Leading up to the start of the 2009 Regular Season, Diamond Hoggers will preview each of MLB’s 30 teams. Today’s team is the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Stay tuned as Diamond Hoggers will preview every team division by division until the start of the regular season.
This Angels team will be the odds on favorite to win the AL West in 2009 and we have seen some projections where they actually represent the AL in the World Series. They’re an experienced team with a great manager (perhaps the next Hall of Fame manager) and they’re the best team in the division on paper. But they’re not impressive enough to call a World Series team, and some people might have them slipping up and finishing second in the division, although it is unlikely. The smart money is for them to win another division title.
The team’s headliner has to be Ervin Santana, finally coming off a season in which he delivered on what was just known as potential before last season. John Lackey is probably still going to hold down the #1 spot in the rotation but Santana is the ace because he has streak stopping potential and nasty stuff. Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, and Dustin Moseley finish out what is one of the better starting rotations in the American League. Saunders was an All Star last season, Weaver is going to win 20 games some season soon, and Moseley is another darkhorse pick for a big time breakout season.
Anaheim lost their record breaking closer Francisco Rodriguez to the Mets in free agency, but picked up another guy who could put up astonishing numbers. If we had to pick a closer who could possibly enter the elite in all of baseball it would be Brian Fuentes. Call it a hunch. From there the Angels have Jose Arredondo, Scot Shields, Darren Oliver, and Kevin Jepsen rounding out a nice bullpen.
The lineup is a playoff caliber unit. Chone Figgins is one of the most versatile players in baseball and he’ll lead off and play third base on most nights. Howie Kendrick is spectacularly solid in the 2 hole. Bobby Abreu was picked up in free agency to hit in the 3 spot, and he’s a guy who historically just puts up numbers and drives in runners. He’s a perfect fit for this veteran team. Vladimir Guerrero has a lot of mileage on him, but he’s probably got one more 40 homer, 130 RBI season with an average in the .320s left in him. It could be this year. Torii Hunter, Juan Rivera, and Kendry Morales follow Guerrero in the lineup. Mike Napoli, the catcher; and Erick Aybar/Macier Itzturis combination round out the bottom of this unit.
You have to think they’ve got enough experience, starting pitching, and manager prestige to hold off the Rangers don’t you? Stranger things have happened, but unless this team gets hit with a rash of injuries they should be strong enough to get back to the postseason.