Team Preview: Los Angeles Angels

By: Josh Wasserman – Chief MLB writer.

In the coming weeks leading up to Opening Day, FSLR will be previewing the 30 MLB teams and their respective chances for the 2014 season. Starting with the AL West, the Los Angeles Angels are up next…

AL West:
Day 1: Seattle Mariners
Day 2: Oakland A’s
Day 3: Los Angeles Angels
Day 4: Houston Astros
Day 5: Texas Rangers

Los Angeles Angels

2013 Record: 78-84 (3rd)
2014 Projected Record: 85-77 (3rd)

​The past few years seemed promising for the Angels in the offseason, yet they only resulted in disappointment once the season actually began. They were supposed to run away with the division title after adding Albert Pujols, and CJ Wilson before the 2012 season; they finished 3rd behind the Rangers and A’s. Last year, they were destined to compete to as the frontrunner with a full season of Mike Trout, the acquisition of Josh Hamilton, and the solidifying of their rotation by acquiring Joe Blanton, and Tommy Hanson. Once again, they trailed the Rangers and the A’s by the time the postseason rolled around. They’ve made more high-profile moves this winter by bringing in former Cardinals star David Freese and veteran outfielder Raul Ibañez. However, I don’t see them surpassing their rivals in the standings this year since they still lack a strong bullpen and their rotation isn’t strong enough. Though the AL West will look identical to last year, the Angels will make a more formidable push for the division crown in 2014 with their star-studded lineup leading the way.

Projected Lineup:
1) Mike Trout, CF
2) Raul Ibañez, DH
3) Albert Pujols, 1B
4) David Freese, 3B
5) Josh Hamilton, RF
6) Howie Kendrick, 2B
7) Erick Aybar, SS
8) J.B. Shuck, LF
9) Chris Iannetta, C

Last year, the Angels placed in the top 10 in the league in runs, RBI, batting average, and on-base percentage. And with David Freese and Raul Ibañez inserted into a lineup already stacked with Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton, there is no reason to believe they won’t rank in the top five in the league in most batting categories. The Angels have a perfect blend of contact and power, with each member of the lineup contributing one, the other, or both. Trout, named the number one player in baseball by our website, is the most complete player around and brings so much to the table. He can set up others by getting on base, drive in runs with power to all fields, and take runs off the board by playing stellar defense. This goes for Albert Pujols, formerly the best hitter in baseball, and David Freese as well. The team’s pop stems from those three, Ibañez, who led the Mariners last year with 29 home runs, and Hamilton, who hit 21 bombs. And Kendrick, Aybar, and Shuck can all get on base and set up the power at the top of the order. Overall, the Angels can’t ask for a lineup constructed much better than the one they have, aside from the catcher position. But having eight efficient and fearsome hitters out of nine is pretty good when compared to the rest of the league.

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Projected Rotation:
1) Jered Weaver, RHP
2) C.J. Wilson, LHP
3) Joe Blanton, RHP
4) Hector Santiago, LHP
5) Tyler Skaggs, LHP/Garrett Richards, RHP

​The front two members of the rotation are fantastic, reliable each and every start. In what is considered a down year by his standards, Jered Weaver posted a 3.38 ERA and only amassed 11 wins a year after recording 20. C.J. Wilson had roughly the same ERA in 2013 and ended up with 17 wins, so given the performance of the lineup (which ought to be impressive pretty much every day), both pitchers, who would be aces on any other respective team, can clear the 15-win mark. The rest of the rotation is dubious though. Joe Blanton is coming off the worst year of his career after sporting a 2-14 record and a 6.04 ERA in 20 starts. Moreover, his spring thus far has heralded that he may experience the same troubles this year at the age of 34. I don’t see Blanton having a halfway decent year this year and would not be surprised if he was demoted to the bullpen at some point. On the other hand, Hector Santiago is entering the prime of his career at 26 and has been pitching lights out in Spring Training so far (in one start he recorded five strikeouts in 4 innings of one-hit ball). He had a great year for the White Sox last year and is looking to build off of his success. The final spot in the rotation comes down to Tyler Skaggs, picked up from Arizona in the offseason through the Mark Trumbo trade, and Garrett Richards. Skaggs is young and was envisioned as one of the future stars of the Diamondbacks’ rotation along with Trevor Cahill, Patrick Corbin, and Wade Miley. Richards, however, performed well for the Angels in 2013 and put up better numbers than Skaggs. The job will most likely go to Richards because of the confidence Halos manager Mike Scoscia has in him and the alternation between left- and right-handed pitchers. There are pieces, but the Angels rotation isn’t solid enough front to back to carry them through the year.

Projected Bullpen:
MR: Kevin Jepsen, RHP
SU: Fernando Salas, RHP
CL: Ernesto Frieri, RHP

The Angels are also quite thin when it comes to the late innings. Aside from Kevin Jepsen, there are very few options to go; the rest of the middle relievers are young draft picks aiming to make the roster or washed-up veterans in their thirties. Fernando Salas had a pretty good campaign last year for the Cardinals and helps an otherwise depleted bullpen. The one respectable option the Angels have is Ernesto Frieri. The closer went 26 and a third innings last year without yielding a hit. That’s pretty much three straight no-hitters in a row. His stuff was dominant, and though he tailed off towards the end, his numbers were impressive nonetheless and should look to anchor the Angels when it comes to the ninth inning.

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