Season Preview: Los Angeles Angels
Projected MLB Rank: 5th — AL Rank: 2nd — AL West Rank: 1st — Record: (93-69)
American League West Champions
So where’s the competition out west for the Angels? The A’s could be considered a challenge, but I think they’re too young this year. The Rangers will never win become a playoff threat until they get some pitching. Then the Mariners, well, I have them ranked last in the league.
So that provides the Angels with a bunch of wins even if their number one and two pitchers are out until about May. Those pitchers, John Lackey and Ervin Santana are two of the best pitchers in the AL. While they’re on the DL, there are five others who will need to fill the void for the time being. Jered Weaver should improve on his 4.33 ERA and 11-10 this season, but nothing drastic. Joe Saunders did a great job for the Halos last season winning 17 games. The lefty also posted a 3.41 ERA in 31 starts. Dustin Moseley will probably be the fifth starter once Lackey and Santana return. Moseley does get roughed up once in a while so there are other options. Nick Adenhart is one of those options, he’s still 22 years old and has some good stuff to do well in the majors but he hasn’t had too much success recently. Shane Loux is another option and will probably start the season in the rotation but once everyone is healthy and back–Loux will be back, in the minor leagues.
Don’t be suprised if Brian Fuentes posts over 50 saves this season. The way the Angels play baseball provides the closers with many chances for saves. Fuentes saved 30 games for Colorado last season along with a 2.73 ERA and almost 12 strikeouts per nine innings. Scot Shields has great stuff and should continue to be effective coming out of the bullpen as he posted a 2.70 ERA last season. Jose Arredondo may be the seventh inning guy. In 52 games last year, the 25 year old compiled a 1.62 ERA with a 1.05 WHIP. Then there’s Darren Oliver who posted a 2.88 ERA last season. Very reliable bullpen.
This lineup is great. Bringing in Bobby Abreu to replace Garrett Anderson was a nice move. The Angels are so outfield heavy now (as Gary Matthews Jr. now has no place to start). Then there’s Torii Hunter, Vlad Guerrero, Chone Figgins and Juan Rivera. The household names.
The players that fly under the radar out in LA will not go unnoticed this season. Secondbaseman Howie Kendrick is a hitter. If he can stay healthy, expect an average over .300 with stolen bases and great defense. Kendry Morales finally gets the firstbase job all to himself. So he will develop this year getting the chances everyday. Mike Napoli presumes to be the starting catcher. He hit 20 homeruns in 78 games last season. If he played a full season, he could even hit 35 homers and put up 75 or so RBIs. He compiled a .586 slugging percentage with an on base percentage 100 points higher than his batting average. Erick Aybar has had a nice spring training and will be at short for his defense this year, but if he starts to get hot at the plate–he will definately be the starter.
All in all, the Angels have the offense and are in the division that can afford to lose their top two starting pitchers for about a month. There’s really not much to the story here. Division champs.
I am going to try to make this my last post about A-Rod, steroids, etc, etc. But I got thinking who is next in line to capture the homerun record as their own fully clean, as far as we know. Rodriguez was supposed to be our savoir from Barry, Balco, Big Mac, and Juiced but, well, you all know the story forwards and backwards now (at least we think we do). So who could potentially top Bonds and take Hammerin’ Hank Aaron’s record from him and not have an asterisk surrounding his name?
In his eight year career, Pujols has slugged 319 homeruns averaging almost 40 homeruns a season. He is one of the best right-handed hitters in the game right now, if not the best. He is 29 years old and if he can average 37 homeruns over the next twelve seasons, he will have 763 homeruns, one more than Bonds. By that time he will be 41 years old. Bonds was 42 when he broke* Aaron’s record of 755. Pujols’ career high came in 2006 when he hit 49 dingers (and he only played in 143 games that year).
POSSIBILITY: MOST LIKELY
Ken Griffey Jr.
The closest among all active clean players with 611 homeruns (are Bonds and Sammy Sosa even active anymore?). Junior’s back in the Emerald City where he hit his first 398 homeruns. Since then, the new millenium hasn’t treated Griffey well as he has been plagued by injuries and years of not contending (until his trade to the White Sox last year). Since 2000, he’s topped out at 40 homeruns (2000) and is 151 homeruns away at 39 years old. He would need to play five more seasons and average just over 30 homeruns over that span to break take the top spot from Barry.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Over four years into his career he has connected for 177 homeruns. His 162-game average in homeruns is 50 per year. He has 586 homeruns to go if he wants to take away the title from Bonds he will need to average 46 homeruns over the next 13 seasons. However, he goes into slumps like it’s in his contract. But when his bat is hot, the lumber is on fire. Another problem is that he didn’t come up to the big leagues and stay up until he was 25 and he didn’t play his first full season until he was 26. He is 29 this season and if he only plays until he is 40 he will need to muster over 53 homeruns per season. Becoming a member of the 500 homerun club should be his first priority.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Dunn has raw power and has hit 278 homeruns over his eight year career averaging just under 35 per season. He is also 29 this season and needs 485 homeruns to break the record. He would need to average 45 homeruns over the next 11 seasons to conquer that feat and has only hit over 40 homeruns once (46 in 2004). I would say that he have the same priority as Howard, join the 500 homerun club first and then see where he’s at.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Let’s let him find a team first. But he needs 236 more homeruns and he is 36 years old. He would need to average just over 47 homeruns in the next five seasons and about 34 homeruns if he were to play seven more seasons.
POSSIBILITY: NOT LIKELY
Others who would need a prayer to break it:
Jim Thome, Vlad Guerrero
Too early to tell:
Miguel Cabrera, David Wright, Prince Fielder
Bobby Abreu has signed a one-year deal with the Angels, reportedly at five-million dollars plus incentives. Abreu will be 35 years old on opening day and may have lost some pop and production but his career numbers don’t lie.
Abreu will fit nicely into a lineup that boasts of veteran right-handed power and the Angels desperately needed to replace at least a chunk of the production they lost when Mark Texeira signed with the Yankees.
The signing of Abreu moves Juan Rivera to the DH spot and Abreu, with his speed, will assume left field. Abreu at age 34 stole 22 bases last year for the Yanks. Abreu can be placed anywhere between the three-hole and the five-hole in the Halos lineup. Free agent Garrett Anderson had plenty of success hitting behind slugger Vlad Guerrero so expect expect Abreu’s usual 100 RBIs and maybe high teens/early twenties in homeruns.
The only question I have to the Angels is why another outfielder? You are outfield heavy. Heavy. They’re already paying Vlad $15.5 million this year, Torii Hunter $16.5 million, Gary Matthews Jr. $9.4 million, and they also have Juan Rivera and Reggie Willits. I understand the desperate need for a lefty and a producer–but now they have five outfielders who could legitimately be starters (with the exception of Willits).
If they all stay healthy and start the season looking good, I could see the Angels dealing one of them.
Another productive lefty signed recently as well. Big six foot six inch Adam Dunn takes his powerful bat to the nation’s capital as he signed a two-year twenty-million dollar deal with the Nationals
It was a good move for the Nationals and it makes the already competitive NL East, even more competitive. I still do not see the Nationals contending but maybe they’ll produce 70 wins (still a stretch, I know). They can’t do much worse than the dismal 59 wins they squeezed out in 2008 and Dunn will be a big contributer.
Dunn, 29, has hit atleast 40 homeruns in each season since 2004. He has 278 career homers and 672 RBIs over his 8-year career (mostly with Cincinnati). The Nationals after reportedly preparing huge offers to Mark Texeira and Manny Ramirez, clearly had money and they needed to bring in some kind of production to avoid another 2008. Dunn is their solution. They are also given the option of possibly dealing first-baseman Nick Johnson for some pitching help because I assume Dunn will play first because of Josh Willingham, Lastings Milledge, and Elijah Dukes in the outfield.
The Nats still do not have the pitching to compete and still may be missing some offensive pieces, but they are taking steps in the right direction.