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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Los Angeles Angels

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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.

Los Angeles Angels Fantasy Outlook
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
Bullpen Breakdown
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
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2010 high Destination
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.
2 Tyler Chatwood 21 SP Triple-A Triple-A
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.
4 Jordan Walden 23 RP Majors Majors
Recovered from a forearm injury in 2009. Control has been an issue, but the hard-thrower misses plenty of bats.
5 Hank Conger 23 C Majors Majors
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.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can e-mail us your Fantasy Baseball questions to DMFantasyBaseball@cbs.com . Be sure to put Team outlooks in the subject field. Please include your full name, hometown and state.

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Player News
A.J. Pierzynski likely staying with Cardinals
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:21 pm ET) The return of Yadier Molina from a thumb injury is unlikely to force the Cardinals to part ways with his replacement, A.J. Pierzynski, reports FOXSports.com.

The Cardinals are expected to work Molina back in slowly when he makes his expected return to the lineup Friday, which should still leave time for Pierzynski to play. The fact that rosters expand in a few days should help Pierzynski's chances, since the team will be able to carry three catchers.

Pierzynski has appeared in 21 games since joining the Cardinals, hitting .265/.324/.338 in 68 at-bats. 


Tigers DFA Jose Ortega, clear 40-man spot
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(2:09 pm ET) The Tigers designated pitcher Jose Ortega for assignment Friday, to clear a spot on the 40-man roster, the team announced.

Ortega has been pitching at Triple-A Toledo since May, after he gave up four runs in 1 1/3 innings in the majors.  


Felix Doubront getting the start Saturday
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(1:52 pm ET)  Cubs pitcher Felix Doubront will start the first game of Saturday's doubleheader against the Cardinals, according to ESPN.com Friday.

Doubront, who is working his way back from a calf injury suffered just after his acquisition from the Red Sox, finished his rehab assignment last week at Double-A Tennessee. He allowed nine runs in 14 innings overall while on assignment, and it is not clear if the team intends to keep him in the rotation moving forward.  


Carter Capps' return from DL could come soon
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:19 pm ET) Marlins reliever Carter Capps could return to the team shortly after rosters expand Sept. 1, MLB.com reports Friday.

Capps, who has been out since late May with an elbow injury, began his minor-league rehab assignment at the team's Gulf Coast League affiliate earlier this week. He had a 3.00 ERA with 15 strikeouts in 12 innings prior to injuring his elbow. 


Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez likely to get first taste of the majors
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(12:11 pm ET) Phillies pitcher Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez has thrived since making the switch to the bullpen at Triple-A Lehigh Valley, and the Philadelphia Inquirer reports Friday is "almost a lock" to join the team when rosters expand next week.

Gonzalez has appeared in 11 games out of the bullpen at Triple-A, posting a 1.72 ERA with 17 strikeouts and eight walks in 15 2/3 innings. The 27-year-old struggled mightily at Class A Clearwater earlier in the season, before the switch to the bullpen was made, after a disappointing run in spring training.

"He wasn't sharp, he wasn't strong in spring training," manager Ryne Sandberg said. "So to see what he's doing now, see what that looks like, anxious to see that if he's one of the guys. He should be one of the guys."


Jorge De La Rosa blocked on waivers
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:43 am ET) Rockies pitcher Jorge De La Rosa was claimed on waivers and will not be traded prior to Monday's deadline, reports CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman Friday.

It is not clear which team claimed De La Rosa, but it was apparently done solely to block a trade to a possible contender. The Rockies looked to trade De La Rosa before the non-waiver deadline in July, but he will not head into free agency, where the Rockies intend to make him a qualifying offer before trying to re-sign him.  

He has a 4.19 ERA and 13-9 record in 154 2/3 innings on the season. 


Nelson Cruz, Orioles open to long-term deal
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:39 am ET) Orioles outfielder Nelson Cruz has been a bargain this season while working on a one-year, $8 million deal, and CBSSports.com Baseball insider Jon Heyman reports Friday the arrangement could become a long-term one this offseason.

The Orioles and Cruz have not begun early negotiations on an extension, both sides have expressed a willingness to continue to relationship beyond this season. Cruz leads the league with 34 home runs, and is hitting .256/.324/.510 with 88 RBI in 130 games overall.  


Mets discussing Travis d'Arnaud position change
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:30 am ET) The Mets have had preliminary conversations with catcher Travis d'Arnaud about possibly changing positions to keep him healthy, the New York Daily News reports Friday.

"We've talked about it,” manager Terry Collins said. "We’ve brought it up. Obviously, with what he's started to do offensively, we've got to see if these concussions are leading to anything. Is he changing his position (defensively), where he is positioning himself behind the hitter, to get less foul tips?"

d'Arnaud has had four reported concussions in his career, an issue that is only exacerbated by playing behind the plate. Despite that, Collins does not think it is likely to happen at this point.

d'Arnaud has made himself an indispensable part of the club's long-term plans with his play this season. Since returning from his latest concussion in June, he is hitting .265/.308/.486 over his last 50 games. 


Joe Thatcher's mound session 'didn't go well'
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:20 am ET) Angels reliever Joe Thatcher tried to throw off a mound recently, but his sprained ankle continues to bother him, and he told the Orange Country Register Thursday the session went poorly.

Thatcher is still aiming to return in mid-September, but it is not clear if he has a timetable to throw off a mound again at this point. Once his ankle is healed, however, Thatcher expects to return quickly.

"My arm is in shape," he said. "So as soon as my ankle is ready, I'll be ready to go. There's no build-up process."


Searching for answers, Justin Masterson to pitch out of stretch
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(11:16 am ET) Cardinals starting pitcher Justin Masterson is looking for a solution to his ongoing woes, and he told the St. Louis Dispatch his next start will feature a drastic change.

After trying it out during a bullpen session Wednesday, Masterson told reporters he will pitch exclusively out of the stretch in his start against the Cubs. The decision comes after Masterson has allowed 19 runs in his first 23 innings since the Cardinals acquired him, and the hope is that simplifying his deliver will lead to better results.

"For the most part, I was pitching out of the windup, and things would get better out of the stretch at times," Masterson said. "So we simplified it. I went only out of the stretch (in the bullpen). Less moving parts. You don't have to worry about step back, turn around, ready to throw."

Masterson feels like he can pitch out of the stretch without sacrificing velocity or overall effectiveness. He has struggled mightily with out of the stretch this season, however, allowing a .312/.414/.455 line with runners on base. 


 
 
 
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