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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
Twins' Eddie Rosario mashes first grand slam of career in loss
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:36 pm ET) Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario connected on his first-career grand slam on Thursday, but it wasn't enough to avoid the 6-4 loss to the White Sox.

Rosario came to bat with the bases loaded and his team down 1-0 in the third inning. With one swing of the bat, he gave the Twins a three-run lead. The bullpen was unable to make that lead last however.

The four RBI is a new career-high for the Twins rookie. Rosario is batting .237 (9 for 38) with two homers and six RBI over his last 10 games.


White Sox RP David Robertson gets easy save on Thursday
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:31 pm ET) White Sox closer David Robertson struck out a batter in a clean ninth inning, preserving Thursday's 6-4 win over the Twins. Robertson needed just 14 pitches to record his 28th save of the year.

The right-hander hadn't pitched since throwing two innings and getting the win on Sunday. He has successfully converted eight of his last nine save opportunities. 


Braves P Manny Banuelos gets another shot at starting Sunday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(5:27 pm ET) The pounding Braves starter Manny Banuelos absorbed in his first outing since returning from an elbow injury has not prevented Fredi Gonzalez from keeping him in the rotation for now.

Gonzalez confirmed that Banuelos will start Sunday in Washington, but will be limited to about 70-75 pitches, per MLB.com.

Banuelos performed well during a three-week stint in July before going down. But he allowed three runs on six hits in just 2 2/3 innings Tuesday against Miami.


Twins SP Kyle Gibson gets no-decision despite quality start
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:23 pm ET) Twins right-hander Kyle Gibson turned in a quality start on Thursday against the White Sox, but was left with a no-decision. Gibson allowed three runs on five hits over six innings. He struck out four and did not walk a batter, as the Twins dropped the series-finale 6-4.

Gibson allowed an early run in the top of the first inning, but the Twins rallied to take the lead on the heels of an Eddie Rosario grand slam in the third. But the White Sox chipped away, adding runs in the fourth and sixth innings. He left the game with the score tied 3-3, but the bullpen gave up three runs in the seventh.

Gibson has allowed three runs or fewer in five of his last seven starts, as his ERA is down to 3.84 on the year.


Tigers RP Al Alburquerque could be ready to pitch Friday
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:18 pm ET) Tigers reliever Al Alburquerque threw a bullpen session Thursday, according to the Detroit News. He said he felt good and could be game ready Friday against the Indians.

Alburquerque added the MRI on his injured hip showed no structural damage. He has not pitched since Aug. 24.


White Sox SP Jeff Samardzija gives up grand slam, still gets a win
by Jason Lempert | Staff Writer
(5:15 pm ET) White Sox starter Jeff Samardzija was actually out-pitched by opposing Twins starter Kyle Gibson on Thursday, but the tall right-hander walked away with his ninth win of the season. Samardzija allowed four runs on five hits over 6 1/3 innings. He walked four and struck out four, en route to the 6-4 victory.

Samardzija (9-11, 4.87 ERA) didn't pitch quite as poorly as his line may suggest. All four runs came from one swing of the bat--a grand slam by Eddie Rosario in the third inning. The White Sox, meanwhile, were able to rally back and retake the lead.

The win snapped a personal six-game losing streak for Samardzija. Still, he has allowed a total of 14 earned runs over his last three starts, spanning 17 2/3 innings.


Nationals' Taylor available off bench, but likely to get a few more days off
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:12 pm ET) Nationals outfielder Michael Taylor still has some swelling in his knee as of Thursday and could be held out of the starting lineup for a few more days. He is available off the bench against the Braves, but manager Matt Williams said he needs to rest so the injury will heal.

Pirates CF Andrew McCutchen (knee) only expected to miss one game
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(5:07 pm ET) Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen received a day off Thursday against the Brewers to deal with a left knee injury, which manager Clint Hurdle said has been bothering the All-Star outfielder for 5-6 days.

"We’ve been talking about a day off for the past four or five days," Hurdle said, per the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. "Last night, we decided today would be a good day off."

Hurdle added, however, he is only expecting McCutchen to miss one game. He said McCutchen will be in the lineup Friday unless he "misses the flight."

McCutchen is batting .382 (21 for 55) with two home runs, five doubles, eight RBI, eight runs, eight walks, 10 strikeouts and one stolen base in his last 15 games.


Rangers' Kyle Blanks to undergo surgery on both feet
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:53 pm ET) Rangers infielder Kyle Blanks will miss the rest of the season due to surgery on both of his feet, the team announced Thursday.

Blanks will have arthroscopic surgery on his right foot for a chronic condition Friday. He will then have the same surgery on his left foot in 4-6 weeks.


Mets' Daniel Murphy is day to day with mild left quad strain
by Michael Hurcomb | CBSSports.com
(4:47 pm ET) Mets infielder Daniel Murphy has been diagnosed with a mild strain of his left quadriceps, the team announced Thursday. He is day to day heading into Friday's game against the Marlins.

Murphy suffered the injury Wednesday against the Phillies. He is mired in a 3-for-18 slump in his last six games. However, since Aug. 2, he is still hitting .324 with a .546 slugging percentage and .891 OPS in his last 26 games.


 
 
 
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