2006 Team Preview: The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim
by Keith Glab, Baseball Evolution
February 25, 2006



2005 Record: 95-67 (1st Place)

2005 Runs Scored: 761

2005 Runs Allowed: 643

Expected 2005 Record: 95-67

Most people mistakenly believe that Josh Paul failing to tag ot AJ Pierzynski on that supposed dropped third strike was the turning point of the ALCS. That event begged the question of why a catcher who hit .189 in 37 regular season at bats was on the postseason roster at all. It also seemed to highlight the luxury of having an everyday catcher as excellent on both sides of the ball as Bengie Molina is.

The real reason for the Angels’ ALCS loss was the injury to Bartolo Colon in the ALDS. It forced the ballclub to overuse some pitchers against the Yankees and jarred their rotation versus Chicago. This certainly underscored the need for pitching depth.

Or did it? The Angels allowed two quality starters to leave via Free Agency (Jared Washburn and Paul Byrd) and replaced them with just one (Jeff Weaver). Oh, and they let Bengie Molina go without replacing him at all. So whichever scenario the Angels’ organization believes, they did not learn a jot from it.

Catcher

2005 Starters: Bengie Molina, Jose Molina

Projected 2006 Starters: Jeff Mathis, Jose Molina

Bengie’s .782 OPS and 31.3 CS% are being replaced by a catcher with three career at bats (Jeff) and one with a .621 career OPS (Jose). In fairness, Mathis is a pretty solid prospect, although he’ll be just 23 to start the season. Granted, Jose Molina threw out over half of the baserunners who ran on him last year. But Bengie might just be the best all-around catcher in the game today, and he will be missed.

First Base

2005 Starter: Darin Erstad, Casey Kotchman

Projected 2006 Starters: Kotchman, Erstad

Finally, Erstad looks like he’ll get playing time in center again, where he’s actually useful! Kotchman slumped horribly through the first 2/3 of the season, but in his second callup to the Majors he got his groove back. He will hit more than Steve Finley did last season, the guy he’s effectively replacing in the lineup.

Second Base

2005 Starters: Adam Kennedy, Chone Figgins

Projected 2006 Starter: Kennedy

Adam Kennedy missed the beginning of 2005 due to injury, and his incredible defensive presence from the start of the year will be important. Plus, Figgins should be able to spell him more often, as the Angels look less anemic at third base and center field this season.

Third Base

2005 Starters: Chone Figgins, Dallas McPherson, Robb Quinlan, Macier Izturis

Projected 2006 Starters: McPherson, Edgardo Alfonso

Although you never know what you’re going to get offensively from Alfonso, he’s definitely not the gold glove defender that he used to be. McPherson figures to improve from a tough rookie season.

Shortstop

2005 Starters: Orlando Cabrera

Projected 2006 Starter: Cabrera

The question with Cabrera remains: Is his defensive wizardry worth his offensive haplessness? The Fielding Bible shows him as the best shortstop around at ranging to his left, and a very consistent defender overall. At 31, he could have a resurgent offensive season within him. Remember that he had a terrific offensive season as recently as 2003.

Outfield

2005 Starters: Vlad Guerrero, Garrett Anderson, Steve Finley, Jeff Davanon, Juan Rivera

Projected 2006 Starters: Guerrero, Anderson, Erstad, Figgins, Rivera

Losing a bat like Vladamir Guerrero’s even for 20 games as they did last year is devastating to an offense as otherwise mediocre as the Halos’. Plus, the loss of outmakers Finley and Davannon has to be regarded as a plus, especially since Finey’s defense slumped as much as his hitting did. A stronger infield allows Figgins and Erstad to play more outfield, but Garrett Anderson is getting worse every year.

Pitching

2005 Front Three Starters: Bartolo Colon, John Lackey, Jared Washburn

Projected 2006 Front Three: Colon, Lackey, Jeff Weaver

I just read that the Angels are not sure whether Bartolo Colon’s torn lat is reattatched or not, but that they’re not really concerned. Got that? When the reigning Cy Young winner tears one of the biggest and most important muscles in his body, repairing the damage isn’t a priority. If Colon is somehow healthy all year, this is a formidable front three.

Other 2005 Starters: Paul Byrd, Kelvim Escobar, Ervin Santana

Other Possible 2006 Starters: Escobar, Santana, Hector Carrasco

There’s trouble here, Cheri. Escobar’s a very talented pitcher, but might have to pitch out of the bullpen due to injuries. Ervin Santana didn't get destroyed in the Playoffs last year, and now all of a sudden he’s mistaken for Johan. The only reason Hector Carrasco got five starts last year is because the ownerless Nationals were throwing games towards the end of the season. He’s 36, has six career games started, didn’t post an ERA under 4.25 between 1997-2004, and just got $6 Million from the Angels. Yoy.

2005 Top Relievers: Francisco Rodriguez, Scott Shields, Brendan Donnely, Esteban Yan

Projected 2006 Top Relievers: F-Rod, Shields, Donnelly, JC Romero

The Angels finally broke down and got a lefty for their bullpen. Trouble is, it was JC Romero, who walked almost as many as he struck outt last year. Still, the Halos’ big three gives them a big edge if their starters can just keep it close.

Final Word:

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim lost three real good players in the offseason, but they also lost Steve Finley. Subtle improvements here and there, such as the better use of Darin Erstad and the development of some of their younger players will soften the blow a bit. But make no mistake: this is not a playoff team until their stocked farm system is ready to be harvested.

The back end of the rotation’s a mess, especially if Colon isn’t healthy. The offense is Figgins and Vlad and a Bunch of Bad. The other teams in the AL West seem to have improved. Every sign points to decline, and they could even drop below .500.




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Disagree with something? Got something to add? Wanna bring up something totally new? Keith Glab resides in Chicago, Illinois, and can be reached at keith@baseballevolution.com.



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