StrategyMarch 3, 2013

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30 Teams in 30 Days: Los Angeles Angels - 3 comments

By Chris Xuereb

If you were to assemble a list of the most disappointing teams of the last decade, it would be hard not to put the 2012 Angels at the top of that list. The Angels stunned baseball when they swooped in last offseason and signed Albert Pujols to a mega-contract at the same time as they were signing perhaps the best free agent pitcher available in C.J. Wilson. However, the Angels came out of the gate stuck in neutral, playing poor baseball and even having their once untouchable manager on the hot seat. The call-up and sensational play of Mike Trout and a mid-season acquisition of Zack Greinke were still not enough to salvage the season, as the Angels finished a disappointing third in the AL West.

Well, for 2013, you can’t fault the Angels for trying. They made several trades to revamp their starting pitching and then stunned many baseball pundits again when they swooped in and signed Josh Hamilton. Once again, it’s hard not to imagine the Angels being a dominant team this year; however, as you will see, it’s also hard to find much fantasy value on this team.

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 2013 fantasy baseball drafts.
Offensive Starters

C Chris Iannetta.240.332.398279261253 
1B Albert Pujols.285.343.51685301058670 
2B Howie Kendrick.287.325.4005786714594 
SS Erick Aybar.290.324.4166784520554 
3B Albert Callaspo.252.331.3615510534520 
LF Mike Trout.326.399.564129308349639 
CF Peter Bourjos.220.291.315273193195 
RF Josh Hamilton.285.354.577103431287636w/TEX
DH Mark Trumbo.268.317.4916632954586 

Unsettled: Peter Bourjos. Once a highly touted prospect, the shine has completely worn off Peter Bourjos. Although GM Jerry Dipoto has supported him, it doesn’t seem like the manager is ready to just hand him the job full-time in 2013. His terrible start had him relegated to the bench last year behind the over-priced Vernon Wells, who was occupying most of the playing time until he got hurt. If you are counting on Bourjos as a big time bounce-back candidate, which I’m not, I would be monitoring his situation in spring training closely.
Target: Mark Trumbo. The interesting thing about the Angels is that as fearsome as you might think their lineup is, there is not much there from a fantasy targeting point. First, this isn’t the 2003 Yankees: the lineup is extremely top heavy. A 7-8-9 of Alberto Callaspo, Chris Iannetta and Bourjos is not scaring anyone in real baseball, but it should be scaring you if you are relying on these guys on your team in fantasy baseball. Second, while they added Hamilton, they lost Torii Hunter, who had a monster second half for them, and Kendrys Morales, who was at least a serviceable DH.
Trout is a top-three draft pick — there is nothing to target there. Pujols is still a first-round pick, but read any of the numerous articles on Pujols’s declining numbers over the last three seasons and you will see why he’s no longer a top-five pick. He’s not someone I am going to reach for in the first round ahead of guys like Robinson Cano, Matt Kemp or even Joey Votto. Nothing has changed about Josh Hamilton: he’s still an elite talent who’s a huge risk to miss at least two months of the season. He still hits in a great lineup, only now he isn’t in a hitters’ park anymore. Howie Kendrick is a known commodity who is turning 30 this year and appears to be stuck batting sixth in a lineup with a huge drop-off thereafter. Look at his stats — he is who he was last year. Draft him knowing that 2011 is the outlier and that 2012, 2010 and 2009, when his numbers were almost identical, is what you can expect. It’s not that exciting, even in a shallow position.
Trumbo may be the one guy worth targeting in the lineup. He had two seasons in one last year, with the first half being sensational and the second half being, well, the opposite. The constant was his power. He still hit home runs even when everything else was going wrong. His final numbers are great if you didn’t know the whole story. However, when you look at Trumbo’s numbers over the first two years in the majors and his numbers over the last three in the minors, he consistently trended upward in the slash statistics (BA, OBP, SLG). Even if you’re not buying his first half, it’s fair to put him at a baseline of .255-75-30-95-4. But he is entering his prime years (age 27) and there seems evidence he has room to grow. Throw in that in most formats he’s going to give you dual eligibility at first and outfield, and I think Trumbo is someone I would like to own.
The Rotation
Jered Weaver (R)20-52.811.0114245188.2 
C.J. Wilson (L)13-103.831.3417391202.0 
Tommy Hanson (R)13-104.481.4516171174.2w/ATL
Joe Blanton (R)10-134.711.2616634191.0w/2T
Jason Vargas (L)14-113.851.1714155217.1w/SEA

Unsettled: Not much in terms of who will comprise the starting rotation is unsettled at this point. Perhaps Tommy Hanson’s health and Wilson’s elbow chips are a minor issue, but so far there haven’t been any reported setbacks. The only thing that appears to be unsettled is just how unimpressive this rotation is for a team that is going to be one of the favorites to make it to the World Series. A 3-4-5 of Joe Blanton, Hanson and Jason Vargas, while somewhat serviceable, is not intimidating in the least. Would you want to go into a pivotal game three with Blanton (or Hanson or Vargas) on the mound? The Angels are not afraid to spend or make trades (Greinke, 2012), so I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Angels actively looking for a pitcher come the trade deadline.
Target: None. Well, maybe C.J. Wilson. The theme of not having much to target on the Angels continues. Sure, Weaver is a great pitcher, but everyone knows that. You’ll have to pay top dollar and there isn’t much upside at his price. Look at the rest of the rotation and try to find someone you are excited about. Vargas maybe, in very deep leagues, but in normal mixed leagues he’s probably not much more than a late-round flier. Blanton? No thanks! Hanson? His numbers have trended in the wrong direction for a few years, he’s an injury concern and now pitches in the AL.
Wilson? Maybe. Wilson is a mixed bag. Even after his terrific 2011, there were plenty of questions about whether he was really a top-of-the-line starter. He started off 2012 extremely well, winning nine off his first 18 starts and posting a sub-3.00 ERA. Then the wheels came off and he pitched to a 5.54 ERA and 1.57 WHIP to end the season. In the offseason, it was revealed Wilson needed to have surgery to remove bone chips from his pitching elbow and that he had spent the second half of the season trying to make adjustments to pitch through the pain. So which is the real Wilson? The pitcher who had a sensational 2011 and was motoring along in 2012 until some injuries derailed him? Or a pitcher who is 32 years old, doesn’t have a huge track record and just had his elbow cleaned out for the second time? It’s all about value here. His ADP at Mock Draft Central is 150 right now. If my draft was today, he’s not someone I would target, but more someone I would have scribbled on the side of the page during the draft. I have a feeling he will be forgotten or pushed down in a lot of drafts to the point where he may be a value pick. Right now the pitcher right before him in ADP is Jon Niese, and the two right after him are Homer Bailey and Josh Johnson. If you already have one or two pitchers on your team, Wilson maybe worth a roll of the dice as a high-upside pick.
The 8th and 9th Innings
Ernesto Frieri (R)232.320.95802654.1 
Ryan Madson (R)322.371.15621660.2in 2011

Chasing Saves: It’s fitting that we wrap up the Angels preview with another look at an area on the Angels where the fantasy value is uncertain. The Angels brought in Ryan Madson (and shipped out Jordan Walden) seemingly to use Madson as the closer and move Ernesto Frieri to the eighth-inning role (a role they seem to prefer him in). Unfortunately, Madson has suffered some setbacks from Tommy John surgery and will most likely start the season on the DL. Frieri does have very good stuff and seems the leader to grab the early-season save opportunities, but the team hasn’t explicitly said yet that he will, and manager Mike Scosia wasn’t afraid to use a committee last year. The Angels do have some legitimate bullpen options in Kevin Jepsen and Scott Downs (who did save nine games as part of a committee last year). At this point, you can’t count on Madson being healthy enough to be the closer, and you can’t trust that Frieri will be given the closer role to himself. If had to choose right now, I would say Frieri will lead the team in saves this year. But in fantasy baseball, a closer’s job security is as important, if not more important, than his “stuff.” In preseason closer rankings, I can’t put Frieri or Madson any higher than mid to late 20s at this point.
Final Thoughts
The Angels were a major disappointment in 2012 and, to their credit, weren’t afraid to mix things up this offseason, adding perhaps the biggest offensive free agent this year (again) and retooling their starting rotation. The American League is definitely weaker, with perennial powerhouses like the Yankees and Red Sox having taken a step backwards, making the Angels a definite favorite. But as we noted, when you start breaking down this team, it’s a top-heavy lineup with a shallow starting rotation and a uncertain closer situation. They will be good — the question is how good, and how can they really help your fantasy team.
Check back tomorrow for our look at the Oakland A’s.

Chris is a fantasy baseball fan, who plays the game the right way and enjoys writing about it. You can follow him on twitter @RotoBaseballX
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3 Responses to “30 Teams in 30 Days: Los Angeles Angels”

  1. User avatar rmessne says:

    Nice article, but I think it’s important to note that during Trumbo’s second half swoon, the power decreased quite a bit as well. He hit 10 home runs in the second half (respectable) as compared to the 22 in the first half (incredible). His SLG also decreased from .608 to .359.

  2. User avatar Kimbos Beard says:

    Thanks! You are absolutely right about Trumbo. His second half was awful and it’s pretty easy to make an argument against him. That HR and SLG numbers show that it was alot of HRs and singlea and not much else. I think, though, there is enough there to believe that he is at least somewhere in between.

  3. Quackman says:

    Thanks. Good stuff on Trumbo. Still young and certainly worth the price hes going for right now. Hitting behind hamilton/pujols alot of possibilities there also.


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