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2013 Team Preview: Los Angeles Angels

After a monster season from rookie prodigy Mike Trout, the Angels look for redemption -- led by a retooled lineup and bullpen.

Mike Trout and Justin Hamilton celebrate their first of many homeruns
Mike Trout and Justin Hamilton celebrate their first of many homeruns

Notable Numbers

36.8: WAR accumulated by Angels position players in the 2012 campaign, good for tops in the league. Led by a deadly group including Mike Trout, Albert Pujols, Mark Trumbo, Kendrys Morales, and Torii Hunter, the offense provided an incredible amount of value on both sides of the ball. The Angels, replacing Torii Hunter and Kendrys Morales with Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton, should expect to see this number even higher in 2013.

4.26: The accumulative FIP of Angel pitchers last season, good for 8th worst in the entire MLB, failing to provide near-equal value to their prolific offense. In the end, the bullpen and the lackluster back-end of the Angel's pitching rotation was the achilles heel of the team. Beyond Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, the Angels back-end consisting of Dan Haren, Ervin Santana, and 21 starts of Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards was hardly good enough to compete in the American League. Even the late season trade for Zack Greinke could not help the failing pitching performance of the Angels.

8.7: UZR/150 of the Angels defensive effort, 2nd best in the league behind the Braves. Now, with Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton replacing Torii Hunter and the occasional Mark Trumbo start in the outfield, expect that defense to be stronger. Josh Hamilton remains an ucertainty in right field, especially following a season in which he posted a -12.5 Fld for the Rangers. Keep in mind Hamilton was a pretty decent fielder in the prior three seasons, so who knows what he will bring to the table on the defensive front in 2013.

2012 Season in Review

2012 was a let-down season for the Angels. After spending millions on the free agent acquisitions of C.J. Wilson and Albert Pujols in 2012, the Angels entered the season with lofty expectations for a World Series run. As the season started, the first 25 games were not fun with a 10-15 record. But on April 27, a released Bobby Abreu yielded the call-up of Mike Trout, and the rest is history. Trout would go on to post a 10 WAR rookie season, the best value ever for a first-year player. A slow start truly crippled the Angels; even the trade deadline acquisition of Zack Greinke failed to make the Angels any better. An 89 -73 record at the end of the season was good for third in a very competitive AL West, 5 games back of the A's.

Key Offseason Moves

Joe Blanton: 2 years; 15 million:

The Angels desperate for some back-end stability, pulled the trigger on the Blanton signing. Blanton should be the 5th starter and provide some value as an innings eater. Pitching behind that offense and defense, Blanton could have a surprising year. Given his propensity to throw strikes, he should keep the defense on their toes and provide decent value at the back of the rotation, at the very least.

Acquired Jason Vargas from Mariners:

The Angels also pulled off an inter-division trade for a workhorse southpaw. The price in sending Kendrys Morales for a back-of-the-rotation pitcher was high, however, the Angels were dealing from a surplus of bats and desperately needed a reliable innings eater. Similarly, he and Blanton were brought in to shore up a dismantled rotation at the four and five spots. Jason Vargas does not strike a lot of guys out nor does he make batters swing and miss, and his HR/FB rate is higher than you would like for a guy who pitches to contact. In a spacious Angels Stadium with a good defense behind him, Vargas may be able to continue this tight rope act. While only time will tell if Vargas and Blanton were good gets, this one smells a lot like Joel Pineiro.

Signed Sean Burnett; 2 years 8 million:

The lefty-specialist received a healthy AAV from the Angels in the offseason. Burnett will fill in with a retooled bullpen, one that often let the Angels down late in games last year. He can face both lefties and righties and be effective, but Burnett's bread and butter is getting the tough lefty out. Burnett has always been able to keep inherited runners on base from scoring -- having a LOB% 84.6 LOB% last year and 78% for his career. Burnett is expected to be one of two setup men behind Ernesto Frieri -- the closer.

Ryan Madson; 1 year 3.2 Million:

Having not pitched since 2011, this move is a bit of a mystery. Madson signed a 1 year 8.5 million contract with the Reds before missing the entire season with Tommy John surgery, making this move is a wild card for the Angels. If he can provide much needed late inning experience and relief in a closer role, the Angel bullpen goes from average to very good overnight. Being that Madson is already on the 15 day DL, it does not look good.

Acquired Tommy Hanson:

The Angels are taking a risk on this one; Tommy Hanson, once thought of as the future of the Braves pitching staff, has an unorthodox throwing style that poses a risk to future shoulder injury. Hanson should one of the best number three's in the league if his shoulder and/or elbow doesn't blow up. Regardless, Hanson is a huge downgrade from a Greinke and/or Haren who filled this role at times last year.

Josh Hamilton; 5 years 125 million:

This was the offseason deal that set the baseball world on fire. A top half including Hamilton, Pujols, and Trout has the propensity to do special things this season. The only question is whether or not Hamilton ages quickly or continues to produce handsomely. Another concern is Hamilton's defense, as we said earlier. If Hamilton continues this downward trend in his defensive value, this contract does not look quite as good. But then again, Hamilton could move into the DH spot later in the deal. Overall, this is a decent value for a guy who the market once thought would get $200 million on the open market.

Depth Chart

The Angels expect to roll out Chris Iannetta behind the plate sharing time with Hank Conger. Meanwhile Pujols will man first with Howie Kendrick to his right at second base. Up the middle Erick Aybar will play short with Bourjos behind him in center. At the hot corner, Alberto Callaspo with Mike Trout in left. Finally, Josh Hamilton will patrol right with Mark Trumbo playing DH on most nights.

For the starting pitching rotation, the Angels expect to roll out:

  1. Jered Weaver
  2. C.J. Wilson
  3. Tommy Hanson
  4. Joe Blanton
  5. Jason Vargas
And the bullpen expects to consist of:
  1. Closer RHP Ernesto Frieri
  2. Set-up LHP Sean Burnett
  3. Set-up RHP Kevin Jepsen
  4. Mid-Relief LHP Scott Downs
  5. Mid-Relief RHP Garrett Richards
  6. Mid-Relief RHP David Carpenter
  7. Long-Relief RHP Jerome Williams
Check out the Angel's depth chart here courtesy of MLB Depth Charts

2013 Outlook

The Angels expect to be the favorites of the AL West; however, a retooled division which includes a weak Astros team, can not be easily predicted. The Rangers and Angels will battle out for top honors all season in what expects to be an exceptional race in the AL West. Meanwhile, the A's and Mariners could just as easily sneak into the playoff picture and disrupt the balance of the division. This is probably not a 100 win team but should be a low 90's ballclub.

Check out the 2013 ZiPS projections by Fangraphs

Bold Prediction

The Angels will lead the league in runs scored by a pretty wide margin. Meanwhile, the overall pitching performance will be vastly improved behind strong campaigns by Tommy Hanson, Jason Vargas, and Joe Blanton. Josh Hamilton will produce less WAR than Pujols, Trout and Trumbo. The Angels win the AL West beating up on the Astros all season and pose a threat for a long playoff run. Tempers flair between both LA clubs, and the rivalry is at its peak, setting the stage for a possible freeway series.