After handing out $330 million in contracts last season to Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson, the Angels felt like their $150 million per season investment would almost surely propel them to the top of the AL West standings. Instead, inconsistent pitching held the Angels to just 89 wins and a third-place finish.
This year the Angels have been tweaking heavily, moving or losing Torii Hunter, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, Jordan Walden, and Kendrys Morales while filling their spots with Josh Hamilton, Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas, and Ryan Madson. With the Rangers possibly on the decline, the Mariners likely as bad as ever, and the Astros moving over to give everyone some free wins, maybe this could be that year the Angels have so heavily been investing in. Let’s take a look at just what $150 million gets you these days.
2012 Team Rankings:
Runs: 4th Overall
Batting Average: 1st Overall
ERA: 18th Overall
WHIP: 12th Overall
Catchers: Chris Iannetta, Hank Conger – Grade: C-
Iannetta came over last season to replace Mike Napoli and it’s safe to see he didn’t really do that. In 79 games, he batted .240 with nine HR and 26 RBI. In his best season in Colorado he batted .264 with 18 HR and 65 RBI but he’ll have to stay healthy if he ever wants to touch those numbers again. More likely he drives in close to 50 but that’s about it.
Conger is a former top prospect who has shown the potential to be a .290+ hitter with 10+ HR and 65+ RBI in the minors but is only batting .201 with six HR and 25 RBI in his first 79 major league games so they will continue to wait for the 25-year-old to develop.
Pujols didn’t start 2012 in the fashion the Angels had hoped for but ended up with a solid season. At the same time, he’s a 33-year-old 12-year veteran who has shown signs of decline and it’s hard to gauge how quickly that decline will happen. In 2012 he had career-lows in average (.285, down from .299 in 2011 and .325 in his career), OPS (.859, down from .906 in 2011 and 1.022 in his career), home runs (30, down from 37 in 2011), and runs (85, down from 105 in 2011). He did hit 50 doubles so it may just be an adjustment to playing in Anaheim but I expect him to continue to slowly decline until the Angels are kicking themselves for giving him a 10-year deal, a la Alex Rodriguez.
Trumbo is a great looking up-and-coming bat who will be the Angels DH and play some first and outfield as well. In his first two full seasons, he is batting .261 and averaging 30 HR, 91 RBI, 50 2B, and 131 R. He strikes out a lot (153 strikeouts in 544 at bats last season) and seldom walks—but his power numbers should continue at his current pace.
After hitting a career-high 18 homers in 2011, Kendrick came back down to earth in 2012 as he batted .287 with 8 HR, 67 RBI, 57 R, and 14 steals. He rarely walks but has a good glove and is one of the most consistent second-basemen in the league.
Romine has great speed and once stole 62 bases in the minors but has never been an impressive hitter. He’s only had 44 major league at-bats but never showed to be anything special at the plate in six seasons in the minors so I wouldn’t hold my breath on him.
Shortstop: Erick Aybar, Tommy Field – Grade: B-
Aybar is definitely better with the glove than with the bat but still batted a solid .290 with eight HR, 45 RBI, 67 R, 20 SB, and 31 2B. He’s a solid shortstop in every sense of the word.
Field was claimed off waivers twice last November, first by the Twins from the Rockies and then by the Angels mere weeks later. He hasn’t seen much big league time but he did hit 17 home runs one season in Double-A and hit .264 in his minor league career—solid numbers for a middle infielder.
Although his average dipped to .252 last season, Callaspo is a solid veteran infielder with a good glove. He isn’t a great hitter but he doesn’t strike out much and gets on base. His 10 HR, 53 RBI, 55 R in 2012 is right around where I’d expect him to be again this season.
I don’t think it’s possible to be more impressive as a rookie (or as a player, really) than Mike Trout was in 2012. He led the league in runs with 129, steals with 49, and OPS+ with 171. He batted .326 with 30 HR, 83 RBI, 27 2B, and eight 3B. The sky is the limit for this kid and he’s only 21.
Hamilton is a great outfielder coming off a season where he hit a career-high 43 home runs and scored a career-high 103 runs. He batted .285 overall and drove in 128—his third season with over 100 RBI. The only alarming part of his stat sheet is the 162 strikeouts—but if he stays healthy the Angels will definitely get their $133 million worth.
Bourjous looked like he could be a decent speedy outfielder in 2011 but completely tanked in 2012 as he saw a reduced role. He batted .220 (down from .271 in 2011), stole just three bases (down from 22 in 2011), and scored just 27 runs (down from 72 in 2011). With Torii Hunter gone he will see a larger role but that doesn’t mean he’ll do well in it.
I’m pretty much done with Vernon Wells and the Angels would be too if they didn’t sign him for $126 million. In 2012, Wells played just 77 games and batted .230 with 11 HR (down from 25 in 2011), 29 RBI (down from 66 in 2011), and scored just 36 runs (down from 60 in 2011). His OPS over the last two seasons is .667 while the league average is over .700 meaning just about anyone can give you the production Wells will.
You aren’t going to find a better pitcher than Weaver who led the league with 20 wins in 2012 despite missing five starts. Over his last two seasons he has a 2.59 ERA and 1.01 WHIP and is a Cy Young candidate every single year.
Wilson isn’t quite worth the $77 million contract he got last offseason but he was solid in his first year in LA as he went 13-10 with a 3.83 ERA and 1.34 WHIP. Disappointing or not, that is about what I would expect from him going forward.
The Angels got Tommy Hanson in return for young closer Jordan Walden after Hanson put up the worst season of his four-year career. Despite a career ERA of 3.28 and WHIP of 1.18 coming into last season, Hanson went 13-10 with a 4.48 ERA and 1.45 WHIP in 2012. Considering how great he has looked in his first three years, I think 2012 is an abnormality and he should return to a mid-3.00 ERA guy with a good WHIP if he can keep the ball in the park.
Blanton split last season with the Phils and Dodgers, going a combined 10-13 with a 4.71 ERA and 1.26 WHIP. He isn’t a great pitcher but he’s consistent. I’d have kept Dan Haren for a little bit more money but Blanton should be his usual mediocre self which is what you’d expect.
Vargas was essentially out of the league after tanking on the Marlins and Mets but has reinvented himself as a reliable starter in Seattle of all places. Over his last three seasons he has an ERA of 3.96 and WHIP of 1.25 while staying healthy all three years. Kendry Morales was a lot to give up for him but a high 3.00s ERA with a solid WHIP is pretty good for a back of the rotation guy.
Madson spent all of 2012 on the disabled list as he recovered from Tommy John surgery but will get a chance to close again for the Angels. In 2011, Madson saved 32 games (while blowing just 2) with a 2.37 ERA and 1.15 WHIP. He has an ERA of just 2.89 and WHIP of 1.19 going back to 2007 and is one of the most reliable relievers in the game when healthy.
Madson isn’t guaranteed a closer job, of course. Ernesto Frieri certainly made his case last year after coming over from the Padres, saving 23 games in 26 opportunities and putting up a wicked 2.32 ERA and 0.96 WHIP. He actually has a career ERA of 2.32 and career WHIP of 1.14 so he may easily be just as good as, if not better than, Madson.
Downs has a 2.30 ERA and 1.15 WHIP going back to 2007 while Burnett has a 2.85 ERA and 1.20 WHIP going back to 2009 so both are very proven set up men.
Jepsen had been pretty mediocre in his first few years in the Angels pen but came out strong with a solid 3.02 ERA and 1.14 WHIP season in 2012.
Team Grade: A-
Fearless Prediction: 99-63, 1st in AL West