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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
Reds' Hamilton, Byrd, Mesoraco out of lineup Sunday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:59 am ET) Reds outfielders Billy Hamilton and Marlon Byrd are joining catcher Devin Mesoraco (hip) on the bench for Sunday's game against the Braves.

Hamilton is getting a break after making 11 straight starts out of the leadoff spot, while Byrd has seen 11 straight starts in left field. With the pair out, Skip Schumaker will lead off and play left field, while Brennan Boesch will bat seventh and play center field.

Mesoraco hasn't appeared in the starting lineup since the first week of the season, as he's continued to rehab from a left hip impingement while remaining on the active roster.

The Reds are road favorites (-142) in Atlanta with Johnny Cueto on the mound.


Orioles' Showalter: Machado will learn from defensive miscues
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:49 am ET) Orioles third baseman Manny Machado recently committed six errors in a string of nine games before playing error-free ball Saturday, and manager Buck Showalter remains confident the young infielder will learn from his defensive miscues, MASN Sports reports.

"I think it's kind of good for both us and him," Showalter said. "One, to remind ourselves just how good he is there, because it shocks you when he makes a miscue. And it's also kind of good for Manny to realize that it's a product of a lot of hard work and also getting set up properly and doing some things. I can tell how frustrated he is with it, because he starts swinging the bat a lot better and then all of a sudden he has a couple of miscues."

Machado could have been charged with two errors Friday, but a ball that scooted under his glove was ruled a hit.

"He probably should have had two errors (Friday) night," Showalter said. "That was scored poorly. But he'll learn from it. And I actually look on the positive side of it that's it's something that Manny, believe me, will pay attention to."

Machado has hit .247/.322/.455 with four home runs, 12 RBI and three stolen bases in 77 at-bats.


Diamondbacks' Hale on Evan Marshall: 'He'll get better'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:39 am ET) Diamondbacks pitcher Evan Marshall took a loss Saturday, giving up two earned runs on three hits in two-thirds of an inning in his team's 6-4 defeat against the Dodgers.

Marshall (0-1) surrendered a first-pitch home run to the first batter he faced to tie the game.

"It was a first-pitch fastball to (Joc) Pederson," Marshall said, per MLB.com. "He'd been struggling all night, but he got all of that one. The pitch had a lot of movement on it, but it was definitely down the middle. He's a dangerous hitter and you can't make mistakes like that to a guy with that kind of ability."

Marshall delivered a 2.74 ERA and 54:17 K:BB ratio in 49 1/3 innings last year, but he's struggled over the first month of the new season.

"Last year I was able to keep the ball down and especially make better pitches with two strikes," Marshall said. "That's what I'm looking for is that strikeout when I have the count in my favor. The stuff feels great. My velocity is good, the health of my arm feels good. I just need to read the hitter and make a better pitch. That's really all I can say."

Manager Chip Hale isn't losing confidence in the reliever despite his 7.45 ERA and 6:5 K:BB ratio in 9 2/3 innings, as he believes Marshall can return to the pitcher he was last year.

"We have to get him back to that," D-backs manager Chip Hale said. "He showed some pitches that he is, and then leaves a couple of balls up. We trust him in that spot. We're going to keep throwing him out there and he'll get better, I'm sure of it."


Cubs' Chris Denorfia reaches twice in return to lineup
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:24 am ET) Cubs left fielder Chris Denorfia made his first start since April 23 Saturday, going 1 for 3 with a walk in his team's 6-1 loss to the Brewers.

Denorfia opened the season on the disabled list due to a hamstring injury but was able to make his season debut April 18. After making a few pinch-hit appearances, he played most of three games in three consecutive days but has seen just one at-bat since that extended work, as he has dealt with continued hamstring issues as well as a foot injury.


Yankees' Chris Capuano (quad) strikes out four in rehab debut
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:18 am ET) Yankees pitcher Chris Capuano began a rehab assignment with high Class A Tampa Saturday, giving up just one unearned run on two hits in four innings while striking out four and walking none.

Capuano hasn't pitched during the regular season, as he was pulled from a spring-training game on March 11 due to a quadriceps strain. He will likely slot into the rotation when healthy.


Brewers' Scooter Gennett (hand) begins rehab assignment
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:15 am ET) Brewers second baseman Scooter Gennett (hand) began a rehab assignment with Class A Wisconsin Friday, going 1 for 3 with a run and a stolen base.

Gennett followed up the rehab debut by going 0 for 1 Saturday but did draw and walk and collect an RBI on a sacrifice fly. Out since April 19 after suffering a laceration on his hand while in the shower, the second baseman is eligible to return from the disabled list Tuesday.


White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham finding his way
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:35 am ET) White Sox infielder Gordon Beckham may have needed to leave and return like the Prodigal Son to Chicago before he found success, according to the Daily Herald.

Beckham, in his second stint with Chicago, is hitting .350 with four RBI in 20 at-bats. Manager Robin Ventura is liking what he's seen from Beckham so far this season. 

"It can happen, it can jump on guys when there are expectations and the pressure gets there," manager Robin Ventura said. "For him, it might have been helpful to get traded away and go away for a while and come back with more of a clear conscience of who he is, where he's at. You get some information from somewhere else that maybe sticks in your skull differently than it did here.

"He's in a good frame of mind and that's the other big thing. All the stuff that has been said about him, but he can play baseball. We know that. He's a good player."


Mariners pitcher Danny Hultzen throws 3 1/3 innings in Double-A
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:31 am ET) Mariners pitcher Danny Hultzen was able to throw 3 1/3 innings Friday for Double-A Jackson, allowing one unearned run. 

"It was awesome," Hultzen said per MLB.com. "I've been looking forward to that day for a really long time. I did my best just to calm down and have fun and enjoy it. Sitting out for so long, you get the itch really easily. You miss being out there."

Hultzen, the second overall-pick in 2011, is working his way back from shoulder surgery in October 2013. His biggest priority for the rest of his rehab assignment will be to stay healthy.

"I've never been too much on velocity," he said. "That's been a little down, but I'm just real happy to be pitching again. If I'm throwing 85 [mph], I'm going to figure out how to get people out. I'm not too concerned about it. I'm happy that I'm out there playing again."


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by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:26 am ET) Dodgers outfielder Yasiel Puig was able to do some light testing on his injured hamstring Saturday, according to MLB.com.

Puig, who is currently on the 15-day DL with the injury, is likely to begin his rehab assignment next week in the hopes of a quick return from the disabled list. Puig is hitting .279 with two home runs and four RBI in 43 at-bats this season.


Diamondbacks' Aaron Hill cranks first home run of the year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:57 am ET) Diamondbacks third baseman Aaron Hill went 1 for 4 at the plate in Arizona's 6-4 loss to the Dodgers on Saturday.

Hill did his damage in the fourth inning, smacking a 1-1 pitch from Scott Baker over the left center field wall, his first of the season. Hill is hitting .185 with four RBI in 54 at-bats this season.


 
 
 
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