There will probably be two battles in the AL West this season: The battle for first place and the battle for third. Thanks to the biggest and most shocking signing of the off-season, the Angels should be heavily involved in that first place battle.
With a top five payroll and an elite outfield prospect, the Angels hope to make it back to the playoffs for the first time since 2009. Are the Angels a 90-win team again? Who are the fantasy players worthy of a spotlight?
Best Hitter: Albert Pujols
If he had just decided to retire over the off-season, he would have still been a first ballot Hall of Famer. Instead, he'll be under contract for another ten years with an average salary that's a little less than half of the Oakland A's payroll.
Last year, Pujols posted career-lows across the board at the age of 32. Signs of decline? I wouldn't worry. Pujols hit .322/.388/.623 over his last 93 games with 29 HR (a 51-HR pace for 162 games.) He now debuts in the American League and I don't see him hitting below .300/.400/.600, the beginning of last season simply being a hiccup.
Will the Angels hate the contract in five years when they're paying a 38-year-old first baseman for another five years and over $130 million remaining? Probably, but I doubt that they'll regret having Pujols for now.
Best Pitcher: Dan Haren
If Jered Weaver gets his strikeouts back up to over 9 per 9, then I would put him ahead of Haren but as of last season Haren posted a significantly lower FIP and xFIP, more groundballs and was just unluckier than Weaver, who finished 2nd in the Cy Young while Haren finished 7th.
Haren has thrived since returning the AL West and I expect that to continue this year, while both players are certified number one starters.
C.J. Wilson comes over from Texas and has proven to be a workhorse pitcher who can succeed in the division. He should put up numbers much like the ones he put up in Texas, but in a better home pitching environement.
Potential Breakout: Howie Kendrick
Howie "Does It" did have a breakout last year, hitting 18 HR and making his first All-Star game. Now that he's not the best hitter on the team anymore though, can Howie go to that next level and top 100 R and 90 RBI?
Is a re-Breakout of Kendrys Morales coming? At this point, Mike Scioscia sounds like he just wants to see Morales be able to DH five days in a row without breaking. That's not the most positive sign.
Potential Disappointment: Mike Trout
He's 20. Twenty. A junior in college, if he had gone to college. Mike Trout could very well be two years away from being a regular fantasy play. He's 20.
Prospect Watch: Per BA
Some fans are concerned with the fact that Trout is being held hostage in AAA so that Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells can get paid eight figures to be old but they should consider it a positive. Trout should play in AAA this season, since, you know... he's 20! Playing in AAA at age 20 already puts him a couple of years ahead of schedule.
The 22 year old Segura is set for AA. He had 46 extra base hits and 50 stolen bases two years ago. He'll need to stay healthy this year and he could get a September callup, or earlier.
Richards will be 24 this year and had a short major league stint last season. What was concerning was his 6.5 K/9 in AA last year. He should start the year as the number five starter and if he's successful, he won't lose his job to a healthy Jerome Williams. I don't expect a huge year out of Richards, but he could surprise.
Hellweg can hit triple digits but has a lot to prove, either in the rotation or the bullpen.
2011 first round pick Cron could be a fast riser on prospect lists this year with some serious power.
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