Fantasy Articles

The Angels failed in their effort to three-peat as division champs of the AL West in 2007, despite having what became the deepest and most talented starting rotation in baseball. The team ended 4th in runs allowed, despite losing their ace from the previous two seasons, Bartolo Colon, who managed only 56 miserable innings before being shelved. The reason they didn’t win the division was an offense that ranked 10th in the league in OBP, 8th in slugging and batting average, 12th in HRs and 11th in runs scored. The only offensive category the team excelled in was SBs, where they led the league with 148, though they also led in number of times caught, (57). With only a couple of minor tweaks, more of the same can be expected, making the Angels a nice place to shop for pitching, but a junk yard when hunting for fantasy bats.

The Top Tier

OF Vlad Guerrero – Despite having his worst season since 1992, (.934 OPS), Vlad remains one of the elite fantasy players in baseball. With a .973 career OPS and a little speed to go with it, there isn’t anything lacking in this fantasy resume. With the sparse offensive production around him, his run and RBI totals won’t match those of some of the other perennial MVP candidates on better teams, but his SB totals help offset this one minor complaint. As usual, project Vlad to: .325/35/119 with 96 runs and 14 SBs.

SP John Lackey – With Barolo Colon on the DL, Lackey became the default ace of the staff in 2006 and posted excellent numbers for the 2nd year in a row, ranking 7th in the majors in strikeouts, and 12th in baseball in ERA. He also posted the best WHIP of his 5-year career, (1.26). Expect more of the same in 2007. His only downside is the weak Angel offense cost him too many wins during 2006, so a 20-win season isn’t likely. However, the Angels are on the hunt for a big bat to pair with Vlad, and if they get it, things could improve for the entire pitching staff. Project Lackey to: 15 wins, 3.57 ERA, 202 Ks and a 1.27 WHIP.

RP Francisco “K-ROD” Rodriquez – K-Rod led the majors in saves in 2006. He is clearly among the elite closers in the game, and will be the top closer taken in many leagues, and rightly so. It is important to remember that it is not simply team wins that set up a closer to excel in saves, but they must be CLOSE wins, (less than a 3-run lead). The Angels stellar rotation and anemic offense are a particularly nice combination for generating save opportunities. (Consider that while the Yankees won 8 more games, as a team, the Angels actually out-saved the Yanks 50-43). There’s some turn-over in the bullpen, which could be cause for a little concern. However, the Angels have been one of the best clubs in recent years at assembling top notch relief corps, so I’m confident that the club already knew the relievers they let go were expendable. Project K-ROD to: 45 saves, a 2.09 ERA, 1.10 WHIP with 101 Ks.

The Second Tier

SP Jered Weaver – After a picture perfect rookie season, where he managed to pitch so well, he knocked his brother not only off the roster, but out of the league entirely, many prognosticators see nothing but clear sailing ahead. While there is no doubt about Jered’s talent, reality has an awful common way of finding pitchers during year two. Consider the results for King Felix and Dontrelle Willis during their sophomore seasons before getting too excited. Yes, he’s good, but consider that if one multiplies his innings, BB, HR and Ks by 1.5, (to represent something closer to a full season), Weaver’s stats line up very, very close to those of Kelvim Escobar, (except Weaver surrendered HRs at a faster pace). He pitched well, but his sub-3.00 ERA was something of a fluke and a repeat is not likely. Project Weaver to have a few growing pains and put up: 13 wins, a 3.96 ERA, 149 Ks and a 1.23 WHIP.

SP Kelvim Escobar – Injuries have long been the knock on Escobar. Despite pitching well in 2006, (3.61 ERA), he only managed 11 victories. As is the case with the rest of the Angel staff, it will be the offense that makes or breaks Kelvim. While not as overpowering as Lackey, a friendly park helps keep Escobar a decent, if unspectacular fantasy option. Though he only finished 38th in the majors in strikeouts in 2006, it was actually a bit of an off-season for him. If he stays healthy, project him to: 14 wins, 167 Ks, a 3.50 ERA and 1.25 WHIP. But be patient on draft day, because injury risk will suppress his value in the fantasy market.

SP Ervin Santana – Almost an afterthought in this rotation, the ‘other’ Santana actually lucked up into leading the team in wins during 2006, despite having the worst peripheral stats of the top 4 guys in the rotation. What’s easy to forget here is that Ervin is only 24 this season, so he’s still learning. He obviously didn’t suffer a sophomore slump, but his victory total should be taken with a grain of salt. His development thus far is actually remarkably similar to Lackey. In that case, it was in his 4th season that the quantum leap forward occurred, so I’m remaining cautious with Santana. However, he’s definitely a young arm that may have untapped potential that could blossom this season. Project him to: 14 wins, 135 Ks, a 4.31 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP.

3B/OF Chone Figgins – Heading into 2006, Figgins had significant fantasy value, because he was eligible to play almost anywhere – 2B, 3B, OF. His super-sub status and flexibility added some significant value to his fantasy trading card. Unfortunately, he didn’t move around quite as much in 2006, which hurts his fantasy stock almost as much as his significantly sub-par production did. He’ll be eligible at 3B and OF, but only got 9 starts at 2B, so in most leagues he’s competing with the HR/RBI types that dominate 3B and OF. And though double-digit HRs aren’t likely, Figgins fantasy value is based upon his speed, where he managed 52 steals in 2006, (down from 62 in 2005). While 2006 was obviously a down-season, at only 29, I believe Chone will bounce back to previous levels. Project him to: .285/8/57 with 55 SBs and 103 runs.

The Third Tier

Everyone Else -- The only other player on the team who had a significant hope of acquiring decent fantasy value in 2007 was Juan Rivera, who finally was getting a chance to play full-time and posted a .310 batting average and 23 HRs in 124 games. Alas, he broke a leg playing winter ball, so 2007 is likely to be a partial season, making him a guy to be stashed on your league DL, if you’ve got one, or to keep an eye on for help in the second half. The rest of the squad consists of players who are universally sub-par (in fantasy terms) for their position. Howie Kendrick is the one sleeper in the pack, who posted a .975 OPS in the minors. The problem is, he was only posting about 20-HR and 20-SBs per year as he rose through the minors. The bulk of his production in the minors came from a .361 cumulative batting average. So, he might develop into a decent average and SB guy, (not unusual at 2B), the real question is whether he stays at second. If moved to first, (where he split time during 2006), or OF, (where the Angels lost Rivera), his value plummets.

Question Marks

SP Bartolo Colon – This former Cy Young winner spent most of 2006 on the DL, and his health status for 2007 isn’t yet clear. Colon has been a real work-horse in the past, but given the strength of the rotation and the fact he’s coming off an injury, I would expect the club to be a little cautious with him, which will deflate his innings, (and wins), and his Ks. I’d project him to a line of: 12 wins, 130 Ks, 4.01 ERA and 1.30 WHIP. But, his year to year stats have varied so much even before he was hurt, he becomes a major roll of the dice on fantasy draft day. He could turn into a steal or a major flame out.