only hits .253 like he did last year. If he’s healthy, he might be able to regain his credibility since he’s only 27.
Losing out on Beltre means that the Angels will probably use Maicer Izturis as their starting third baseman even though he’s clearly better suited for a utility infielder role. Alberto Callaspo and former number-one pick Brandon Wood (who’s out of options) could also start at third. At 26, Wood will probably be placed on waivers if he doesn’t finally deliver on his once lofty promise.
Wells will likely move to leftfield which will certainly help his defence considering he was no longer a good centerfielder. He had a bounce-back year in 2010, but it was mostly due to a ridiculous first six weeks. On May 9th, Wells had a .339/.406/.661 slash line and then posted a .255/.310/.475 slash line for the rest of the season. The second set of numbers is likely what you’ll see from Wells going forward.
Another aging centerfielder will occupy rightfield this season in Torii Hunter. Hunter is now 35, but he’s still a solid player who accumulated a 3.5 WAR last season. A full season in rightfield will benefit him defensively.
The reason those two former gold glovers have moved to the corners is because a future gold glover will now occupy centerfield. Peter Bourjos will soon cement himself as one of the top defensive outfielders in the game. He may never hit well, but he should be good enough to stick as he does possess some pop. He’ll at least be there until uber-prospect Mike Trout is ready. Trout is considered one of the best all-around prospects the game has seen in a while and although he’s only 19, he could be major-league ready by the start of 2012.
Speedster Reggie Willits will compete for the fourth outfielder spot with Chris Pettit who’s expected back from an injury-plagued 2010.
Bobby Abreu will no longer be playing much in the outfield at 37, but should still be a solid DH. His average fell to .255 last season, but he still walks plenty enough to get on base at a solid clip and was one of only three 20/20 men in the AL last year along with Alex Rios and Shin-Soo Choo.
A homemade depth chart that is totally worth clicking on can be found here.
The Angels appear to be in a time of transition, even if they don’t want to admit it. They still have some quality players and a very good one-two punch at the top of their rotation, but their team lacks depth and is clearly getting older in key areas. They won’t be a bad team in 2010, but I highly doubt they’ll be contenders. They’ll never do it, but perhaps it’s time for a rebuild.
Final Prediction: 83-79, 3rd AL West