Los Angeles Angels Team Health Report: 2013 Injury Risk for Every Starter

Will Carroll@injuryexpertSports Injuries Lead WriterMarch 4, 2013

Los Angeles Angels Team Health Report: 2013 Injury Risk for Every Starter

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    Will Carroll has produced an annual Team Health Report for each MLB team for 12 years. The report gives risk ratings for every player in the expected starting lineup and starting rotation, plus two relievers. A proprietary formula sets a baseline according to a player's age and position. It is adjusted by 12 factors, including injury history, team history and expected workload.

    This risk rating is classified into three tiers—red (high risk), yellow (medium risk) and green (lower risk). It should be used as a guideline and is about probability, not prediction. To learn more about how the Team Health Reports are devised, click on this article


    2012 Rank: 11th best of 30 teams in DL days and dollars lost

    Biggest Injury: Chris Iannetta, $3.1 million lost value

    Head Athletic Trainer: Adam Nevala

    A $330 million spending spree on veterans Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson failed to result in much success, as the Angels missed the playoffs for the third consecutive season in 2012. Owner Arte Moreno didn’t shy away from the trade market, either, making a midseason deal for pitcher Zack Greinke.

    However, it was an in-house product that made the biggest splash in Los Angeles. Outfielder Mike Trout unanimously won the 2012 AL Rookie of the Year while finishing second in the MVP race. The Angels remained aggressive in the offseason, adding another former MVP in Josh Hamilton and trading for oft-injured starter Tommy Hanson.  

    It's clear that the Angels were working to shed some risk at the back of their rotation. However, GM Jerry DiPoto then turned around and filled those slots with pitchers that might not be quite as risky, but also aren't quite as good. Had they been able to keep Zack Greinke, things might look a bit different. 

    With the amount of money Moreno is investing in this squad, the pressure to perform will be extremely high. Head athletic trainer Adam Nevala will be tasked with keeping the veterans healthy, particularly Pujols and Hamilton, while insuring the up-and-coming stars remain committed to staying in shape and receiving treatment. Concerns about the long-term health of their starters could also be an issue, as Hanson is the only projected starter under the age of 30.

    The danger now is whether or not the decline phases of Pujols, Hamilton and Jered Weaver can be sloped to match with the quick march to superstardom by Trout. That means Adam Nevala and his medical staff are on the hot seat as much as Mike Scioscia.

    This report was written with the assistance of Jeff Stotts, ATC. You can read more of Jeff's work at Rotowire.com. 

    Click ahead for the Angels. Here are links to all the teams' reports. 


    Will Carroll is the Lead Writer for Sports Medicine at Bleacher Report. He has written about sports injuries and related topics for 12 years. His column is called "the industry standard" by Hall of Famer Peter Gammons. 

C Chris Iannetta (RED)

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    Playing catcher is a physically grueling position. It can be mentally challenging as well, especially when your manager is a former big league catcher.

    Chris Iannetta seemed up to the challenge, but he suffered a fractured right wrist during Jered Weaver’s no-hitter. Surgery was needed to help stabilize the area, costing him over two months of time.

    Former first-round pick Hank Conger remains lurking in the background, but his inability to remain healthy has cost him as well.

1B Albert Pujols (RED)

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    The transition from St. Louis to Los Angeles did not go as smoothly as planned as three-time NL MVP Albert Pujols, who got off to a slow start in 2012. Injuries appeared to be a contributing factor, starting in July with his troublesome right elbow. A right calf strain then slowed him down the stretch, relegating him to the designated hitter role.

    What's more, Pujols underwent a minor arthroscopic procedure on his right knee during the offseason and has yet to start running. He’s a unique talent, but he’s at long last starting to show signs of being more than just a machine.

    Pujols has played his entire career with one problem or another, so it's intriguing to think what he might have done if he'd ever been healthy. 

    Pujols is just slightly into the red tier here, so the risk isn't significantly above levels previously in his career. You already know what to expect from him, but the risk here is that the upside is significantly smaller than it was just a couple years ago.

    He may not be able to carry a team anymore, but with this team's talent, he shouldn't have to do so.

2B Howie Kendrick (GREEN)

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    Howie Kendrick remains a consistent presence. The upside many expected isn't there, but compared to so many of the highly touted Angels prospects of just a few years ago, Kendrick is one of the few that became a major league regular. He's a lock for 140 games a year of solid production, but the upside is limited.

    Kendrick had minor elbow surgery after the end of the season, but he's fine for the opening of spring training. There should be no further issues with that in the short term, and Kendrick is otherwise healthy. 

SS Erick Aybar (GREEN)

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    Erick Aybar’s overall good health is one reason the Angels were willing to part with prospect Jean Segura in the Zack Greinke deal. Aybar has averaged 140 games a season over the past four years, despite suffering a fractured big toe last season. He missed the minimal amount of time with that ailment before a right quadriceps injury ended his season three games prematurely.

    Lower leg injuries for shortstops can be limiting, but any time a shortstop ends up rated green, it’s a strong indicator he is reliable. Aybar is not the flashiest name around, but he’s consistent and is set for success slotted between Mike Trout and two former MVPs in Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

3B Alberto Callaspo (GREEN)

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    Alberto Callaspo has put up four straight seasons of consistent if mediocre performance. He's cheap and predictable, so the Angels can certainly tolerate what they get from him given all their other talent. His status is actually solidified with Maicer Izturis moving on and Kaleb Cowart is at least a year away. The Mark Trumbo experiment is dead as well—something everyone is thankful for. 

    There's no real health concerns about Callaspo on any level, with that part of his game as unremarkable as everything else. There's something to be said for being average, but what is to be said is boring.

LF Mike Trout (YELLOW)

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    Mike Trout had arguably the best rookie season since Ichiro won MVP and Rookie of the Year in 2001. He’s an all-around talent and, at 21 years old, has the chance to get even better.

    Still, his all-out style of play can lend itself to injury, just as it did when the outfielder bruised his left knee after colliding with the wall in center field. Trout does not play the game easy, which has some worried that he'll be like his new teammate, Josh Hamilton—amazingly talented, but playing his way into injuries.

    Trout also reported to camp several pounds heavier which could affect his speed from the leadoff position, trading off some stamina for speed. However his upside is worth the slightly elevated injury risk, and it will be fun to watch what he does during a full season at the big league level. 

CF Peter Bourjos (GREEN)

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    Peter Bourjos appeared to be the odd man out at the conclusion of 2012 season after a poor year at the plate and the emergence of Mike Trout. The addition of Josh Hamilton only complicated things, but the club appears committed to the speedster after letting Torii Hunter walk and trading Kendrys Morales.

    He’s been healthy for the majority of his career, briefly missing time last season with a minor wrist injury that limited him in September.

    Bourjos is a pure speed player with all the upside and downside that entails. There is some worry that he's not one of Mike Scioscia's favorites, with the continued presence of Vernon Wells (and his contract) perhaps pushing Mike Trout over to CF on occasion. 

RF Josh Hamilton (RED)

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    Plenty has been written about Josh Hamilton’s personal struggles with drugs and alcohol, but injury concerns were the main reasons Texas elected to let the 2010 MVP walk in free agency. In the past two seasons alone, Hamilton has endured a broken shoulder, undergone surgery to repair an abdominal tear and dealt with an unusual case of ocular keratitis, reportedly linked to his caffeine use.

    As he always says, with him, it's usually going to be weird.

    He also struggled to kick his chewing tobacco habit and believed it was the reason for a midseason slump.

    The Angels committed $125 million to Hamilton despite these numerous red flags, but it’s hard to imagine Hamilton making it through the season unscathed. When he puts it all together, there's no more talented player in the game. But the injury concerns on top of all the other questions make him one of the riskiest as well. 

DH Mike Trumbo (GREEN)

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    The emergence of Mike Trout cast a shadow on Mark Trumbo’s first two productive seasons with the Angels. He’s averaged 30 home runs since joining the team as an everyday player and improved his batting average and OPS last season. He also rebounded nicely from a stress fracture in his right foot that ended his 2011 season, and a shift to a full-time designated hitter role should help keep his legs fresh.

    Trumbo is more athletic than most think. He wasn't horrible at third base, though that experiment is over. Few remember that he was drafted as a pitcher, which is something I'd actually like to see in a blowout.

    With Kendrys Morales traded to the Mariners, Trumbo has a safe and secure spot in what will look to be a productive lineup.

SP Jered Weaver (YELLOW)

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    Jered Weaver had a successful 2012 campaign, pitching the first no-hitter of his career while collecting 20 wins for the first time. He also finished the season third in the Cy Young voting.

    However, it wasn’t exactly smooth sailing for the right-hander, as he spent time on the disabled list for the first time in five seasons due to a lower back injury. He also experienced another worrisome injury for any pitcher, missing time with some shoulder soreness in September that was ultimately diagnosed as biceps tendinitis

    His strikeout totals dipped for the second straight season, as did his velocity, suggesting he may be showing the first signs of wearing down. He’s finished in the top 10 in innings pitched in three of the last four seasons and, while he remains the ace of the staff, could be in line for a bit of regression.

SP C.J. Wilson (YELLOW)

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    C.J. Wilson signed a $75 million deal with the Angels only to finish with the worst ERA of his time as a starter. He’s 32 years old, but doesn’t have quite the mileage as some since he started his career in the Texas bullpen.

    Still, he’s pitched over 200 innings in three consecutive seasons, and that’s not including his two deep postseason runs with the Rangers.

    His elbow is the primary cause for concern, dating back to Tommy John in 2003. He needed an elbow debridement in 2008 to remove bone spurs and underwent the same procedure again this offseason. He bounced back well following the first debridement, but it would be wise to be cautious the second time around.

    Wilson's offseason had a lot more to do with racing and his new Mazda dealership than it did with baseball, but that's part of Wilson's package. He's not like other pitchers, for better or worse.

SP Tommy Hanson (RED)

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    While Dan Haren and Ervin Santana had become major injury risks, it’s interesting the Angels elected to replace them with a guy with even more associated risk. The red flags are everywhere with Tommy Hanson, even at the tender age of 26.

    Hanson's innings skyrocketed as he moved through the minor league system, leaving his shoulder and elbow vulnerable to injury. He subsequently suffered a torn rotator cuff during the 2011 season and was forced to alter his mechanics in an attempt to reduce the strain on the joint.

    The results were not what he had hoped, as his fastball velocity dipped while his ERA and WHIP increased. He did manage to finish the season strong, but athletic trainer Adam Nevala may have his hands full here.

    Watch to see if Hanson's velocity is back up by the end of spring training and if he can hold it there through the first month of the season.

SP Jason Vargas (GREEN)

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    The acquisition of Tommy Hanson may have grabbed the headlines in Los Angeles, but the addition of Jason Vargas may prove to be equally as important. Vargas has a tendency to give up home runs and doesn’t strike out as many guys as Hanson, but his peripheral numbers are strikingly similar to his new teammate.

    Furthermore, he doesn’t have the injury risk that comes attached to Hanson, as he's avoided the DL for five consecutive seasons. He’s also shown no long-term effects from his 2007 surgery to repair the labrum in his left hip.

    Leaving the expansive Safeco Field may be a bigger concern considering he surrendered the second-most home runs last year. 

SP Joe Blanton (GREEN)

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    Joe Blanton's signing surprised many, since he's essentially a LAIM (League Average Innings Muncher) at this stage, but there is value in that, if not the two-year, $15 million that Blanton got. It wasn't so much that he was a Plan B when the Angels lost out on Zack Greinke  to the team up the 405 as he was a constant, stable presence.

    Blanton could be challenged by Garrett Richards, though Richards has yet to show anything approaching the dominance ascribed to him in the minors.

    Blanton is the kind of fifth starter that a good team can use—he'll take the ball, save the bullpen and give the team the occasional good day—but that a great team will replace. 

RP Ernesto Frieri (GREEN)

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    The early-season trade that put Ernesto Frieri in an Angels uniform was one of the best swaps of the 2012 season. Frieri did not surrender a run in his first 26.1 innings and added 23 saves, replacing Jordan Walden as the closer.

    He spent the offseason working on his cutter and is currently in line for some early-season saves as the team cautiously brings newly acquired Ryan Madson back from Tommy John.

CL Ryan Madson (RED)

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    Ryan Madson never pitched for the Reds after undergoing Tommy John surgery on his throwing elbow just three months after signing with the club. Not surprisingly, Cincinnati moved on in the offseason, allowing the Angels to step in with a one-year deal of their own.

    The Angels have already said he will start the season on the disabled list and will not put a timeline on his recovery. The normal 12-month recovery should be in line here.  

    Madson has no significant injury history beyond this surgery, and it was definitely a traumatic case.

    While the caution is understandable, there's no reason to think that Madson won't be ready to close by midseason or earlier. Really, the worst-case comp here is Joe Nathan.