Tuesday, March 19, 2013

2013 Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

Los Angeles Angels
(2012: 89-73, 3rd Place AL West)
(2013: FC Prediction: 1st Place AL West)

The 2012 Angels had a very good 2012, but unfortunately for them, 89 wins wasn't good enough for a playoff spot as they finished behind both the Athletics and the Rangers.  The story of 2012 was the emergence of wunderkind Mike Trout, and he looks to somehow match the numbers he put up last year.  

The Angels come into 2013 with a retooled roster including three new starting pitcher, two new relievers, and All-Star Josh Hamilton.  The Angels only got a half season of Zack Greinke, who signed with the crosstown Dodgers, but the Angels picked up some quality arms in Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas, and Tommy Hanson through trade and free agency.

The Angels come in with some questions this year.  How will Mike Trout follow up his amazing 2013?  How will Josh Hamilton adapt to a new team and a new town?  How will the new look starting rotation fare?

Let's delve into some of these answers.

PITCHING:
Jered Weaver returns as the unquestioned ace.  Weaver is among the leagues best and while he doesn't throw as hard as others, his movement and location makes him a top notch starting pitcher.  CJ Wilson returns as the number two.  Wilson is a quality lefty who just completed his third straight 200 inning season.  He is as reliable as they come and can be very effective.  Newcomers Joe Blanton, Jason Vargas, and Tommy Hanson will fill out the rotation.  All of them are solid back end of the rotation starters, but none of them will have stats that jump out at you.  Vargas has been phenomenal in Seattle the past few years and while Hanson has the biggest upside, he has had some trouble staying healthy.  Blanton will get you 180 innings, but he might get hit around from time to time.

The new look Angels bullpen should be one of the best in the league in 2013.  Ryan Madson is coming off Tommy John surgery, and might not be the best choice for closer, but he will probably start there.  Ready to jump in is Ernesto Frieri.  He helped close last year and was rather successful in the role.  Left-handers Sean Burnett and Scott Downs are both very good against lefties and righties.  Kevin Jepsen has a great slider for the middle innings and Jerome Williams is a quality swing man who should be able to start on occasion.  All in all, the Angels bullpen is very balanced and very good.

Left-hander Nick Maronde has very good stuff, but it is not known if he is good enough to be a big league starter.  He could, however be a very good arm in the bullpen when needed, maybe as early as 2013.  After Maronde, there isn't much talent in the Minor League system as far as pitching goes for the Angels.

LINEUP:
The Angels lineup is very balanced, with speed and power.  Albert Pujols is still one of the best hitters in the game and he will man first base for the Halos.  Howie Kendrick is a very balanced hitter who can hit for average and power.  Shortstop Erick Aybar will also hit for average and will steal some bases, but will provide little power.  Third baseman Alberto Callaspo is similar to Kendrick, but provides less upside. He should be able to hit .270 or so with around 10 home runs, but won't provide much  more than that.

In the outfield the Angels have Mike Trout in left, Peter Bourjos in center, and Josh Hamilton in right.  Mike Trout had an absolutely amazing year in 2012, and probably would have won the MVP in any other year.  Trout's numbers will probably all take a bit of a dip this year, but even a slight dip is still a fantastic season.  Trout should be able to hit .300 with 25 home runs and 30 stolen bases.  He is an absolute spark plug and should be able to stay healthier playing left instead of center.  Bourjos is an absolutely awesome defensive center fielder, but struggles a bit with the bat.  When he gets on base, he can steal some bases, but getting on base is the problem.  Josh Hamilton should fit right into the Angels lineup.  With Trout, Kendrick, and Pujols in front of him, and Trumbo behind him, Hamilton should get plenty of pitches to hit.

Behind the plate, the Angels will have Chris Iannetta.  Iannetta is a veteran guy who knows how to handle a pitching staff and can hit his fair share of home runs.  The DH will be Mark Trumbo.  Trumbo started off great last year, but cooled off the last few months of the year.  He has great power and should be able to hit 25 home runs, but his average should float around the .250 mark.

The hitting prospects aren't great either, but Kaleb Cowart is the best of the bunch.  The third baseman and 2012 first round pick is a very balanced hitter, who can hit for average, a bit of power, and steal a few bases.  2011 first round pick is first baseman CJ Cron.  While Cron is blocked by Pujols at first, he has light tower power, and he should be able to make an impact by 2014.  


NON-ROSTER INVITEE TO WATCH:
The best of the list here is probably utility man Bill Hall.  Hall can still stick a little bit and has the ability to play the corner outfield spots, third, and second, so Hall might have a change to crack this roster over a guy like Andrew Romine or Luis Rodriguez if he can impress the Angels front office.

PROGNOSIS:
The fact of the matter is that the Angels are much improved in 2013.  With poaching Hamilton away from the Rangers, and the addition of the three solid starting pitcher, the Angels have the kind of balance that will allow them to compete with and even pass the A's and the Rangers.  With the strength in the bullpen, even without a shutdown closer, the Angels will be able to shorten the length of games and keep their opponents off of the scoreboard in the late innings.  In our opinion, the Angels will be able to pass the Rangers and the A's and will take control of the very competitive AL West.

TWITTER ACCOUNT OF THE DAY:
CJ Wilson is one of the funniest guys on Twitter.  He has a great sense of humor and just seems like a guy you would want to hang out with.  Follow him @str8edgeracer