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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

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Having finished with an 89-73 record in 2012, the Angels seemed to be a missing piece or two away from returning to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. They attempted to add one of those pieces by signing Josh Hamilton, but the arrival of the former Rangers slugger was not enough to prevent the Halos from heading in the wrong direction, as they wound up a disappointing 78-84.

Hamilton was actually part of the problem, not the solution, as his home run production was sliced by more than half (from 43 to 21) and he hit a career-low .250. Meanwhile, the previous season's major acquisition, Albert Pujols, experienced his fourth straight year of decline. With plantar fasciitis getting the better of him, last year's downturn was particularly steep, as Pujols mustered a .258/.330/.437 slash line before sitting out the final two months of the season. It also didn't help that the Angels lost three-fifths of their rotation heading into 2013, and as starters, replacements Jason Vargas, Garrett Richards, Jerome Williams, Joe Blanton and Tommy Hanson collectively posted a 4.82 ERA over a combined 99 starts.

2014 Fantasy Outlooks
A.L. East N.L. East
Orioles Braves
Red Sox Marlins
Yankees Mets
Rays Phillies
Blue Jays Nationals
A.L. Central N.L. Central
White Sox Cubs
Indians Reds
Tigers Brewers
Royals Pirates
Twins Cardinals
A.L. West N.L. West
Astros Diamondbacks
Angels Rockies
Athletics Dodgers
Mariners Padres
Rangers Giants

For those more inclined to view the glass as half-full, despite these problems, the Angels had a shot at a winning record going into the season's final week, and there were a number of positives that played a role in that. Mike Trout obviously tops that list, actually improving on his improbably superb 2012 rookie season and finishing again as the runner-up in the American League Most Valuable Player voting. Mark Trumbo delivered another 30-plus home run campaign, and rookie Kole Calhoun provided some unexpected thump and run production, as he picked up the slack when Pujols sat in August and September.

In fact, despite the lackluster showings by Hamilton and Pujols, the Angels ranked seventh in the majors in runs scored, but they also owned the seventh-highest ERA. This offseason, general manager Jerry Dipoto took a step towards addressing that imbalance, dealing Trumbo to the Diamondbacks as part of a three-way trade with the White Sox, and getting back starting pitchers Tyler Skaggs and Hector Santiago. Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson will head up the rotation once again, and Richards, who pitched well down the stretch last year, should settle in as the No. 3 starter. Skaggs and Santiago are the leading candidates to round out the rotation.

The Angels' biggest additions to their lineup are Raul Ibanez and David Freese, but neither is likely to fill the hole in the middle of the order left by Trumbo. Ibanez did slug 29 homers last year with the Mariners, but he will turn 42 this June, so 2013 could have been his last hurrah. Freese can hit for average with moderate power, but both were mysteriously absent in his final year with the Cardinals. The middle of the Angels' order is full of question marks, and if they go with Erick Aybar in the leadoff spot, the team's mashers may be lacking in run producing opportunities. His four straight years of sub-.330 on-base percentages have not helped the Angels, and his stolen base trend -- from 30 in '11 to 20 in '12 to 12 in '13 -- have not helped Fantasy owners.

Among the Angels' everyday players, only Trout, Pujols and Hamilton are worth drafting across all standard mixed league formats, though Calhoun and second baseman Howie Kendrick have value for Rotisserie owners. Weaver and Wilson are top 50 starting pitchers, and Richards is worth drafting in deeper Head-to-Head leagues for his dual SP/RP eligibility. Closer Ernesto Frieri is a low-end option in standard mixed leagues, and as he showed last season, his extreme flyball tendencies make him vulnerable at times.

For a team that has made some big splashes in the free agent market over the last few seasons, it seems odd that their only elite-level Fantasy option is a 22-year-old who came up through the organization's minor league system. Then again, Pujols and Hamilton are not far removed from being must-starts in Fantasy, and Weaver was a top 10 pitcher in Fantasy as recently as 2012. With the exception of Trout, chasing after Angels on Draft Day is fraught with risk, but with a few good breaks, the payoff could be Fantasy heaven.

Buyer beware ... Albert Pujols, first baseman/designated hitter

2014 projected lineup
Player Name Position
1. Erick Aybar SS
2. Mike Trout CF
3. Albert Pujols 1B
4. Josh Hamilton LF
5. Howie Kendrick 2B
6. Raul Ibanez DH
7. David Freese 3B
8. Kole Calhoun RF
9. Chris Iannetta C
Bench Hank Conger C
Bench Grant Green 2B

Pujols is reportedly fully recovered from the torn plantar fascia that wreaked havoc on his 2013 season, but even at 100 percent, there are reasons to doubt that he can return to his prior elite form. His power and plate discipline have been eroding steadily, and at 34, Pujols may not recover those skills or be free of future ailments. Even if he gets back to hitting 30 home runs with a .280 batting average, that probably won't be enough for him to keep pace with the likes of Edwin Encarnacion and Prince Fielder. He may not even match the production of Freddie Freeman and Eric Hosmer, though at least Pujols has demonstrated the upside of a .300 hitter with 35-plus home run power. He just hasn't shown it in either of the last two seasons. Owners have grown accustomed to taking Pujols in the very early rounds, but given his recent history, it's best to let at least the first 40 picks elapse before giving thought to taking him.

Rotisserie gem ... Howie Kendrick, second baseman

Kendrick is about as unexciting as a player can be for Fantasy purposes. He doesn't excel in any standard Fantasy category, and he's downright unhelpful with walks. Even though Kendrick frequently misses time with injury, he manages to be relevant in standard mixed Rotisserie leagues every year, since he consistently hits around .290 and is a decent run-producer. Kendrick's secret to Roto success isn't the most glamorous: he almost never pops out. So while Kendrick doesn't have great contact skills, his ability to get hits on balls in play makes him a reliable contributor in the batting average, runs and RBI categories. Poor plate discipline makes him a hazard for points league owners, but he's a worthy late-round option in Roto if you missed out on one of the top second basemen.

Closer-in-waiting ... Dane De La Rosa, relief pitcher

2014 rotation/bullpen
Player Name Throws
1. Jered Weaver RHP
2. C.J. Wilson LHP
3. Garrett Richards RHP
4. Hector Santiago LHP
5. Tyler Skaggs LHP
ALT Joe Blanton RHP
Bullpen Breakdown
1. Ernesto Frieri RHP
2. Dane De La Rosa RHP
3. Sean Burnett LHP
4. Joe Smith RHP
5. Kevin Jepsen RHP

As mentioned above, Frieri is not one of Fantasy's more reliable relief options, and the presence of De La Rosa might mean a short leash for the Angels' incumbent closer. In fact, after a difficult midseason stretch last year, manager Mike Scioscia had Frieri and De La Rosa briefly share closing duties. Though De La Rosa doesn't get whiffs at quite the same rate as Frieri, he is much better at avoiding extra-base hits. Along with Rex Brothers and Joaquin Benoit, De La Rosa is one of the better relief options in Fantasy, once all of the annointed closers are off the boards.

Prospects Report

The past year has not been especially kind to the Angels' minor league system. Third baseman Kaleb Cowart and first baseman C.J. Cron entered 2013 as two of the organization's most promising prospects, and both put up underwhelming numbers at Double-A Arkansas. It's not surprising to see players experience a drop in power after leaving the Advanced Class A California League, but they were especially power-deprived last year. Randal Grichuk did fare well after making the jump to Arkansas, but he was dealt along with Peter Bourjos to the Cardinals for Freese and reliever Fernando Salas ... Taylor Lindsey also took a step forward at Arkansas, bashing 17 home runs and hitting .274, and he is now widely considered the Angels' best prospect. Especially if the team moves Kendrick at some point this year, Lindsey could take over as the starting second baseman or at least inherit the utility role from Grant Green ... If Freese struggles or gets hurt, 26-year-old Luis Jimenez could get another shot at third base, where he could provide a combination of moderate power and speed ... Hunter Green is the organization's top pitching prospect, but at 18, he is years away from the majors, but is worth owning in dynasty leagues.

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us on Twitter @CBSFantasyBB or Al Melchior at @almelccbs .

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Player News
Report: Orioles in 'continuous dialogue' for Chris Tillman's extension
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) The Orioles and pitcher Chris Tillman are reportedly engaged in "continuous dialogue" for a long-term extension and have been for the past several weeks, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Tillman signed a one-year, $4.315 million deal in January to avoid arbitration and the discussions for a new deal are still considered preliminary, according to the report.

Tillman posted a 13-6 record in 2014 with a 3.34 ERA in 34 starts.


Tigers bullpen decision coming down to Ian Krol, Kyle Ryan
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Tigers manager Brad Ausmus is running out of time to finish off his bullpen for Opening Day. The final bullpen role will likely be a left-handed pitcher and is expected to come down to Kyle Ryan and Ian Krol, according to MLB.com.

"If I'm there, hopefully it's a good situation, whether it's long or short," Ryan said. "For them to have enough confidence in me to go into Spring Training as a reliever, and actually for them to believe that I might be able to make the team as a reliever, that makes me proud."

Ryan has given up seven runs on seven hits in 11 innings of work this spring. 

"When he throws it right, it's good," Ausmus said of Krol. "He has a tendency to occasionally slow his arm down on his cutter and curveball. He did it a couple times today. But when he doesn't slow his arm down, it's very good."


Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson continues to make his case
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson still doesn't know what his role will be when Opening Day rolls around, but he's showing he belongs on the roster, reports MLB.com.

"There's always stuff I need to work on, and I need to continue to impress," Pederson said after launching his fifth home run of the spring Saturday, boosting his batting average to .373.

Manager Don Mattingly remains quiet on what he will do when the decision has to be made, but Pederson is doing what he can to impress.

"[Opening Day] is out of my control," Pederson said. "It's something you dream about as a kid, playing in the big leagues, and you do anything you can to make that dream come true."


Angels P Matt Shoemaker gives up three runs in loss to Dodgers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) After pitching six scoreless innings in his last start, Angels pitcher Matt Shoemaker struggled a bit in the team's 5-4 to the Dodgers, reports MLB.com.

Shoemaker gave up three runs on four hits in six innings, striking out two. One of the hits he surrended was to Joc Pederson on a two-run homer.

The 28-year-old completed last season with a 3.04 ERA, 124 strikeouts and only 24 walks.


Reds third baseman Todd Frazier feels ready for Opening Day
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Reds third baseman Todd Frazier feels his swing has come back and is ready to tackle the long haul ahead of the regular season, reports MLB.com.

"It comes quick, like usual," Frazier said on Saturday morning. "I get goose bumps thinking about it right now -- another year, it's crazy."

Frazier struggled early in spring training, but has rebounded to go 8 for 23 in his last seven games.

"I hit in the Minor Leagues for about 10 at-bats [on Friday], just to try and feel it back-to-back. I do, and I feel really well," said Frazier, who is batting .262 in 14 games this spring. "I feel like if I had to play tomorrow [in the regular season], I'd be ready to go. It's all about preparation, and offseason stuff. I feel like it's so far, so good."


Angels OF Mike Trout homers in loss to Dodgers
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Angels outfielder Mike Trout homered in Saturday's 5-4 loss to the Dodgers, reports MLB.com.

Trout, 23, robbed the Dodgers' Alex Guerrero of an extra-base hit in the first inning, making it a successful day for him, despite the loss. 

This spring he has a batting average of .477 with four home runs and 14 RBI. 


White Sox hope to have David Robertson, Jake Petricka back by Opening Day
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Two key members of the White Sox bullpen are working their way back from forearm injuries, but manager Robin Ventura is confident he'll have both back by opening day. 

Closer David Robertson is scheduled to pitch on Sunday. 

“We’re trying to make sure we’re extra careful with him,” Ventura said, per Comcast's Dan Hayes. “He doesn’t seem to be concerned about it as much as we do."

Setup man Jake Petricka isn't as far along as Robertson. He played catch on Saturday for the first time in five days.

The Sox are taking it slow, so that the team will have both pitchers for Opening Day as well as the rest of the season. 

"You’re just making sure you’re cautious enough that you feel good about when (they go) out there that there won’t be any setbacks,” Ventura said. 


Indians pitcher Zach McAllister fans nine in outing Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Indians pitcher Zach McAllister went five innings Saturday against the Brewers, allowing two runs on six hits with nine strikeouts. McAllister, who is expected to make one more start before Opening Day, touched 97 mph with his fastball in the appearance, according to Cleveland.com.

"He's been impressive and he's been doing it all spring," said Francona. "He's not just throwing strikes, he's down in the zone when he wants to and then he can elevate with some velocity. I think his hard work is really paying off."

McAllister has felt he always had the added velocity.

"Throughout my career I've always felt I've had a little more (velocity) in there if I could maintain it," said McAllister. "For whatever reason, whether it's being more consistent with my delivery or my arm action, I'm just trusting that when I let it go it's going to go where I want it to go. I'm not trying to place anything."


Pirates Pedro Alvarez looking to stick at first base
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Pirates first baseman Pedro Alvarez is hoping to stick at his new position after converting from third base, reports triblive.com.

On opening day, Alvarez will be the team's 54th first baseman in its 129-year history.

“It's a matter of getting used to seeing the field from that point of view,” Alvarez said. “I need to get the reps in so the responsibilities that come with playing that position become second nature to me.”

Pirates general manager Neal Huntington talked about the team's past efforts of platooning the position.

“You can't develop something you don't have. You can't buy something you can't afford,” general manager Neal Huntington said. “That's why we've tried to platoon. Over the last couple of years, we've realized that's a challenge for a National League manager. Platoons are much harder here than they are in the American League, especially with a one-dimensional player who can only play one position.”

The hope around the organization is that they can get quality production from Alvarez.

“Our hope that is between Pedro Alvarez and Corey Hart, we'll get quality major league production,” Huntington said.

The 28-year-old is batting .306 with two home runs, nine RBI and eight strikeouts this spring.


Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton can't find a rhythm Saturday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3/28/2015) Pirates pitcher Charlie Morton tossed six innings Saturday against the Blue Jays, allowing six hits, including two home runs and no strikeouts. Morton, who is fighting for a spot in the starting rotation, is still recovering from labrum surgery six months ago.

"Physically, Charlie is in a good place," manager Clint Hurdle said to MLB.com. "He is trying to make some mechanical adjustments in his delivery, but we don't have any health concerns about him."

Morton isn't worried about fixing mechanical issues just yet.

"Now is a tough time to put a lot of emphasis on mechanics," said Morton. "I gotta go pitch, adjustments or no adjustments."


 
 
 
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