2012 Angels Starting Lineup and Rotation with Albert Pujols and the New Guys

Gil Imber@RefereeOrganistAnalyst IIDecember 15, 2011

2012 Angels Starting Lineup and Rotation with Albert Pujols and the New Guys

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    Earlier this month, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim pulled off the most improbable of accomplishments in signing All-Stars Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson on the same day of MLB's winter meetings.

    For the Angels, it has been a fairly busy offseason.

    On Oct. 30—over a month before the big duo's arrival—the Halos lost third baseman Russell Branyan and pitchers Fernando Rodney, Joel Pineiro and Horacio Ramirez to free agency.

    On Nov. 30, GM Jerry Dipoto dealt pitching prospect Tyler Chatwood to the Colorado Rockies for catcher Chris Iannetta, followed by the exchange of catcher Jeff Mathis for pitcher Brad Mills on Dec. 3 in a trade with the Toronto Blue Jays.

    On Dec. 7, the Angels reached an agreement with relief pitcher LaTroy Hawkins for a one-year deal and on Dec. 10 announced the signing of Albert Pujols followed almost immediately by the signing of C.J. Wilson.

    Finally, on Dec. 12, the Angels tendered contracts to infielders Kendrys Morales, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo while signing pitcher Jerome Williams to a one-year deal.

    With all of these transactions and roster moves, Dipoto and owner Arte Moreno have placed the Angels in a position to contend for baseball's crown in 2012.

    Each and every move the club has made in the past few months, however, has had a ripple effect on the projected 2012 lineup and starting rotation.

    Read on to see exactly how far that effect will span and how the Angels' 2012 lineup will look in the face of these significant personnel moves—as long as everyone stays healthy.

    First up is the batting order, followed by the starting rotation.

Batting 1st: Erick Aybar

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    Position: Shortstop

    2011 Stats: .279 AVG, 10 HR, 59 RBI, 30 SB

    Erick Aybar started 142 games in 2011, all of them at shortstop.

    In the 20 games Aybar did not start, the shortstop duties were split between Maicer Izturis (14 games), Brandon Wood (four games) and Andrew Romine (two games).

    Wood is no longer an Angel, while Romine is a minor leaguer who is listed as a third baseman.

    Meanwhile, Aybar's stats at short trump those of Izturis, making Aybar the choice for starting shortstop.

    Though he only started as a leadoff hitter in 54 games last season, Aybar will make the No. 1 spot his home.

    Izturis did start 89 games as the leadoff man in 2011, but with the return of Alberto Callaspo at third and Howie Kendrick at second, Izturis will start games on the bench more often in 2012 than he did in 2011.

Batting 2nd: Howie Kendrick

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    Position: Second Base

    2011 Stats: .285 AVG, 18 HR, 63 RBI, 14 SB

    There is no question Howie Kendrick will be the Angels' primary second baseman in 2012.

    He started over 100 games at second in 2011, giving up a handful of starts to Maicer Izturis when Kendrick strained his right hamstring and landed on the 15-day DL in late May.

    As for his position as the No. 2 hitter, Kendrick was a true batting order nomad in 2011—he started in the No. 2 spot 43 times, as the No. 3 hitter 22 times and batted fourth once, fifth 38 times, sixth 28 times and seventh four times.

    Though he is not as fast as Aybar and Izturis, Kendrick still can play old-school Angels baseball, having stolen 14 bases in both 2010 and 2011.

    The most populous No. 2 resident in 2011, expect Kendrick to be all twos in 2012.

Batting 3rd: Albert Pujols

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    Position: First Baseman

    2011 Stats: .299 AVG, 37 HR, 99 RBI

    This is where the 2011 wheels begin to unravel.

    Last season, the No. 3 spot in the batting order was shared by DH Bobby Abreu, outfielder Torii Hunter and Kendrick or Izturis if none of the former two were available.

    With the acquisition of Albert Pujols, however, the Angels won't have to worry about that.

    The Angels classically live and play by a simple baseball philosophy: Get 'em on, get 'em over, get 'em in.

    With Aybar and Kendrick's 2011 on-base percentages of .322 and .338, respectively, Pujols will have no trouble delivering the "get 'em in" part of the Angels' baseball equation.

Batting 4th: Kendrys Morales

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    Position: Designated Hitter

    2011 Stats: Did Not Play

    2009 Stats (Last Full Season): .306 AVG, 34 HR, 108 RBI

    If Kendrys Morales is healthy—and that is a big "if"—he will contend for the starting DH job with current DH Bobby Abreu.

    If Morales comes back and can match his numbers from his 2009 and partial 2010 seasons, he will be the Angels' primary DH, no questions asked.

    Abreu dominated the DH role for the Halos in 2011, starting 109 contests in that role, while starting just 28 games in the field.

    Abreu's numbers are significantly inferior to the figures Morales produced when he was last healthy, and all else equal, Abreu is destined for the bench.

    If Morales comes back strong, he will combine with Albert Pujols to complete a lethal three-four punch for LAA.

    If Morales cannot come back, expect yet another shuffling of the lineup cards.

Batting 5th: Torii Hunter

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    Position: Right Fielder

    2011 Stats: .262 AVG, 23 HR, 82 RBI

    Though Torii Hunter was the Angels' No. 4 man in 2011, with Pujols and Morales, Hunter will slide down to the No. 5 spot.

    He started 133 games in right field last season while DHing 19 times.

    Hunter's 2011 batting average may be a significant drop-off from his 2009 and 2010 figures (.299 and .281, respectively), but his home run count is not—Hunter has hit no more than 23 homers ever since joining the Angels in 2008.

    As a remaining bastion of the Angels' old guard Hunter will likely share playing time with youngsters Peter Bourjos and Mike Trout, but don't underestimate Hunter's importance just yet.

    This 36-year-old still has some juice left in the tank, and he still holds significant value in the Angels outfield.

Batting 6th: Alberto Callaspo

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    Position: Third Baseman

    2011 Stats: .288 AVG, 6 HR, 46 RBI

    Though former Rookie of the Year candidate Mark Trumbo is projected to make the move to third base this offseason in the wake of Albert Pujols' arrival, don't expect any huge change at the hot corner early in 2012.

    As of now, Alberto Callaspo is still the Angels' starting third baseman, and he will still bat in the No. 6 spot, his most common place in the LAA 2011 batting order.

    Callaspo still plays a solid third base, and though his style might not be as exciting to watch as the development of Trumbo or the scrappy play of Maicer Izturis, Callaspo is the most consistent and the most experienced at the third base position.

    He started 104 games at third base in 2011 and will continue to be the Angels' pick for the hot corner—at least early on in 2012 season.

Batting 7th: Vernon Wells

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    Position: Left Fielder

    2011 Stats: .218 AVG, 25 HR, 66 RBI

    In his first season outside of Toronto after having spent his entire 12-year career with the Blue Jays, Wells struggled, dropping .055 points in batting average and losing .187 points off his 2010 OPS.

    However, GM Jerry Dipoto said it himself last month: "Right now it's [Torii] Hunter in right field, [Peter] Bourjos in center field and Vernon Wells in left field. [Mike] Trout will need to play his way onto the team."

    With that quote from Dipoto, it is quite difficult to imagine the Angels backtracking and tapping Trout over Wells to start in left.

    Expect Wells to accordingly start the season as the Angels' starting left fielder, but don't rule out the possibility of a midseason shakeup that results in a change in the Anaheim outfield.

Batting 8th: Chris Iannetta

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    Position: Catcher

    2011 Stats: .238 AVG, 14 HR, 55 RBI

    He might not have had a press conference and meet-and-greet with fans to welcome him to Anaheim, but Chris Iannetta is a new Angels player all the same, here to replace Jeff Mathis and provide a much-needed boost to the catching position.

    Though Iannetta is certainly a step up from Mathis, he is not a Mike Piazza-caliber catcher. He is a better offensive option than the Angels had in 2011, but he still will hit low in the order.

    Expect Iannetta to take over the No. 8 spot, hitting behind Vernon Wells.

    When his trade was first announced, Iannetta said he was looking forward to an AL team because he wouldn't have to hit in front of a pitcher any longer.

    Not wanting to take away from Iannetta's comfort level, the Angels will graciously allow him to keep on batting in front of the No. 9 spot.

Batting 9th: Peter Bourjos

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    Position: Center Fielder

    2011 Stats: .271 AVG, 12 HR, 43 RBI

    Outfielder Peter Bourjos is certainly a rising star in the Angels organization, but he is still a developing player and will accordingly still bat ninth in 2012.

    When manager Mike Scioscia draws up his lineup, he often thinks of how to best integrate the end of the order with the top of the lineup—how hitters No. 9 and No. 1 match up.

    With Bourjos, the Angels get a No. 9 hitter who stole 22 bases last season and is by all accounts an Erick Aybar type of player.

    Bourjos and Mike Trout are the Angels' future in the outfield, and while Trout still needs some seasoning as a late-inning replacement before becoming a full-fledged starter, Bourjos is clearly the Angels' 2012 choice for the starting CF job.

    Next up are the five pitchers who will start LAA's 2012 games.

Starter No. 1: Jered Weaver

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    Position: Starting Pitcher

    2011 Stats: 18-8 Record, 2.41 ERA, 198 K

    As he was in 2011, Jered Weaver still is LAA's No. 1 starter.

    Finishing second in the 2011 Cy Young Award race, Weaver is arguably coming off his best season since his MLB debut, and his second straight All-Star appearance in 2011 confirms that Weaver is still a force to be reckoned with.

    Weaver's 2011 batting average against of .212 is his best ever with over 20 starts, while his 2011 WHIP of 1.01 is a career best.

    Without a shadow of a doubt, Weaver is the Angels' 2012 No. 1 starter.

Starter No. 2: C.J. Wilson

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    Position: Starting Pitcher

    2011 Stats: 16-7 Record, 2.94 ERA, 206 K

    While Albert Pujols will move directly into the No. 3 spot in the Angels' batting order, Wilson will become the Angels' No. 2 starter.

    His only two MLB seasons as a consistent starting pitcher in 2010 and 2011 were absolutely phenomenal, and his AL-leading 34 games started in 2011 prove he is up for the challenge of taking over the No. 2 spot.

    Riding the coattails of Weaver, Wilson will be relentless in racking up the strikeouts and keeping that ERA south of 3.00.

Starter No. 3: Dan Haren

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    Position: Starting Pitcher

    2011 Stats: 16-10 Record, 3.17 ERA, 192 K

    Dan Haren will slide over to the No. 3 starter's spot to make room for C.J. Wilson as the Angels prepare to throw Weaver-Wilson-Haren at any opponent unlucky enough to face the Angels just as their rotation resets to starter No. 1.

    Haren maintained his solid ERA in 2011 while finishing up with a nice 16-10 record, no thanks to below-average run support—an issue that should soon change with the addition of Albert Pujols.

    Haren's 2011 WHIP of 1.02 was his lowest since 2009 with Arizona, as was his batting average against of .235.

    Expect Haren to thrive under the influence of both Weaver and Wilson ahead of him as he settles in with the Angels for a third season.

Starter No. 4: Ervin Santana

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    Position: Starting Pitcher

    2011 Stats: 11-12 Record, 3.38 ERA, 178 K

    Ervin Santana can be slightly inconsistent at times, as evidenced by the fact that he threw a no-hitter in 2011 while still winding up with a losing record.

    Still, he lowered his ERA once again in 2011 to a career-best 3.38 and likewise lowered his batting average against to .241, just three points behind his career best of .238, which he posted in 2008.

    With 228.2 innings pitched and four complete games, Santana logged his heaviest workload in 2011 and proved to the Angels that he has what it takes to continue on as a highly ranked starter.

    Unfortunately for Santana, this is an Angels team that has Weaver, Wilson and Haren, meaning Santana will be starter No. 4.

    Still, this career LAA pitcher has what it takes to hang in there with the best, and in 2012 he will feed off the Weaver-Wilson-Haren connection, resulting in a breakout performance.

Starter No. 5: Jerome Williams

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    Position: Starting Pitcher

    2011 Stats: 4-0 Record, 3.68 ERA, 28 K

    Pitching just 44.0 innings for the Angels in 2011 after joining the big league club in late August, Jerome Williams was recently inked to a one-year deal, making him the Angels' fifth starter in 2012.

    Expect Williams to be the Angels' sleeper starter—prior to 2011, he hadn't pitched in the majors since a disastrous 0-5 effort for the Washington Nationals in 2007, and he isn't well known around the American League.

    Nonetheless, Williams showed signs of promise in his limited work last season, and he should fit right in as the No. 5 starter.

    The C.J. Wilson acquisition will produce a ripple effect, and as the low man on the totem pole, Williams will benefit the most from its effects.

    With their new starting lineup and rotation, the Angels are in good shape heading into the 2012 season.