2012 Fantasy Baseball Real Teams Preview: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

BALTIMORE, MD- SEPTEMBER 18: Erick Aybar #2 of the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim hits a solo home run in the third inning of a baseball game against the Baltimore Orioles at Oriole Park at Camden Yards on September 18, 2011 in Baltimore, Maryland. (Photo by Steve Ruark/Getty Images)

Our team-by-team preview of the 2012 MLB season from a fantasy perspective continues today with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. If you've just jumped on with our series or need a reminder, we are spending a day with each major league team, looking at 9 different fantasy angles for each franchise while also paying homage to the things we watch for as real life fans. The hope is that through this exercise we might all come to a greater understanding of the various environments that contain the players we spend so much time obsessing over. Fantasy baseball would be a lot easier if these guys played in a vacuum, but since they don't, it's a good idea to learn as much as we can about the circumstances that affect their play.

Make sure you check out Kenneth Arthur's spotlight on various Angels players, scheduled to post later today. Our series will continue tomorrow with the Oakland Athletics.

2011 in Review & 2012 Outlook

On January 21, then-Angels GM Tony Reagins traded Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to the Blue Jays for Vernon Wells' contract. The Blue Jays turned around and made a deal with the Texas Rangers that sent Napoli back to the AL West. To say that that single move was the reason the Rangers won the division and the Angels didn't would be reductive, but it certainly was a huge factor. Hank Conger and Jeff Mathis were woeful as Napoli replacements (Catcher's ERA aside) and Vernon Wells' production was right around replacement level. Despite their self-inflicted handicap, the Angels hung onto the race for most of the summer and were as close as 1.5 games back on September 10 before fading to an 86-76 record, 10 games off the pace.

This offseason's moves were considerably more high profile. New GM Jerry Dipoto made a splash on the last day of the Winter Meetings, inking C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols on the same day and instantly catapulting the Angels back into the conversation about the American League's best teams. There are still warts on this team, but that hasn't tempered thoughts of World Series glory. Anything but a return to the playoffs after a 2 year absence will be considered a disappointment in Disneyland, which means that the season-long struggle between the Angels and the Rangers for AL West dominance might just be the most interesting race in baseball.

Home Ballpark

Angel Stadium of Anaheim is a pitcher's park by almost every measure, though the odd angle of the right center field wall can be helpful to left-handed hitters.

Manager & Coaching Staff

Mike Scioscia is a former big league catcher, which makes his track record with catchers that much more puzzling. He mishandled Mike Napoli, has shown an affinity for Jeff Mathis despite the fact that he's Jeff Mathis, Hank Conger's skills disappeared once he reached Scioscia's club, and of course, there's the stubborn allegiance to Catcher's ERA. He's an unorthodox manager overall, often playing players out of position or terribly mismanaging his bullpen. When you're winning, these idiosyncracies are dismissed as quirks or perhaps even the work of a misunderstood genius, but how will they be viewed if the team misses the playoffs for the third straight year?

Also, there's this.

Expected Position Battles

Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards have been competing with one another for the fifth starter spot, but the former injured his hamstring, making room for the latter to claim the spot. This isn't quite settled yet, but Richards looks to be the guy. There's not a lot of value there, even in AL-only leagues.

Elsewhere, Mark Trumbo has been logging innings at third base, leading to speculation that he could start over Alberto Callaspo. Scioscia is sticking by Callaspo...for now. Third base eligibility would obviously make Trumbo a more fantasy option, so if he continues to get playing time there over the next week, go ahead and make a speculative waiver wire claim.

Kendrys Morales has returned to Cactus League action, and it looks like he may be the DH going forward. That leaves Bobby Abreu without a spot, since Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter have the corners locked down and Peter Bourjos isn't going anywhere. Mike Trout is waiting in the wings as well, so what we've got is a logjam where at least one player is going to be very unhappy. Abreu has already played the "play me or trade me" card, but could there possibly be any serious suitors out there?

Projected Lineup & Rotation

Erick Aybar - SS

Howie Kendrick - 2B

Albert Pujols - 1B

Torii Hunter - RF

Kendrys Morales - DH

Vernon Wells - LF

Callaspo/Trumbo - 3B

Chris Iannetta - C

Peter Bourjos - CF

Chris Iannetta's career slash at home (Coors Field) is a nice .262/.377/.492. His numbers away from that hitter's haven are considerably worse: .208/.338/.369. Don't expect much out of him.

Jered Weaver | Dan Haren | C.J. Wilson | Ervin Santana | Richards/Williams

You know you're in a good way when Ervin Santana is your fourth starter. I expect mild regressions from Weaver and Wilson, but in general, your fringe bats should be sitting when they face the Angels, especially in Anaheim.

Bullpen Situation

Jordan Walden took over the closer role in early April last season and was very successful, striking out almost 10 batter per 9 innings while posting some fine rate stats. He should continue to get plenty of save opportunities, and given his peripherals and age, there's no reason to expect any serious regression.

Setup man Scott Downs is the kind of pitcher that can seriously help your rate stats, but like any reliever, he's not going to get a ton of innings and doesn't have the benefit of a high strikeout total.

Potential Fantasy Sleepers

My definition of sleeper and yours may vary. I use the term to refer to a player who may be undervalued, no matter his current or expected draft position.

There's no guarantee that Kendrys Morales can return to his pre-injury production level, but he won't have to in order to justify the price you can pay for him, especially if your fellow owners aren't particularly attentive to the latest spring training developments. Bill James has him as high as .296/.341/.504 with 24 home runs, which would make his ADP of 211 highway robbery.

Our own Ray Guilfoyle has tirelessly promoted Dee Gordon as a shortstop who can provide Elvis Andrus-like production from a much lower draft position. Erick Aybar is in a similar mold and is more likely to produce for your fantasy team given his track record. He's also being taken behind Gordon. Aybar doesn't have the upside that Flash has in the stolen base department, but he's got a bit more pop and should hit at least .270.

Spring Training Storylines to Watch

Spring Training is almost over, but the main thing to observe over the next few weeks is how Mike Scioscia manages his veterans' egos while also finding plate appearances for all of the leftover bats.

Follow the Team

Official: Site | Twitter

MLB.com beat reporter: Lyle M. Spencer (Blog | Twitter)

MLB.com beat reporter: Alden Gonzalez (Blog | Twitter)

Los Angeles Times beat reporter: Mike DiGiovanna (Blog | Twitter)

Orange County Register beat reporter: Bill Plunkett (Blog | Twitter)

Broadcaster: Victor Rojas (Twitter)

SBN: Halos Heaven (Blog | Twitter)

Know of any other sites or Twitter accounts that deserve a mention? Let me know in the comments.

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