Thursday, January 27, 2011

Season Preview : The California LA Angels of Anaheim AKA The Angels Angels of Anaheim

Looks like I'll be doing this more sporadically than initially thought so I decided to get a head start on these and alphabetical order is good way to go.

The Team   The Halo's spent the whole off-season being linked with all the big free agents and then contrived not to land any of them. Having finished third in the west, 10 games back from the reigning AL champions, they must have felt the need to do something drastic to bridge the gap leading to a head scratching move for Vernon Wells and his contract.

The Good   One big free agent acquisition they did land was Scott Downs who adds a strong lefty presence to a sound bullpen that will back up a great 1-2 punch of Dan Haren and Jeff Weaver at the top of the rotation.

Perhaps the biggest strength will be a defence where the two Gold Glove outfielders will not be the best defenders in the outfield. Bourjos' play in center allowed the aging Torii Hunter to shift to right where the club hopes he will be able to stay out of harms way and in the lineup where he continues to be a key performer and with Wells taking over in left Anaheim can use Bobby Abreu principally at DH.

Another bonus is the bench where Maicer Izturis will once again see time at short, second and third, Abreu can still play the outfield if needed and Alberto Callapso should provide some good at bats.

The Bad    Last year Anaheim allowed more runs (702) than they scored (681) which is never a good thing and they really didn't do much to address that.

They are relying on a batting order with no obvious leadoff man and for a team that likes to run that is a problem. They also have an order lacking genuine power and what power they have belongs to aging and injury prone hitters.

As good as Haren and Weaver are you have to worry about Scott Kazmir and Joel PiƱeiro and as good as the middle relief should be Fernando Rodney has never convinced anyone that he can hold down a closers role for an extended time.

Best Case Scenario    The Angels need a number of players to step up - Rodney needs to solidify the relief, Kendry Morales needs to rebound from injury and provide some thump to the order, Wells needs to play like he did in 2010 not 2009, Hunter needs to stay healthy, Howie Kendrick needs to put together a full season of production rather than the odd week/month,.... If all those things come together and Haren plays to the Cy Young level he's capable of then they have the pieces to challenge in the west.

My Prediction    Anaheim will, like last season, be a .500 team. They will struggle to enough runs to support the rear of the rotation and Haren, Weaver and Ervin Santana can't all win 20 games.

Mike Trout watch should begin some time in June.