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2010 Los Angeles Angels Preview

Jered Weaver, RHP
Scott Kazmir, LHP
Ervin Santana, RHP
Joe Saunders, LHP
Joel Pineiro, RHP

Closers and Setup
Brian Fuentes, LHP
Fernando Rodney, RHP

Starting Lineup
Erick Aybar, SS
Bobby Abreu, RF
Torii Hunter, CF
Hideki Matsui, DH
Kendry Morales, 1B
Juan Rivera, LF
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Mike Napoli, C
Brandon Wood, 3B

Player in Decline

There is no obvious choice here but Abreu, who will be 36 when the season starts, posted a .142 ISO last year, a 34-point drop from 2008 and his lowest since being a part-time player in 1997.

Player on the Rise

The Angels have been expecting big things from Kendrick for years but he has been unable to stay healthy. Last year there were no injury problems and after the All-Star break he posted a .948 OPS with six homers in 165 at-bats.

Top 5 Fantasy Players
Kendry Morales: Average
Torii Hunter: Average
Bobby Abreu: Average
Brian Fuentes: Average
Jered Weaver: Average

Top 10 Prospects
1. Hank Conger, C
2. Jordan Walden, RHP
3. Mike Trout, OF
4. Trevor Reckling, LHP
5. Peter Bourjos, OF
6. Fabio Martinez, RHP
7. Trevor Bell, RHP
8. Mark Trumbo, OF
9. Tyler Chatwood, RHP
10. Chris Pettit, OF

Overall team outlook: The Angels have won the American League West five of the past six seasons. But the loss of key free agents, including leadoff hitter Chone Figgins and No. 1 starter John Lackey, leaves the division up for grabs this year. Each of the other three clubs in the division has made key updates, making the AL West the most competitive division in baseball.

The Starting Rotation: While the Angels lost Lackey, they still have a deep and talented rotation. While there is no true ace, recently acquired Joel Pineiro, along with holdovers Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, and Jered Weaver have all reached the 15-win plateau in one of the past two seasons. And Scott Kazmir is no one’s idea of a fifth starter, with an ERA under 4.00 in four of the past five years. But there are questions surrounding each of them. Can Pineiro maintain his ground-ball rate, his pinpoint control, and his miniscule home-run rate without the aid of former pitching coach Dave Duncan? Is Santana fully recovered from the various arm injuries that ruined his 2009 season? Will Saunders continue to outpitch his peripherals, which gave him a 5.17 FIP last year? How will Weaver handle the designation as the team’s ace? Can Kazmir avoid the mechanical flaws that led to a drop in velocity and a 5.92 ERA with the Rays last year? But while there are some questions, the Angels also have good depth, with Matt Palmer, Sean O’Sullivan, and Shane Loux, who combined for 29 starts last year, available to fill in as needed.

The Bullpen: For years a team strength, the bullpen was not nearly as solid last year. Brian Fuentes, imported to replace Francisco Rodriguez as closer, racked up 47 saves but was erratic and struggled against right-handed batters to the point where manager Mike Scioscia went to matchups down the stretch in the ninth inning. Fuentes retains his closer job. But if he falters again, the club has newly acquired Fernando Rodney, who had 37 saves last year for the Tigers, as another option. The club hopes a return of Scot Shields, who missed most of 2009 after undergoing knee surgery, helps stabilize the pen. Also returning is veteran Jason Bulger, who excelled last year in his first extended stay in the Majors, featuring a curveball that was 12.8 runs above average.

The Starting Lineup: In addition to Figgins, the Angels also lost starting DH Vladimir Guerrero to free agency. The club will give long-term top prospect Brandon Wood the first shot at the third base job and imported veteran Hideki Matsui to replace Guerrero. The other seven hitters return from last year’s squad, which finished second in the AL with 883 runs scored. The big question is will the Angels be able to recoup the lost production at the top of the order? Last year, Figgins finished second in the league with 114 runs, thanks in large part to his .395 OBP. Shortstop Erick Aybar should get the first crack at the leadoff spot, but last year he had a career-best .353 OBP.

The Angels brought back Bobby Abreu, who was credited by many for the team’s more patient approach at the plate last year. Abreu posted a .390 OBP but did not lead off once last year and has done it just 30 times in his 14-year career. The Angels hope Kendry Morales can build upon last year’s breakout season, which featured a .382 wOBA. The club also needs repeat seasons from Torii Hunter, whose .379 wOBA last year was a career-best, and Juan Rivera, who established a personal high with 25 homers. Wood could be another source of power, if he makes enough contact (MLB K%: 33%) to keep the job. Second baseman Howie Kendrick may have to battle Maicer Izturis for playing time, but he finally started producing last year. After his recall from the minors, Kendrick batted .351/.387/.532 over his final 199 plate appearances.

The Bench: The Angels feature a quasi-platoon behind the plate, with Mike Napoli and his 122 wRC+ forming the offensive half and Jeff Mathis as more of a defensive-minded backstop. Napoli is a potent bat off the bench on days when he is not in the lineup, although he could see time at both DH and first base this year. The club re-signed Izturis to a three-year deal, giving them a quality reserve player who can play any of the infield positions. With the trade of Gary Matthews, Reggie Willits becomes the top outfield reserve.