|2009 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Preview||| Print ||
Written by Bjoern Hartig (Contact & Archive) on April 03, 2009
The Angels won a franchise record 100 games last season, but it did not help them in the play-offs as they lost to the Red Sox in the ALDS for the third time since 2004. In the off-season, they lost their closer Francisco Rodriguez, who had just set the new saves record with 58, and mid-season acquisition Mark Teixeira to free agency. They replaced both with left-hander Brian Fuentes and right-fielder Bobby Abreu, respectively. Otherwise, the Angels pretty much stayed put, confident that they still have enough to win the AL West even though the Oakland Athletics improved their offense dramatically this offseason.
Rank: 1st in the AL West, lost in the ALDS to the Red Sox (as usual)
Home Park: Angel Stadium
RF/DH Bobby Abreu (Free Agent from the Yankees)
LHP Brian Fuentes (Free Agent from the Rockies)
Lost their wings:
RHP Francisco “K-Rod” Rodriguez (Free Agent to the Mets)
1B Mark Teixeira (Free Agent to the Yankees)
LF Garret Anderson (Free Agent to the Braves)
RHP Jon Garland (Free Agent to the Diamondbacks)
RHP Darren O’ Day (Rule V pick to the Mets)
Strengths: Pitching (theoretically), Depth
When healthy, the Halos feature one of the best, if not the best, five man rotation in baseball. The problem is, most of their arms are hurting right now. John Lackey will miss opening day with forearm tightness, Ervin Santana has irritations in his right elbow and Kelvim Escobar has right shoulder inflammation. All three could be back in the second part of April, but one set back could push that back a month or three.
The bullpen with Brian Fuentes, Scott Shields and Jose Arredondo should be pretty good, too, although Fuentes is having a really bad spring (6 ER in 5.2 IP) and Scott Shields has been slowing down somewhat the last couple of years. Still, most other teams would take this trio over theirs.
Another strength of the Angels is their depth. Shortstop/third baseman Brandon Wood is having a good spring and so is third baseman Matt Brown. If they are ready, this would allow the Angels to put Chone Figgins back in the super utility role or possibly trade him for an arm. And they have an abundance of outfielders/DHs, of course, starting with the highest paid 4th outfielder Gary Matthews Jr., whose ill advised contract make him virtually untradeable.
Weaknesses: Offense, health (apparently)
The Angels don’t have much power, although Brandon Wood and Kendry Morales could help in that department if their minor league numbers translate well to the big leagues. However, I don’t think the relative lack of home runs will break the Angels.
A much bigger problem for the Angels in the past years has been their inability/unwillingness to take a walk. Hitting coach Mike Hatcher’s aggressive philosophy has earned him a lot of criticism from Angels bloggers, but it appears that Mark Teixeira’s stint with the team, however short it has been, has changed the team's mindset a bit. If that is true and especially the middle of the order (Guerreo, Hunter, Rivera, Morales) is willing to wait for its pitch and is willing to accept a free pass once in a while, this offense will be fine. If not, the Angels will be frustrating to watch at times, slapping themselves out of good scoring opportunities.
3B Chone Figgins
RF Bobby Abreu
2B Howie Kendrick
DH Vladimir Guerrero
CF Torii Hunter
LF Juan Rivers
1B Kendry Morales
C Mike Napoli
SS Erick Aybar
SP1 – John Lackey (injured)
SP2 – Ervin Santana (injured)
SP3 – Kelvim Escobar (injured)
SP4 – Joe Saunders
SP5 – Jered Weaver
SP6 – Nick Adenhart
SP7 – Dustin Mosely
SP8 – Shane Loux
CL – Brian Fuentes
One question that need answering:
When will the arms return? If it’s the end of April or early May, no problem. If at least two will be out much longer, the team may be in big trouble.
I’m staying optimistic and say that at least Lackey and Santana return at full strength before May 1st. Kelvim Escobar’s career was basically over, so anything from him is a gift anyway. The offense will be improved, though not great, even without Teixeira thanks to more patience and improvements from Kendrick, Wood and Morales. The Mariners are no threat and the Rangers will need pitching coach Maddux to be a true magician (a real, though still unlikely possibility IMO) to make their arms survive the pitching hell that is Arlington. That leaves the Athletics. I like their offense, but I just don’t see their starters carrying the team through a whole season, so I predict the Angels will grab control of the division at the end of August at the latest and cruise to another division title. Lets hope it won’t be Boston that awaits them there.