The Angels have played second fiddle in the AL West for the last couple years after the back to back AL pennants won by the Texas Rangers. This offseason, Los Angeles set to change that trend, by signing both first baseman Albert Pujols and former Rangers starting pitcher CJ Wilson. Combine those two with their incumbent crew (Dan Haren, Howard Kendrick, Jered Weaver), and it’s going to be an absolute rumble in the AL West this season.
Depth Chart (as of 3/27)
C: Chris Iannetta
1B: Albert Pujols
2B: Howard Kendrick
SS: Erick Aybar
3B: Alberto Callaspo
LF: Vernon Wells
CF: Peter Bourjos
RF: Torii Hunter
DH: Kendrys Morales
SP: Jered Weaver
SP: Dan Haren
SP: CJ Wilson
SP: Ervin Santana
SP: Jerome Williams
CL: Jordan Walden
Pujols and Wilson are the two big names in town that have attracted most of the fanfare, but don’t forget about new starting catcher Chris Iannetta, who replaced the weak hitting Jeff Mathis this offseason. The Angels also added a pair of relievers in Jason Isringhausen and LaTroy Hawkins.
Much-maligned reliever Fernando Rodney signed with the Rays, much to the relief of Angels fans. Former starting catcher Mathis was released. Starter Tyler Chatwood was dealt to the Rockies in the Iannetta deal. Bench bat Russell Branyan went to the Yankees, and former sixth starter type went to, and has already been released by, the Phillies.
If Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter both weren’t making eight figures this year, Mike Trout would be starting in the outfield in place of one of them. Unfortunately, that’s not the case for the Angels (with Wells locked up for a couple more seasons, too), and Trout will need to wait for an injury or a contract to expire. Garrett Richards is also waiting in the wings to take control of a spot in the rotation, with only the fifth spot currently possessed by Jerome Williams up for grabs.
Alberto Callaspo is currently listed as the starter at third base over last season’s AL Rookie of the Year runner-up Mark Trumbo, who lost his job at first base to Albert Pujols. Last season’s DH, Bobby Abreu, also lost his job. The team’s new DH is another former Angels first baseman, Kendrys Morales, who has missed significant time after the last couple of seasons after breaking a leg.
Morales is recovered from his broken leg, and should be ready to go for this season. Reliever Bobby Cassevah, out of options and currently slotted for a spot in the pen, has some shoulder inflammation, and may not be ready for Opening Day.
Should the Angels just be willing to cut bait on Bobby Abreu and Vernon Wells in order to give younger, more talented players more playing time?
This star-studded Angels team comes into the season with a vengeance and wins over 100 games behind the bats of Pujols and Morales. The front four of the rotation combines to win 70 games, and Mike Trout gets promoted early in the season and wins the AL Rookie of the Year award.
The only way I can see the Angels not competing this season is either A) a massive rash of injuries or B) too much playing time for their overpaid veterans. I can see B being a cause of A (Morales gets hurt and Abreu has to DH every day, etc), but at worst, I think this is still an 85-90 win team.
The Angels are either going to win the AL West or finish second, and one of the two wild card slots in the American League looks like a floor for this team.