StrategyMarch 5, 2010

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim - 1 comments

By Ray Flores

Fans gather around memorial for Nick Adenhart in Anaheim, California

Another year, another AL West division pennant. That would have been exactly how one would have summed up the Angels’ 2009 season, but it carried more meaning, as the team dedicated their campaign to fellow teammate Nick Adenhart, who tragically lost his life earlier in the season. The club has been in transition mode this offseason, having parted ways with a couple of key players from the 2002 World Series Champion team in Chone Figgins and John Lackey while their big bopper Vladimir Guerrero signed with the Texas Rangers. Coming down Gene Autry Way is World Series MVP Hideki Matsui and the Halos hope that his bat will be useful in helping them defend their division crown.

Offensive Starters

C Mike Napoli.272.350.4926020563382 
1B Kendry Morales.306.355.56986341083566 
2B Howie Kendrick.291.334.44461106111374 
SS Erick Aybar.312.353.4237055814504 
3B Brandon Wood.195.267.293513041 
LF Juan Rivera.287.332.4787225880529 
CF Torii Hunter.299.366.50874229018451 
RF Bobby Abreu.293.390.435961510330563 
DH Hideki Matsui.274.367.5096228900456w/NYY

Unsettled: Third base and catcher. Now that Chone Figgins changed addresses to the Pacific Northwest, Brandon Wood has moved up 90 feet in the Angels’ pecking order at third base and will look to earn the starting gig this Spring. Wood, as his name might suggest has never been short on supplying the lumber, as he has continued to mash for AAA affiliate Salt Lake, having clubbed 22 home runs, 72 RBI, and a .293 batting average in 386 at-bats. The 25 year-old third baseman made some strides in his OBP and in lowering his strikeout rate last season in Salt Lake and the hopes are that such improvement hold true in 2010. If Wood’s hacking ways persist, expect utility infielder Maicer Izturis to steal some of his playing time. Otherwise, if Wood’s contact and walk rates rise as a result of better plate discipline, he might just emerge as this season’s Kendry Morales.

Another legitimate power threat looking for more starts is catcher Mike Napoli, who once again slugged 20 home runs in 382 at-bats last season. Manager Mike Scioscia regards Jeff Mathis as the better defensive catcher and game caller, but Napoli also had a nagging arm and shoulder which affected him in making accurate throws to get opposing base runners out. With Hideki Matsui needing an occasional off day, it’s possible Napoli can see more time as the Halos’ designated hitter.

Target: Kendry Morales. In his first season as the Angels full-time first baseman, Kendry Morales took full advantage with a breakout season that exceeded anyone’s wildest expectations. For that reason, Morales enters 2010 as somewhat of an enigma, given that his line drive percentage still remained rather low while his walk rate had only shown marginal improvement. For the third straight season, Morales posted a flyball rate of over 40 percent and now entering his age 27 campaign, it’s possible he has been a relatively late bloomer in discovering his power stroke. Morales has been going for an early fifth round pick in most leagues, according to his MDP, which is an adequate pick to take a chance on Morales repeating a 30 home run season.

The Rotation

Jered Weaver (R)16-83.751.2417466211.0 
Ervin Santana (R)8-85.031.4710747139.2 
Joe Saunders (L)16-74.601.4310164186.0 
Scott Kazmir (L)10-94.891.4211760147.1w/TB & LAA
Joel Pineiro (R)15-123.491.1410527214.0w/STL

Unsettled: The signing of Joel Pineiro has set the Angels rotation in stone, assuming a healthy staff from top to bottom. Scott Kazmir and Ervin Santana are the wild cards of the rotation, as they carry the upside power pitchers usually do, but come into 2010 with lingering injury and velocity concerns. With that said…

Target: Scott Kazmir and Ervin Santana. It’s a small sample, but since being dealt to the Angels, Scott Kazmir posted a 1.73 ERA, 1.05 WHIP, and 26 punch outs in 36.1 innings. The key to Kazmir’s success is his slider and while he was yielding an unsightly 82% contact rate, he threw his slider 21.1% of the time, as opposed to 9.6% in 2008. If Kazmir is confident in throwing his slider with no ill effects, that could entail seeing a more efficient Kazmir.

As for Ervin Santana, he suffered a couple of injury setbacks with a UCL sprain and a triceps ailment. As a result, for the earlier part of 2009, Santana’s fastball velocity was off, throwing off his command and pitch location in a tailspin. While his 2009 line looks ugly on the surface, Ervin finished the season well with a 2.84 ERA, 49 strikeouts, and four wins in under 70 innings of work in August and September. Just as encouraging is the fact that by September of last year, Santana regained 3 MPH on his fastball from last May on while his slider had gotten better and kept the same bite. You can find both Kazmir and Ervin Santana on the board in the 13th round and beyond that. Keep tabs on their health and velocity this Spring as either or both could pan out as nice bargains.

The 8th and 9th Innings

Brian Fuentes (L)483.931.40462455.0 
Fernando Rodney (R)374.401.47614175.2w/DET

Chasing Saves: Brian Fuentes led the Majors with 48 saves, but Fuentes’ offspeed pitches proved to be more hittable and his ratios suffered as his K/9 dipped and his WHIP ballooned after three straight seasons of posting a WHIP under the 1.20 mark. The Angels picked up an insurance middle reliever who happens to have closing experience in the form of Fernando Rodney, who should be setting up for Fuentes, as Scot Shields continues to recuperate from knee surgery. Fuentes should have a firm grip over closing duties, but if he struggles, Rodney might get the nod to close games out. The former Tigers’ stopper wasn’t the most efficient closer either in terms of a K/BB ratio, but he managed to convert 37 of 38 save chances.

Final Thoughts

The Angels have their share of veteran players who don’t offer much in the way of upside, but produce steady fantasy-relevant numbers. Bobby Abreu and Torii Hunter come to mind and should be taken within the first ten rounds or so of your draft. You still want to keep age and the chance of slight regression (maybe even the prospect of missed time) when you’re mulling over drafting them. Juan Rivera and Hideki Matsui are quiet late-round targets to hit in between 20 to 25 home runs, health permitting.

It’s an annual ritual to be teased by Howie Kendrick’s 15/15 potential and expect it to be no different, as his MDP slots him as a late 12th/early 13th rounder. Granted, Kendrick had a good stretch since being demoted, but if you feel like you have to reach for him within the 11th-13th round range, you’re better suited settling on Kendrick’s teammate, shortstop Erick Aybar much, much later. Aybar doesn’t have double-digit HR/SB potential as Kendrick does, but he hits for a good average and although his SB success rate isn’t anything to write home about, he can still manage 15 stolen bases in Mike Scioscia’s aggressive base running system.

Finally, expect more of the same from Jered Weaver. For all of his flyball tendencies, he still continues to post a single-digit HR/FB ratio, but don’t be surprised if his ERA is back in the lower 4’s. Joel Pineiro was a brilliant surprise last season and while his walk rates and groundball tendencies were impressive, a regression is probably in order.

True to his Cafe name as The Artful Dodger, Ray Flores is a Dodger fan who finds the Disney-like atmosphere of Angel Stadium as not quite his cup of tea. While being artful doesn't best describe him, Ray is a web developer, consultant, and you can find him at the local pub arguing why standing terraces should be allowed in all stadiums of any sport, especially when it comes to football (erm, the game actually played with feet).
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One Response to “30 Teams in 30 Days: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim”

  1. Good article! I was not aware of Ervin’s success in August and September of last season — I guess he’s back on my list of sleepers.


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