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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
Blue Jays' Michael Saunders: 'No pain' day after surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:57 pm ET) Blue Jays outfielder Michael Saunders said Saturday that he's feeling no pain one day after undergoing knee surgery, the Toronto Sun reports.

"I feel great," Saunders said. "I couldn’t believe it when I woke up this morning and I was walking around just fine. I walked out of surgery just fine. I actually started doing some exercises today and just got checked out by the doctor and he was pleasantly surprised with what he saw. There’s not as much swelling as he originally thought. Everything is checking out so far and everything is good news. No pain. It feels like I banged my knee on a pole and it’s a tiny bit swollen."

Saunders suffered a torn meniscus while tracking a foul ball Wednesday, tripping over a sprinkler head and hearing a popping sound. After initially being told he could need to have the meniscus repaired, a procedure that carries a recovery time of three-to-five months, Saunders had the torn portion of the meniscus removed, which places him on track to return to action within six weeks. While the outfielder is excited to be back on the field in a much shorter time, he indicated he'll be cautious with his rehab.

"I’m going to miss some spring training but it could be a lot worse," Saunders said. "My ligaments are intact. For me this is the best-case scenario. I’m going to do everything I can to make sure I’m ready to go. I’d love to say that I’ll be ready opening day. That’s my goal. But we’re targeting more mid-April, on the safe side. At the end of the day I have to listen to my knee. It’s a long season. I’m going to get this right the first time and not rush back."


Athletics' Doolittle hoping to throw in a week or two
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:51 pm ET) Athletics reliever Sean Doolittle is hoping to be cleared to throw in a week or two, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

Doolittle was able to participate in strength tests on Saturday, and the results were positive. He has not been cleared to throw just yet, but is hoping that will come shortly. Doolittle has been sidelined by a shoulder injury during the start of camp. 

The 28-year-old posted a 2.73 ERA over 62 2/3 innings last year. 


Rays release OF Josh Sale
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(9:49 pm ET) The Rays have released outfielder Josh Sale, Baseball America reports.

Sale was suspended for use of performance-enhancing drugs in 2013 as well as for conduct detrimental to the team that same season. He received a 50-game suspension last August for a second positive test for a drug of abuse. Before his most recent suspension, he hit .238/.313/.344 with four home runs and 46 RBI in 323 at-bats with high Class A Charlotte.


Yankees' Cashman downplays Bailey's chances of making team
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(9:31 pm ET) Yankees general manager Brian Cashman downplayed reliever Andrew Bailey's chances of making the 25-man roster, according to the Journal News.

Bailey, 30, is attempting to come back from a shoulder injury. He has not pitched in the majors since 2013 due to the issue. While Bailey has been able to participate in bullpen sessions this spring, Cashman took a more realistic view of the situation. "It’s one of those things where, non-roster situation, it’s a flyer, and the odds are against it," Cashman said. "And it didn’t work out for us last year. But because of who he is, his makeup, his work ethic, all those things, it made it easier to say, 'All right, let's keep trying,'" he added. 

Cashman stressed that while things look good now, the team wants to see how Bailey will respond in game situations. Bailey, meanwhile, has been optimistic during camp, saying he feels like he's finally over his injury.

Bailey posted a 3.77 ERA over 28 2/3 innings back in 2013. 


Hinch: Astros' Torreyes has 'earned every chance to get a look'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:59 pm ET) Astros infielder Ronald Torreyes checks in at about 5-foot-6 and 130 pounds, but his success at avoiding strikeouts has manager A.J. Hinch ready to give him a chance at showing what he can do this spring, the Houston Chronicle reports.

"You like to see these guys play," manager A.J. Hinch said. "He can look to our starting lineup at the top or hitting first or second and he’ll see a guy who is pretty successful who is not the biggest guy in the world. I see a unique size for this level, but the way he’s hit and the way he’s performed he’s earned every chance to get a look."

Torreyes was added to the team's 40-man roster in November after hitting .298/.345/.376 with two home runs, 46 RBI and 12 stolen bases in 460 at-bats with Triple-A Oklahoma City in 2014.

"He doesn’t look like a ballplayer because he’s little like me, but he’s a young bull," Astros second baseman Jose Altuve said. "He hits a lot and plays good defense. Last year they put him on the 40-man roster because he has a good chance to help us. There aren’t many players like him so skinny and little in the big leagues, so when you see him for the first time you say, 'You know he has to be good to be here.' Then when you see him hit you realize the organization has a good reason to give him this opportunity."

Torreyes will look for an opportunity to latch on as a utility player this spring. He's capable of seeing work at second base, shortstop and third base as well as in left field and center field.


Yoga has Twins' Trevor May 'much fresher than ever before'
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:43 pm ET) Twins starting pitcher Trevor May has looked to improve flexibility coming into his competition for a rotation spot this spring by turning to yoga to help repeat his delivery, the Star Tribune reports.

"I’ve been doing yoga for 30 or 40 minutes every morning, and I’m much fresher than ever before," May said. "Every scouting report I’ve ever seen on myself says, 'Has trouble repeating his delivery.' Well, yoga is literally repeating moves, keeping your body under your control. I do the warrior pose, which is [the same as] striding and throwing a baseball. It has to help."

May initially struggled in his major-league debut last season, but he hopes the perseverance he showed and his improvements near the end of the season help set him apart in the battle for a rotation spot this spring.

"Obviously I don’t know exactly what the people who are making decisions are thinking, but showing I can be successful after having my face beat up for two months, showing I can work through it, it’s a trait you have to have," May said. "I take pride in the fact that I didn’t give up. I didn’t let it get me down."


Twins 1B Joe Mauer happy with 'normal' offseason
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:34 pm ET) Twins first baseman Joe Mauer was happy to have a "normal" offseason after dealing with concussion-like symptoms the previous year, MLB.com reports.

"I had a very productive offseason," Mauer said Saturday. "The last couple years I had a lot of things to deal with, especially last year with the concussion. I didn't really get a good base heading into the year. I feel great this year and I hope it stays that way."

Mauer believes that his vigorous stretching exercises this offseason will help keep him healthy in 2015.

"You have to pay attention to your body. I'm getting older," Mauer said. "I'm finding out what works and doesn't work. Trying to make adjustments."

Manager Paul Molitor indicated that he's noticed a difference in Mauer this spring.

"I think it means a lot for him," Molitor said. "I think coming back last year after what had happened the previous season, you always have those questions. He's got friends that have gone through it with Corey Koskie and Justin [Morneau]. We all know how validated our concern is over concussion issues. I'm sure there was a little hesitancy there. Like I said when I had a chance to visit with him this winter, he's excited to be back and not have to be concerned about those type of things."

Mauer endured a down offensive performance last season, hitting .277/.361/.371 with just four home runs in 455 at-bats.


Report: Blue Jays sign Dayan Viciedo to minor-league deal
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:27 pm ET) The Blue Jays have signed outfielder Dayan Viciedo to a minor-league deal, FOXSports reports.

The White Sox designated Viciedo for assignment when the team signed Gordon Beckham and released him after he cleared waivers. Multiple teams reportedly had interest in the outfielder, who hit .231/.281/.405 with 21 home runs and 58 RBI in 523 at-bats last season.

The Blue Jays are dealing with an injury to left fielder Michael Saunders, but it was announced Friday that Saunders is only expected to miss up to six weeks after initially being thought to be out until the All-Star break. While Saunders is out, Viciedo could figure into the mix in left field if he makes the team's 25-man roster.


Giants' Madison Bumgarner to take the ball on Tuesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(8:08 pm ET) Giants pitcher Madison Bumgarner will take the ball when the team opens spring games on Tuesday, according to MLB.com.

While Bumgarner will start the game, he's only expected to throw one inning. "I'm looking forward to getting out there, facing some hitters and getting back into competition at game speed, playing baseball," Bumgarner said. "But right now, it's just about making sure you're ready to compete whenever the season starts."

Bumgarner is also expected to start for the team on opening day once the regular season begins. He posted a 2.98 ERA over 217 1/3 innings last year.


Christian Bergman motivated by Rockies' pitcher signings
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:04 pm ET) Rockies pitcher Christian Bergman chose not to feel slighted when the team added several rotation options this offseason, MLB.com reports.

"It motivates me in a sense, but when I achieve the goals that I want to achieve, that could go away," Bergman said Saturday. "Then you have to find new motivation. I like to motivate myself with more internal things than what other people say, because that changes -- day to day, even."

Bergman made three starts and four relief appearances during the Arizona Fall League, going 2-0 with a 4.34 ERA and 1.13 WHIP in 18 2/3 innings, and chose to work on elements of his game against the quality competition.

"I worked on particularly my cutter and curveball, some basic stuff -- particularly getting back on top of the ball, getting everything going downhill," Bergman said.

Bergman, who missed two months last season due to a broken hand, went 3-5 with a 5.93 ERA and 31:10 K:BB ratio in 54 2/3 innings over 10 starts in 2014.


 
 
 
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