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Wilson needs labrum surgery …

ST. PETERSBURG – C.J. Wilson has pretty much decided to undergo season-ending surgery to repair a torn labrum in his left shoulder, a procedure that carries with it a recovery time of three-to-six months.

Wilson confirmed the development on Tuesday, shortly after Angels manager Mike Scioscia said the veteran starting pitcher is “leaning towards” surgery to repair a left shoulder that has been bothering him basically since the start of Spring Training.

Wilson received a second opinion from Dr. Neal ElAttrache in Los Angeles on Thursday and is waiting to schedule the procedure with him. He is a free agent at season’s end and he has every intention of pitching next season.

“In reality I’m very upset that I have not been able to pitch this year,” Wilson said in a text message. “It sucks to watch the team struggle, and watch my friends struggle on the field. I’ve been getting my body prepared, but the only support I’ve been able to give is in terms of advice or positive affirmation to my teammates.  I’ve been very upfront with coaches and staff about a willingness to modify my role [as a reliever], as well, and am 100-percent focused on returning to the field next season.”

Wilson – in the final season of a five-year, $77.5 million contract he signed in December 2011 – missed the final two months of the 2015 season after undergoing surgery to clean out bone chips and spurs from his elbow.

The 35-year-old left-hander expected to be ready by the start of Spring Training, but his shoulder began to bark basically every time he progressed towards throwing off a mound, which he believes was a product of compensating for elbow pain earlier in the prior season. At one point, he said he had “re-created a new, different delivery” to compensate for his shoulder pain, though he later softened that stance by saying he only slightly altered his arm slot.

Wilson eventually worked his way towards a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Inland Empire on May 25, completing four innings, but said he felt “awful” in the between-starts bullpen session that followed and shut it down once again.

He hasn’t done much throwing since.

“C.J. got close to pitching,” Scioscia said. “You always get your hopes up, but as of right now he hasn’t been able to get over that hump, so you can’t consider him an option.”

Wilson transitioned to the rotation late in his Rangers career and was a very effective starting pitcher for teams that went to back-to-back World Series from 2010-11, winning a combined 31 games and posting a 3.14 ERA.

The Angels signed Wilson the following offseason, agreeing to terms on the same day as Albert Pujols, and he was durable for the first three years.

Wilson averaged 33 starts and 197 innings with the Angels from 2012-14, winning 43 games and posting a 3.87 ERA. He was good basically all year in 2013 but struggled in the second half of 2012 and ’14, the latter culminating with a season-ending loss in Game 3 of the American League Division Series in Kansas City.

In 2015, Wilson posted a 3.89 ERA in 21 starts before deciding to shut it down.

Wilson has previously undergone Tommy John surgery and three clean-ups of his elbow, but this will be his first procedure to his shoulder. Asked to sum up his stint with the Angels, Scioscia said: “Let’s not do any retrospectives yet.”

Alden

The Start Of Your Ending …

Mike Trout

No better hip-hop group than Mobb Deep to bring us into the 2016 season. It is here. Finally. And within this extensive blog post is (hopefully) everything you’ll need to get ready for this Angels season, including links to stories, a breakdown of projected roles, a list of the five biggest questions, a quick glance at the Triple-A roster, a look around the division and some predictions.

Here is a link to the active roster and the depth chart. The probables are here, the injury updates are here, the coaching staff is here, the front office is here, the Top 30 Prospects are here, and the schedule can be found right about here.

Below are some links to get you caught up on some reading …

OPENING DAY PREVIEW PACKAGE

Angels 2016 Baseball

Richards’ journey from nearly quitting baseball to starting on Opening Day
It was Garrett Richards’ sophomore year at the University of Oklahoma and he was pretty much over this whole baseball thing. His job as closer had been taken away, leaving Richards in collegiate-pitcher purgatory. He made one spot start, intermittently pitched out of the bullpen and was basically cast aside that spring. He was going to quit baseball. He was going to go to culinary school. “I was done, bro,” Richards said. “I’m going to sit out here and invest all this time and effort and just get forgotten about? It just didn’t seem worth it to me.”

The Angels believe they can return to the playoffs, despite the popular belief
One game. In spite of everything that went on last year — the Josh Hamilton drama, the Jerry Dipoto resignation and the dreadful month of August — that is all that separated the Angels from a spot in the postseason. One game. It prompted some lamenting. “There’s something in here that every single guy could’ve done to improve that one game,” Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun said.  “It comes down to every game means something,” center fielder Mike Trout added. 

A look at Skaggs’ recovery from Tommy John and his poise to make an impact
Recovery from Tommy John surgery can be every bit as lonely as it is lengthy. Sometimes, D-backs starter Patrick Corbin said, “It feels like the team forgets about you a little bit.” And Tyler Skaggs was certainly leery of that. So he showed up to every home game last year, even though it certainly wasn’t required, to be with his teammates, to speak with the coaches, to let the Angels know that he was still there, watching, waiting. Skaggs’ recovery lasted a full 19 months and carried with it an array of self-doubt. “It’s a mental grind,” he said. “I’m still doubting myself every now and then.”

One of Trout’s greatest strengths has nothing to do with baseball
A gray garbage can sits at the edge of the lawn and well beyond the Budweiser sign plastered on the left-center-field wall at Tempe Diablo Stadium. It has become a target for the Angels’ hitters during batting-practice sessions throughout Spring Training. And on Monday, the final day in Arizona for most of the regulars, Mike Trout finally hit a baseball inside of it, prompting a rambunctious celebration that momentarily halted the team’s entire workout. Garrett Richards, Trout’s roommate and good friend, bellowed in laughter when relayed the news.

Andrelton Simmons — a defensive genius many believe could improve on offense
Shortly after the Angels swung their big trade in the middle of November, their incumbent second baseman, Johnny Giavotella, went on YouTube and typed “Andrelton Simmons into the search bar. Robust highlight packages from each of Simmons’ three full seasons with the Braves instantly came up. So Giavotella clicked on a couple, to study the man he hoped to turn double plays with and, really, “to see what all the hype was about.” It didn’t take long. “Pretty amazing,” Giavotella recalled. “I was kind of just amazed at how easily he was able to make difficult plays.”

SPRING TRAINING STORIES

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Rosters are limited to 25 players until the start of September. But over the last four years, the Angels have used, on average, 48 players. Minor League depth isn’t sexy and doesn’t get talked about very often, but it is crucial. The Angels will rely on their Triple-A roster heavily this year, as they always do. And a lot of the players who were cut throughout Spring Training will make a sizable impact on this season. Below is a look at the Salt Lake Bees players who are next in line …

Catcher: Jett Bandy,  Juan Graterol
Corner infielders: Kaleb Cowart, Kyle Kubitza, Jefry Marte
Middle infielders: Rey Navarro, Gregorio Petit
Outfielders: Quintin Berry, Nick Buss, Todd Cunningham, Rafael Ortega, Shane Robinson
Starters: Chris Jones, Kyle Kendrick, Yunesky Maya, Nate Smith, Tyler Skaggs, Nick Tropeano
Relievers: A.J. Achter, Al Alburquerque, Neal Cotts, Deolis Guerra, Javy Guerra, Greg Mahle, Ramon Ramirez

*******

Arte Moreno, Mike Scioscia

The Angels had about as good a camp as they could’ve hoped for. They tied for the Major League lead in wins with 19. They ranked second in the Majors in OPS and sported the second-fewest strikeouts on offense. Pitching-wise, they sported the seventh-best ERA and the fifth-fewest walks.

The top two hitters in their lineup, Yunel Escobar and Daniel Nava, were on base in front of Mike Trout about half the time. Albert Pujols mashed six home runs and recovered faster than expected from offseason foot surgery. Their outfield depth, the biggest deficiency when the offseason began, proved encouraging, with Todd Cunningham, Rafael Ortega and Nick Buss all having solid springs before reporting to Triple-A.

Their young relievers seemingly took steps forward, specifically Mike Morin, Cam Bedrosian and Greg Mahle. Tyler Skaggs, meanwhile, pitched five solid innings in his return from Tommy John surgery. And when it came time to make the final cuts, Mike Scioscia agonized, estimating, in the end, that he had “probably six razor-thin decisions.”

“These are the hardest decisions in a long time, which I think speaks well to our depth,” Scioscia said. “Every one of these decisions was tough. It makes us a stronger team, a stronger organization.”

It’s no certainty that it will translate into the regular season, however. We shall see.

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Lineup vs RHSPs: Escobar 3B, Nava LF, Trout CF, Pujols DH/1B, Calhoun RF, Cron 1B/DH, Simmons SS, Perez/Soto C, Giavotella 2B

Lineup vs LHSPs (I can also see Calhoun batting second here): Escobar 3B, Gentry LF, Trout CF, Pujols DH/1B, Cron 1B/DH, Calhoun RF, Simmons SS, Perez/Soto C, Giavotella 2B

Projected rotation order (not necessarily what it is to start, but essentially the pecking order): Richards, Heaney, Weaver, Santiago, Shoemaker

Bench roles: Soto/Perez (backup catcher), Pennington (utility infielder, late-game defense at 2B), Gentry (backup outfielder, pinch-runner), Choi (lefty pinch-hitter, late-game defense at 1B)

Bullpen roles: Street (closer), Smith (setup man), Morin (seventh-inning reliever), Salas (middle relief), Alvarez (middle relief), Bedrosian (middle relief), Rasmus (long relief)

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Prince Fielder

The American League West is expected to be appreciable stronger this year. The Rangers are healthier and have a lot of really good players who are either on the DL or in Triple-A and should make big impacts this year. The Astros’ bullpen is scary and they have a nucleus of young players that should only get better. The Mariners look deeper, more athletic. The A’s … OK, maybe they don’t look so great. But we’ve said that before about the A’s, and then it’s September and they’re in the race and we’re like, “Really?”

“A  hundred percent,” Hector Santiago said when asked if he felt the AL West will be a more difficult division this season. “Last year, I would say we were the best division in the American League for sure. And I think it just got better. I think now a lot of guys are healthy, with guys coming back off the DL and stuff like that. Oakland is probably our weakest link, and those guys battle.”

Below is a look at projected lineups, rotations and bullpens for the other AL West teams, with plenty of help from the guys at Roster Resource

Astros

LINEUP: Altuve 2B, Springer RF, Correa SS, Rasmus LF, Gomez CF, Tucker DH, Valbuena/Duffy 3B, White 1B, Castro/Kratz C
ROTATION: Keuchel, McHugh, Fiers, Feldman, Fister
BULLPEN: Gregerson (CL), Giles (CL), Harris (SU)
DL: C Stassi, DH Gattis

Athletics

LINEUP: Burns CF, Lowrie 2B, Reddick RF, Valencia 3B, Vogt C, Davis LF, Butler DH, Alonso 1B, Semien SS
ROTATION: Gray, Hill, Bassitt, Graveman, Doubront
BULLPEN: Doolittle (CL), Madson (SU), Hendriks (SU)
DL: OF Fuld, INF Sogard

Mariners

LINEUP: Aoki RF, Seager 3B, Cano 2B, Cruz RF, Lind/Lee 1B, Smith/Gutierrez RF, Marte SS, Iannetta C, Martin CF
ROTATION: Hernandez, Iwakuma, Miley, Walker, Karns
BULLPEN: Cishek (CL), Benoit (SU), Nuno (SU)

Rangers

LINEUP: DeShields Jr. CF, Choo LF, Fielder DH, Beltre 3B, Moreland 1B, Desmond LF, Odor 2B, Andrus SS, Chirinos C
ROTATION: Hamels, Holland, Lewis, Perez
BULLPEN: Tolleson (CL), Kela (SU), Wilhelmson (SU)
DL: C Gimenez, OF Hamilton, SP Darvish

*******

A look at the five biggest questions facing the Angels in 2016 …

Will Mike Trout get enough RBI opportunities? 

Mike Scioscia identified this as possibly the most important element of this coming season on the very first day of Spring Training. Trout posted a Major League-best 1.201 OPS with runners in scoring position last year, but 129 players had more plate appearances in that situation. It’s what kept him from winning the MVP, and ultimately, what kept the Angels out of the playoffs. If leadoff man Yunel Escobar (.492 on-base percentage) and No. 2 hitter Daniel Nava (.545) can carry over what they did this spring, the Angels will be much better in this department.

What can the Angels get out of Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson? 

Weaver and Wilson are both heading into their final seasons before free agency and will each make $20 million in 2016. But Weaver has been throwing his fastball mostly 80 mph this spring, about four ticks slower than his average from last season. And Wilson isn’t even playing catch because of lingering tendinitis in his left shoulder. With Tyler Skaggs possibly ready to join the rotation before the end of April, and Nick Tropeano seemingly ready to be a Major League starter in general, will there ultimately even be a place for them?

Can the Angels swing a major deal before the Trade Deadline? 

The American League seems wide open, and it could come down to the final few weeks in each of the three divisions. It could come down, again, to which teams can swing a major deal before the July 31 non-waiver Trade Deadline. The Angels didn’t do that last year. Sources said they were really close to acquiring Yoenis Cespedes but didn’t pull the trigger, largely because he would’ve been a free agent in two months. The Angels would love it if Wilson could eventually materialize as an intriguing trade candidate for them. He could be the key to a late-season boost for the offense.

What kind of season will Albert Pujols provide? 

The Angels will gladly take another 40-homer season. But they’d be even happier if he had a season more like 2014, when he batted .272/.324/.466 with 28 home runs and 105 RBIs. Pujols is crucial not just because he’s still owed $165 million over the next six years, but because he bats behind the Angels’ best on-base guy, by far, in Trout. Pujols posted career lows in batting average (.244) and on-base percentage (.307) last year. But he also had the Majors’ lowest batting average on balls in play. It’s reasonable to expect improvements there.

Will Johnny Giavotella and C.J. Cron be OK on defense?

With Pujols projected to spend a lot more time at designated hitter this season, the right side of the Angels’ infield will include Giavotella and Cron plenty of times in 2016. That is a little less than ideal. Giavotella was the second-worst defensive second baseman last year, according to FanGraphs metrics. Cron, meanwhile, cost the Angels five runs on defense. But Giavotella (with A’s third-base coach Ron Washington) and Cron (with former A’s third-base coach Mike Gallego) each worked with fielding gurus who believe they will be much better with the glove in 2016.

Gary Disarcina, Kole Calhoun

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My predictions for the 2016 season …

  • AL East: Red Sox
  • AL Central: Indians
  • AL West: Astros
  • AL Wild Card: Royals
  • AL Wild Card: Rangers
  • NL East: Mets
  • NL Central: Cubs
  • NL West: D-backs
  • NL Wild Card: Cardinals
  • NL Wild Card: Marlins
  • AL MVP: Trout
  • AL Cy Young: Gray
  • AL RoY: Buxton
  • AL MoY: Francona
  • NL MVP: Goldschmidt
  • NL Cy Young: Kershaw
  • NL RoY: Seager
  • NL MoY: Maddon

Here’s a link to a story on all of our predictions. I had the Angels third in the AL West. They are one of several good teams — along with the Yankees, Rays, Orioles, Blue Jays, Tigers, Twins, White Sox and Mariners — that I have out of the playoffs. The American League is super crowded. I was close to picking Garrett Richards for Cy Young but thought it would be too homer-ish. I think he’ll be really good this year. Once again, the only thing keeping Mike Trout from the MVP — besides a freak injury — is the Angels missing out on the playoffs.

Lastly, some additional links that prove I am over-exposed …

Salud.

Weaver dealing with ‘neck tension’ …

Jered Weaver

Jered Weaver was asked how he felt on Friday morning, about 24 hours after undergoing an MRI to further evaluate tightness around his neck.

“I feel like Jered Weaver,” he said, leaving it open for interpretation.

More specifically, and in layman’s terms, Weaver was told some nerves tightened up around his neck, which may have played a part in him topping out at 81 mph and serving up three home runs in 2 2/3 innings against the Dodgers on Wednesday.

“The third homer that I watched go out kind of hurt my neck a little bit,” Weaver joked.

The Angels’ starter is scheduled to meet with Dr. Robert Grumet, the team’s orthopedic physician, later this afternoon to get more specifics and potentially map out a recovery schedule.

For now, he’ll keep playing catch to stay ready for the start of the season.

“I just feel like it’s neck tension that is causing me to not be able to throw the ball like I want to,” Weaver said. “I guess it’s going to kind of help to get a professional doctor to go from there.”

Some form of neck tightness has “always been there,” Weaver said. “I just didn’t think it had anything to do with the throwing motion.”

Weaver spoke to former teammate and current Dodgers starter Scott Kazmir, who dealt with similar — albeit milder — neck issues while recently making his way back to professional baseball. Kazmir suggested dry needling, which uses acupuncture needles to help alleviate muscle pain.

Weaver went to a handful of sessions over the offseason, then stopped.

“It was great, the girl I was working with was awesome, but it just got a little bit too weird for me,” he said. “Something about putting needles in your neck that I wasn’t really too comfortable with.”

Weaver said the neck issue is “not painful.”

“Just restricting,” he added. “It’s just not functioning the way that I know it can function.”

Weaver, coming off a career-worst season and entering his final year before free agency, spent the offseason dedicating himself to a strict stretching regimen in hopes of rekindling some of the life on his fading fastball. At one point, Weaver said, he called his manager, Mike Scioscia, to tell him, “I think I’m back.”

“There was a week where throwing was going great,” Weaver said, “and through this process, there’s just good and bad days.”

But Weaver has yet to see results translate to games. He threw two scoreless innings against the Cubs at Sloan Park in his Cactus League debut but topped out at 83 mph, one or two ticks slower than his average last season. Five days later, his fastball sat mostly at 79 and 80 mph.

“I think every pitcher pitches with something, and Weave has shown over the course of time to be able to adapt and pitch when he’s not a hundred percent,” Scioscia said. “But we want to make sure that this is something that if you do need to grind through, great, he will. If it’s something he needs some time to let it calm down, that’s where we’ll go. But we’re going to wait for the medical staff on that.”

Alden

Here we go …

trout.jpg

Angels pitchers and catchers take part in their first workout on Friday, position players follow five days later, and six days after that, we get some actual, real-life games. And in hopes of helping you get ready for all of that, I’ve provided some helpful links, roster breakdowns and financial info in this blog post.

A depth chart (listing all the players on the 40-man roster) is here. The full 40-man roster is here, the list of non-roster invitees is here and the Top 30 prospects are accounted for here. You can also see a list of the coaching staff and front office. Here you can find the schedule.

Below are some links to offseason stories to help get you caught up …

SimmonsGIFSpring Training previews

On the rebound
New faces
Prospects to watch
Camp’s biggest competition
Projected lineup, rotation, bullpen

Around The Horn

Catcher
Corner infield
Middle infield
Outfield
Rotation
Bullpen

Features

Pre-Spring Training Inbox
Charles Nagy on becoming the Angels pitching coach
Tyler Skaggs on what’s next
Runner-up finish a testament to Mike Trout’s greatness
Looking at how special Andrelton Simmons is defensively
Ron Roenicke on returning to the Angels
Bud Black on joining Roenicke in Orange County
A look at what can be expected of Albert Pujols
What it’s like to train Trout
Nava, Gentry, Alburquerque — three bounceback candidates
Why the Angels couldn’t get the LF they needed
How Billy Eppler became a GM
How Eppler and Mike Scioscia are getting along so far
Honduras holds a special place in Andrew Heaney’s heart
Hector Santiago trying to help out his hometown
Tim Salmon on the Angels’ lack of HoF representation
Bill Stoneman on his one trade regret, new (old) role
Bobby Scales on minority inclusion, Black History Month

The Angels dAngels Twins baseballon’t have many fans these days. Not in the media, at least. Passing up on a big bat has led to serious concerns about an offense that finished last year 20th in runs (despite employing baseball’s best all-around player) and now faces a much-improved American League West. Will Leitch of Sports On Earth, who has them fourth in the division, feels the Angels “look like a total mess.” David Schoenfield of ESPN.com, who had the Angels 20th in his power rankings, wrote, “I’m just not feeling this team.”

The projection tools aren’t very favorable, either …

And the farm-system rankings are far more pessimistic …

In the end, though, the players will decide.

And initially we’ll start with 60 of them.

Below, I categorized everyone reporting to Spring Training, with their jersey numbers in parenthesis so you could keep track a little easier. Before we look at the spots up for grabs and which players are looking to fill them, a few notes …

  • Asterisks are for 40-man-roster players who can not be optioned to the Minor Leagues, either without their consent or until being exposed to waivers. This applies to guys who are either out of options, Rule 5 Draft picks or have accumulated at least five years of Major League service time. (Hey, they can option Mike Trout!) Players who meet this criteria usually have a leg up in position battles — albeit slightly — because organizations want to preserve as much depth as possible for the inevitable roster turnover that takes place throughout a season.
  • Pound signs indicate players who are not on the 40-man roster, which is full. You’ll notice all the “Minor League depth” guys have that distinction. Something unforeseen would seemingly have to happen for any of those guys to crack the Opening Day roster.
  • Some of the players listed (alphabetically) under “competing” are probably going to crack the Opening Day roster regardless. That applies to Andrew Heaney (it would seemingly take an awful spring — kind of like the one he had last year — to not crack the rotation), Hector Santiago (he’ll either be in the rotation or the bullpen), Daniel Nava (lined up to get the majority of plate appearances in left field), Johnny Giavotella (presumed favorite at second base) and Jose Alvarez (likely a go-to lefty out of the bullpen).
  • Matt Shoemaker is also a bullpen candidate if he doesn’t win a rotation job. Geovany Soto and Carlos Perez will both make the team; still undecided is who gets the most starts behind the plate.
  • Albert Pujols, as you already know, is questionable for Opening Day after undergoing November surgery on his right foot. He isn’t slated to begin baseball activities until some point in March. If he does start the year on the DL, then four of the five competitors from the “left field/two bench spots” section will probably make the team, as opposed to three.
  • Cliff Pennington is also a candidate to get some at-bats at second base, though he’ll have to show more offensively than his .629 OPS the last two years.
  • Kyle Kubitza and Kaleb Cowart are listed as “prospects,” because, well, they still are. But I expect them to see time at different positions this spring, perhaps left field or first base. Kubitza even got some reps at second base last year.

LOCKS

Mariners Angels BaseballRotation

1st: Garrett Richards (43)
2nd: Jered Weaver (36)*
3rd: C.J. Wilson (33)*
4th: ???
5th: ???

Bullpen

CL: Huston Street (16)*
SU: Joe Smith (38)*
MR: Fernando Salas (59)*
MR: ???
MR: ???
MR: ???
LR: ???

Lineup

C: ???
1B: Albert Pujols (5)*
2B: ???
3B: Yunel Escobar (6)*
SS: Andrelton Simmons (2)
LF: ???
CF: Mike Trout (27)
RF: Kole Calhoun (56)
DH: C.J. Cron (24)

Bench

C: Carlos Perez (58) / Geovany Soto (18)*
INF: Cliff Pennington (7)*
OF: ???
LHH: ???

COMPETING

Ji-Man Choi

Fifth starter

Andrew Heaney (28)
Hector Santiago (53)
Matt Shoemaker (52)
Tyler Skaggs (45)
Nick Tropeano (35)

Four bullpen spots

Al Alburquerque (62)
Jose Alvarez (48)
Cam Bedrosian (68)
Deolis Guerra (62)*
Mike Morin (64)
Cory Rasmus (46)*
Rob Rasmussen (57)

Second base

Johnny Giavotella (12)*
Rey Navarro (20)

Left field/two bench spots

Ji-Man Choi (51)*
Todd Cunningham (54)*
Craig Gentry (3)*
Daniel Nava (25)*
Rafael Ortega (39)

PROSPECTS

SP Victor Alcantara (86)
SP Tyler DeLoach (83)#
SP Kyle McGowin (84)#
Angels Rays Baseball SP Nate Smith (85)#
RP Greg Mahle (71)#
C Jett Bandy (47)
C Taylor Ward (99)#
SS Roberto Baldoquin (74)#
3B Kaleb Cowart (22)
2B Sherman Johnson (87)#
3B Kyle Kubitza (13)
2B Alex Yarbrough (81)#
OF Chad Hinshaw (69)#

MINOR LEAGUE DEPTH

SP Yunesky Maya (75)#
RP A.J. Achter (60)#
RP Javy Guerra (40)#
RP Lucas Luetge (44)#
RP Ramon Ramirez (49)#
C Juan Graterol (97)#
C Stephen McGee (96)#
C Michael Strentz (98)#
C Wade Wass (88)#
3B/1B Jefry Marte (19)#
INF Gregorio Petit (80)#
OF Quintin Berry (37)#
OF Nick Buss (72)#

Lastly, a look at the Angels’ projected Opening Day payroll. A reminder, this differs from the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) payroll, which is used to calculate where teams reside relative to that $189 million luxury-tax threshold we’ve basically spent the entire winter talking about. That CBT payroll, not calculated until the end of the year, uses the average annual value of all 40-man roster contracts, plus benefits, bonuses and any money switching hands among teams. My projections have them at just over $186 million for that one. The Opening Day payroll is simply what is owed to Major Leaguers in 2016. Info here is provided by Cot’s Contracts

Josh Hamilton: $26.41M (to Rangers)
Albert Pujols: $25.00M
C.J. Wilson: $20.50M
Jered Weaver: $20.20M
Mike Trout: $16.08M
Huston Street: $8.00M
Garrett Richards: $6.43M
Andrelton Simmons: $6.14M
Yunel Escobar: $5.50M
Joe Smith: $5.25M
Hector Santiago: $5.00M
Geovany Soto: $2.80M
Kole Calhoun: $3.40M
Erick Aybar: $2.50M (to Braves)
Fernando Salas: $2.40M
Cliff Pennington: $1.50M
Daniel Nava: $1.38M
Al Alburquerque: $1.10M
Craig Gentry: $1.00M

Pre-arbitration players: 8

Total: about $165 million

Arte Moreno

Prior Opening Day payrolls …

2015: $146.34M
2014: $154.55M
2013: $137.27M
2012: $151.38M
2011: $141.76M
2010: $121.11M
2009: $113.71M
2008: $119.22M
2007: $109.25M
2006: $103.47M
2005: $97.73M
2004: $100.53M
2003: $79.03M
2002: $61.72M
2001: $47.74M
2000: $55.80M

Last but not least, taco power rankings …

1. Los Taquitos
4747 E. Elliot Rd, Phoenix
Fresh corn tortillas, good meat, tasty sauce, chopped onions and cilantro. Not that hard. 

2. The Mission
3815 N. Brown Ave., Scottsdale
It’s a fancy restaurant, not a taqueria. But the pork shoulder tacos — smoked and braised for 12 hours — are pretty awesome.

3. Barrio Cafe
2814 N. 16th St., Phoenix
You certainly don’t have to get tacos here — been there five times, and I’ve never had a bad meal — but the cochinita pibil tacos are great.

4. La Merced
855 W. University Dr., Mesa
I’m a big fan of al pastor tacos, and these guys do them really well. 

5. El Hefe
640 S. Mill Ave., Tempe
Tasty, packed street tacos with some really unique ingredients. Duck carnitas and chicken tinga are go-tos. 

6. Los Altos Ranch Market
1118 E. Southern Ave., Mesa
Mexican grocery store with fresh tacos and great carnitas. 

7. America’s Taco Shop
2041 N. 7th St., Phoenix
Bigger corn tortillas with good flavor. They have an avocado sauce, though, which is fine.

8. Mucha Lucha Taco Shop
818 W. Broadway Rd, Tempe
You’ll end up eating these tacos with a fork, but they’ll be good. 

9. Senor Taco
15223 N. 87th St., Scottsdale
Generous portions, and the carne asada tacos are solid. 

10. Fuzzy’s Taco Shop
414 S. Mill Ave., Tempe
Not a fan of so much lettuce in my tacos. Or hard shells, for that matter. But it’ll do.

Alden

Early prediction for Angels depth chart …

If the season started today (Jan. 28), and Albert Pujols were healthy, this is how I would have the Angels’ Major League depth chart shaking out. These are all basically guesses, just to give you some idea of where they stand. Those on the active roster with asterisks by their name can not be optioned to the Minor Leagues without either giving their consent, going through waivers or being offered back to their prior teams. If every starting pitcher remains healthy, I’d still bet they trade one of them before Opening Day. For now, it’s crowded (though that is never a bad thing). One thing you may notice is that there seems to be a relative lack of roster flexibility right now. Lots of guys in the projected bullpen and bench can’t be optioned, which can be difficult with all the inevitable roster turnover throughout a season.

Some notes: I left Alburquerque and Morin out of the initial bullpen mainly because they can both be optioned and it would be the Angels’ best way of preserving depth; Santiago moved to the bullpen because it’s hard to imagine three very capable starting pitchers beginning the year in Triple-A; I have Skaggs starting the year in the Minors simply because he’s coming off Tommy John surgery, but I expect him to make a big impact this season; under this scenario, the Angels would probably lose Cunningham off waivers, since he, too, can not be optioned. …

LINEUP

Calhoun, RF
Escobar*, 3B
Trout, CF
Pujols*, 1B
Cron, DH
Nava*, LF
Simmons, SS
Perez, C
Giavotella*, 2B

BENCH

Soto*, C
Choi*, LHH 1B
Pennington*, INF
Gentry*, RHH OF

ROTATION

Richards, SP
Wilson*, SP
Weaver*, SP
Heaney, SP
Shoemaker, SP

BULLPEN

Street*, CL
Smith*, SU
Santiago, 7
Salas*, MR
Rasmus*, MR
Guerra*, MR
Alvarez, LR

TRIPLE-A DEPTH

SP: Skaggs, Tropeano
RP: Alburquerque, Morin, Rasmussen, Bedrosian, Achter, Leutge
C: Bandy
3B/1B: Cowart, Kubitza, Marte
2B/SS: Featherston, Torreyes, Navarro, Petit
OF: Ortega, Berry, Buss

Losing on waivers: OF Cunningham (out of options)
May clear waivers: 2B Torreyes (DFA’d 1/27), RP LaFromboise (DFA’d 1/25)

Alden

C.J. Wilson on the block, teams interested …

NASHVILLE — C.J. Wilson has, predictably, come up in trade discussions at the Winter Meetings, especially now that the once-robust free-agent market for starting pitchers has significantly dried out.

Johnny Cueto, Mike Leake and Scott Kazmir remain on the board, but teams — most notably the Mariners, who acquired Wade Miley as a fallback after Hisashi Iwakuma agreed to terms with the Dodgers — are starting to explore trade options.

Wilson is appealing, because he’s only signed for one more year, is already fully recovered from early August surgery to remove loose bodies from his pitching elbow and has a track record of durability. A team that acquires him via trade would not only get a short-term fix for their rotation; but a potential first-round pick by giving Wilson a qualifying offer at season’s end.

Wilson is owed $20 million in 2016 and can block trades to eight teams. How much of his salary the Angels are willing to take on remains to be seen, but they’ll probably have to at least absorb some of it.

The savings could expand the payroll and make it easier for the Angels, roughly $20 million below the $189 million luxury-tax threshold, to sign a premier outfielder.

Several teams still need starting pitching. The Yankees need help in the rotation, and the Pirates would like a rental (though the money may be a deterrent with Pittsburgh). The Orioles could be a fit, as can the D-backs. And the Padres would love a left-handed starter.

One ideal match could be the Cardinals, who have a void in the rotation with Lance Lynn spending the 2016 season recovering from Tommy John surgery. After missing out on David Price, the Cardinals don’t seem interesting in giving a free-agent pitcher a long-term deal. They prefer the kind of short-term answer Wilson may provide.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler said teams have called about his pitchers, in the rotation and in the bullpen.

“Probably a tick more on the starters,” Eppler said, “but getting called on both.”

Wilson is one of eight starters that can conceivably be in the Angels’ rotation next season, now that Tyler Skaggs is fully recovered from Tommy John surgery. Eppler reiterated that he’s hesitant to part with that depth, saying that “there’s some element of that where you’re robbing Peter to pay Paul.”

But Wilson could be an exception, because the savings on his contract — and perhaps the player he can bring in return, if the Angels absorb a significant amount of his 2016 salary — could be crucial.

Alden

Angels could use ‘pen for lineup help …

NASHVILLE — Trevor Gott is drawing some interest from the Winter Meetings, with FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal first reporting that teams have inquired on the 23-year-old reliever.

The Angels could use him to plug a hole in their lineup, outlined here.

The A’s are expected to trade Brett Lawrie, a right-handed power hitter who can play second or third base, and would like some pitching in return, be it for the rotation or the bullpen. The Phillies could part with left-handed hitter Cody Asche, who plays left field and third base, for a reliever.

And, of course, there’s still the possibility that the Twins part with right-handed-hitting third baseman Trevor Plouffe, even though general manager Terry Ryan previously intimated that he’d like to keep him. Minnesota is also in need of bullpen help, and the Angels can afford to part with some of that, similar to what they did last year.

Gott could be dealt in much of the same way Kevin Jepsen was for Matt Joyce last December (though, of course, they’d hope to do better on their return).  Mike Morin (6.37 ERA, but a 1.27 WHIP with a solid 10.4 strikeout rate and 2.3 walk rate in 2015) could be a candidate to take over the seventh-inning role ahead of Joe Smith and Huston Street, as can someone like Fernando Salas or an affordable free-agent acquisition.

Gott — with a lively, high-90’s fastball but below-average secondary pitches — posted a 3.02 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP, with 5.1 strikeouts and 3.0 walks per nine innings in 48 appearances as a rookie last season.

Alden

Bud Black hired, other FO changes …

The Angels announced Tuesday that they have hired Bud Black as a special assistant to new general manager Billy Eppler, as was initially reported by MLB.com last week.

Black was the Angels’ pitching coach from 2000-06, then left to serve as manager of the Padres, a post he was dismissed from this past June.

The Angels previously announced former third-base coach and bench coach Ron Roenicke as the third-base coach for the 2016 season, moving Gary DiSarcina to first base among several other coaching moves.

Black was reportedly one of three finalists for the Dodgers’ managerial vacancy recently, a job that ultimately went to his ex-bench coach, Dave Roberts. Earlier, Black seemed to be in line to be the Nats manager until he and ownership disagreed on the terms of his contract, prompting the hiring of Dusty Baker.

Other front-office positions announced by the Angels include: Mike Gallego as director of baseball development, Justin Hollander as director of player personnel, Mike LaCassa as director of Minor League operations, Steve Martone and Jonathan Strangio as assistant GM, and Bobby Scales as special assistant to the GM.

Gallego, whose hiring was also reported last week, was previously the A’s third-base coach. Scales was most recently the Angels’ director of player development.

Alden

Angels sign Geovany Soto …

The Angels signed free-agent catcher Geovany Soto to a one-year, $2.8 million deal on Tuesday, giving them a veteran complement to the young Carlos Perez behind the plate.

Soto batted .219/.301/.406 in 210 plate appearances for the White Sox last season and is a career .246/.331/.434 hitter in 11 seasons in the big leagues, with the first eight years spent with the Cubs.

The 32-year-old right-handed hitter has thrown out 27 percent of would-be base stealers since 2006 – basically the Major League average during that time – and ranked 60th in the Majors in terms of getting additional strikes with his pitch framing last year, right behind Perez, according to Baseball Prospectus.

Soto’s deal puts the Angels roughly $20 million below the luxury-tax threshold.

Alden

Roenicke returns to Angels as 3B coach …

Ron Roenicke has returned to the Angels as their new third-base coach, the club announced on Wednesday.

Roenicke was the Angels’ third-base coach from 2000-05, then was promoted to be their bench coach in 2006, taking over for Joe Maddon. He was named the Brewers’ manager in November 2010 and was dismissed in May 2015.

A source also told MLB.com on Wednesday that Bud Black, the Angels’ pitching coach from 2000-06, was also going to eventually join the organization in a front-office role, probably as a special assistant.

Angels general manager Billy Eppler, however, responded in a text message by saying: “We have not hired Bud Black. We are still in the process of assembling our coaching staff, scouting staff, player-development staff and front-office staff.”

The addition of Black, reportedly eliminated from consideration for the Dodgers’ managerial vacancy, could come later this offseason.

Roenicke spent the last two months of the 2015 season as the Dodgers’ third-base coach, then reportedly interviewed for the role. To bring in Roenicke, Gary DiSarcina was moved from third-base coach to first-base coach.

Roenicke’s hiring is only the latest in a series of moves for the Major League coaching staff and throughout the Minor League system.

Bullpen coach Steve Soliz will transition to the catching and information coach, a role that will largely have him helping to put together scouting reports heading into each series. The role was filled by Keith Johnson down the stretch last season, but Johnson will return as the Triple-A Salt Lake manager.

The Angels previously hired Charles Nagy to replace Mike Butcher as pitching coach and promoted Dave Hansen to replace Don Baylor as hitting coach, with Paul Sorrento promoted as Hansen’s assistant. Dino Ebel is expected to stay on as bench coach.

Alfredo Griffin, part of manager Mike Scioscia‘s staff since he arrived in 2000, has moved from first-base coach to infield coach.

A plethora of moves have been made throughout the farm system, though the Angels will wait until they’re all complete before announcing them. Sources said Denny Hocking has moved from manager of Class A Advanced Inland Empire to roving infield instructor. Chad Tracy, a Pepperdine University product who managed at Class A Burlington last year, will replace Hocking in managing the Inland Empire 66ers.

Former field coordinator Mike Micucci joined the Mariners, and former Angels general manager Jerry Dipoto, to fill the same role. The Angels also hired Mike Gallego — a long-time third-base coach, most recently with the A’s — as their director of baseball development.

Alden 

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