Dave Cokin's Hardcore Baseball: 2011 L.A. Angels Preview

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Dave Cokin's Hardcore Baseball: 2011 L.A. Angels Preview
Harry How/Getty Images
Kendry Morales's walk-off crash landing had the same impact on the Angels 2010 season.

Hot stove conversation is terrific, but the start of spring training is even better.

I’ll definitely be following the hoops as closely as possible as we head toward the conference tournaments and beyond.

But the fact that big league camps are about to open means we can start counting down the days until the start of the 2011 baseball season.

Make no mistake, baseball has always been my favorite game, and I’m looking forward to another great summer on the diamond.

Before looking at the Angels, a word about my 2010 campaign. From a wagering standpoint, I had what can only be called a phenomenal season.

The bottom line on my independently documented selections was an incredible +51.64 units, and that’s based on a flat one-unit wager on each play.

Translated into actual dollars, a $100 bettor earned a net profit of $5164. A nickel bettor ended up in the black to the tune of $25,820.

My Early Bird Baseball package is available now and by signing up now, you earn two major perks. First, you get the rest of my basketball action. Secondly, you get a guarantee that’s pretty awesome.

Note that you’ll be dealing directly with me, and there are absolutely no gimmicks or added costs at any time. For info, send me an email at: cokin@cox.net.

Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images
Can Mike Scioscia guide the 2011 Angels back into playoff contention?

Okay, here we go with a preview of what’s in store in Anaheim. The Angels took quite a tumble last season, and I was convinced they’d be major players in the off season via trade and/or free agency. I was wrong on that count.

The Halos were the favorites to land Carl Crawford, but they apparently didn’t go after him with much conviction and lost the star OF to the Red Sox (which thrilled me, to put it mildly).

They also didn’t get Adrian Beltre, who would have solved their 3B problem. They evidently never went after Rafael Soriano, which would have alleviated what has to be a major concern in the bullpen.

In other words, they struck out in big time fashion. Making matters even worse, they made a bizarre trade with Toronto and obtained Vernon Wells.

Not that Wells is a stiff. He’s a decent OF and his bat could play pretty well in his new home park.

But Wells is also one of the most overpaid players in the game in terms of value, and the Blue Jays had to be thrilled at not having to assume any portion of the remainder of his huge contract.

Th strength of this Angels squad will be the starting pitching. The quartet of Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana and Joel Pineiro is outstanding, and if Scott Kazmir can relocate some of his past form, the Halos are going to be a major headache for opposing hitters.

Stephen Dunn/Getty Images
Mike Trout is the future for the Halos.

The one knock on the rotation is that Kazmir is the only lefty and he’s a shaky component at best these days. But overall, it’s an excellent rotation.

Unfortunately, the bullpen is just the opposite. I’m dumbfounded as to how this team can be relying on Fernando Rodney as their apparent closer heading into camp.

Scott Downs came over from the Blue Jays, and he’s a rock solid southpaw. I would not be shocked to see Downs take over as the closer at some point, though he’s better suited to a key setup role.

Kevin Jepsen could be another candidate for the ninth inning, but not unless he finds a way to lower that WHIP. Hisanori Takahashi is now an Angel and he’s not a bad fit as a long reliever.

I see Jordan Walden as the wild card in this mix. Walden is no longer a starting pitcher prospect and his triple digit heat along with a nasty slider indicates his future is as a closer.

I’m not at all confident in Rodney, so I’m going to predict that Walden gets an opportunity to earn saves at some point this season.

Kendry Morales was on his way to a huge season in 2010 before a walk-off homer celebration resulted in knee damage that ended his campaign.

The Angels desperately need Morales to pick things up where he left off last year. The rest of the infield is average at best.

Howie Kendrick is okay, but it doesn’t look like he’s going to be the hitter this organization thought he would become. Erick Aybar flopped as a leadoff hitter, and I expect him to be hitting much lower in the order this year.

Maicer Izturis looks like the likely starter at 3B, and I don’t think he’s an everyday guy, particularly since he always seems to be hurt.

Alberto Callaspo projects as the utility IF, and that’s a good role for him. Power hitting Mark Trumbo will play some 1B and he’ll also rack up some at-bats as a DH, maybe even more if Bobby Abreu is forced to play RF.

Wells and Torii Hunter are slated to play the corner OF spots, with speedy Peter Bourjos up the middle. Bourjos definitely has potential, but I’m not buying his being ready to play every day at this level just yet.

So don’t be surprised to see one of the vets in CF with Abreu putting on a glove every now and then, and maybe even more than that.

Jeff Mathis is an outstanding backstop, and he’ll get the bulk of the starts at catcher while prospect Hank Conger does a little more fine tuning before eventually taking over behind the plate.

The Angels don’t have nearly the farm system they had in recent years. But there is one potential superstar atop the organizational chart.

Mike Trout looks like an absolute can’t-miss, and his progress in 2010 was so spectacular I would not be shocked to see him get a shot with the big club late in the season.

Overall, I am not all that high on the Angels. But they’re in the AL West, and I can’t rule them out as contenders. More on that later after I preview the Rangers and A’s.

I’ll be covering three or four teams each week as spring ball gets underway. Comments or questions are always welcome!

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