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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
Red Sox's Jackie Bradley Jr. showing off new swing
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:41 pm ET) Red Sox outfielder Jackie Bradley Jr. is showing off his new swing this spring, according to the Boston Herald

Bradley started working out at the team's facility in November, and started hitting in January. He worked with assistant hitting coach Victor Rodriguez for a good portion of the offseason. "Jackie was dedicated," Rodriguez said. "He listened, too. He was open to what we talked about."

Manager John Farrell has noticed the change in Bradley's approach. "In BP, to me, it seems like there’s more of a willingness to stay in the middle of the field and not look to lift a ball too much," Farrell said. "I think it’s more of his natural swing, which he was drafted with."

Bradley said his swing has been a "work in progress." While it doesn't appear Bradley has a starting role, his defense should make him a useful major-league asset.

The 24-year-old hit .198/.265/.266 over 384 at-bats last year. 

 


Molitor: Eduardo Escobar 'will be' important part of Twins in 2015
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(11:36 pm ET) Twins manager Paul Molitor marked infielder Eduardo Escobar as "an important part" of the team in 2014 and believes he will be the same this season, the Star Tribune reports.

"He was an important part of our team last year," Molitor said. "He will be this year, too."

Escobar delivered the best performance of his career in 2014, hitting .275/.315/.406 with six home runs and 37 RBI in 433 at-bats. However, he arrived at camp to learn he was in a competition for the shortstop role with last year's center fielder, Danny Santana. Breaking the news to Escobar was a delicate conversation for the manager.

"Obviously," Molitor said. "You’ve got a guy who came in and played every day for you last year, and then you’re thinking about doing something different. I’ve tried to explain it to him the best I could. His answers, at least for now, are, 'No problem. I understand.'"


Blue Jays' Daniel Norris performs well in first start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:30 pm ET) Blue Jays pitcher Daniel Norris tossed a strong start in his first spring appearance on Thursday.

Norris is competing for the fifth spot in the team's rotation, and got off to a nice start. Norris allowed one hit and one walk over 1 2/3 innings. He struck out two during the outing. 

Norris said he was glad to be taking on a strong lineup his first time out, according to the Toronto Sun. "I liked the fact I was facing a good lineup. You have to bring your 'A' game" Norris said. While it wasn't a perfect outing, Norris was pleased with his stuff.

"I struggled a little with it (staying closed) in the first, but was much better in the second inning," said Norris. "Years back in spring training, I can remember my stuff not doing much."

The 21-year-old posted a 5.40 ERA over 6 2/3 innings in the majors last year. 


Pirates' Jeff Locke wants to remain with team if he doesn't start
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(11:00 pm ET) Pirates pitcher Jeff Locke said he prefers to remain with the club even if he loses out on the fifth starter spot, according to the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review

Locke is stuck in a battle with Vance Worley, but Worley is considered to have a leg up in the competition. Both players are out of options, and would be considered for the bullpen if they lose out on the rotation spot. While a trade is possible, Locke said he would rather remain in Pittsburgh.

"If it comes to them saying, 'Would you rather be a starting pitcher on (another) team or be a (reliever) on the Pirates?' this is where I'd want to be," Locke said. "This is where my loyalty sits. This is the team I want to win with. It's never going to be about anything more than that."

The 27-year-old Locke posted a 3.91 ERA over 131 1/3 innings last year. 


Orioles' Chris Davis goes yard on Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:51 pm ET) Orioles infielder Chris Davis crushed a home run on Thursday against the Blue Jays. 

Davis, who is coming off a poor season, is attempting to get back to his previous level of performance. His ability to hit for power has never been a question, and he proved that again on Thursday. With two men on, Davis took a fastball out to right center for a three-run shot in the third inning. 

Manager Buck Showalter said Davis' hard work has paid off thus far. "He's been working real hard," Showalter said. "Get a little return on it. Nothing wind-aided tonight, thick air. He had to square it up."

The 28-year-old Davis hit .196/.300/.404 over 450 at-bats last year. 


Rays' Alex Colome still not in camp
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:26 pm ET) Rays pitcher Alex Colome still hasn't reported to camp due to a visa issue, according to the Tampa Tribune.

Colome was a candidate for the fifth spot in the team's rotation, at least until Matt Moore was able to return from Tommy John surgery. He's been able to put in work at the club's facility in the Domincan Republic, and manager Kevin Cash doesn't want to rule him out just yet. 

"Colome is getting his work in. We know that. We’ve had communication on that," Cash said. "As I’ve said the whole time, we’d like to have him here. I don’t think it’s fair to punish a guy for being held up, so he’s still very much a factor."

Colome, 26, posted a 2.66 ERA over 23 2/3 innings last year. 


Red Sox's Dustin Pedroia 'I knew I was back to normal'
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:21 pm ET) Red Sox infielder Dustin Pedroia is over last season's wrist injury, according to the Boston Herald

Pedroia got to prove that on Thursday, going 3 for 3 with a grand slam. Following the game, Pedroia told the media that his performance proves he's feeling good right now. "I knew I was back to normal in the offseason," he said. "Obviously I told you guys that, but you can only believe me if you see it. So there you go." 

The 31-year-old hit .278/.337/.376 over 551 at-bats last year. 


Mets' Juan Lagares taking it easy with his elbow
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:14 pm ET) Mets outfielder Juan Lagares is taking it easy with his elbow thus far, according to MLB.com.

Lagares missed the final two weeks of 2014 due to an elbow injury, but said he doing well now. "I feel great right now," Lagares said. "I feel 100 percent. I just want to take it easy -- not easy, but I don't want to throw everything I've got right now."

Lagares has had opportunities to throw out some base-runners this spring, but has erred on the side of caution. Manager Terry Collins said he's completely fine with that strategy. 

"He did it the right way and I'm real proud of him," Collins said. "He could have sent a message to everybody -- 'Look, I'm fine.' And he was smart enough to say, 'I'll worry about it in April.'"

Lagares, 25, hit .281/.321/.382 over 416 at-bats last year. 


Tolleson, Feliz, Scheppers likely to make Rangers
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(10:09 pm ET) The Rangers are likely to put Shawn Tolleson, Neftali Feliz and Tanner Scheppers in the bullpen this season, according to the Dallas Morning News.

Manager Jeff Banister implied that all three players would make the team out of camp. That's not necessarily a surprise for Tolleson, who led the team in relief appearances last year, but both Feliz and Scheppers had been mentioned as fringe candidates thus far. 


Padres' Wil Myers hoping to prove the doubters wrong
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:43 pm ET) Padres outfielder Wil Myers is hoping he can prove the doubters wrong this season, according to MLB.com.

Myers not only has a lot to prove at the plate, but he also wants to show that he can handle his new defensive position. "Going into this year, I have a lot of doubters out there. I not only want to prove them wrong but prove to myself that I can play a good center field," Myers said.

He continued, "I've played a lot there in the minor leagues. And hearing everyone say, 'I don't think he can play center field,' is going to motivate me to play a great center field."

Manager Bud Black seems encouraged by Myers' defensive play thus far. "He's looking good, good angles, good routes, good hands, athletic," Black said. "His speed is fine. His strides look good tracking fly balls. He's an athletic guy. From what we've seen so far [it's been] all good."

The 24-year-old hit .222/.294/.320 over 325 at-bats last season. 


 
 
 
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