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February 8, 2005
Team Health Reports
Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
C Bengie Molina: How does a catcher get a green light? Be reasonably young, have a good backup and a short injury history filled with the insignificant but numerous injuries a catcher will always have. A guy named Bengie shouldn't be this tough.
1B Darin Erstad: Was there a guy before Bret Saberhagen who ran hot and cold quite so brilliantly? Erstad is the injury equivalent: hardly as good a player, but at least passable every other year. His move to first was widely panned, yet some sources say a problematic back forced it. He's 2005's "Most Likely to be Pipped."
2B Chone Figgins: Figgins will slot in at second base while Adam Kennedy heals from surgery to repair two torn knee ligaments. Given the job until the All-Star break, Figgins won't be able to skitter around the diamond.
LF Garret Anderson: His comeback from arthritis put one in the win column for modern medicine. Granted, the Vioxx he used will have to be replaced, but worry more about the patellar tendonitis and rampant muscle strains that held him down at the end of the season.
CF Steve Finley: The dude does not look his age. Putting him between two guys who can play a credible center field probably helps him.
RF Vladimir Guerrero: The back injury may have been the best thing to happen to him. Now focused on a core strength program, Guerrero might be stronger than he's ever been.
DH Robb Quinlan: Quinlan figures to get a lot of playing time at third base as well, though we're not sure why. He has chronic oblique problems that led to an early end to his 2004. With Juan Rivera and Jeff DaVanon also looking for DH time, an injury could push Quinlan out of the picture in a hurry.
Casey Kotchman is also in the mix here, though indications are that the Angels are as concerned about his injury history as I am. A late-season recurrence of the wrist injury brought up the specter of his lost 2002 campaign, during which both wrists were injured. There have been a number of first basemen with wrist injuries and most came back. Unfortunately, none of them had recurrences. If healthy, Kotchman certainly could be a factor. He'll rate highly on a lot of prospect lists, ours included. He'll be nearly the inverse here, a red light with some upside.
SP Bartolo Colon: Somewhere, there's a guy at a Golden Corral, working on his third plate, thinking that he's figured out the trick to consistency in the majors. Just because Colon and David Wells can do it doesn't mean anyone else can.
SP Jarrod Washburn: Washburn's had his share of odd injuries, like a broken scapula or last season's costochondritis. (Go ahead, look it up.) A pitcher that sends me to my medical texts as often as Washburn does isn't someone you want on your roster.
SP John Lackey: Two hundred innings in each of the last three years is a pretty big workload by age 25. It appeared to be catching up with him in the second half. Lackey could well come back to league average if he can stay healthy, but that's not much of an ambition.
SP Paul Byrd
CL Francisco Rodriguez: Those mechanics make my elbow hurt. This is why I think Scott Kazmir would be better served as a closer eventually. Of course, those mechanics also make Rodriguez's stuff deal-with-the-devil unhittable. You don't fix guys like this; you just hold your breath.
It wasn't long ago that there was no such thing as a closer. I guess there was, but we didn't think of it as a valid slot on the roster. Yet here in the THRs, we set it off on its own, knowing just how important it is to many fantasy players. I'd love to ignore closers as much as I do other relievers--they define replaceable--but the vagaries of a lunch at La Rotisserie preclude that.
I think it won't be long before we see "utility" as a valid slot. More teams are realizing the value that a super-sub can have, shifting around the diamond to give players rest while not having too much of a valuation dropoff. Some do it more with the glove, some more with the bat, but they all serve to make a team more flexible.
None did more to foster flexibility than Figgins did last year. He singlehandedly made it nearly impossible to analyze the effect of injuries on the Angels, a team that had far more than its share. No matter where someone went down, Figgins jumped in. It really wouldn't surprise me to find that Figgins helped rehab Troy Glaus last season, he was so valuable to the medical staff.
As with Tony Phillips before him, some will try to find one home for Figgins. Here's hoping that Bill Stoneman and Mike Scioscia see the same value in Figgins that we do. The game would be better with more guys like this.
The Angels figure that luck is on their side as well. No team was forced to juggle the lineup more and no team had worse luck. Certainly, the medical staff couldn't be blamed for flukes like Anderson's arthritis, Glaus' shoulder or Brendan Donnelly's troubles coming back from a broken nose suffered while shagging flies in spring training.
By the way, a nod to Dave Pease and Jay Jaffe for their work in the new design of the THRs. We got a fair amount of mail from color-blind readers last year, so hopefully this new layout will help them, and everyone else, enjoy the THRs more.