Monday, March 30, 2009

#5 Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels
Last Year: 100-62 1st in AL West, Lost to Boston in ALDS
This Year: 1st in AL West

For the second straight year the Angels brought a gaudy record and division title into October only to get quickly dispatched to where they came from by Boston. They had a largely unsuccessful winter in attempts to get them over the hump being unable to land CC Sabathia or re-sign Mark Teixiera. They patched up some holes by signing Bobby Abreu but this team should once again cruise to a division title but might not have the pieces to win a World Series.

Opening Day Lineup w/Projections
3B Chone Figgins .279 3 HR 42 RBI 42 SB
LF Bobby Abreu .292 17 HR 87 RBI 18 SB
RF Vladimir Guerrero .307 26 HR 103 RBI
CF Torii Hunter .272 22 HR 83 RBI
1B Kendry Morales .271 18 HR 76 RBI
DH Juan Rivera .262 15 HR 66 RBI
2B Howie Kendrick .322 7 HR 62 RBI
C Mike Napoli .261 22 HR 52 RBI
SS Erick Aybar .262 3 HR 36 RBI

RHP John Lackey 10-7 3.55 ERA 104 K
RHP Ervin Santana 14-8 3.81 ERA 202 K
LHP Joe Saunders 14-8 3.76 ERA 93 K
RHP Jered Weaver 13-9 4.03 ERA 144 K
RHP Dustin Moseley 9-7 4.56 ERA 87 K

CP LHP Brian Fuentes 2.73 ERA 38 SV 78 K

Best Case Scenario: Lackey and Santana both get healthy and become top flight aces. Guerrero bounces back from a disappointing year to put up MVP numbers again. Kendry Morales produces to round out the middle of the lineup and help fans forget about Teixiera. Fuentes fills the hole left by K-Rod very well. The bottom of the lineup combines to produce enough where it doesn't all fall on the shoulders of Hunter, Guerrero, and Abreu. They don't have to face Boston in the playoffs and this team makes a presence in the postseason.

Worst Case Scenario: Lackey's elbow issue becomes serious and is lost for the season. Santana can't repeat the breakout season he had last year. Jered Weaver continues to regress and live up to expectations. The outfield is just too old to carry the brunt of the offense. Youngsters Morales, Hendrick and Brandon Wood aren't ready to contribute on a full time basis. Fuentes blows saves and the Angels struggle to find a closer. This team still wins the mediocre division but are swept by the AL East in the ALDS.

Player Most Important to Success: Kendry Morales. A lot of pressure is being put on the 25 year old First Baseman with only 377 career at-bats. He is the succeeding Mark Teixiera at 1st and is being put at the 5 hole in the lineup. He has to make fans forget about the All-Star 1st Baseman they had last year and provide plenty of offense to round out the middle of the lineup. He has potential to do so as he went .341-15-64 in only 317 at bats in AAA last year but for his MLB career he is so far .249-12-45 in 377 at bats. If he can produce he will protect Hunter and Guerrero and give the Angels a well-rounded offense. If he can not it will be dependent on Hunter, Abreu and Guerrero to provide all the offense and that won't lead to a lot of success.

Outlook: Getting CC Sabathia would have been nice but they are going to miss Mark Teixiera. The middle of the lineup is filled with aging sluggers in Guerrero, Abreu and Hunter who are "34", 35 and 33. The rest of the lineup is full of forgettable pieces. They also have questions with the usually reliable rotation with Lackey and Santana not going to be ready by Opening Day. They are both solid if healthy but that is a question at this point. This team should cruise to a AL West title for the 5th time in 6 years but unless this team gets a slugging corner infielder to bat cleanup and move Hunter to the 5-hole this team will be a quick out in the playoffs.

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