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Baseball Season Preview: Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim

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  • Baseball Season Preview: Los Angeles Angels Of Anaheim

    You don't have to be too deep to understand that the Angels are deep.

    So I am reading a Baseball Prospectus preview of the Angels' Spring Training and Joe Sheehan fails to even mention Vladimir Guerrero. I'm paying for access to this site? This is like paying for the Dick Morris election newsletter and getting no mention of Barack Obama. Previews for a team are 95 percent fixation on about 5 percent of what matters - splitting hairs about minor league prospects who will never get out of AA, pissing contests about bench players who are easier to replace than a tire and stats sold as the word of Math God which measure an infinity more easily explained as two bloop singles in the guy's rookie year.

    Vladimir Guerrero is pretty much the only thing that really matters to the Angels. If Vlad plays in 140 games and posts an OPS+ of at least 140 in 2008, the only way that the Angels do not easily coast to a division title would be a meltdown in their starting pitching. A healthy Vlad makes Mike Scioscia look like a genius no matter how stupid batting Gary Matthews Jr. second would make any manager appear.

    There are three everyday players from the 94-win 2007 squad who are not returning - a half-season 5th starter (Bartolo Colon), a half-season DH (Shea Hillenbrand) and Vlad's best friend (Orlando Cabrera). While Cabrera's defense will be hard to replace, with his trade value at its peak, he yielded a No. 3 starter (John Garland).

    The Angels are deep in the outfield. The signing of Torii Hunter puts Vlad and Garret Anderson in a musical chairs rotation as DH with Matthews rotating between left and right field. At age 32, resting Vlad now is an insurance policy for contract extensions to come. Hunter will add some power to the lineup (which, for all its semi-anemic pop, was fourth in the AL in runs scored) and playing on grass for an extra 81 home games should, in theory, slow any perceived decline Torii may be about to take. His defense - admittedly hard to measure/quantify for even the most evangelical sabermetrician - will be an improvement for the Angels. As a bonus (for you chemistry guys), Hunter replaces the good cheer Cabrera brought to the clubhouse and should sell well in the gift shop, too. There is even a Torii Hunter Bobblehead Night scheduled for May 12 against the White Sox. The Angels could have been stinkers and had this giveaway on a Twins visit, but they are too classy an organization. Juan Rivera and Reggie Willits are the fifth and sixth outfielders.

    The Angels are deep in the infield. Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis are behind the plate. Casey Kotchman is at 1B. If Kotch has yet another freak injury or disease, Kendry Morales will step in. Howie Kendrick is at 2B. Cabrera will be replaced at shortstop by a league average, league minimum salary player 5-10 years his junior (Erick Aybar or Maicer Izturis with Brandon Wood returning to SS at AAA in case neither option has worked by June 1). Either of Aybar/Izturis can back up at 2B and 3B, but Chone Figgins is at 3B and in a contract year.

    The Angels are deep in pitching. The rotation is John Lackey, Jered Weaver, Garland, Ervin Santana and Joe Saunders. This is a great rotation, and it is missing Kelvim Escobar, their No. 2, who is babying a sore shoulder into May on a strict rehab program. A stud prospect, Nick Adenhart, awaits a callup. Dustin Moseley and Chris Bootcheck would do in a pinch, if they haven't mopped up in the bullpen recently, where Justin Speier and Scot Shields will setup for Frankie "Contract Year" Rodriguez. This will likely be Frankie's last year in an Angels uniform, but visions of free agent dollar signs will make it his best.

    The Angels are deep pocketed. As far as dollar amounts and lengths of contracts - the fixations of the less well-endowed franchises - Angel fans know that their billionaire owner will not flush the farm system down the toilet for a once-in-a-lifetime player like Miguel Cabrera nor will he break the bank for Alex Rodriguez. But this is no tightwad. Arte Moreno's fiscal sanity is backed up by a lot of chips on the table. And he plays his cards when his hand is strong.

    The Angels are deep and they are going to kick your team's ass. Play ball.
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