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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Los Angeles Angels

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After his Angels missed the playoffs for the second straight year -- the first such drought under his watch -- owner Arte Moreno channeled his inner Steinbrenner this offseason, cleaning out the front office and signing both the top hitter (Albert Pujols) and pitcher (C.J. Wilson) on the free-agent market.

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Call it shortsighted if you want, but with just those two additions, the Angels go from being also-rans in the top-heavy AL West to perhaps the frontrunners in the entire American League.

The Wilson move might actually prove to be the more critical of the two. Coming off another stellar year in Texas, the left-hander gives the Angels a trio of 220-inning aces much like the Phillies have in Roy Halladay, Cliff Lee and Cole Hamels. Throw in Ervin Santana, who pitched 228 2/3 innings last year, and you could argue the Angels have the best starting rotation in all of baseball -- which, as the Phillies, Athletics and Braves have shown in recent history, is often the difference over a 162-game season.

Of course, the Pujols move is the one that grabbed all the headlines -- and for good reason. Widely regarded as the best player in baseball, he single-handedly transforms the Angels lineup from underwhelming to imposing, and his presence should resonate throughout the batting order, both by rejuvenating veterans like Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells and Bobby Abreu and by providing newcomers like Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout with the support they need to thrive.

The arrival of Pujols does create a logjam at first base, where Mark Trumbo, last year's home run leader, nearly won AL Rookie of the Year and former face of the franchise Kendrys Morales was expected to play whenever he returned from a leg injury. Between those two and Abreu, only one can occupy the DH spot, which could lead to frustration among Fantasy owners. But if such dilemmas are the norm for perennial contenders, the Angels are well on their way.

Bust ... Mark Trumbo, 1B

It's not that Trumbo can't repeat last year's 29 homers. It's just that, given his lack of plate discipline, everything has to go just right for it to happen. And already things are going wrong. The biggest blow came when the Angels signed Albert Pujols, leaving Trumbo without a position. He was supposed to learn third base this offseason as a creative way to keep his bat in the lineup, but a stress fracture in his foot kept him off the practice field. The Angels still might try to rotate him between DH, third base and possibly left field, but such instability often has an adverse effect on a player's batting average, which in Trumbo's case, could lead to an on-base percentage lower than any number of homers could justify. Besides, if Kendrys Morales is healthy, it's all moot anyway. Trumbo will get drafted in mixed leagues given his potential for 30-plus homers, but consdiering all the variables at work here, he could easily be a waste of a pick.

Sleeper ... Kendrys Morales, 1B

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As if Morales' season-ending ankle fracture early in 2010 wasn't bad enough, the 28-year-old slugger then kept Fantasy owners on the hook right up until the end of spring training last year, burning some of the early drafting types for a second straight season. Needless to say, nobody is counting on Morales for much now, which means he's likely to go for next to nothing on Draft Day. So far, his work in batting practice has the Angels cautiously optimistic that he'll be ready for the start of the season. Of course, we were hearing reports just as favorable this time last year only to find out he needed a second surgery, but what are the chances of that happening again? A second surgery was surprising enough. A third would be grounds for a lawsuit. Granted, a healthy Morales would face the same playing time obstacles as Mark Trumbo, but considering Morales is the better all-around hitter, he's a better gamble in the late rounds than Trumbo is in the middle rounds.

Impact prospect ... Mike Trout, OF

The surprise announcement that Trout was on his way to the majors last July was cause for celebration among Fantasy owners. But they soon discovered why so few 19-year-olds get such an opportunity. Though his time in the majors wasn't a rousing success, Trout ended up with five homers and four steals in 123 at-bats, showing that he has the power and speed to go along with his career .338 batting average in the minors. With that skill set, Trout is such a certainty for stardom that some scouts actually prefer him to Bryce Harper. Now that he's gotten his feet wet, you can bet the Angels will jump at the first opportunity to promote him, and in a lineup featuring has-beens such as Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu, that opportunity could come within the first few weeks of the season. Trout may not make the opening day roster, but if you have a place to stash him in mixed leagues, he could pay huge dividends down the line.

2012 Los Angeles Angels Fantasy Outlook
Projected Lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Erick Aybar SS 1 Jered Weaver RH
2 Bobby Abreu DH 2 Dan Haren RH
3 Albert Pujols 1B 3 C.J. Wilson LH
4 Torii Hunter RF 4 Ervin Santana RH
5 Howard Kendrick 2B 5 Jerome Williams RH
6 Alberto Callaspo 3B Alt Garrett Richards RH
7 Vernon Wells LF
Bullpen Breakdown
8 Chris Iannetta C CL Jordan Walden RH
9 Peter Bourjos CF SU Scott Downs LH
Top bench options RP LaTroy Hawkins RH
R Mark Trumbo CI/OF RP Hisanori Takahashi LH
R Kendrys Morales 1B RP Rich Thompson RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2011 high Destination
1 Mike Trout 20 OF Majors Triple-A
Though rushed last year, Trout is closer to being a star than his age would have you believe. He'll be back this year, but not until the Angels clear a starting spot for him.
2 Jean Segura 22 SS Class A Class A
Segura is already an excellent contact hitter and has enough power potential to rate among the best middle infielders in Fantasy someday. Look for him to make a splash in 2013.
3 Garrett Richards 23 SP Majors Triple-A
Richards has looked good in the minors but wasn't quite ready for his leap to the majors last year. He's next in line if Williams falters, though, and he has the stuff to stick.
4 C.J. Cron 22 1B Rookie Class A
The 2011 first-rounder has massive power potential and is old enough that he might not need long in the minors. He's a legitimate long-term keeper despite his moderate ceiling.
5 Johnny Hellweg 23 SP Class A Double-A
Hellweg broke through as a starter last year after struggling as a reliever. If he can keep his control in check, his high-90s fastball gives him top-of-the-rotation potential.
Best of the rest: Kaleb Cowart, 3B; Taylor Lindsey, SS; Daniel Tillman, RP; Ariel Pena, SP; Alexi Amarista, 2B; Ysmael Carmona, RP; Luis Jimenez, 3B; Kole Calhoun, OF; Randal Grichuk, OF; Fabio Martinez, SP; Jeremy Moore, OF; Matt Long, OF; Cam Bedrosian, SP; Carlos Ramirez, C; Trevor Reckling, RP; David Carpenter, RP; Ryan Mount, SS; Darwin Perez, SS; Donn Roach, RP; Andrew Romine, SS; Chris Scholl, RP; and Travis Witherspoon, OF.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Scott White at @CBSScottWhite . You can also send our staff an e-mail at fantasybaseball@cbsinteractive.com .

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Player News
David Buchanan will compete for one of two spots in Phillies' rotation
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(1:08 pm ET) Phillies starting pitcher David Buchanan said refininig his curveball has been a point of emphasis this offseason, as he prepares to compete for a spot in the rotation this spring, per The Philadelphia Inquirer.

“I had success with (my curveball) in certain games,” he said. “It started coming along there toward the end. But it’s definitely something that has a lot of work still to go. It’s definitely something I’m working on. It’s getting better, which is all I can ask for.”

There is two spots currently open in the rotation behind Cole Hamels, Cliff Lee and Aaron Harang. Buchanan, Jerome Williams and Miguel Alfredo Gonzalez are considered the leading candidates for the openings in the rotation. 

“There’s going to be some competition,” Phillies general manager Ruben Amaro Jr. said last week. “I think that’s the only way that you can get better is by creating competition. I can’t sit here and tell you today that David Buchanan’s going to be one of our guys in the rotation, but he absolutely is going to get an opportunity to pitch in spring training and be ready and compete for one of those spots.”


Santana fine after throwing bullpen session; winter-league status is TBD
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:55 am ET) Free agent starting pitcher Johan Santana threw a bullpen session Sunday and is said to be feeling fine, according to CBSSports.com Baseball Insider Jon Heyman. It is now up to his Venezuelan winter league team to decide if he will pitch for them in the finals.

Santana has been dealing with some shoulder discomfort, which has put his status for the remainder of the winter-league season in doubt. Santana is hoping to latch on with another major-league team after suffering a torn Achilles in June.

The Yankees, Padres and Blue Jays are among the teams showing interest in signing the former two-time AL Cy Young award winner.


Mariners planning on batting Smith, Ruggiano in second spot in lineup
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:31 am ET) Mariners manager Lloyd McClendon said he is tentatively planning to bat the right-field tandem of Seth Smith and Justin Ruggiano second in the lineup, per The New Tribune.

The Mariners ranked last in the majors last season in on-base percentage (.260) from their No. 2 hitters. No other team was lower than .279.

Smith had a .367 OBP last season for San Diego, while Ruggiano had a .337 OBP in 81 games for the Cubs.


Rays' Jake McGee plays catch for first time since elbow surgery
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:25 am ET) The Rays announced Monday reliever Jake McGee played catch for the first time since undergoing elbow surgery in December. McGee is still expected to miss the start of the season.

Cardinals' Carpenter hoping to build off postseason power surge
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(11:17 am ET) Cardinals infielder Matt Carpenter hit just eight home runs with a .375 slugging percentage during the 2014 regular season, but had a much better power swing in the postseason, belting four home runs and slugging .722 in nine games.

“I took a more of an aggressive approach in the postseason,” Carpenter said, per STLBaseballWeekly.com. “Part of that was from the experience that I had gathered the year before. After a long season, going into the playoffs I felt like I wasn’t as prepared as I felt like I could’ve been. It kind of snowballed and my approach and the way I took the regular season at-bat in the postseason it wasn’t playing out well.”

Carpenter said his postseason success could have a positive impact on his power numbers in 2015.

"Certainly, I’m always going to be a guy who’s patient at the plate, but that was a good learning experience for me -- being aggressive," he said. "I don’t remember the exact numbers but out of the four home runs I hit, I think three of them were on the first pitch. That’s something typically I don’t do a lot of, and it was a good learning experience.”


Tigers' Dombrowski expecting 'real big season' for Justin Verlander
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) Tigers starting pitcher Justin Verlander said last week this is the best he's felt physically approaching the start of spring training in at least three years.

Apparently, the optimism doesn't end with Verlander. Tigers general manager Dave Dombrowski indicated the Tigers are expecting big things from Verlander in 2015 after he posted a 4.54 ERA in 2014, failing to make the All-Star team for the first time in six seasons.

"Justin Verlander is as prime a pitcher as there is in the game of baseball," Dombrowski said, per the Detroit Free Press. "Last year, he was not the traditional Justin. But when you look at what he came back from with the surgery, I think he's going to go out and have a real big season for us."


Sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox's Mike Napoli to retire
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:47 am ET) Dealing with sleep apnea almost caused Red Sox first baseman Mike Napoli to retire prematurely from baseball, reports the Boston Globe.

"I couldn't do it anymore, feeling the way I was feeling," Napoli said. "I was like, 'I need to have the surgery or I'm not going play anymore.' That's how bad it was."

During the offseason, Napoli underwent facial reconstruction surgery to correct the condition, which was preventing him from getting a proper night of rest.

"It was a brutal process," Napoli said. "It was probably one of the worse things I've ever done."

With the surgery a success and Napoli recovered from losing weight due to a six-week liquid diet, Napoli is now sleeping better than he ever has.

Before the surgery, Napoli turned to medication, mouthpieces and a CPAP mask, but said those problems are now behind him.

"I wake up now and I'm ready to start my day," he said. "It's great."


Angels' Jered Weaver bulks up in effort to pitch deeper into games
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(10:36 am ET) Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver has bulked up to 224 pounds, which is six pounds heavier than he has ever been, in an effort to pitch deeper into games in 2015, per the Los Angeles Times. Weaver dropped to as low as 199 pounds during the 2014 season.

“Numbers-wise, it was all right,” Weaver said of his 2014 season (18-9, 3.59 ERA). “But from a personal standpoint, me being ultra-competitive, I want to get deeper in games.

“The bullpen helped me a lot last year. I just want to gain some strength. I went on a different weight-lifting program last year, and it’s been paying off. I’m going to stick with it.”

The average velocity of Weaver’s fastball dipped to a career-low 86.3 mph last season. However, he said the added weight gain is more for endurance than velocity on his fastball. He averaged just over six innings per start last season and has just one complete game over the last two seasons after throwing seven complete games in 2011-12.

“I don’t care about velocity -- I just want to be stronger for the whole nine innings,” Weaver said. “If velocity comes along, so be it. I think I’ve shown I can pitch from 83 to 93 mph.”


Mariners' Austin Jackson looking to bounce back in 2015
by Sean d'Oliveira | CBSSports.com
(10:08 am ET) After being acquired by the Mariners at the trade deadline last season, outfielder Austin Jackson struggled to produce for the Mariners. In 54 games, Jackson hit .229 and Jackson said the trade affected his playing ability, reports The News Tribune.

"Not making excuses, but I think getting traded and trying to get used to the travel and the sleep - those things affect your play on the field," Jackson said.

By starting the season in Seattle, Jackson said he hopes to avoid the distractions from last season and he's looking to return to his old form.

"Hopefully, getting started here and staying here, those distractions won't be there," Jackson said.


White Sox OF Avisail Garcia dropped weight during offseason
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(1:02 am ET) White Sox outfielder Avisail Garcia dropped roughly 15 pounds during the offseason, according to MLB.com.

"I've been eating healthy, working real hard at the gym, Garcia said. "I have to be ready for spring training. I can't go there and be fat." With the weight loss, Garcia is hoping to keep his power potential. "I don't want to lose speed, I don't want to lose power," Garcia said. "I want to be in the middle. I know I can do a little bit of everything, so that's why I've been working really hard on speed, power, hitting and defense, so I can help my team win."

Garcia hit .244/.305/.413 over 172 at-bats last year.


 
 
 
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