Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim 2014 season preview


Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

2013 season recap 78-84, 3rd in AL West

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim began last season with much promise, but it ended with a season below .500, its main bat limited to less than 100 games, and a player extended a big money deal produce numbers way below expectations. The pitching was ranked in the bottom half of the AL in practically every major category. The offense still didn’t fare as bad as some of its parts as they managed to score 4.52 per game.

But you can always use more runs, right? Or you can choose to limit them.

Key additions: 3B David Freese, DH Raul Ibanez, 1B Carlos Pena, P Tyler Skaggs, P Hector Santiago, P Joe Smith, P Fernando Salas

Key departures: OF Mark Trumbo, OF Peter Bourjos, P Jason Vargas

With the issues I referenced in regards to the pitching, you shouldn’t be surprised to see almost a handful of fresh faces on the staff. The power bat of Trumbo is gone and the defense of Bourjos put baseball’s best player (it’s that Mike Trout guy) back in center.

Payroll

Cot’s Contracts shows that the Angels have committed $146.7MM for 2014. Baseball Reference projects their total payroll to be $149.4MM. Unless we see another big deal (maybe a reunion with Ervin Santana?) in the works, $150MM should be the max.

For the next three portions of our Angels preview, I asked David Hill, Editor for Halo Hangout, how he sees 2014 shaking out for a trio of players.

Player to watchKole Calhoun (right)

Right now, Calhoun is slated to be the Angels leadoff hitter, hitting in front of Trout, Pujols and Hamilton. He is going to be the one that they look to in order to kickstart that offense.

In the minors, Calhoun displayed an intriguing blend of power and speed. While that speed has not yet translated at the major league level, with three steals in five attempts, he should be able to improve upon that percentage. Calhoun was also an on base machine in the minors, posting a .402 OBP. He’s the player I’m keeping my eye on during Spring Training.

Player that must improveJosh Hamilton

He was expected to join Trout and Pujols to provide a fearsome run producing section of the lineup. Instead, he was a shell of the player that he was in Texas, hitting only .250/.307/.432 with 21 home runs. While it may be unreasonable to expect Hamilton to hit 50 home runs for the Angels, they expected far more than that. He is the player that is going to provide protection for Pujols and, as such, is going to need to perform at a high level.

Regression candidateJered Weaver.

Since 2011, his line drive rate has increased from 18.9% to 22.4% last year. Meanwhile, he has lost approximately three miles per hour from his fastball, going from 89.30 MPH to 86.77 MPH. At the same time, his changeup has stayed at between 78 to 79 MPH. He managed to out-pitch expectations last year, but that decreased range in velocity may begin to hurt him this season.

And that leads me to this…

Question for 2014

Will the pitching staff be able to limit the opponent’s scoring?

The starting rotation may have a couple of new faces in Skaggs and Santiago. After all, GM Jerry Dipoto did trade for them for that very purpose, and the hope is that these two along with the three familiar faces of Weaver, C. J. Wilson and Garrett Richards can become that stout first line of defense.

Adding Smith to the bullpen mix was definitely a good move, but there were those that railed about the money he got. More consistency from their closer, Ernesto Frieri, will aid the cause as well. Frieri was lights out for the first half of 2013 (2.88 ERA, 1.156 WHIP, .178 BAA), but fell off, mostly in July and August, in the season’s second half (5.14 ERA, 1.357 WHIP, .266 BAA). Thing is, there was less tinkering with the bullpen. A bullpen that allowed 33% of its inherited runners to score, second worst in the AL.

Having Sean Burnett available certainly won’t hurt matters. Last season, Burnett only worked 9.2 innings. He hopes to throw off a mound soon and expects to be ready by Opening Day. That would be a plus for the ‘pen. Only recently has he begun long tossing.

But the issues with the Angels pitching last year was an all-around effort. Both the starters and bullpen had their issues.

Stat Starters/Rank Bullpen/Rank
ERA 4.30/11 4.12/13
BAA .271/12 .242/8
SO 735/10 465/8
WHIP 1.39/12 1.35/12
SO/BB 2.32/11 2.15/13

The blame for allowing the fifth most runs in the AL (737) can be traced to the entire pitching staff.

And can you believe a season preview about the Angels that did not include a dissertation about Mike Trout? Why? The whole world already knows how awesome he is…but he’s only going to make a million bucks this season.

Tags: Los Angeles Angels