Take away one of the best sluggers in baseball, a top 20 talent, a former 18-game winner and then a record-setting closer; how many teams in baseball can take hits like that and keep on ticking?
Very, very few.
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The Angels seem to be carrying on with less, as always. That is thanks mostly to a farm system that keeps churning out solid major leaguers, even if it never developed the elite player we once expected.
The Angels do have one of the best starting rotations in baseball, led by quartet of potential 15-game winners, John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver. The No. 5 spot is up for grabs, where Dustin Moseley might finally get his chance or one-time phenom Nick Adenhart might finally reach his potential. A slew of pitching prospects down on the farm can enter the mix later in spring or by midseason, too.
The vacated closer's spot, as Francisco Rodriguez signed with the Mets, will be filled at least initially by lefty Brian Fuentes. We tend to think he won't finish as the closer, though, if only because that is how it has been in the lower-pressure situation in Colorado the past few years. Scot Shields and Jose Arredondo will set up him, but Arrendondo is the closer-in-the-making type. Consider him a sleeper in deeper formats on Draft Day.
The Angels probably remain the favorites in the four-team AL West, but the Rangers could prove dangerous if they can find some pitching. The Athletics are dangerous, too, with the addition of Matt Holliday, but them and the Mariners need a lot of things to go right to be able to compete with the steady but not spectacular Angels over the course of a full season.
Sleeper: Brandon Wood, 3B
|Is this the year that Howie Kendrick stays healthy enough to breakout? (US Presswire)|
Bust: Chone Figgins, 3B
Figgins' value was already down significantly last season, but many Fantasy owners in Rotisserie leagues will continue to target him in the middle rounds as a top source for steals. Yes, he can do that, but buying into base-stealers over the age of 30 is a bad policy. We wouldn't be surprised to see him lose his starting job this season, in fact. Wood could be ready at third and the breakout below might be too good to sit at second base. Figgins doesn't slug enough to fill the DH or left field spot, even if he has fooled us for years.
Breakout: Howie Kendrick, 2B
Remember the time when Kendrick and disappointing Brewers sceond baseman Rickie Weeks where the next big things in Fantasy? Yeah, we're still waiting. Well, Kendrick has hit over .300 each of the past two seasons and now holds a .306 career average in 945 at-bats. He even managed to sneak up for 11 steals last season. While that is not a part of his game, his consistent average and run production potential should carry him. We project just six homers, because he has yet to show much in the way of power, but we wouldn't be surprised to see Kendrick go .305-15-75-110-15 in what could be his first real full season in the majors.
| ||Pos.|| |
|1||Chone Figgins||3B||1||John Lackey||RH|
|2||Howie Kendrick||2B||2||Ervin Santana||RH|
|3||Bobby Abreu||LF||3||Joe Saunders||LH|
|4||Vladimir Guerrero||CF||4||Jered Weaver||RH|
|5||Torii Hunter||DH||5||Dustin Moseley||RH|
|6||Juan Rivera||LF||Alt||Nick Adenhart||RH|
|7||Kendry Morales||1B||Top bullpen arms|
|8||Mike Napoli||C||CL||Brian Fuentes||LH|
|9||Erick Aybar/ Maicer Izturis||SS||SU||Scot Shields||RH|
|Top bench options||RP||Jose Arredondo||RH|
|R||Gary Matthews||3B||RP||Darren Oliver||LH|
|R||Brandon Wood||SS||RP||Kevin Jepsen||RH|
|1||Nick Adenhart||22||RH SP||Majors||Triple-A|
|A bad '08 takes some of the luster off, but he can win rotation spot with a good spring.|
|2||Jordan Walden||21||RH SP||High Class A||High Class A|
|Dominant in low Class A before getting a bit of a reality check; maybe a midseason option.|
|3||Peter Bourjos||22||OF||High Class A||Double-A|
|He doesn't walk enough or have enough high-end power yet, but the speed is intriguing.|
|4||Hank Conger||21||C||High Class A||Double-A|
|He has been an elite catching prospect for years, but a labrum tear set him back last year.|
|5||Sean O'Sullivan||21||RH SP||High Class A||Double-A|
|Despite a high ERA in a hitter's league, O'Sullivan went 16-8 and looks like a future Angels SP.|
|Best of the rest: 1B Mark Trumbo, SP Trevor Reckling, SP Anthony Ortega, SP Nick A. Green, SP Shane Loux, RP Kevin Jepsen, SP Tyler Chatwood, 3B Matt Brown, 3B Luis Jimenez, SP Jose Perez, OF Angel Castillo, 2B Ryan Mount, SS P.J. Phillips, SP Robert Fish, SS Andrew Romine and OF Terry Evans.|
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