2010 Preview: Los Angeles Angels

  • Tuesday, March 23, 2010 10:20 AM
  • Written By: Andrew Simon

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2009: 97-65, 1st in AL West. Pythagorean record of 92-70.
Key Additions: SP Joel Pineiro, OF/DH Hideki Matsui, RP Fernando Rodney
Key Losses: SP John Lackey, OF/DH Vladimir Guerrero, 3B Chone Figgins, RP Darren Oliver, OF Gary Matthews Jr.
2010 Projections: PECOTA – 78-84, 4th in AL West. CHONE – 81-81, tied for 2nd. CAIRO – 80.7-81.3, 3rd.

Pitching: 2009 – 4.45 FIP (21st in MLB), 4.54 for starters, 4.27 for relievers
2010 – The Angels should be able to overcome the loss of Lackey. Piniero is unlikely to repeat his 2009 performance but still should be a solid back-of-the-rotation starter, and the team should get a boost if Scott Kazmir and Ervin Santana provide full, healthy seasons. Brian Fuentes had 48 saves last season, but that doesn't make him a great closer.
Hitting: 2009 – .346 wOBA (3rd in MLB)
2010 – The big question is if Brandon Wood can fill the void left by Figgins, but the Angels also need Howie Kendrick to step up and Kendry Morales to maintain his new-found productivity. The Halos also must hope that the aging offensive core of Torii Hunter, Bobby Abreu and Matsui holds up.
Fielding: 2009 – UZR of 13.3 (10th in MLB)
2010 – Hunter's defensive prowess is nowhere close to his reputation, and Abreu is a liability in right. Things look brighter in the infield, although losing Figgins hurts.

Reasons to Watch
1. Brandon Wood: It appears that the longtime top prospect will finally get a shot to hold down the everyday third base job this season. Wood, who will turn 25 in April, has struck out a third of the time in his 236 MLB plate appearances thus far, while putting up a line of .192/.222/.313. He does have tremendous power, however, as his slugging percentages of .595 and .557 the last two years in Triple-A indicate. This could be the year Wood puts things together, or it could be the year he takes a step closer to becoming the next Dallas McPherson.
2. Howie Kendrick: Kendrick has been a frustrating player to watch for Angels fans and fantasy owners alike. He has a career minor league line of .360/.403/.569, but in four big league seasons, he's been basically a league-average hitter. Injuries have certainly played a role, as last season's 400 plate appearances were a career-high. But Kendrick also just hasn't performed up to expectations, and it's possible his free-swinging style will prevent him from reaching his potential long-term. At 26, he should be about at his prime, so now is the time for Kendrick to bust out.
3. Joel Pineiro: What Pineiro accomplished last season is hard to overstate. Working with a completely revamped Dave Duncan-instilled approach, Pineiro led the majors in walks per nine innings and ground ball rate, while finishing fifth in home runs per nine innings. This was largely due to a new two-seam fastball, which got a ton of ground balls. 2009 was likely a perfect storm for Pineiro, but as long as he is able to maintain his new approach while detached from Duncan, he should continue to find success.

Paint By Numbers: On the other end of the spectrum from Pineiro, you have Jered Weaver, who finished just behind Ted Lilly for the major league lead in fly ball rate last season, at 50.4 percent. Not surprisingly, Weaver also gave up 26 home runs, but he still notched a solid 4.04 FIP. ... Catchers Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis combined to strike out 176 times last season. But at least Napoli hit 20 homers and slugged .492. Mathis hit five long balls and slugged .308. ... To say last season was a breakout year for Kendry Morales would be putting it mildly. From 2006-08, Morales hit 13 home runs in 407 plate appearances. In 2009: 34 in 622.

Blog Jog: Angels catching prospect Hank Conger offers this Spring Training journal entry at Angelswin.com. ... Rob Neyer on Wood's potential starting job. ... Mark Saxon of ESPN Los Angeles looks at the remaining roster questions. ... Orange County Register beat writer Bill Plunkett relays Torii Hunter's reaction to former teammate Joe Mauer's huge contract extension.

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