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2013 Record: 78-84, Third Place in AL West
Projected 2014 Record: 84-78, Third Place in AL West
Getting the personal bias out of the way first, part of me is rooting for the Angels to get in the playoffs just so Mike Trout can get the MVP award he so richly deserves.
MVP for Trout or not, the Angels are still flying too far under the radar in the American League West. They are volatile, for sure, but their offseason upgrades make them a lot more interesting than where they finished 2013.
Of course, the biggest questions for the Angels revolve around Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton. Pujols' body finally broke down last year, limiting him to 99 games, but he's healthy and was actually hitting in spring training (.321/.377/.528).
Hamilton is no longer an MVP candidate but did hit .287/.341/.460 in the second half of 2013. If the Angels get that kind of production from Hamilton, and keep Pujols healthy, suddenly the offense goes from good to great.
And keep in mind that with Pujols missing 63 games and Hamilton being lost for three months, the Angels still finished seventh overall in runs scored.
Starting pitching has been Los Angeles' Achilles' heel. Jered Weaver's innings have decreased from a career-high 235.2 in 2011 to 188.2 in 2012 to 154.1 last year. C.J. Wilson has been solid as the No. 2 guy for Mike Scioscia's rotation throwing 414.2 innings the last two years.
Skaggs is the most intriguing name in the group. The left-hander was drafted by the Angels in 2009 before being traded to Arizona in the Dan Haren trade, but Skaggs is back with his original club and looks more like the player who ranked ninth on MLB.com's Top 100 Prospects list in 2012.
ESPN's Keith Law (Insider subscription required) included Skaggs in a list of breakout candidates this season, saying the lefty "has been hitting 95 mph again this month with his old curveball back."
If Skaggs continues to develop his fastball command and work in a changeup, he could end up as the No. 2 pitcher on the roster at the end of 2014.
It should also be mentioned that this division is impossible to forecast at the beginning of 2014 because Texas has placed Yu Darvish, Jurickson Profar, Geovany Soto, Derek Holland on the disabled list to start the year.
Oakland is going to be without Jarrod Parker all year after undergoing Tommy John surgery, and A.J. Griffin is starting the year on the disabled list with a muscle strain.
Those are the two best teams in the division with significant injury concerns, so the door is wide open for anyone except Houston to make a real playoff run. Even Seattle, which is far from a perfect team, has a chance with an improved lineup, thanks to the addition of Robinson Cano.
Like the Athletics, though, the Mariners are starting the season without two key parts of the rotation after Hisashi Iwakuma and Taijuan Walker were placed on the 15-day DL.