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After six straight seasons of 89 wins or more, the Angels fell to earth with an 80-82 record last season. Jered Weaver had a breakthrough year, and midseason acquisition Dan Haren gave the rotation a second ace down the stretch, but standout performances were few and far between otherwise.
The lineup, which ranked second in the American League in runs scored in 2009, sank to the bottom half of the rankings last year. Bobby Abreu started to show his age, Hideki Matsui didn't warm up until late and third base was an offensive black hole all season long. Perhaps worst of all, slugging first baseman Kendry Morales was lost for the last four months after breaking his leg during a walk-off home run celebration.
Weaver and Haren aside, the pitching contributed to the team's woes, as the bullpen -- once a team strength -- lacked depth, and closer Brian Fuentes was shipped off to the Twins in August. Scott Kazmir further taxed the bullpen with a career-worst 5.94 ERA, averaging only 5 1/3 innings per start.
The Angels' frustrations continued into the offseason, as they failed to sign Carl Crawford as a free agent. Then they attempted to bolster their offense by taking on Vernon Wells and the $86 milllion remaining on his contract in a trade that sent Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to Toronto. The only other notable additions to the roster were the signings of relievers Scott Downs and Hisanori Takahashi, who should help to strengthen the bullpen. For now, last year's late-season closer Fernando Rodney will continue on in the ninth-inning role.
Among this year's projected starters, only Peter Bourjos (age 24) will go into the season under the age of 27. Though the Angels are an aging team overall, help from the minor leagues is on the way. Flamethrower Jordan Walden, who made a brief big league debut last year, could become the closer at some point this season. Likewise, Hank Conger could make an impact behind the plate, and while he may not reach the majors this season, the Angels have one of the best-hitting prospects in all of baseball in Mike Trout. As far as established players go, though, the pickings from Anaheim in this spring's Fantasy drafts will be slim once Weaver, Haren, Morales and Wells are off the board.
Sleeper ... Erick Aybar, SS
After batting .312 in his first full season in 2009, Aybar stumbled badly last year, hitting just .253. In retrospect, that .300-plus batting average from two years ago looks fluky, but he's a much better hitter than what he showed last season. Aybar has always been a good contact hitter, but he fanned much more frequently, particularly early in the season. Even though he was on base less often, he still upped his stolen base total from 14 to 22. He'll never be much of a power hitter, but with a higher average and 20-plus steals, Aybar will have value as a late-round pick in standard mixed league drafts.
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Bust ... Bobby Abreu, OF
Abreu's lowest batting average since his rookie season was .283, but last year he mustered just a .255 mark. Despite the dramatic dropoff, Fantasy owners should not dismiss last season as an aberration. Abreu did manage to hit 20 home runs, but he had to hit a lot more flyballs to achieve the distinction. He is no longer the slashing line-drive hitter who could routinely hit .290 despite a higher-than-average strikeout rate. Abreu might be able to hang onto his 20-homer status, but similar to last year, he will make more outs in the process, paying a price in the form of a lower batting average and shrinking RBI and runs scored totals.
Bounce-back player ... Kendry Morales, 1B
Of course, the biggest reason that Morales lost Fantasy value last year was missing the last four months with a broken leg, due to his now-infamous home plate celebration-gone-bad. However, even in the two months he did play, Morales slugged .487, which was 82 points lower than his rate from the year before. His home run power was still there, but astoundingly, he hit just five doubles through 51 games. A lot of strange things can happen after two months, and this appears to be one of them. Morales was hitting line drives more frequently and striking out less frequently, and one has to think that more of those hit balls would have found their way into the gaps later in the year, had he played the full season. Though he could be a little slow out of the gate, the 27-year-old should regain his 2009 form in 2011.
|Projected Lineup||Pos.||Projected Rotation|
|1||Peter Bourjos||CF||1||Jered Weaver||RH|
|2||Howard Kendrick||2B||2||Dan Haren||RH|
|3||Torii Hunter||RF||3||Ervin Santana||RH|
|4||Kendry Morales||1B||4||Joel Pineiro||RH|
|5||Vernon Wells||LF||5||Scott Kazmir||LH|
|6||Bobby Abreu||DH||Alt||Hisanori Takahashi||LH|
|7||Erick Aybar||SS|| |
|8||Jeff Mathis||C||CL||Fernando Rodney||RH|
|9||Alberto Callaspo||3B||SU||Scott Downs||LH|
|Top bench options||RP||Kevin Jepsen||RH|
|R||Maicer Izturis||2B/3B||RP||Jason Bulger||RH|
|R||Brandon Wood||3B||RP||Jordan Walden||RH|
|1||Mike Trout||19||OF||Class A||Double-A|
|The complete package offenisvely, rating as one of the minors' top prospects. Owners will get to use him in 2012.|
|Yet to show an impressive command of the strike zone, but his ability to pitch down in the zone has helped him.|
|3||Jean Segura||21||2B||Class A||Class A|
|Emerging as a speed-and-power threat in 2010, he will get a chance to play shortstop at Advanced Class A.|
|Recovered from a forearm injury in 2009. Control has been an issue, but the hard-thrower misses plenty of bats.|
|Defensive shortcomings may slow his path to everyday at-bats as a major league catcher, but his bat is ready.|
|Best of the rest: Mark Trumbo, 1B; Kaleb Cowart, 3B; Garrett Richards, SP; Fabio Martinez, SP; Michael Kohn, RP; Trevor Reckling, RP; Randal Grichuk, OF; Cam Bedrosian, SP; Alexi Amarista, 2B; Daniel Tillman, RP; Chevez Clarke, OF; Donn Roach, SP; Luis Jimenez, 3B; Jeremy Moore, OF; Taylor Lindsey, 2B; and Andrew Romine, SS.|
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