Sunday, March 17, 2013

30 Teams in 30 Days: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

From L-R:Mark Trumbo, Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton.
2012 Record: 89-73 (3rd in AL West)

After signing the greatest hitter of this generation to a massive 10 year $240M contract last off-season in Albert Pujols, expectations were sky high for the Angels. Unfortunately, their pitching did not live up the hype after signing CJ Wilson to join an already formidable rotation, and was not able to bring this team back to the post-season. The offense scored 767 runs, good enough for 4th in the MLB, but the pitchers sat 23rd in the league in FIP, and provided just 10 fWAR. Flush with money from new TV Revenue, the Angels decided to go for it again, this time also signing the best hitter available in Josh Hamilton to a 5 year $133M deal. But, they did little to improve the rotation, some would say it's actually worse, and they also traded their top(or at least second best) reliever to the Braves as well. So, the question has to be asked...Are the Angels actually better in 2013 than in 2012? Probably not.

Key Additions
SP Joe Blanton (2/$14M w/ Club Option in 2015 for $8M w/ $1M buyout)
RP Sean Burnett (2/$8M w/ Club Option in 2015)
OF Josh Hamilton (5/$133M)
SP Tommy Hanson (Trade w/ ATL)
RP Ryan Madson (1/$3.25M w/ incentives)
SP Jason Vargas (Trade w/ SEA)

Key Losses
SP Zack Greinke (6/$159M w/ LAD)
SP Dan Haren (1/$13M w/ WAS)
RP LaTroy Hawkins (MILB Deal w/ NYM)
OF Torii Hunter (2/$26M w/ DET)
UTIL Maicer Izturis (3/$9M w/ Club Option in 2016 for $3M w/ $1M buyout)
1B Kendrys Morales (Trade w/ SEA)
SP Ervin Santana (Trade w/ KC)
RP Jordan Walden (Trade w/ ATL)

Biggest Impact Acquisition:
There is no denying how good Josh Hamilton is offensively. From 2010-2012, he was 5th in the MLB in home runs with 100, 6th in wOBA at .401, and 9th in wRC+ at 147. He's going to regress in the coming years due to age, that's for sure, but he will be a heavy presence in a lineup that is set to repeat as best in the league(fWAR wise). Losing Tori Hunter(especially after his huge year last season) is going to sting, but that's why the Angels brought in Hamilton. Expect him to put up another year of monster numbers batting cleanup behind Mr. Pujols, and I think he'll 100% be able to replace the Wins lost with the departure of Hunter. Will the Angels be worth 37.4 fWAR again in 2013? Probably not. But signing one of the biggest offensive threats in the MLB will sure help them try.

Spring Training Battles
There aren't any battles going on right now as the roster is pretty much set for the Angels, but it will get interesting once rehabbing relief pitcher Ryan Madson is healthy and ready to go. Ernesto Frieri is currently projected to be the closer come opening day, but once Madson comes back, who will get the job? Frieri or Madson? Let's take a look.

Ernesto Frieri
Frieri, will be celebrating
wins a lot in 2013 with this loaded roster.
Frieri is the incumbent at the position after racking up 27 Shutdowns to 6 Meltdowns there last season. He is high strike out guy averaging over 12 K/9 in the last 3 seasons, but his problem is his control, or lack thereof, with a career BB/9 of 4.54. He seems to be headed for a bit of regression after posting a BABIP around 50 points below his career average last season, and his ERA should come back up and normalize a little bit more with his FIP in 2013. It's his job to lose as he starts the season in the closer role, and if he gets on a hot streak for the first few weeks, he might not lose it when Madson comes back.

Ryan Madson
Madson didn't pitch at all in 2012 after having Tommy John surgery during Spring Training, and is scheduled to come back from the surgery within a month or two. He is kind of the opposite of Frieri, with average K rates(well below average for closers), and very good walk rates. Like I said earlier, if Frieri is doing well, I can't really see Madson taking over the job as soon as he gets back. Once he gets settled though, that's a different story for the righty who had 35 shutdowns in 2011.

Questions Heading into the Season
Will the back end of the rotation after Jered Weaver and C.J WIlson hold their own?
This is probably the greatest question the Angels face as it was the pitching that hurt them last season, and it's the pitching that stands to hurt them again this year. Let's take a look at the pitchers lost and the new guys.

Career FIP
2012 FIP
(with Angels)
2013 ZIPs Projection(FIP)

Career FIP
2012 FIP
2013 ZIPs Projection(FIP)

Hanson looks to be a nice surprise in
the #3 slot in the rotation for the Angels.
As you can see, the Angels lost 2 guys who are projected to give them great seasons(although it is just projections), and 1 who is supposed to be atrocious. They brought in 3 guys who should give them solid seasons of low-mid 4's FIP, just like they have their entire career. If Wilson and Weaver can perform better in 2013 than they did in 2012, the loss of Haren and Greinke won't sting so much. Without paying too much, they Angels patched together the back of their rotation, and with their offense, it might just be enough to get them to the playoffs.

Top Prospect likely to Contribute in 2013
The Angel system is horrid right now, empty after unloading the best player in the MLB(yes, Mike Trout), and not one of their top 10 prospects will make their MLB Debut's season(barring anything weird). A prospect who did make their debut in 2012 though should get a taste of the action in 2013 again, and he's Nick Maronde, a lefty starter who pitcher out of the pen for the Angels last season. If When a starter gets injured and a replacement is needed, Maronde will definitely be in the conversation of possible replacements. If not, he'll be up in the majors as a reliever eventually in 2013, whether it's in September or before that. He features an average fastball that sits in the 89-91 range, and combines that with a nasty slider that could make him a very effective late inning guy in the future. At best he could be a back of the rotation guy, but it's more likely we'll see him using that slider to get guys out in the eighth and ninth innings in the future.

Projected 2013 roster via
Projected 'Go-To' Starting Lineup 
1 LF Mike Trout  
2 SS Erick Aybar**
1B Albert Pujols
4 RF Josh Hamilton*
5 DH Mark Trumbo
2B Howie Kendrick
3B Alberto Callaspo**
8 C Chris Iannetta
CF Peter Bourjos 

Projected Bench 
C Hank Conger**
IF Andrew Romine 
OF Kole Calhoun*
OF Vernon Wells

Projected Starting Rotation 
1 RHP Jered Weaver
LHP C.J. Wilson
RHP Joe Blanton
LHP Jason Vargas 
5 RHP Tommy Hanson

Projected Bullpen 
CL RHP Ernesto Frieri 
SU LHP Sean Burnett 
SU RHP Kevin Jepsen
MID LHP Scott Downs 
MID RHP David Carpenter 
MID  LHP Brad Mills 
LR RHP Jerome Williams

Projected Disabled List
RHP Ryan Madson +  TJ SURGERY ON 4/11 - doubtful for start of season  

Projected 2013 Record: 93-69 (1st AL West)

The loaded offense will once again carry this team, and the revamped bullpen should be able to help the 
starters close out games. If the 3-5 guys in the rotation can provide a solid 550 innings with a decent FIP, they could be scary. Once this team makes the playoffs, their top 2 guys will have have to carry them, and the trio of Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton should make the best 1-3-4 punch in the majors(probably).

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