I am not sure another team made as big a splash as the mystery team of the 2011 off-season. The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim were never really considered to be in the Pujols sweepstakes or big players for CJ Wilson but then on December 8th, the Angels shocked the baseball world when they were able to sign two of the biggest names in free agency. While we are years away from knowing how these two contracts will effect the team in the long-term, there is no question that they are one of the best teams in the American League in 2012. The road for the AL West title will still run through the Texas Rangers, the Angels should make things very interesting come September. With MLB expanding to two wild card teams, the Angles should be a lock to at least make the playoffs.
Most of their success will come from their pitching, as they can boast at having easily one of the best rotations in all of baseball. Any one of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren or CJ Wilson could be an Ace for your fantasy team and even their 4th best start in Ervin Santana is well worth owning. While their pitching is one of the best in baseball, their offense was mediocre last year, finishing 17th in scoring. Adding a bat like Pujols should get them into the average to above average category but they are unlikely to win very many games with their bats.
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 2012 fantasy baseball drafts.
|C Chris Iannetta||.238||.370||.414||51||14||55||6||345||w/COL|
|1B Albert Pujols||.299||.366||.541||105||37||99||9||579||w/STL|
|2B Howie Kendrick||.285||.338||.464||86||18||63||14||537|
|SS Erick Aybar||.279||.322||.421||71||10||59||30||556|
|3B Mark Trumbo||.254||.291||.477||65||29||87||9||539|
|LF Vernon Wells||.218||.248||.412||60||25||66||9||505|
|CF Peter Bourjos||.271||.327||.438||72||12||43||22||502|
|RF Torii Hunter||.262||.336||.429||80||23||82||5||580|
|DH Bobby Abreu||.253||.353||.365||54||8||60||21||502|
Unsettled: 3B/DH. While any team would love to slot Albert Pujols in their lineup, the Angels were not expected to make that kind of move because they already had a full lineup. Now they are in a situation where they need to find at bats for Bobby Abreu, Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales. For now, Trumbo is slated to be the 3B in 2012; most people are skeptical that this will actually work. Plus it sends Alberto Callaspo, who has a much better glove than Trumbo and a quality bat, to the bench. You also have to be concerned how Morales will return after two years on the disabled list. I for one won’t own any of the three; there are just too many question marks around them. One other player that has to be mentioned here is Mike Trout. Arguably the No. 1 prospect in baseball, the Angels right now just don’t have a place to play him. He is about as ready for The Show as any player can be, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the team made a move or two to find a spot for him. While he is well worth a mid-to-late round flyer, there is always the chance they keep him down for one more year as he is just 21 years old.
Target: Pujols is an easy choice here. The player formerly known as “El Hombre” has been sitting at the top of draft sheets for a long, long time, and nothing has changed even though his uniform has. Playing in the AL could make him even that much better. Being able to play DH should keep him healthy as he his body is now on the wrong side of 30. Howie Kendrick might be the player who’s value should increase the most with Pujols batting behind him. Kendrick has already shown that he can be a 15/15 player but now he should see a nice increase in runs.
|Jered Weaver (R)||18-8||2.41||1.01||198||56||235.2|
|Dan Haren (R)||16-10||3.17||1.02||192||33||238.1|
|C.J. Wilson (L)||16-7||2.94||1.19||206||74||223.1||w/TEX|
|Ervin Santana (R)||11-12||3.38||1.22||178||72||228.2|
|Jerome Williams (R)||4-0||3.68||1.36||28||15||44.0|
Unsettled: Right now, Jerome Williams is penciled into the fifth spot in the rotation, but rookie Garrett Richards (ranked as the No. 70 prospect in baseball by Keith Law) will be pushing him if he struggles at any point this year. Between the two, Richards has the most upside, but it’s likely the Angels will send him down and make him earn the spot from Triple-A.
Target: It is hard to choose one out of this three-headed monster. Weaver, who had an outstanding year in 2011, is unlikely to repeat those numbers in 2012 as his K/9 dropped significantly and his BABIP is unsustainably low. Saying that, he should put up solid numbers and be a boderline ace. Haren is typically under-rated as he is as durable as you can get, pitching at least 33 games the last seven years. He might not be an ace but he is close. Wilson was another surprise signing by the Angels, and his addition makes this group one of the best rotations in the AL. While he is unlikely to have an ERA under three again, getting out of Arlington should help him stay a solid No. 2 pitcher.
The 8th and 9th Innings
|Jordan Walden (R)||32||2.98||1.24||67||26||60.1|
|Scott Downs (L)||1||1.34||1.01||35||15||53.2|
Chasing Saves: Walden seems to be flying under the radar right now. Currently just 24 years old, he seems one of the most likely candidates around to be a top-five closer this time next year. He is an electric pitcher who just needs to cut down on his walks. The most alarming stat of 2011 was his 10 blown saves, but if you looking at his other numbers, that looks more like a fluke. He also gets the advantage of being on a good team with an slightly above average offense, which could result in a lot of save opportunities. Downs is a solid play if you are in a league that counts holds. His strikeout rate will never be good but everything else will be extremely helpful.
There is a lot to be excited about if you are an Angels fan, and getting to watch Pujols lead this team for the next ten years should head that. While there are plenty of question marks about how where this team will be in the long term, there is no question about them this year. Not only do they have some of the best players in the game but they also have a lot of depth, which will help alleviate any injuries that might happen along the way. They might not be the best team in the American League, but they are at least in the discussion when it comes to possibly making a World Series run.
Sean Brown is one of a growing number of fantasy experts who write for the Cafe. You can catch up with Sean in the Cafe's forums where he posts under the name of MaudDib.
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