Mar 11, 2014; Tempe, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels first baseman Albert Pujols (5) hits an RBI double against the Seattle Mariners at Tempe Diablo Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports

AL West Preview: L.A. Angels


As Texas Rangers fans we all thought that the Angels were really going to be something special the last two seasons, and both seasons we have been pleasantly surprised. I say that because they were supposed to be the Texas Rangers biggest rival. That honor went to the back to back division champion Athletics. The Angels have most assuredly fell short of their potential the last two seasons, and part of that was due to a weak rotation after Jared Weaver and C.J. Wilson. So what will the 2014 Angels look like? I asked interim editor David Hill of Halo’s Hangout a series of questions on the subject to find out.

1. Behind Jared Weaver and C.J. Wilson, who do the Angels have in the rotation that is an upgrade from last season?

“The easy answer would be to say that Joe Blanton not being in the rotation is an upgrade in and of itself. However, if we are ignoring the addition by subtraction part, then the best chance for an upgrade would be Hector Santiago. Santiago has the most starting experience of the pitchers in the back end of the rotation with 27 career starts, and as the last screwball practitioner in the majors, provides a different look to the opposition.”

2. Former Texas Rangers slugger Josh Hamilton had a very bad season by his standards in 2013. What will it take for him to regain his former self?

“Hamilton was actually healthy last year, playing in over 150 games for the first time since 2008. It seemed as though he was pressing last year, putting pressure on himself to live up to the massive contract that the Angels gave him. Having a healthy Albert Pujols in front of him, and what should be decent protection, may make a difference as Hamilton might not feel that he has to be the guy. As long as he stays healthy, then Hamilton just needs to relax and be himself.”

3. How healthy is Albert Pujols and is he healthy enough to frighten Texas Rangers fans in 2014?

“Pujols claims he is healthy for the first time since 2004, as he has been battling plantar faschiitis since then. After injuring his foot last year and missing the final two months of the season, he finally had his foot taken care of. While Pujols is getting older and may be about to begin his decline, being healthy could get Pujols back to a level close to his time in St. Louis for another year or so. If that is the case, then the Angels top of the lineup could be quite formidable.”

4. Mike Trout is a beast, we all know that. How much better could he be in 2014 (hopefully not too much better!)?
“Trout is already at the point where his similarity score through baseball-reference.com is littered with all time greats through age 21. If he can even maintain that level through most of his career, he is not just a Hall of Fame player, but one of the elite of the elite. At only 22 heading into this year, he may even have room to improve, particularly in the power department. It would not be a surprise if he wound up in the mid 30′s in home runs while still stealing around 40 bases. He is just an astonishing player to watch.”

5. How is the Angles bull pen shaping up compared to last season, when it was very bad?

“The Angels biggest offseason acquisition was Joe Smith as Jerry Dipoto recognized that the bullpen needed to be upgraded. Yet, even with that signing, there is still cause for concern. Dane De La Rosa injured his forearm, and while he is expected to be back by Opening Day, his breakout season last year came at age 30. Can he replicate that performance? Sean Burnett is another pitcher coming back from injury, and may not be back until the middle of April at the earliest. As the back of the Angels rotation is largely unproven, they may need to rely heavily upon their bullpen, at least at the start of the season. Of all questions on the Angels roster right now, the bullpen may rank only behind the back of the rotation for the biggest one.”


6. What prospect are Texas Rangers fans going to see in 2014 that could make a difference for the Angels franchise?

“The Angels really don’t have a lot of prospects that are close, but Taylor Lindsey could get a look this season if the Angels fall out of contention early. A second baseman that is compared to Todd Walker (not a good sign for your top prospect to be compared to an average second baseman) he would likely receive a chance to prove himself at the major league level should Howie Kendrick get traded at some point.”

7. In your opinion, do the Angles have a legitimate shot of winning the American League West in 2014?

“The Angels have a chance to win the West, but either almost everything needs to go right for that to happen or they may need to win a lot of 7-5 ballgames. Another starting pitcher or improved health in the bullpen would have helped the cause, but for now, the Angels appear to be behind the Rangers and the A’s in the AL West pecking order. However, if everything does go right, the bullpen and lineup remain healthy and the back of the rotation preforms as hoped, they could hang around the Wild Card hunt.”

 

All in all the Angels are going to be much better in 2014 than they were the last two seasons, I really believe that. David is right, everything would have to go right for the Angels to win the West. Their pitching staff after Weaver and Wilson is not that great, but the Athletics and Texas Rangers seem to be having some serious rotation problems as well, so who knows. I think the Angels miss the post season, but have a good year overall.

 

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Tags: American League West Texas Rangers