November 8, 2013
Fantasy Team Preview
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
For the second year in a row, aggressive free agent spending led to high expectations that the Angels didn’t deliver on—both on the field and for their fantasy squads. The club’s 78-84 finish in 2013 led to the team’s worst record in 10 years. While there were some solid performances by a few key performers, the Angels were a victim of injuries to aging veterans and a lack of depth in the starting lineup. This wasn’t a fantasy black hole (no team with Mike Trout in the fold can be considered bereft of fantasy usefulness), but if you invested big in the Angels in 2013, there is a good chance you were disappointed.
Will 2014 be a transitional year for LA or will the Angels climb back into contention? Here is an early sneak peak at what we anticipate for the Angels next season.
Trout is the obvious must-buy/draft player here, but after that come a host of questions. Pujols (foot) and Bourjos (wrist) are both recovering from injuries and should be ready for spring training, but both come with question marks. Bourjos’ potential speed has always tantalized, but he hasn’t run much since his rookie campaign in 2011. A full recovery from plantar fasciitis should translate to better numbers for Pujols across the board, but he is entering his Age 34 season and hasn’t been an elite force since 2010. Hamilton is only a year younger than Pujols and coming off of a year when he flailed at anything that moved. He might bounce back, but it will take more than just good BABIP luck to fix what ails Hamilton. It’s important to remember Hamilton and Pujols both have fantasy value, they just no longer have the top 20 or 30 value that they had earlier in their careers.
The fluidity of some of the situations mentioned above mean that any or all of these players could log more than the usual 100-150 plate appearances you’d expect from a bench player and provide some value in AL-only leagues. Calhoun is a Bourjos injury away from racking up everyday playing time, and he was a surprising source of power last year down the stretch for the Angels. Conger could wrest additional playing time away from Iannetta in 2014, particularly if the club tries to move more toward youth as the season progresses. Green and Nelson both could play third base, although neither did enough with the bat last year to merit mixed league consideration unless you’re absolutely desperate.
The rotation is just like the line-up: decent at the top with some solid fantasy contributors but thin/weak at the bottom. An elbow injury limited Weaver to 154 innings last year, but when he was on the mound he was his usual solid self. Just keep in mind that he has never been a big strikeout guy, and he hasn’t whiffed over 150 since 2011. Weaver is obviously worth owning, but targeting him as an ace is a mistake. Wilson also isn’t an ace, but is drafted appropriately and might even be slightly undervalued. In shallower mixed leagues, he’s a great matchup play at home in the pitchers’ paradise that is Anaheim.
The rest of the staff is riddled with question marks and where the Angels are likely to try to upgrade this offseason. Richards throws hard and always shows flashes of promise, but has been inconsistent to date. Of the potential back three, he has the most upside. Williams also performed well at times, but has bad stretches are really bad and he was borderline even in AL-only. Blanton is listed in the depth chart as a starter, but he seems the most likely candidate to be shown the door—large salary notwithstanding—if the Angels sign someone or acquire an arm via trade.
Projected Closer Candidates
The Angels brought signed Ryan Madson to a one-year, incentive-laden deal last winter and the expectation was that he’d close in May or June once he returned to full health. This never came to fruition, and Frieri held onto the job all year. Frieri relies almost entirely on his 93-95 MPH fastball, but the results were there, and there’s a good chance he starts 2014 as the closer again if the Angels don’t bring in outside help. De La Rosa was a sneaky cheap middle reliever in fantasy in 2013, earning double digits in AL-only despite picking up a mere two saves. De La Rosa is the logical choice in the ninth should Frieri slip, but nothing that happens in Spring Training should change their roles on Opening Day.
Hot Stove Possibilities
Rumored Needs: Starting Pitching
Rumored Trade Chips: Peter Bourjos, Chris Iannetta, Howie Kendrick, Mark Trumbo
Nearly all of the free agent rumors surrounding the Angels revolve around them bringing in a starting pitcher, with former Angel Jason Vargas the most likely candidate to sign with LA. There are a few other, more high profile free agents being mentioned, but the Angels don’t seem to be pushing as hard this winter as they did the last two off seasons. Given their aggressive spending the last two winters, it would be foolish to count them out on any free agent, but the rumor mill seems to be focusing on them trying to shed dollars, not add more free agents. The other area where the Angels might look to upgrade via free agency would be in the bullpen. If the rumor mill is to be believed, Brian Wilson is the kind of relatively cheap pick-up the team would try to make, as opposed to chasing a big money guy like Joe Nathan.
If the team goes the trade route, it’s likely that one of the players mentioned above will be moved for a starting pitcher. Kendrick was also linked to “prospects” this winter. While a pure salary dump is unlikely, it is possible the Angels will move guys like Kendrick and Iannetta for a little payroll flexibility, particularly if they decide to make a big splash for Japanese import Masahiro Tanaka.
Positional Battles to Watch
Third Base: Luis Jimenez vs. Chris Nelson vs. Grant Green
Fourth/Fifth Starting Pitcher: Jerome Williams, Joe Blanton, Tommy Hanson, Chris Volstad
Player to Target: C.J. Wilson
Player to Avoid: Josh Hamilton
Deep Sleeper: Kole Calhoun