Monday, February 28, 2011

MLB 30 in 30: Los Angeles Angels

The Angels had dominated one of baseball's poorest divisions since they won the World Series in 2002. But now, with the Rangers and A's on the upswing, is 2011 the beginning of the end of this Angels run?

What they Have: They have plenty of offensive power. No doubt their offensive troubles at the tail end of last season can be traced back to the freak injury to Kendry Morales. They had the 9th fewest runs scored in baseball and took a dip of 202 runs from 2009: the most in the AL. With the addition of Vernon Wells in LF to help supply more power, look for the Angels to definitely hit better than they did in 2010. He's not the defensive outfielder like Carl Crawford is, but he'll provide some power to the middle of that lineup. Jeff Mathis will now be the full time catcher since Mike Napoli was shipped to Toronto, and he'll have some competition from prized prospect Hank Conger, who could make starts later in the year. Overall, the Angels offense could return to their pre-2009 form with the addition and return of key players. Their best asset though is their pitching. Their starters had a 4.04 ERA, 4th best in baseball. Their starting rotation is very good, with Jered Weaver leading the charge. Dan Haren will now have more time in Anaheim to get acclimated, and the back end of the rotation, while shaky, can be great at times with Joel PiƱero and Scott Kazmir. Finally, the Halos bullpen is better with the additions of Hisanori Takahashi and Scott Downs. Even without a fully proven closer, the bullpen will be good enough to consistently close out games without too much trouble.

What they Don't Have: Youth. Age is really starting to set in with this team, and it shows. Torii Hunter is on the decline, and Bobby Abreu isn't getting any younger at 36. They also don't have much depth in the infield, and those players like Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick, and Maicer Izturis aren't the quality every day starters the Angels could use. Prospects are coming, but not for the infield in the short term. Depending on where they are in the standings in July, they could make a trade to fix the left side of the infield. Depth could also be a problem, as evidenced by the injury to Kendry Morales last year.

Any Help Coming? Mike Trout is the Angels prized prospect. He tore through Single-A last year and may very well be the best prospect in baseball to date. He could be a bit lost in the outfield shuffle for the Halos, although he could take over Peter Bourjous' spot if troubles arise. Hank Conger is the best catching prospect for the Angels, and he could overtake Jeff Mathis' spot by later in the year. Beyond that, the farm system is a bit more shallow, or not ready for the big club yet type prospects.

Outlook: Good. They have the financial means to get someone at the trade deadline, or add prospects if the season looks bleak. They will compete for a division title, but one has to wonder whether they'll be able to keep up the pace they've maintained since 2002. This isn't the end, but it looks like the beginning of the end for this era of the Angels.

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