Los Angeles Angels: 2011 MLB Season Preview

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Los Angeles Angels: 2011 MLB Season Preview
Christian Petersen/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES ANGELS 

Last Year: 80-82, 3rd in AL West  

Manager: Mike Scioscia 

 

PROJECTED LINEUP 

C- Jeff Mathis (R) 

1B- Kendry Morales (S) (Will start season on DL)

2B- Howie Kendrick (R)

3B- Maicer Izturis (S) or Alberto Callaspo (S)

SS- Erick Aybar (S)

LF- Vernon Wells (R)

CF- Peter Bourjos (R)

RF- Torii Hunter (R)

DH- Bobby Abreu (L)

 

The Angels really struggled in 2010 after Kendry Morales broke his leg. Morales is the stabilizing force in the Angels' lineup from both sides of the plate. While Morales doesn't have the greatest plate discipline, his power and average make up for it. Expect a line of .295/.345/.515 with 30 home runs.

The rest of the infield doesn't provide the same pop as Morales. Howie Kendrick averages about 10 HRs with a .295 batting average and a .330 OBP. He lives and dies on putting the ball in play, and luck will be the ultimate factor in what kind of season Kendick will have in 2011.

Erick Aybar struggled in 2010 after a great 2009, and I am expecting a season around .275/.325/.370 with 5-8 home runs and 20 stolen bases. Maicer Izturis will put up a similar line to Aybar with increased OBP and SLG, but without the stolen bases.

Callaspo has more power than Izturis and will get time playing at 2B if Kendrick struggles. Jeff Mathis is terrible at the plate and Hank Conger could get some at-bats if he makes the team. 

Bobby Abreu will be a DH for the first time in his career coming off a poor 2010 in terms of batting average. Abreu's 2010 was not as poor as some would make it out to be. His power, OBP, and stolen bases, were right around his usual numbers. His 2010 BABIP was his lowest ever, so it looks like 2010 was just a bad luck year.

Vernon Wells looked like he recovered from wrist surgery and had one of his better years. I expect the power to come down a little, but look for a similar line of .275/.330/.475 with 25 home runs.

Peter Bourjos struggled at the plate when he was called up later in the season, but he was the victim of a low BABIP and high strikeout rate. He needs to cut down on the strikeouts, but I think he will produce a line of .255/.300/.385 with more than 30 stolen bases.

Torii Hunter had the best year of any Angel offensive player in 2010 and he is one of the more consistent players in baseball. I expect the usual line of .280/.350/.470 with 20-25 home runs. 

The Angels were an average defensive team in 2010, but they really improved when Torii Hunter shifted from CF to RF and Peter Bourjos became the everyday center fielder. Bourjos has the speed and ability to become one of the best defensive center fielders in the game. According to UZR (ultimate zone rating), Torii Hunter displayed much more range in RF than in his CF including one of the better arms in baseball.

Vernon Wells will shift over to LF, and I think he will benefit from playing a corner position much like Hunter did last year. No matter what, Wells will be a great improvement over Bobby Abreu in the OF.

Behind the plate, Mike Scioscia considers Jeff Mathis one of the best. In the infield, Kendry Morales may be one of the better first basemen in the league. Howie Kendrick has always been considered very good at 2B, but 2010 was an off year in terms of UZR. The same could be said for SS Erick Aybar, but I figure that 2010 was also an off year for him. Both Alberto Callaspo and Maicer Izturis have great range at 3B. 

 

BENCH

OF- Reggie Willits (S)

IF- Maicer Izturis (S) or Alberto Callaspo (S)

1B/OF- Mark Trumbo (R)

1B/3B- Brandon Wood (R)

C- Bobby Wilson (R)

 

STARTING ROTATION

RHP- Jered Weaver

RHP- Dan Haren 

RHP- Ervin Santana 

RHP- Joel Pinero 

LHP- Scott Kazmir 

 

The starting rotation is the strongest part of this Angels squad.

Jered Weaver has become the ace of this staff because of his strong off-speed stuff and his ability to read hitter's swings. Weaver averages only 90 MPH on his fastball, but he compliments it with three above-average secondary pitches that he throws to right and left-handed hitters. Weaver will throw a slider to both sides, mix in a slow curve, and drop a nasty changeup to all hitters. 

Dan Haren benefited from the move to the AL from the hitter's friendly Chase Field in Arizona. Haren struggled a little more in Arizona because of the increased amount of fly balls he allowed, which seems like an aberration.

Haren throws a 90 MPH two-seamer plus a cutter, average curve-ball, and a splitter as his out-pitch. Haren is a great number two starter, he will log innings, have a good WHIP, and strike eight out per nine innings. 

Ervin Santana pitched well in 2010, but he has usually followed up a good year with a poor one in his career. Santana averages 92.5 MPH on his fastball, but he relies heavily on his devastating slider. He will mix in a changeup occasionally to a left-handed batter, but the slider is considered his out-pitch. Santana should have an average year with a 4.20 ERA unless he can show the velocity he had in 2008 (94.4 MPH). 

Joel Pineiro, who revitalized his career as a starter in 2009, makes for a very good No. 4 starter. He is an extreme ground-ball pitcher, who relies on his two-seamer (88 MPH,) good curve, average change, and "get me over" slider.

Pineiro didn't show the same control in 2010 (two BB/9) as he had in 2009 (1.16 BB/9). Nonetheless, Pineiro seems like a safe bet for a 4.00 ERA and five K/9.

Finally, the Angels will need to see a resurgence from Scott Kazmir if they are to contend this year. Kazmir just isn't the same pitcher. His K/9 and velocity has dropped every year since 2007.

Kazmir needs the velocity and strikeouts in order to succeed because his control and ground-ball rate just aren't good enough to be a successful pitcher in this league. Kazmir's season might have been a lot worse if it wasn't for his extremely lucky BABIP of .264. (Average BABIP is .290)

 

BULLPEN

RHP- Fernando Rodney (Closer)

RHP- Kevin Jepsen

LHP- Scott Downs (start season on DL)

RHP- Rich Thompson 

LHP- Hisanori Takahashi 

RHP- Jason Bulger 

RHP- Jordan Walden 

RHP- Michael Kohn

 

This Angels bullpen has some depth, but the team needs to find a stable closer. Fernando Rodney isn't the answer. Despite his amazing stuff, Rodney's strikeout rate has declined over the last three years. In addition, he has poor control.

Any one of the following pitchers could get save opportunities if Rodney struggles. Scott Downs is a great pickup for the Angels, because of his ability to get left and right-handed hitters out. Kevin Jepsen throws gas out of the bullpen, but his lack of command gets him into trouble.

Takashashi can be a valuable swing-man for the Angels, but his inability to get hitters out a second time around keeps him from starting. Takashashi could close because of his effective changeup that he uses on right-handed hitters  

Jason Bulger, a high strikeout and walk type like Jepsen, will get some chances at meaningful work in the middle innings. Rich Thompson finished up strong in 2010, so he might get a chance at some late-inning work. Jordan Walden might have the highest upside of the entire group (Check out BREAKOUT PLAYER). 

 

NOTABLE NON ROSTER INVITEES

RHP- Eric Junge 

IF- Gil Velazquez (R)

 

BREAKOUT PLAYER—RHP Jordan Walden

Jordan Walden has the potential to be the next closer for the Angels, much like K-Rod became from 2002 to 2004. Walden throws a fastball in the high 90's with an inconsistent slider. If the different options at closer fail, I wouldn't be surprised to see Walden at the closer position sometime in the future. 

 

PROSPECT TO WATCH—OF Mike Trout 

Mike Trout was named MLB.com's top prospect this year, and it's hard to find anyone who disagrees with this assessment. He has speed, power, hits for average, and gets on base. Trout has the potential to be a Carl Crawford-like player, and the Angels center fielder for many years to come. He is projected to be in the lineup next year.

 

PROJECTED FINISH—3rd in AL West 

The Angels just don't have enough firepower to win this division or contend for the playoffs. Oakland has really improved and the Texas Rangers are still favored to win the division. The Angels could upset if everyone in the rotation pitches like they are capable of, but it is unlikely.

The team needed to upgrade its offense somewhere in the infield, especially at 3B, but they traded for the albatross that is Vernon Wells instead of really pursuing Carl Crawford. Mike Scioscia usually keeps his teams competitive, but this year will be a struggle similar to last year. 

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