2012 MLB Season Preview: Los Angeles Angels

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2011 Season Recap

In 2011, the Angels hoped to contend with the Rangers for the AL West, but fell 10 games short at 86-76. Part of that 10-game gap is certainly the production of Kendrys Morales, who fractured his left lower leg landing on home plate while celebrating a walk-off home run in early 2010. Morales was expected to return at some point during the 2011 season, but experienced complications and missed the entire season.

Two rookie sensations highlighted the season. Morales’ replacement, Mark Trumbo, was second in AL Rookie of the Year voting after putting up a .254/.291/.477 AVG/OBP/SLG and going deep 29 times to lead all rookies. Trumbo’s moving to third base in 2012 to accommodate the best hitter of our era, Albert Pujols. He’ll be competing for playing time with the underrated Alberto Callaspo, who put up 3.6 WAR last year and is under control through arbitration through 2013. Although Callaspo’s talented, if Trumbo’s bat forces the issue and bumps Callaspo to the bench, he could be intriguing trade bait midseason, or the Angels could take advantage of Trumbo’s stock and acquire a bigger package.

 

Feb 29, 2012; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols (5) and starting pitcher C.J. Wilson during photo day at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-US PRESSWIRE

Jordan Walden won the team’s closing duties out of Spring Training in 2011 and led all AL rookies with 32 saves. The flamethrowing Walden led all AL pitchers with an average fastball velocity of 97.5 and made some strides toward improving his control by reducing his walk rate from both his brief 2010 stint in the majors and his Minor League track record.

Mike Scoscia’s favorite problem was his glut of outfield options of both the top-shelf and bargain bin varieties, with Vernon Wells, Bobby Abreu, and Torii Hunter making $54M but putting up a lackluster combined .282/.315/.403 that basically approximates Omar Infante’s production. Infante’s a solid piece, but three of him certainly aren’t worth $18M for a year. The veterans are weighted down by Wells, who gets the biggest paycheck, at $26.6M, and also had the lowest production at 0.3 WAR, which makes him one of the least valuable players (as compared to contract) in baseball. In 2011, Abreu mostly acted as the team’s DH while Wells and Hunter shared the outfield with Peter Bourjos. Bourjos finished second among hitters with a 4.3 WAR, buoyed by his excellent defense in center that pushed former perennial Gold Glove recipient Hunter to right. The team’s outfield logjam was stretched further when the team brought up Mike Trout, a five-tool prospect considered a potential perennial All-Star and MVP contender. Trout might start 2012 in the minors, but his bat will soon force the issue, pushing another outfielder to the bench. Morales’ return also complicates the situation because he’ll enter the DH logjam due to Pujols’ presence.

On the mound, the team’s rotation was led by a pair of aces in Dan Haren and Jered Weaver. Weaver and Haren led all AL rotation-mates with a combined 12 wins above replacement and both finished top five in the AL in innings pitched. Supporting the pair were longtime rotation mainstay Ervin Santana, rookie Tyler Chatwood (since flipped to the Rockies), and veteran Joel Pineiro, along with some work from Jerome Williams and prospect Garrett Richards. The Angels rotation combined to allow only 450 runs, second only to Tampa’s starters among AL staffs.

In the bullpen, Walden was supported fairly effectively by Scott Downs and less effectively by Fernando Rodney and Hisanori Takahashi, as well as a cast of random arms that acquitted themselves to various degrees and resulted in the team’s bullpen finishing roughly in the middle of the pack. Downs signed a 3 year, $15M contract before 2011 in that offseason’s inflated relief market that featured, among others, huge deals for Rafael Soriano and Joaquin Benoit. In the first year of his deal, Downs saw a precipitous drop in strikeout rate along with an inflated walk rate, so he’ll need to turn those trends around to provide value above what he’s being paid.

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Tags: 2012 MLB Season Preview Albert Pujols LA Angels