With the 2010 baseball season fast approaching, it's time to take an in depth look at the Angels to see what 2010 has in store for the Halos.
This is also the debut of my dad as a guest on this forecast.
So without further ado, let's begin!
Jered Weaver: Toiling just under the shadow of John Lackey (and greatness), I think this is Weaver’s year to break out. When he’s on, he’s pretty much unhittable. Now he’s going to be the Big Man on Campus (BMOC) and should be setting the pace as the ace of this pitching staff.
Dad: Many lament about losing Big John in such a traitorous way to the Red Sox, but I think Jered will be a 20 game winner and we’ll be asking “John who?” come October.
My take: Jered will emerge as the staff ace, but I think 20 wins is a little bit of a stretch, but anything's possible. He'll be very close to 20 wins with the final total of 18.
What’s different now? Last year he learned a new pitch, a 2 seamer, and became one of the better ground ball inducers in the league.
Dad: No reason to think he’ll regress to his Mariner days when he averaged around a 5 ERA. 16 game winner for 2010.
My take: Pineiro will definitely get his share of ground balls and 16 wins seems to be about right.
Scott Kazmir: The 36 year-old showed his age last year with a 4.89 ERA compared to an average around 3.50 the 5 years prior.
Dad: Kazmir did do better in the second half, as did the team in general after the tragedies and injuries that plagued the beginning of the season. A good pitcher, but not great. 12 wins in 2010.
My take: After Kazmir was acquired last year, he pitched pretty well down the stretch, but did not get enough run support. In the postseason, he wasn't as good. Kazmir will win 13 to 14 games in 2010.
Ervin Santana: When he’s hot, he’s hot. When he’s not, he’s really not. After a whiny and depressing 2007, Santana was lights out in 2008 when he won 16 games, as opposed to 7 the year before. Last year, injuries plagued the flighty Dominican, and he again lost his form dropping to 8 wins with a 5.03 ERA.
Dad: Ervin seems to be in the same place he was at the beginning of 2008, hungry and determined. 12 wins but an injury in the summer will slow his pace and Matt Palmer will take his place in the rotation (how’s that for a specific prediction?).
My take: Santana has had great success in even-numbered years. Last time I checked, this is 2010. If that is any indication, Ervin is due for a successful campaign. He'll end up with 15 wins.
Joe Saunders: Hokie Joe is a workingman's pitcher. Tough and determined, he muscled his way onto the All Star team in 2008.
Dad: His form dropped a little last year but he only lost one more game than the year before; 16 compared to 17. Look for Joe to win 18 this year.
My take: Saunders will look to rebound from an off year in 2009 where he was pitching with an injury. He'll end up with 17 to 18 wins.
Brian Fuentes: This guy is scary and not nearly as good as his league leading 48 saves would suggest. Fuentes does not throw any heat and tries to finesse his way around batters.
It worked for awhile, mainly because the American League batters hadn’t seen this former NL closer. Once they had been up against him a few times, they figured him out and the blown saves started to multiply…Fuentes had 7 blown saves, most coming in the second half.
Halo fans are not real fond of that style. The Angels have been home to some of baseball’s best closers: Percival, Frankie, and more, all who throw with unbelievable heat.
Dad: Now that he’s been in the league for a year, look for his saves to drop rather dramatically to around 30. Manager Mike Scioscia is loyal to his players, so Fuentes will get plenty of rope, but look for Rodney to be promoted to closer sometime after the All Star break and Fuentes to be back on the free agent market next fall.
My take: I don't have anything to add.
Fernando Rodney: The man’s fastball averages over 95 mph. Compare that to Fuentes' upper 80s fastball, which he doesn’t even throw that often.
That first pitch in the 9th inning is the key to throwing that batter off balance. Remember, he’s been looking at another pitcher for 8 innings. That’s why I think you’re looking at the Angels' next closer. In the meantime, he’ll be used as a setup man for Fuentes.
Not as many saves as Fuentes, you say? He did save 37 games for a team that won 86 games, 23 times on consecutive days, with only 1 blown save.
Dad: Given the way that Scioscia meagerly uses his relievers (Rodney pitched over 75 innings compared to Fuentes 55), Rodney will do well when he steps into the role. In the meantime, look for a less than 3.00 ERA with 10 saves by October.
My take: I like that Rodney saved 37 games in 38 opportunities. That should bode well for the Halos.
Scott Shields: A real big question mark. The iron man setup guy, Shields proved human last year when an injury he tried to hide limited him to 6.62 ERA (it had never been above 3.86 before) and 1 win.
Dad: He says he’s healthy now, we’ll see. It’s hard to predict, but I’ll say he’ll end up with 5 wins and a 4.02 ERA.
My take: He'll end up on the DL at some point and one of the other relievers will have to step up. Can Kevin Jepsen report to the mound?
Jason Bulger: One of the two super minor league players who stepped up their game when it counted the most. Bulger had a career high 6 wins last year while cutting his ERA in half to 3.56.
Dad: Look for him to continue his role as a middle reliever and sometime setup man with a 3.75 ERA and 4 wins.
My take: Ditto.
Kevin Jepsen: The talented rookie who along with Bulger, helped pull the Angels up to the division championship. 6 wins, 1 save, and a 4.94 ERA.
Dad: Firmly a middle reliever this year and maybe mop up. Look for an improved ERA of 3.59, 4 wins, and maybe a save.
My take: Ditto, although I think he'll end up with more than one save.
Matt Palmer: I predict Palmer will end up in the minors to be saved for a rainy day as Santana goes down on the DL. Palmer’s a good utility man for the Halos. More of a starter, really, he would seem to be the guy to go to for soaking up innings after a starter’s particularly bad day and also to be put in for an injured starter.
Dad: Look for Palmer to come in for long relief and a left-handed situation in late innings to preserve a lead. 3 wins (mainly to replace an injured starter) and many no decisions.
My take: Palmer could end up getting a lot of work depending on how deep the starting staff goes into games. He is another good pitcher who the Angels have as part of their exceptional organization depth. Last year, he ended up with 11 mop up wins last year for a pen that was really shaky.
1B – Kendry Morales: I’ve been watching this guy since his debut in single A after his defection from Cuba. I’ve not seen too many players, especially Angels, with the raw power to the bat that Kendry has .
Taking over the first base duties after the departure of rent-a-player Mark Texiera, Morales had a breakout year in his first tenure as the full time first baseman. At around 1/20th of Texiera’s salary, Morales hit 34 home runs, 108 RBIs, and 43 doubles with a batting average of .306 (Tex had 39 HR, 122 RBIs, 43 doubles, and a .292 average).
Dad: Look for a slight let off with 31 HR's but still a dominant player on the team.
My take: I like the idea of 31 HR's but there's going to be a dip in production.
2B – Howie Kendrick: Howie had a major crisis of confidence last year which led to Scioscia’s dream boy being sent to minor league Salt Lake City to sort it out.
Once he came back, look out. Howie caught fire, ending the season with a .291 average, 10 home runs, 61 RBIs, and 21 doubles.
Dad: He’s a career .300 batter so look for him to do much better in 2010 with a .305 average and 15 home runs.
My take: Barring injury, Kendrick will have an average .300 or better with 16 home runs.
SS - Erick Aybar: Meet our new leadoff hitter. At least, that’s what I’m predicting. After the departure of the speedy Chone Figgins, Mike Scioscia needed some speed to replace him. Once a free swinger, Aybar started to learn patience at the plate last year which will put the speedy shortstop at the top of the order.
Dad: In 2010, look for 40 walks, 30 stolen bases, and for him to stay north of a .300 average.
My take: 40 walks for Aybar is pretty bold. Other than that, I agree.
3B – Brandon Wood: This year’s wild card, who knows how Wood will adjust to playing full time in the majors? Long the Angels leading prospect, Brandon kills the ball in the minors but has struggled every time he gets up to the show. Now out of options, it’s put up or shut up time for Brandon.
Dad: This is the hardest prediction to make but with Morales showing what can be done by a rookie and Abreu standing by for casual coaching, let’s look for Wood to get at least a .250 average with 15 home runs.
My take: Ditto.
Maicer Izturis: If Wood chokes on his new role, Izturis stands ready to step in. Maicer will probably take on the old Figgins super utility role providing relief at 2B, SS, and third. Batting .300 last year with 68 RBIs, Izturis is that consistent role player you can count on to move the game along in a positive way. I don’t see any reason he won’t continue.
Dad: For 2010, a .296 average with 8 home runs, 15 stolen bases, 20 doubles and 68 RBIs.
My take: Ditto, except he'll have an average over .300.
C – Jeff Mathis: Rotating catching duties with his roommate, Mike Napoli, Mathis has always been just almost there but never quite. It’s a hard role to follow the great Puerto Rican family catching of Benjie and Jose Molina, but Mathis and Napoli are slowly growing into their roles.
Mathis seems to be evolving into the better defensive catcher nailing 26% of the runners trying to steal against him and being a superior pitch caller. His offensive stats are a bit anemic with a .211 batting average, 5 home runs, and 28 RBIs but Jeff showed flashes of brilliance during the playoffs last year hitting .583 with 5 doubles in 12 plate appearances.
Dad: Don’t expect Mathis to hit like that during the season. More like .225 BA, 5 HR, and 25 RBIs. Do expect him to start more games than Napoli as Scioscia values a good defensive catcher over a good offensive one.
My take: For Mathis, I see a .260 average with 5 HR's and 43 RBI's.
Mike Napoli: If it were up to Mike, he wouldn’t even be playing catcher. He’d much rather be the designated hitter and never take the field. For awhile, it looked like he would be the Angels primary catcher but his enthusiasm behind the plate waned a bit but his batting is blistering when he’s on.
He’s hit 20 home runs in both the last two years, with a .272 average and 56 RBIs for 2009. Behind the plate, he puts out 22% of the runners trying to steal and committed 8 errors…not bad but Mathis has to be given the edge.
In contrast, in 2003, the last year you could say he caught for the Angels full time, Benjie Molina put out 44% of the thieves, gave up only 4 errors while hitting .276 with 10 home runs, 24 doubles (being the league’s slowest runner, a Benjie Molina double was a triple for someone else: the man had power in his bat), and 71 RBIs. Benjie was also a great situational hitter.
Dad: For Napoli in 2010, expect his numbers other than batting average to be down due to lack of playing time. Look for a .275 average with 14 home runs, 20 doubles, and 50 RBIs.
My take: Napoli will see less playing time since Matsui will occupy his favorite spot at DH. Look for a .275 average with 18 homers and 60 RBI's.
RF – Bobby Abreu: The grizzled veteran showing the undisciplined how to play the game. The Angels got Bobby for a steal last year when he was cast off of the Yankees.
Instead of brooding at the low paycheck, Abreu chose to show he still had a lot of gas left in him. A zen master of plate patience, Bobby brought a calming presence to the free-swinging Angels.
The biggest free swinger, Vlad Guerrero, was no competition and saw his role diminished to that of designated hitter. Vladdy, one of the best players ever to put on an Angels uniform, is now trying to regain some of his form in Arlington, Texas.
Like a great blind date, the ex-Yankee veteran and the Angels hit it off immediately. Bobby was very happy here, played well (.293 BA, 15 HR, 103 RBI, 30 stolen bases), became a fan favorite (probably 2nd only to Torii Hunter), and signed a new two-year contract the first day it was offered.
Dad: For 2010, I’m looking for a .300 average, 16 HR, 110 RBI, and another 30 stolen bases.
My take: Ditto.
CF – Torii Hunter: The spark plug and heart of the team. Coming over from Twins in 2008, Torii had an instant impact, hitting 21 home runs, 78 RBIs, and 37 doubles to go along with his 19 stolen bases.
In 2009 it was 22 HR, 90 RBIs, 26 doubles, and 18 SBs with a .299 batting average. This all went along with some of the most acrobatic defensive play in the league, robbing many a batter’s home run. Torii also took on the role of team spokesman, a happy, smiling face that reporter’s love to quote.
He was also a rock for his team, and team mates, last year when rookie pitcher Nick Adenhart was killed by a drunk driver. I like to think of Hunter as a fine replacement for my all-time Angel favorite, Darin Erstad who had all the qualities but was a much more reserved personality publicly and wasn’t as good of an offensive player as Hunter.
Dad: For 2010 I think a healthy Torii Hunter with provide 28 HR's, 105 RBIs, 35 doubles, and 25 stolen bases with a .304 batting average.
My take: Those will be pretty good numbers if Hunter is healthy and he will have his share of amazing acrobatic catches.
LF – Juan Rivera: Always underrated and a dangerous batter lurking under there somewhere. Juan had a great career going with the Yankees before being picked up by Montreal. The Angels got him for the biggest malcontent ever to sit on the bench, Jose Guillen, along with Maicer Izturis from the Expos/Nationals (what a deal that turned out to be).
He hit 23 home runs in 2006 and looked to be on his way to being a start before he broke his leg in an off-season game in his home in Venezuela. It took some time to regain his position, having to wait behind Garrett Anderson and Gary Matthews, Jr. (who showed how to be unhappy with his position with class…watch and learn Mr. Guillen). In 2009, back in left field full time, Juan hit 25 home runs, 24 doubles, 88 RBIs, with a .287 average.
Dad: At 32, look for a couple of more good years from Rivera. For 2010, 27 HR, 92 RBIs, and a .293 average.
My take: Ditto.
DH – Hideki Matsui: Batten down the hatches, Anaheim…Godzilla’s on his way.
One of the games premiere power hitters, the big guy from Kanazawa, Japan, will be the Halos' full time designated hitter. The Angels have struggled a bit at this position, using it as a rehab assignment for injured outfielders or a position to give those in the field a semi-day off.
Now, in Matsui, they have someone who doesn’t mind playing this position (other than Napoli) and someone with massive power. Other than his injury plagued seasons of 2006 (broken wrist) and 2008 (knee surgery) and his debut season of 2003, Matsui has never hit less than 23 home runs in a season with a high of 31 in 2004.
In last year’s World Series MVP performance, Matsui earned himself a ring with 3 home runs, 8 RBIs, and a monstrous .615 batting average in 14 plate appearances.
Dad: He will probably stay out of the field except to spell injured or tired players, look for Hideki to make the DH role his own with 28 HR, 100 RBIs, and a .290 average.
My take: Ditto.
Dad: Angels come in second behind the Mariners in the AL West and clinch the wild card to get into the playoffs. They will beat the Minnesota Twins in the Division Series but lose to the New York Yankees in the League Championship Series.
Tim: Like my dad said, the Angels will come in second in the AL West, but not to the Mariners. Don't get me wrong, the M's have made some pretty big upgrades in the off season, but I don't think their offense has enough firepower.
Nope, they will finish behind the Texas Rangers who will win 92 games to the Angels 89. Not only will they fall short of winning the division for the fourth year in a row, but they will also miss out on the wild card spot. That's right, my team won't make it to the post season this year. It will be close all season with Mike Scioscia at the helm once again, but the Halos will fall short.