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Los Angeles Angels: 2014 Season Preview

23 Mar

Standing O Sports is previewing all 30 Major League teams seasons, division by division, team by team. Up next in the American League West is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.

What Happened Last Season

The most puzzling team in baseball over the past few seasons has been the Los Angeles Angels. Anytime you have Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, and Josh Hamilton in the same lineup, there’s no reason why that shouldn’t lead to a World Series title. But forget about the World Series, this Angels team has had a hard enough time just finishing above .500. Last season, the Angels finished with a 78-84 record, 3rd place in the American League West. A big reason for the teams struggles was the play and health of Albert Pujols.

Pujols played in a career low 99 games. For the first time in his career, he hit fewer than 30 home-runs and has quickly fallen from being the best player in the sport, to essentially being a non-factor. Josh Hamilton also fell off considerably in his first season with the Angels. His home-run total decreased by 22, and his RBI total fell by 49. You can rest for sure that Pujols, Hamilton, and Trout will be gunning for it all in 2014.

Offseason Headlines

  • Traded Mark Trumbo to the Diamondbacks for starting pitchers Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs
  • Traded Peter Borjous to the Cardinals in exchange for David Freese
  • Signed outfielder Raul Ibanez to one-year $2.75 million dollar deal
  • Signed relief pitcher Joe Smith to 3-year $15.75 million dollar contract

Take: Angels General Manager Jerry Dipoto recognized he needed to upgrade his pitching, so he traded Mark Trumbo for Tyler Skaggs who was the number 1 prospect in the Diamondbacks system, and brought in Hector Santiago.  David Freese provides some necessary grit for this Angels team, even though he had a down year last season.  Raul Ibanez was supposed to be finished years ago, but even at age 41, he continues to get the job done.  Joe Smith is a quality arm out of the pen.  All in all, LA’s pitching is much improved after finishing with the 6th worst team ERA last season, and you have to like the additions of Freese and Ibanez to this already powerful lineup.

Projected Lineup

Kole Calhoun (RF)
Mike Trout (CF)
Albert Pujols (1B)
Josh Hamilton (LF)
David Freese (3B)
Raul Ibanez (DH)
Howie Kendrick (2B)
Chris Iannetta (C)
Erick Aybar (SS)

Breakdown: A surprise at the top of the Angels lineup.  Kole Calhoun appears to be the guy.  Calhoun has 79 games of big-league experience under his belt.  He’s had an impressive spring and when you hit in front of Trout, Pujols, and Hamilton, getting on-base will be Calhoun’s biggest priority.  Trout is slated to hit 2nd and he’s arguably the best player in baseball.  There may not be a more talented 3 and 4 in a lineup than Pujols and Hamilton.  It’s just a matter of them playing the way they’re capable of playing.  David Freese is poised for a bounce back year, and Raul Ibanez hit 29 home-runs in 2013.  Howie Kendrick is a great number 7 hitter who hits for average and has some pop.  Chris Iannetta can hit a few home-runs, but won’t do much else offensively, and Erik Aybar rounds out the order nicely.

Projected Pitching Rotation

Jered Weaver
C.J. Wilson
Garrett Richards
Hector Santiago
Tyler Skaggs

Jered Weaver took a small step back in 2013 after 2 stellar seasons in 2011 and 2012.  As the ace of the Angels staff, Weaver must return to his dominant form.  C.J. Wilson lived up to his contract in 2013 winning 17 games and pitching to a 3.39 ERA.  LA is hoping for more of the same from him.  The 25-year-old Garrett Richards has improved gradually in each of his seasons in the majors, but now he’s being counted on to be a true number 3 starter.  Rounding out the rotation are Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaags who both came over from the Diamondbacks in exchange for Mark Trumbo.  Skaggs, 22, was the number one prospect in Arizona’s system, and Hector Santiago is a decent guy to round out the rotation.

X-Factor: Living Up to the Back of the Baseball Card

The Angels are arguably the most talented team in baseball.  Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton are potent, but have fallen off considerably the past few years.  If Pujols can return to his 2011 form, and Hamilton his 2012 form, the Angels will have the best offense in baseball, hands down.  Add Mike Trout, and this offense has historic potential.

Season Outlook

There’s no reason why the Angels shouldn’t win the AL West in 2014.  The talent is there.  But based on how the past 2 years have gone, the A’s and Rangers still appear to have the upper hand.  But if Hamilton and Pujols return, the Angels will win.  That’s just a huge “if”.

Prediction

Frankel: 88-74 (2nd in AL West)

 
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Posted by on 03/23/2014 in MLB

 

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