Losing seasons were once the norm down at “The Big A”, but over the past decade, they have been the exception to the rule. 2010 counts as one exception, as the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Orange County, California, USA, North America, Western Hemisphere, Planet Earth, Milky Way Galaxy, Marvel Universe endured their first losing season since 2003, the year after the club’s only World Series triumph. The unfortunate season-ending leg fracture to Kendry Morales, as a result of a walkoff grand slam celebration, cost the Angels their top slugger and their chances of retaining their AL West division title. The ensuing offseason was meant to be a promising one, with the Angels supposedly the frontrunners to land Carl Crawford and/or Adrian Beltre with a bunker full of cash. No splashing of the cash ever took place for either high-profile free agent and the Halos’ front office wound up hoodwinking themselves by swallowing Vernon Wells’ lavish contract in exchange for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera. Now that the laughs have subsided a bit, the Angels will try to get one over on Texas and take back their division pennant.
In “30 Teams in 30 Days,” the Fantasy Baseball Cafe will preview each team in Major League Baseball on a daily basis. In addition to projecting starting lineups, rotations and closing situations, the Cafe will identify potential targets for 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Jeff Mathis||.195||.219||.278||19||3||18||3||218|
|1B Kendry Morales||.290||.346||.487||29||11||39||0||193|
|2B Howie Kendrick||.279||.313||.407||67||10||75||14||616|
|SS Erick Aybar||.253||.306||.330||69||5||29||22||534|
|3B Maicer Izturis||.250||.321||.363||27||3||27||7||212|
|LF Vernon Wells||.273||.331||.515||79||31||88||6||590||w/TOR|
|CF Peter Bourjos||.204||.237||.381||19||6||15||10||181|
|RF Torii Hunter||.281||.354||.464||76||23||90||9||573|
|DH Bobby Abreu||.255||.352||.435||88||20||78||24||573|
Unsettled: The progress of Kendry Morales’ recovery from season-ending surgery on his lower left leg is the story to follow in Angels camp. While Morales has said on record that he’s unsure about being ready by Opening Day, the encouraging news is the leg hasn’t been a hindrance in his batting practice sessions. Expect Morales to start the season as the Halos’ DH if he’s still not quite comfortable running the bases and/or fielding his position. In this case, Bobby Abreu and Peter Bourjos would alternate starts in the outfield for the short term while Howie Kendrick or Brandon Wood could fill in at first base.
Speaking of Wood, he’s in the last chance saloon to win meaningful playing time away from the likes of Maicer Izturis and Alberto Callaspo. Otherwise, it’s curtains and waivers for the once highly touted prospect. Plate discipline, or the lack thereof, continues to be a significant issue for Wood and by all accounts, he’s refining his swing and concentrating on seeing more pitches per at-bat. I’m firmly in the camp of “I’ll believe it when I see it” with regards to Wood.
Target: Kendry Morales presents the best fantasy payoff amongst the Halos’ hitters, as he managed to slug 11 homers in 193 at-bats, on pace to replicate his breakout 2009 season. Of course, Morales carries some risk as recovery from leg fractures is typically a pesky process, but as mentioned before, the good news is Morales has been swinging the bat with little to no reported ill effects. First base is deceptively scarce and if you happen to miss out on the upper crust or on more stable options such as Adam Dunn, taking a gamble on Morales might not be a bad idea. In fact, I’d take Morales on a wobbly leg over Justin Morneau and his concussion issues any day. Ideally, you could be getting a .290/30 HR/100 RBI hitter out of a potential late 5th/early 6th round pick based on Morales’ current MDP (61).
In deeper leagues or AL-only formats, you’ll want to consider Peter Bourjos as an option for cheap steals in the endgame rounds. Slated as the Angels’ starting center fielder, Bourjos has a more than decent minor league track record for stealing bases and in his rookie year, Bourjos swiped 10 bags in 13 tries in 181 at-bats while hitting six round trippers on the side. The big thing holding the 24 year-old Bourjos back is his lacking on-base skills and an improvement in this department is a must for him to retain some sort of fantasy relevance. Currently, Bourjos is generally off the board past the top 350 and in many leagues, he will go undrafted. If Bourjos puts it all together, a line of 75 R, 10 HR, 35 SB, .260 BA is possible.
|Jered Weaver (R)||13-12||3.01||1.07||233||54||224.1|
|Dan Haren (R)||12-12||3.91||1.27||216||54||235||w/2T|
|Ervin Santana (R)||17-10||3.92||1.32||169||73||222.2|
|Joel Pineiro (R)||10-7||3.84||1.24||92||34||152.1|
|Scott Kazmir (L)||9-15||5.94||1.58||93||79||150|
Unsettled: Scott Kazmir will need a minor miracle to rediscover his velocity and fast, as he risks being released early on in the season. Last season was nothing short of frustrating for Kazmir, throwing up a near-6 ERA in 150 innings while his K/9 took another serious drop. Don’t be shocked to see new signing Hisanori Takahashi take Kazmir’s place in the rotation.
Target: The leading bright spot to the Angels’ disappointing season was Jered Weaver’s ascendancy as one of the game’s elite starting pitchers. Weaver dazzled with a career-best 233 punchouts in a career-high 224.1 innings, all the while registering career lows in ERA (3.01), WHIP (1.07), and BB/9 (2.17). Some fantasy owners could still be put off by Weaver’s flyball tendencies, but he has yet to yield a double-digit HR/FB rate. Furthermore, Weaver’s increased curveball usage was a difference maker in baffling opposing batters, making last season a legitimate breakthrough. A slight regression across the board could be in the cards for the 28 year-old ace, but I wouldn’t be complaining about Weaver reasonably posting an overall line of 15 wins, 200 K, a 3.40-3.50 ERA, and a 1.15-1.20 WHIP.
Last season was the reverse of Dan Haren’s usual pattern of starting strong and finishing poorly past the All-Star Break. When Haren was dealt to the Angels last July, he was sporting a 4.60 ERA, but in 14 starts with the Halos, he registered a 2.87 ERA in 94 frames of work. Moving back to the American League could up his ratios, but that’s offset some by moving into a more neutral, less homerun-friendly park in Angel Stadium and in facing the likes of the lightweight hitting Mariners and A’s more times than usual. In the end, Haren could put up a comparable line to that of Weaver; Weaver is the safer bet but Haren is a solid fallback option.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Fernando Rodney (R)||14||4.24||1.54||53||35||68|
|Hisanori Takahashi (L)||4||3.93||1.30||82||34||94||w/NYM|
Chasing Saves: With a firm vote of confidence from Mike Scioscia and the experience to back it up, Fernando Rodney will close for the Angels. However, Rodney’s struggles with his command late last season, could open the door for other candidates, ranging from newly acquired Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs to in-house arms Kevin Jepsen and Jordan Walden. As mentioned before, Takahashi is deemed as versatile enough to either set up or start in place of Scott Kazmir in the rotation somewhere down the line. This would pencil in the other new lefty, Downs as the Halos’ go-to guy in the eighth.
The Angels’ front office has made some curious decisions over the offseason, but the hopes are a perceptively better defensive outfield as well as a healthy Kendry Morales and two dominant aces in Haren and Weaver will make a compelling case for the Halos to take back their AL West division crown. The Halos’ lineup is still anchored by a few elder statesmen (Hunter, Wells, Abreu) who remain useful fantasy assets to help across the board. Howie Kendrick finally managed to play close to a full season without seriously getting injured and/or demoted and the result was a tad uninspiring. Kendrick is barely a top 200 pick without the hype and he’s a cheap 10 HR/15 SB, .280-290 BA option if you’re left to settle for a late-round second baseman.
What Angels column by yours truly would it be, without me mentioning Ervin Santana? 2010 was a mixed year for the Santana formerly known as Johan. If you look at the glass half-full, Santana threw 220+ innings, marginally lowered his BB/9 rate, a sub-4 ERA, and he got plenty of run support to notch 17 wins. The glass half-empty would be a 4.28 FIP/4.50 xFIP and a 1.32 WHIP to complement his 3.92 ERA last year and the fact his K/9 settled at a rather pedestrian 6.83 K/9. This Spring, Santana is experimenting with a splitfinger to add to his usual fastball-slider combo. At the moment, Santana is flying well under the radar (pick 230-ish by his current MDP) and while it would be optimistic to expect a resurgence, consider filling him in the back end of your fantasy rotation.
Check back tomorrow as we continue the “30 Teams in 30 Days” series with the Oakland A’s.
True to his Cafe name, The Artful Dodger, Ray Flores is a Dodger fan who has no clue that the Marvel Universe includes any other superhero aside from "Captain Marvel" Bryan Robson. While being artful doesn't best describe him, Ray is a web developer/consultant and you can find him on General Talk chatting about that beautiful, misunderstood game of football.
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