2012 Record: 89-73, 3rd AL West
2012 Pythagorean Record: 88-74
Impact Player: OF Mike Trout
Impact Pitcher: RHP Jered Weaver
Top Prospect: 3B Kaleb Cowart
Significant Acquisitions: OF Josh Hamilton, RHP Tommy Hanson, LHP Jason Vargas, RHP Joe Blanton, LHP Sean Burnett, RHP Ryan Madson
Significant Departures: RHP Zack Greinke, RF Torii Hunter, DH/1B Kendrys Morales, RHP Dan Haren, RHP Ervin Santana, IF Maicer Izturis, RHP Jordan Walden, RHP Jason Isringhausen, RHP LaTroy Hawkins, C Bobby Wilson, LHP Hisanori Takahashi
For a team that won 89 games—more than the American League champion Tigers—the Angels went about a fairly comprehensive roster makeover this winter. Gone are long time cornerstones Torii Hunter, Maicer Izturis and Ervin Santana, replaced by the likes of Josh Hamilton, Tommy Hanson and Joe Blanton.
The 2012 Angels, for all their relative success, were a disappointment finishing third in the AL West, a full four games behind the Rangers and Orioles for a Wild Card berth. Going in to the year, the question for the Angels was whether or not they would score enough runs with an offense that appeared somewhat thin after Albert Pujols. Run prevention was not a worry with the likes of Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Dan Haren fronting what looked like an elite starting rotation.
Ironically, the Angels had no problem scoring runs with the emergence of Greek God Mike Trout alongside the steady production of Pujols and a breakout season from Mark Trumbo. The Angels finished third in the AL in runs scored and second to only the Yankees in wRC+ at 112. The pitching, however, did not hold up its end of the bargain. Haren posted his worst season by far, as did Santana, and Wilson was underwhelming. The Angels finished a mere seventh in runs allowed in the AL and were middle-of-the-pack by most every advanced metric.
On paper, the Angels rotation looks far inferior heading into 2013 than it did a year ago. Weaver still fronts the group and had another solid campaign, but his peripherals took a hit and suggest that major regression could be in his future. Wilson was by no means bad in 2012, but his walk-rate regressed from its 2011 high-watermark and his home run rate increased for the second straight year despite the move to a far more pitcher-friendly environment.
Gone are Haren and Santana and in their place are Tommy Hanson (acquired from Atlanta for reliever Jordan Walden), Jason Vargas (acquired from Seattle for Kendrys Morales) and Joe Blanton who was signed to a two-year free agent deal. Although the relative ceilings of the rotation’s new back half are certainly lower, the Angels’ starters should not be any worse than last year’s group—unless of course Weaver and/or Wilson fall off a cliff.
The Angels made a savvy pickup early last season when they acquired reliever Ernesto Frieri from the Padres for pocket change and turned him into an effective closer. Frieri led the AL among qualified relievers in strike out rate and posted generally solid peripherals on his way to a breakout campaign. The Halos inked Ryan Madson to a one-year free agent contract after a lost year recovering from Tommy John’s surgery in Cincinnati. Madson seems likely to start the year on the DL, but could end up the closer if Frieri regresses.
The Angels also signed left-hander Sean Burnett who was one of the best southpaw relievers in baseball last season. He’ll be paired with veteran Scott Downs giving Anaheim a solid lefty duo late in games. Righthander Kevin Jepsen will also hold down a bullpen spot with some combination of David Carpenter, Jerome Williams, Barry Enright, Garrett Richards and Michael Kohn grabbing the last two openings.
At 21, Mike Trout is already the best player in baseball after posting a rare 10 WAR season in 2012 despite starting the first month of the year in AAA. He led baseball with a 166 wRC+, slogged 30 home runs and was also the best baserunner in the game totalling 49 stolen bases and a league-leading 12 baserunning runs. Factor in his tremendous defense and there’s no questioning Trout’s unparalleled season. It remains to be seen if his 2012 will be a career year, but there’s no question that as long as his health holds up, he’ll be a perennial MVP threat for years to come.
Joining the phenom will be Josh Hamilton who was signed away from the division-rival Rangers to a five-year, $125-million contract. Although it’s a steep price to pay, combining Hamilton with the likes of Trout, Pujols and Trumbo should give the Angels the most feared lineup in the AL—health permitting. There are worries, of course, that Hamilton’s health will be an issue going forward, but he managed to play in 148 games last season in Texas and should benefit from not having to play centerfield with his new team.
After a dreadful start to his 2012 campaign, Pujols went about his business for the last four-plus months of the season posting a .315/.377/.592 slash line from May 24th on. If he can avoid an early season slump, there’s not much reason to think that Pujols can’t put up similar numbers over a full season. DH Mark Trumbo on the other hand, had the opposite happenstance, posting a god-awful .229/.274/.390 slash line after June 23rd. Doom cometh for fans of Trumbo.
Infielders Erick Aybar, Howie Kendrick and Alberto Callaspo join catcher Chris Iannetta to make up a more-than-solid supporting cast should any of the stars falter slightly, while backup catcher Hank Conger and highly-compensated reserve outfielder Vernon Wells provide some depth on the bench.
The Angels led all of baseball in defensive efficiency in 2012 and finished second only to the Rays when adjusted for park effects. If anything, they should be even better in 2013. For all intents and purposes, the Angels will run out three center fielders in their outfield this season. Trout would probably be a gold glove centerfielder on any other team, but will play left because defensive deity Peter Bourjos will get most of the playing time in center. Hamilton will play rightfield and should be close to elite there.
Aybar at short and Kendrick at second are both considered at least capable defenders and Callaspo is similarly thought of at third. The catching combo of Iannetta and Conger won’t turn heads defensively, but neither will kill them. Overall, the Angels should be among the league’s best defensive teams again, which is good considering the relative volatility of their starting rotation—which with the exception of Wilson is filled with flyball pitchers.
With Trout, Hamilton and Pujols alongside an excellent supporting cast, the Angels should have no trouble scoring a ton of runs in 2013—even if some things go wrong. The biggest question mark for this team resides in their starting rotation, although much of the fear surrounding that should be quelled by the fact that the Halos look to have a solid bullpen and excellent defense to go along with a park that suppresses offense with the most stingy in the league. With the likely regression of the Athletics and a slight transition year for the Rangers, the Angels look to be in great shape to make some noise in the AL West.
2013 Prediction: 93-69, 1st AL West
For a chart breaking down the Angels 2013 roster, click here. Stats provided by FanGraphs (Angels team page found here) and Baseball Prospectus. Huge hat tip to MLB Depth Charts for all the roster information.