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LOS ANGELES ANGELS OF ANAHEIM
Overall – 84 points (4th MLB, 3rd AL)
Starting Rotation – 34 points (3rd MLB, 3rd AL)
Line-Up – 34 points (10th MLB, 5th AL)
Bench/Bullpen/Defense – 16 points (T-5th MLB, T-3rd AL)
Offseason Additions – Torii Hunter, Jon Garland
Offseason Subtractions – Orlando Cabrera, Bartolo Colon
Biggest Strength– Starting Rotation
The Angels had two legit Cy Young candidates last year in John Lackey and Kelvim Escobar. Following them in the rotation were 2 young studs in Jered Weaver and Joe Saunders. In the offseason, they added another reliable arm in Jon Garland. This rotation has everything you could want. A true ace at the top (Lackey), potential ace in the middle (Weaver) and 200 IP, 3.50-4.00 ERA guys at the other spots. The big question mark is Escobar, who is scheduled to miss the first month of the season.
Biggest Weakness– Health of Vladimir
When healthy, there may not be a better RBI guy in baseball than Vladimir Guerrero. However, he has rarely been healthy the last couple years for the Angels. In fact, the last time he was fully healthy, he won an MVP. He doesn’t miss a lot of games, but it’s clear he’s not 100%. He has already stated this spring training that the same elbow that hurt him last year is still bothering him. I’m not sure we will ever see Vlad at 100% ever again.
Key Player in ’08– Jered Weaver
With Kelvim Escobar out for the first month of the season, and who knows how he will pitch when he gets back, it becomes very important that Weaver step up into that spot and pitch very, very well. Weaver, 25 has an 3.33 ERA in 284 IP and has not yet reached his prime. This season could very well be the first of a couple dominant prime years. If it is, AND Escobar comes back healthy, the Angels might be the team to beat.
Player to Keep an Eye On– Howie Kendrick
Based on his talent-level, Kendrick should be the best 2nd baseman in the AL and be in the running for a batting title for next decade or so. Unfortunately, he has experienced some growing pains, and injuries that have slowed down his rise. Still, he hit .322 in 88 games last year. This year, the Angels are hoping he can stay healthy the whole year, throw out of .330 BA with some doubles mixed in and become a real asset to their line-up.
Outlook/Prediction– 1st Place, AL West. Before the Escobar injury, I was leaning towards picking the Angels to win the World Series. I envisioned them having a serious 1-2-3 punch in the playoffs with Lackey, Escobar and Weaver. They made some good changes to their line-up (Torii Hunter) and have good young players who are due to break-out (Kendrick, Casey Kotchman) and have a great back-end to their bullpen with Scott Shields and K-Rod. However, I just get the feeling that Escobar is not going to be back at full strength this year. Either way, this team should win the division – and I’m still not ruling them out for my WS pick.