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Tuesday, March 4, 2014

MLB 2014 Team Preview: Anaheim Angels

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MLB 2014 Team Preview: Anaheim Angels
By Wild on Sports MLB Analyst Aaron Dorman

2013 Overview:
So many famous names don’t even add up to a .500 finish. Josh Hamilton bombs in his Angels debut and Albert Pujols is even worse, missing the final two months of the year and slugging below .440. Together they manage to hit .253 with 38 Home Runs…combined. That’s not what Anaheim was expecting for $50 million or so between them. Meanwhile, Mike Trout dominates in all facets of the game, alone among Angels as a young superstar. Anaheim pays for its lazy winter filling up the back of the rotation with garbage like Joe Blanton and a bad-shoulder Tommy Hanson.

Winter Grade:
Coming: Tyler Skaggs, Hector Santiago, David Freese, Raul Ibanez
Going: Mark Trumbo, Peter Bourjos, Jason Vargas, Tommy Hanson

Anaheim doesn’t have much talent to trade, but Arizona’s inexplicable desire for empty power (that they don’t even need) helps the Angels compensate for last’s years mistakes, allowing them to fill the back of the rotation with a pair of promising lefties. Skaggs in particular could break out and make this trade even more lopsided; he was an original Anaheim draftee as well, leaving in the trade brought in Dan Haren. Peter Bourjos could blossom as a full-time center fielder with St. Louis, but the Angels never really figured out what to do with him after Mike Trout took over. David Freese is a decent gamble to be at least a league-average third basemen for the next few years.

Wild Card(s):
Skaggs was the twelfth best prospect in baseball a year ago, and while he didn’t have a good season last year, nothing has changed much other than Arizona’s patience with his command. His line in 13 big league starts isn’t pretty to date, but he’s racked up strikeouts (57 in 68 IP) and may have gotten unlucky with balls going over the fence. Skaggs may be a few mechanical adjustments from being at least a no. 2 starter, not dissimilar from teammate CJ Wilson.

Key Contract Years:
Nobody, unless Joe Blanton has an unlikely bounceback year.

Rookies:
The Angels are in big trouble if they need to look to their barren farm for any help this year. Perhaps second baseman Taylor Lindsay can find some extra power and force his way into the lineup midseason. But the only safe bets to debut this year are marginal relief arms like RJ Alvarez (rhp) and Nick Maronde (lhp).

Key Questions:
What kind of player is Albert Pujols going forward?
Can he at least repeat 2012 a few more times before the bitter end?
Similarly, will Josh Hamilton settle in this year and be a 30-HR threat again?
Who gets the bulk of playing time in left field, JB Shuck or Kole Calhoun?
How much does Raul Ibanez have left?
Will Jered Weaver’s steadily decline K-rates finally catch up to him this year?

Farm System Overview: BLACK (terrible) 
Yuck! This organization is beyond barren; their top prospect going into the year, Kaleb Cowart, hit .221/.279/.301 with 6 HR in AA-ball, they have no projectable starting pitchers, and their most recent first-round pick, first basemen CJ Cron, was taken for his bat and hit just 14 HR all season. A handful of infielders look capable of playing everyday, although not at a star caliber level. The best of the rancid lot is 22-year-old second baseman Taylor Lindsey, who hit .274 with 17 HR in AA last year and will be ready soon to contribute in some kind of super-utility role.

2014 Prognosis: Likely Contenders
Even with a year of miserable results, it’s still too early to bet against the trio of Hamilton, Pujols and Trout in that lineup. This team is an extreme stars-and-scrubs composition but if either one of their aging veteran superstars bounce back, they’ll contend. In Skaggs, outfielder Kole Calhoun, and maybe even Grant Green, there is just enough upside to anticipate a breakout or two. They may be dead in the water come 2016, but for now, this team has made a solid bid to win-now.

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