Wednesday, February 29, 2012

2012 MLB Preview #3: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Greetings everyone... with preview #3, we'll encounter the first "good" team so far. Let's get it...


C - Chris Iannetta
1B - Albert Pujols
2B - Howie Kendrick
SS - Erick Aybar
3B - Mark Trumbo/Alberto Callaspo
LF - Vernon Wells/Mike Trout/Bobby Abreu
CF - Peter Bourjos/Mike Trout
RF - Torii Hunter/Mike Trout/Bobby Abreu
DH - Kendrys Morales/Mark Trumbo/Bobby Abreu

As you can see, the lineup is anything but set for the Angels, but first, we'll hit the constants. Albert Pujols has been the best hitter on the planet since the day Barry Bonds went away, and he arrives in the AL West with a huge contract. I hated the deal for its length, but in 2012, he's worth every penny he'll receive, and he's still a top-5 player. Howie Kendrick posted a .800+ OPS last year (elite for 2B) and a career-high 18 homers, as he begins to realize his full potential that many expected. Aybar brings 30-steal ability at shortstop while not killing their lineup offensively, and Iannetta has a career .788 OPS that makes him playable despite his defensive deficiencies. That's where the constants end. At 3rd base, Trumbo would be a clear defensive downgrade (think Miguel Cabrera), but the Angels seem heart-set on playing him near-everyday after he hit 29 homers last year in 539 ABs. I'm personally against it because a) he'll be so bad defensively, b) he sported a sub-.300 on base percentage last year, and c) Alberto Callaspo played pretty well in that spot last year. In the outfield, it's a cataclysmic mess. There are 5 guys (6 if you count Trumbo, who could also be used out there) for three spots. Hunter and Bourjos were the 2 best players of the lot in 2011, both sporting .765 OPS' and playing above-average defense for their sports (Bourjos is elite, Hunter used to be). Trout is the uber-prospect who may not even make the club, but is considered to be the 1b to Bryce Harper's 1a among positional prospects. Bobby Abreu can't field (at all) any more, and is pretty much unplayable in the outfield when you consider his bat fell off the cliff in 2011 to the tune of only 8 HRs, and a .365 slugging. Oh, and I haven't mentioned Vernon Wells. He's clearly the worst hitter of the bunch, but he makes 20+ million dollars a year for several more years as the owner of the worst contract in the major leagues. In fairness to the Angels, any 3 OFs that they pick won't be a disaster, but it's an issue that we need to see shake out. At DH, Kendrys Morales is reportedly healthy, and after they signed Pujols, his only position can be DH, so I'd pencil him in if he's healthy with some ABs for Trumbo and possibly Abreu if they can. Pretty solid lineup that could be elite if they get Pujols-ian numbers from him, and can shake out the outfield.

Starting Rotation

1 - Jared Weaver
2 - Dan Haren
3 - CJ Wilson
4 - Ervin Santana
5 - Jerome Williams

One through four, this is about as good as it gets in the Majors. Weaver and Haren were both among the game's elite in 2011, chewing up innings (235+ for both) with near 200 strikeouts and low ratio stats. Add in CJ Wilson coming off a year that saw him post a 2.94 ERA in 220+ inning with over 200 K's himself, and Ervin Santana off his career year, and that's a pretty scary staff. Jerome Williams is the biggest question mark after throwing only 44 innings last year, but this is a former elite prospect with considerable talent, and in the 5-spot they can afford to miss a little bit. Weaver and Haren can be penciled in for great numbers, but keep an eye on Wilson and Santana as they both peaked in 2011 at levels they'd never seen, and could be due for regression (both of them) or injury (Santana has a history). Still a great rotation.


Jordan Walden carries the torch at the back-end. The number that I keep seeing referenced is the fact that he blew 10 saves last year, but blown saves are pretty arbitrary, and when you look at his peripherals, you'd see a pretty good pitcher. Sub-3.00 ERA with 10 strikeouts per 9, and while his walk rate is high, you'd expect that from a 23-year-old first time closer. Scott Downs was dominant in a set-up role last year (1.34 ERA) and he's joined by Hisanori Takahashi, Rich Thompson, and the newly-acquired Latroy Hawkins to form a reasonably decent set-up crew.


93-69, 2nd in AL West, Wild card winner

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