The Angels have to be one of the favorites to reach the playoffs in 2013. They’ve got an offense that features three of the best players in the game, Jered Weaver a true ace type pitcher and they have plenty of steady contributors. The pitching after Weaver and C.J. Wilson is iffy, but the offense should make up for a multitude of sins.
I’m not going to write up guys like Weaver, Albert Pujols or Mark Trumbo, all of whom look to continue in their steady ways, but rather to focus on guys with upside, downside or questions. After all if you don’t know enough about the Weaver's, Pujols’s and Trumbo’s you probably should take up a different game.
Here are 10 to watch in 2013.
Josh Hamilton (OF): Hamilton if he’s healthy is one of the best offensive players in fantasy baseball. The question always is, is he healthy? That's why Hamilton isn’t among the upper tier of fantasy players but always relegated to the second tier. There are a number of reasons to bet against him, including his being 32, moving from the third best hitters park to one that favors pitchers and all of the abuse he’s heaped on his body over the years. Still with 500 or more ABs there is still room for profit if you can get him in second or third round or in the mid $20 range.
Mike Trout (OF): So is Trout a man or a legend? He single-handedly won a lot of fantasy leagues for owners last season and is likely to be either the first or second man off the board in snake drafts or the most expensive man for sale in auction drafts. So while half the experts tout him as a prime regression candidate, the rest aren’t sure he can’t actually build on what was a season for the ages. So far this spring he hasn’t done anything that screams regression. In fact he’s hitting .373 with five steals and a home run in just 51 ABs. If he’s a man, bet on regression, but if he’s a legend... just think what he could do.
Peter Bourjos (OF): 2012 was brutal for Bourjos as he was limited to just 168 ABs, managing just a .220 average with three home runs and three stolen bases. Hip and wrist issues sabotaged the season for him. The hip was not surgically dealt with so could it still be an issue. If he’s healthy the rebound potential is great, if not he could be a major bust. Still worth a bid for 15-25 potential.
C.J. Wilson (SP): Wilson is a solid No. 2 pitcher who over the past three years has never posted an ERA above 3.83. Problem is that that 3.83 came last year and was his worst year as a starter. While some will worry about that and suggest that it portends a collapse from the 32 year old, the odds are that is was just a blip and that Wilson will have at least a minor rebound from that point. Certainly getting to play fewer games against the Rangers and three or four starts against the Astros are bound to help.
Erick Aybar (SS): Aybar is 29 and has little upside, but he can contribute in both average and steals, the 8-10 home runs is a plus. His value however may be higher than that, as the Angels seemingly are going to pencil him in between Trout and Hamilton, which should lead to a good number of runs scored and a few extra RBIs to boot.
Howie Kendrick (2B): Kendrick is similar to Aybar but with less in the way of upside and some extra risk attached. He’s not a genuine .300 hitter, probably not even a .290 hitter, and has limited power and maybe 15 stolen base speed. He’ll have value because the second base crop is so thin, but don’t bet on him ever realizing the upside we once envisioned for this 29 year old.
Ernesto Frieri (CL): The Angels spent some money to bring in Ryan Madson to be the closer in LA, but he is coming off Tommy John surgery less than 12 months ago, and that surgery usually takes 18 months to fully recover from. That makes Frieri the de facto closer of the team until Madson not only comes off the DL but proves that he’s got enough stuff to actually serve as the closer. It wouldn’t surprise me if Frieri got 80% of the save chances. Even if he doesn’t he’ll rack up better than a K per inning. He’ll be a cheap gamble since most fantasy pundits are focusing on Madson as the closer.
Chris Iannetta (C): Iannetta won’t help you a ton in any category other than power. He only managed 221 ABs and nine home runs last year because of a broken wrist. With health and 350 ABs I’d bet on something closer to 15 and he should be available in mixed leagues for just about $1.
Joe Blanton (SP): Don’t let his stats fool you. Of the remaining starters Blanton is probably the one with the most upside, but at this point of his career it's unrealized potential. He’s useful as an innings eater and will average somewhere in the neighborhood of eight strikeouts per 9 IPs. There is a lot of upside here, both in terms of skill (he has great peripherals and an xERA more than a run better than his actual ERA both of the last two seasons) and opportunity (Angels Stadium is one of the better pitchers parks in the game and should help him suppress his longball tendencies). There is profit here for those in deeper leagues, maybe even in some shallower ones. Tommy Hanson (SP): Hanson is risky proposition, but one who could strike out more than a batter per inning and who could rack up some nice win totals with the Angels offense behind him. He’s coming off two disappointing seasons that were far more average than exceptional, both marred by injury. He still has the potential for sub-4.00 ERA, but the injury risk and decrease in velocity over the past two years has eaten deeply into his stock. He's worth a flier, but not a serious investment.