Prince Albert and the Angels Infield

I’m really good at burying the lead, but this time it would be silly to. Because any analysis of the Angels infield absolutely must begin with Albert Pujols. The future hall of famer (let’s hope, I feel like nothing is obvious anymore given the state of the BBWAA) used to be as consistently great as one could possibly ask for. He was arguably the best hitter in baseball at points and wOBAd between .404 to .461 for 10 straight seasons. Damn.

But his performance begun an accelerated decline thereafter and he did the unimaginable in 2013 — post a wOBA only slightly above the league average. Even scarier, his wOBA was actually below average for a first baseman! It would be easy to blame injuries on his recent struggles (and yes, struggles is more of a relative term here), but what health issues contributed to his poor(er) performances in 2011 and 2012? His power has disappeared as he’s lost 25 feet of batted ball distance since 2010 and 13 since 2011. His foot is apparently 100 percent, so we’ll find out exactly how much his health played a role.

Everything is trending the wrong way though. His walk rate has collapsed (though that perfectly coincides with a sharp drop in intentional walks), his strikeout rate and SwStk% have been increasing, and his ISO has tumbled. But, he’s still only 34, which is not totally over the hill, and although his current skills are a far cry from vintage Pujols, they still remain pretty darn good. So after all the negativity, I feel like he might be a good value in drafts this year.

Now we’ll move back to behind the plate, where Hank Conger slowly began stealing playing time away from Chris Iannetta. It was a strong first half that earned him the extra playing time, but he fell back to Earth in the second and suffered a power outage. That should mean that the two will likely battle again this year with no clear-cut first stringer. Neither catcher is all that good defensively, but apparently Conger is a good pitch framer. Offensively, Iannetta continues to contribute much more positively than it appears with his walk heavy game. Once a power force, his ISO has dropped now for four straight seasons. Still, at the moment you have to assume Iannetta will contribute more offensively, which should be enough to give him slightly more playing time with relatively even defensive skills.

Howie Kendrick mans one side of the middle of the diamond as usual, and I still scratch my head as to why many considered him a future batting champion. Obviously those people were looking at Kendrick’s .369 batting average in a half season at Triple-A in 2006 and completely ignoring the fact that he required a .409 BABIP to do it. Not surprisingly, he’s only hit .300 twice and sports a career .292 average. His combination of home runs and contact simply isn’t good enough to contend for a batting crown. It’s odd how his HR/FB rates have fluctuated so greatly, though maybe it’s not so surprising given his low FB%, so lots of randomness happens when dealing with small numbers.

Kendrick’s double play partner will once again be Erick Aybar, who is currently trying his darnedest to become a zero-category contributor. He never had much power, but he used to be counted on for good speed and now that may be coming to an end. He’ll be 30 this year and sometimes players just abruptly stop stealing bases. He doesn’t do enough of anything else, so he’ll either enjoy a speed rebound and reward his fantasy owners with some semblance of value, or be confined to AL-Only leagues.

Rounding out the infield is David Freese, who was acquired in the interesting trade that sent defensive wiz Peter Bourjos to the Cardinals. I have never been a Freese fan, but his batted ball distance and resulting xHR/FB rate suggest a power rebound is likely. Of course, it didn’t necessarily require a hardcore equation to figure that as you could guess given his previous two seasons. It appears that he’ll open the season hitting fifth behind Mike Trout, Pujols and Josh Hamilton, which should afford him tons of RBI opportunities. I’m flip-flopping here and calling a player that had typically been overvalued one who should yield a profit for a change.



Print This Post

Mike Podhorzer is the 2015 Fantasy Sports Writers Association Baseball Writer of the Year. He produces player projections using his own forecasting system and is the author of the eBook Projecting X 2.0: How to Forecast Baseball Player Performance, which teaches you how to project players yourself. His projections helped him win the inaugural 2013 Tout Wars mixed draft league. He also sells beautiful photos through his online gallery, Pod's Pics. Follow Mike on Twitter @MikePodhorzer and contact him via email.


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
TheGrandslamwich
Member
TheGrandslamwich

In a 12 team snake draft, where do you think Pujols will be going?

shibboleth
Guest
shibboleth

My guess is he won’t last beyond the 3rd, though I saw him go in the 4th of a MDC draft the other night.

Ruki Motomiya
Guest
Ruki Motomiya

Pujols in the 3rd/4th? That’s crazy, though probable for where he’ll go on average.

wpDiscuz