Results tagged ‘ Rangers ’
Erick Aybar was out of the starting lineup for a third straight day on Monday, a precaution for the sore right groin the Angels’ shortstop suffered while reaching first base on a ninth-inning single against the Mariners on Friday night.
Prior to batting practice, though, Aybar did some light agility drills on the field with strength-and-conditioning coordinator T.J. Harrington, then took some BP and felt good. The 30-year-old — an All-Star for the first time while sporting a .283/.320/.409 slash line — expects to return to the starting lineup on Tuesday and should be available off the bench for Monday’s series opener against the Orioles.
The groin initially bothered the switch-hitter while batting from the right side of the plate.
“But I’m good now, from both sides,” Aybar said in Spanish. “I’ll be ready to go tomorrow. They told me one more day, and then tomorrow I’ll [return to the starting lineup]. But I’m ready for whatever they need today, too.”
Some other notes as the Angels look to build on a Major League-best .824 winning percentage in July …
- As I type this, C.J. Wilson is throwing his first bullpen session since landing on the disabled list with a sprained right ankle on July 10. Wilson said he has “no idea” how much longer he’ll have to be on the shelf. “It’s going to be how does it feel today throwing, and then after throwing tomorrow.” Wilson will eventually have to go out onto a rehab assignment. “I’m going to have to adjust to how it feels, because it’s not just going to heal itself in a week,” he added. “Some of the adjustment is going to have to be pain tolerance and things like that. And just learning how to use a somewhat-destabilized ankle.”
- From Matthew DeFranks: Collin Cowgill rejoined the Angels on Monday and said he should return from the disabled list in a couple of weeks, barring an unforeseen setback. Cowgill broke his nose and thumb after he was hit by a Matt West pitch trying to bunt on July 13. Cowgill, who flew in from his home Kentucky on Sunday night, had stitches removed from his nose on Monday and said it would probably be another few days before he can take any swings.
- The Angels signed veteran catcher John Buck to a Minor League deal and assigned him to Triple-A Salt Lake, where they currently have three active catchers. Buck, 34, was released from the Mariners on Tuesday after batting .226/.293/.286. For the Angels, he can be a third catcher when rosters expand in September — unless he finds an immediate Major League opportunity before then.
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
David Freese, 3B
Efren Navarro, LF
Hank Conger, C
John McDonald, SS
SP: RH Matt Shoemaker (7-2, 4.38 ERA)
Mike Scioscia knows who his starters will be on Saturday and Sunday, but won’t announce them until Friday, probably because a corresponding roster move is involved. One of the games will be started by Jered Weaver, and for the other it’ll either be Hector Santiago or Matt Shoemaker. And with that, the Angels’ manager will have essentially made the much-wondered-about rotation decision, which was made difficult by how effective Shoemaker and Santiago have been lately.
Santiago has one thing pointing in his favor: Soon, the Angels have to basically figure out whether or not he’s going to start for them down the stretch.
The non-waiver Trade Deadline is exactly six weeks away, and the Angels have two potential needs: Lefty reliever and starting pitcher. Santiago has a chance to fill either of those roles, but obviously not both. And the decision to keep him in the rotation could rest partly on the fact that they need to figure out whether or not trading for a starting pitcher is necessary.
The Angels have the flexibility to absorb payroll – remember, the money they offered to Matt Garza this offseason essentially went unused — but getting a front-of-the-rotation starter would mean parting ways with top prospects from a farm system that needs to grow. Acquiring a lefty reliever probably would not.
The Angels have been heavily linked to Rays ace David Price, most recently by ESPN.com’s Jim Bowden, who believes C.J. Cron and Alex Yarbrough could be enough to get a deal done. FOXSports.com’s Ken Rosenthal linked them to Ian Kennedy of the Padres and Dillon Gee of the Mets. I’ve heard they like Kennedy, Travis Wood of the Cubs and J.A. Happ of the Blue Jays (albeit a contender), among others. The Cubs’ Jeff Samardzija is a sexy name who could be shopped since he turned down a reported extension offer, but he — like Price and the Phillies’ Cliff Lee, who’s currently rehabbing from an elbow strain — will cost some top-shelf prospects.
But before they go in that direction, the Angels need to find out if Santiago’s last two starts were a fluke or a sign that he’s actually rounding into the form they expected when they traded for him.
Now, is five weeks enough to draw a conclusion?
David Freese had come over from St. Louis, Erick Aybar was entrenched at shortstop and utility man Andrew Romine was out of options, so Grant Green went into 2014 figuring he’d just stay at second base for the Angels, to start there in the Minor Leagues and be ready on the off chance Howie Kendrick was traded.
“I couldn’t have been more wrong,” Green said from the Angel Stadium clubhouse on Friday afternoon, shortly after being recalled from Triple-A Salt Lake.
Green started the season with the Salt Lake Bees, played two games at second base, then spent the rest of the time getting re-acclimated with the left side of the infield, playing a lot of shortstop and a little bit of third base.
A week ago, he was told he’d start playing left field, and Green didn’t know what to think. He asked Triple-A manager Keith Johnson what was going on, and couldn’t get an answer.
“You’re kind of thinking, ‘Did I not do a good job at third and short that they have to put me in the outfield now?’” Green said. “But as long as you’re in this clubhouse over that one, I guess you’re doing something right.”
The Angels just wanted Green to be as versatile as possible to make him more appealing in the big leagues, and give them more options to get his bat in the lineup – a bat that was responsible for a .349/.395/.505 slash line in 119 plate appearances in the Pacific Coast League.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he’s “very comfortable” starting Green in left field, a position he spent 49 games at in the A’s system in 2012. The 26-year-old right-handed hitter, acquired from Oakland in exchange for third baseman Alberto Callaspo last July, wasn’t in the lineup against right-hander Colby Lewis, but will probably start on Saturday against Matt Harrison and most other lefties moving forward.
Left field figures to be Green’s primary position with the Angels right now, but Scioscia said “his versatility is something that will come into play.”
Green credited former Angels second baseman Bobby Grich for his success at the plate early on. The two met at a Make-A-Wish event, exchanged numbers and started working together in a local batting cage. Grich taught Green to finish his swing a little lower, which Green believes has “allowed me to stay on the plane of the ball a lot longer.”
Left field “feels good,” Green said.
Everything does in the big leagues.
“It was just getting used to not reacting right away; taking a couple seconds to see where the ball goes first,” Green said. “But it felt fine. The throw’s a little bit longer, the batter’s a little further away. Other than that, it’s the same.”
Shin-Soo Choo, LF
Elvis Andrus, SS
Adrian Beltre, 3B
Prince Fielder, 1B
Alex Rios, RF
Donnie Murphy, 2B
Leonys Martin, CF
Michael Choice, DH
Robinson Chirinos, C
SP: RH Colby Lewis (1-1, 4.60 ERA)
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Raul Ibanez, DH
Hank Conger, C
Collin Cowgill, RF
J.B. Shuck, LF
SP: LH Hector Santiago (0-4, 4.44 ERA)
A strong belief in one’s roster is usually followed by a phrase like “as long as we stay healthy.”
Well, the American League West is anything but to start the season. The Rangers are littered with injuries, with starter Derek Holland (right knee), second baseman Jurickson Profar (right shoulder) and catcher Geovany Soto (knee) all out until midseason and Yu Darvish (neck) starting the year on the disabled list. A’s Opening Day starter Jarrod Parker will miss all of 2014 after undergoing his second Tommy John surgery and A.J. Griffin (right flexor muscle strain) is on the shelf. And the Mariners — in town the next three days — have two starters on the DL in Hisashi Iwakuma (right middle finger) and Taijuan Walker (right shoulder).
The door is wide open for the Angels.
They’ve had the fourth-worst April winning percentage the last two years, crippling any chances they had of reaching the playoffs. But of the Angels’ 27 games through the month of April this year, only nine will come against teams that made the playoffs in 2013. Four will come against an Astros team that has lost 100 games three straight years (though, granted, they won 10 of 19 games against the Angels last year), and three will come against the Mets, who haven’t been to the playoffs since 2006. But there’s one really tough swing — a three-city trip from April 18-27, which will see the Angels visit the Tigers, Nationals and Yankees.
The Angels will also be off in each of their first six Thursdays. Yes, you’d rather have the days off at the end of the year, but a fast start is crucial this year, and those off days certainly won’t hurt that cause.
In hopes of facilitating a better start, the Angels tweaked their Spring Training program. Position players took more swings and focused more on situational hitting. Starting pitchers were stretched out earlier. Relievers attacked their bullpens more aggressively. Live BP was re-introduced after a one-year hiatus. And more shifting is taking place defensively, after the Angels went from 2nd to 27th in Defensive Runs Saved over the course of one season.
One year after having by far the worst Spring Training record and ERA in the Majors, the Angels had a much better camp. Here’s a look at the numbers …
Record: 19-11-2, 2nd in the Cactus League
Runs: 190, 4th in MLB
OPS: .803, 3rd in MLB
SP ERA: 4.01, 11th in MLB
RP WHIP: 4.20, 4th in MLB
Positives from camp: Albert Pujols looked light on his feet around the bag and on the bases. … Josh Hamilton quickly got his timing back after missing time with a strained left hamstring. … Tyler Skaggs was mostly sitting at 95 mph, after having a hard time touching 90 mph last year. … Erick Aybar and Kole Calhoun — batting ninth and first, respectively, and ahead of Mike Trout — drew a combined 21 walks. … C.J. Wilson had a 1.88 ERA in 28 2/3 innings. … Ernesto Frieri didn’t allow a run in 10 outings. … Trout batted .414/.460/.828. … The Angels rid themselves of two potential distractions, releasing Joe Blanton and signing Trout to the much-talked-about extension. … Out-of-options infielder Andrew Romine was turned into much-needed starting-pitching depth in Jose Alvarez.
Negatives from camp: Sean Burnett is still working his way back from August surgery, but he’s expected to face hitters for the first time in a sim game on Tuesday or Wednesday. … Dane De La Rosa is starting the season on the DL with a right forearm strain, but he could be back as soon as the weekend series in Houston. … Brian Moran is working his way back from left elbow inflammation, leaving Nick Maronde (1.89 Cactus League WHIP) as the only lefty in the bullpen to start the year. … Skaggs and Hector Santiago had their occasional long innings, an indication that there will be some growing pains. … Newcomers David Freese (one extra-base hit) and Raul Ibanez (.218 batting average) didn’t have great results at the plate, but both were happy with the way they were driving the ball.
Now, what does all this mean for the regular season?
I have no idea.
The Angels’ depth chart can be found here.
Now, if you’ve followed baseball long enough you know that a team never goes an entire season with the same 25-man roster (or even the same five-man rotation). So, here’s a look at who’s next in line at every position …
Catcher: Luis Martinez
Third base: Luis Jimenez
Shortstop: Tommy Field
Second base: Grant Green
First base: C.J. Cron
Left field: J.B. Shuck
Center field: Matt Long
Right field: Brennan Boesch
Starter: Wade LeBlanc or Alvarez
Reliever: Brandon Lyon
On that Trout contract …
For months, many wondered how much Trout would be worth in the open market and speculated what it would cost to lock up the best all-around player in baseball. They put his three arbitration years at upwards of $60 million, had him pegged as a $35 million free agent and believed he could be baseball’s first $300-million player.
But three are three important things to keep in mind about Trout’s situation …
1. He isn’t in his free-agent years yet. He still needed to get through three arbitration years, which greatly limits how much a player can make.
2. Being a $300-million player would’ve probably required a 10-year, contract, and that wouldn’t have been ideal because Trout wants to cash in on another monster contract by hitting the open market before age 30.
3. There’s just as much incentive for Trout as there is for the Angels, no matter how great he is. Why? Because free agency is a whole four years away, a lot can happen in four years, and it’s hard to turn down that much financial security so early.
So, Trout’s contract is $144.5 million over the course of six seasons, from 2015-20 (with a full no-trade clause, basic incentives and no additional option years or opt-outs). And I think it gives both sides what they want. It gives the Angels three additional years of Trout and some cost-certainty. It gives Trout a chance to be a free agent again at age 29 and makes him the highest-paid player relative to service time at every juncture.
Here’s a look at the year-by-year breakdown, and who Trout surpasses …
2014: $1M (Pujols in 2003 and Ryan Howard in ’07 with $900K for a pre-arbitration player)*
2015: $10.25M (Howard, $10M in ’08 for first-year arbitration)**
2016: $15.25M (Howard, $15M in ’09 for second-year arbitration)
2017: $19.25M (Howard, $19M in ’10 for third-year arbitration)
2018-20: $33.25M (Miguel Cabrera, $31M AAV in ’14 for a free agent)
* the $1M compensation was done before the contract
** $5M of that will be paid to Trout in 2014, as part of a signing bonus
Can the Angels stay competitive for the next seven seasons to keep Trout’s interest in the team? (@ryanwjsmyth)
One of the reasons Trout felt comfortable staying with the Angels long term is because he knows the owner, Arte Moreno, isn’t afraid to put his money into making this team competitive. One thing is for sure: The Angels will not be in rebuild mode over the life of Trout’s contract, or even while Moreno is around. But it’ll be harder and harder to stay below the luxury tax and put a World Series-contending product on the field as Hamilton and Pujols naturally decline. Jerry Dipoto has a tough task at hand — continue to build a contending team while also developing young pitching. Getting Santiago and Skaggs is a good start, though. Also, keep in mind: Trout’s decision to stay will be based more on how good the Angels can be after 2020, not necessarily what they’ve done leading up to it.
Will Albert Pujols hit 30+ home runs this season? (@adreamersview)
If healthy, I think you can bank on that. He hit 30 in 2012 even though he went a month and a half without hitting his first (and I don’t expect that to happen again). Plantar fasciitis didn’t just limit his defense and baserunning. It made his right knee, surgically repaired the previous offseason, swell up. And it sapped his power because a hitter is nothing without a healthy base. I’m never going to doubt Pujols’ ability to hit. He’s proven it long enough.
If the Angels make a run for the postseason what do you see them doing at the trade deadline? (@gizmosol)
Trying to get their hands on more starting pitching. Justin Masterson and Max Scherzer are heading into their final seasons before free agency, Cliff Lee and David Price may get shopped, and all sorts of other starters could become available in July. The Angels still have roughly $15 million below the luxury-tax threshold that they’re willing to use. Yes, the farm system is still pretty barren. But the list of teams in the market for a starting-pitching rental in July is usually very short, and the Angels could dangle Cron or Taylor Lindsey or Kaleb Cowart or some of their (few) good pitching prospects if they feel they’re close (and hope for a better result than the 2012 trade for Zack Greinke).
Here are some links to our Opening Day coverage …
Some feature stories from earlier in the spring, in case you missed them …
Weaver leads rotation’s quest for redemption
Pujols, Hamilton facing more doubt than ever
Mike Scioscia eager to reclaim winning formula
John McDonald “a magician” with the glove
The odyssey of De La Rosa, and a lesson in never giving up
Trout can’t believe how fast this is all happening
Most important thing: It didn’t happen at home, but Joe Blanton was lights out while playing with the other half of the team in Surprise, Ariz., limiting the Rangers to one lonesome hit in five innings, striking out five. The outing followed one in which he gave up seven runs, and four homers, in 3 1/3 innings against the Rockies.
Second-most important thing: At home, the Angels’ everyday players had their best offensive showing since the Spring Training opener nearly two weeks ago. Albert Pujols (2-for-3 with his second straight line-drive double), David Freese (3-for-3, after going 1-for-his-previous-14), Mike Trout (two runs scored, two RBIs), Kole Calhoun (2-for-4) and Erick Aybar (2-for-3) all had nice games, and the Angels scored eight runs in the second inning off Matt Garza.
Third-most important thing: Hector Santiago was solid, giving up two runs while scattering five hits, walking one and striking out six in 4 1/3 innings. He threw 83 pitches, but he threw 90 before he even showed up to Spring Training.
Fourth-most important thing: The Angels’ offense came alive against the Rangers, too, winning 12-1 and plating eight runs in the first four innings. J.B. Shuck went 2-for-5, Collin Cowgill hit a three-run homer off Alexi Ogando, and Chad Tracy (2-for-4, three RBIs), Efren Navarro (2-for-2), Grant Green (2-for-4) and John McDonald (2-for-2, 3 RBIs) also had multi-hit games.
Fifth-most important thing: Matt Long continues to hit. He went 2-for-4 in Tempe — while playing all three outfield spots — and is batting .536 this spring, with nine hits in his last 13 at-bats.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): In the second, Lyle Overbay smoked a line drive, but Freese dove to his right to snag it.
Best quote: Santiago, on his long wait between the end of the top of the second to the start of the top of the third: “Last year, when I was pitching [for the White Sox], we didn’t have very many big innings. So, it’s been a while. Now I know what it feels like to sit down for so long, and it seems like we’re going to do that a lot. I’ll take 40-minute innings all the time, as long as we’re scoring some runs.”
Angels’ record: 7-7-1
Yep, he’s traveling.
Most of the starters are playing at home against the Brewers, including Mike Trout, Albert Pujols and Hector Santiago (both lineups here). But Joe Blanton is starting in Surprise, Ariz, five days after giving up seven runs — and four mammoth homers, according to people who actually watched the road half of the Angels’ first split-squad game — in 3 1/3 innings against the Rockies.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia said Blanton is only one “minor” reason he’s traveling (most of the time the manager stays at home and sends other coaches). Some potential bench guys (Chad Tracy in left, J.B. Shuck in right, Grant Green at shortstop) are playing positions they’re still getting used to, and the game is against the division-rival Rangers.
“All of us can’t be in one spot all the time,” Scioscia said. “I want to get acclimated with some things.”
Asked how important this start is for Blanton, who’s owed $8.5 million and is without a role right now, Scioscia said: “Every time you’re out there, it’s a proving ground and you need to perform well. Joe, just like most pitchers in spring, your performance is not going to be your line score. Your performance is going to be the execution of pitches, the progress, things like that. In that regard, it’s critical for every pitcher, because we’re opening up in  days. Every pitcher really needs to get that performance locked down, and that performance isn’t their line score. It’s going to be just from a scouting perspective — are they making progress and are they executing their pitches.”
Most important thing: The gamesmanship between Yu Darvish and Mike Trout has begun. Trout owns a lifetime 1.227 OPS in 39 plate appearances against Darvish, so the Japanese right-hander said he only threw him fastballs today (Trout lined out and hit a single in two at-bats against him) because he didn’t want to tip his hand on the different approach he’ll have against the Angels’ phenom this season.
Second-most important thing: Tyler Skaggs, vying for the fifth spot in the rotation, retired six of his first seven batters, but grew noticeably tired in the third, putting four of the five batters he faced on base and giving up an RBI single to Shin-Soo Choo before exiting.
Third-most important thing: Albert Pujols went 0-for-3 with a weak groundout and two harmless flyouts, making him 0-for-8 on the spring. But, as Mike Scioscia said, “Really small sample size. In BP he’s there; he’s just searching for timing. He’ll find it.”
Fourth-most important thing: Raul Ibanez took Darvish deep in the second inning, with a solo shot that easily cleared the right-field fence. Ibanez has one hit and five strikeouts in nine career regular-season at-bats against Darvish.
Fifth-most important thing: Sidearm reliever Joe Smith made his Angels debut in the fourth inning, giving up an RBI triple to Leonys Martin.
Best defensive play (that I actually saw): With one on and none out in the eighth, Rangers second baseman Kensuke Tanaka ranged to his right, slid on one knee and made a nice backhand play of a Luis Martinez grounder to start a slick 4-6-3 double play.
Best quote: Trout, to Japanese reporters when asked about Darvish tweaking his game plan against him this year: “It’s going to be interesting. I’m curious to see what he does, see what happens. It’s going to be fun to watch.”
Angels lineup …
Kole Calhoun, RF
Mike Trout, CF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Raul Ibanez, DH
David Freese, 3B
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Erick Aybar, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
J.B. Shuck, LF
SP: LH Tyler Skaggs
Rangers lineup …
Shin-Soo Choo, LF
Josh Wilson, 2B
Alex Rios, RF
Mitch Moreland, 1B
Kevin Kouzmanoff, 3B
Jurickson Profar, DH
Robinson Chirinos, C
Luis Sardinas, SS
Leonys Martin, CF
SP: RH Yu Darvish
- Josh Hamilton wasn’t surprised to hear about Tigers second baseman Ian Kinsler‘s comments, saying he hopes his ex-team, the Rangers, go 0-162 and calling general manager Jon Daniels a “sleazeball.” “At least I won’t be the only villain in Texas now,” Hamilton said, smiling. The two were close in Texas, and Hamilton said he wasn’t very surprised to find out about Kinsler’s comments. “He’s very competitive.”
- Hamilton entered the clubhouse drenched in sweat after taking some batting practice and playing catch. Hamilton, who strained his left calf one week from today, no longer requires crutches and doesn’t have to do those baseball activities off one knee. But he has yet to run. “Even if I felt good today, they wouldn’t let me, so I can’t really put a time frame on it.”
- Ian Stewart was scratched from Monday’s lineup after Mike Scioscia said he was “messing around with his daughter and got hit in the nose.” Stewart’s daughter, 4, was lying on the bed stomach first watching TV, and when Stewart went to lunge at her playfully, she sat up and the two collided heads. “She just kind of looked at me and laid back down, watched the movie, and I thought I had a broken nose, because I heard like a crunching sound,” Stewart said. Stewart was fine on Tuesday, though. No concussion and no broken nose. He’ll get back to baseball activities on Wednesday.
- The Angels are playing a “B” game in Goodyear, Ariz., on Tuesday morning. Hunter Green is pitching in it, and Scioscia is attending both contests.
- Joe Smith, Fernando Salas, Michael Kohn, Brandon Lyon and Clay Rapada are also slated to pitch against the Rangers on Tuesday.
Last year’s record: 78-84, 3rd place
Key additions: SP Hector Santiago, SP Tyler Skaggs, RP Joe Smith, 3B David Freese, DH Raul Ibanez, RP Fernando Salas, SP Mark Mulder, 1B Carlos Pena, INF John McDonald, RP Brian Moran
Key subtractions: 1B/OF Mark Trumbo, CF Peter Bourjos, SP Jason Vargas, SP Jerome Williams, SP Tommy Hanson
Biggest strength: Offense, even without Trumbo. The Angels ranked fifth in OPS last year despite getting mediocre-to-bad seasons from Josh Hamilton and Albert Pujols. Both should be better this year — Pujols because of health, Hamilton because of mindset — and they still have the game’s best all-around player in Mike Trout. They’ll be fine in this department.
Biggest question: Starting pitching, just like it was around this time last year. The Angels got the cost-controlled pitching they needed by getting Skaggs and Santiago for Trumbo. But they couldn’t resign Jason Vargas and couldn’t bring in Matt Garza, so they’ll be relying on three young guys — Skaggs, Santiago and Garrett Richards — to fortify their rotation behind Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson.
Most important player: Skaggs. He’s coming off a rough season in the Majors and in Triple-A, but he’s only 22 years old, still has good stuff and is returning to the organization that originally drafted him.
In 25 words or less: They no longer have the hype of the last two years, but the talent is still there to contend. It’ll come down to starting pitching.
Last year’s record: 51-111, 5th place
Key additions: SP Scott Feldman, CF Dexter Fowler, SP Jerome Williams, RP Chad Qualls, RP Matt Albers, RP Anthony Bass, INF Cesar Izturis, 1B/OF Jesus Guzman, RP Jesse Crain, OF Adron Chambers
Key subtractions: SP Erik Bedard, INF Ryan Jackson, OF Brandon Barnes, SP Jordan Lyles
Biggest strength: The future. The Astros’ farm system was ranked first by ESPN.com’s Keith Law recently. They have four prospects within MLB.com’s Top 25 (Carlos Correa, Jonathan Singleton, George Springer and Mark Appel) and they’ll have the No. 1 overall selection once again this June.
Biggest question: The present. There’s a reason — besides savvy Drafts, prospect-laden trades and a bigger presence in Latin America — that their farm system has become so good: Because their Major League team has been so bad. There’s no sugarcoating it. The Astros have lost at least 100 games three straight years, their big league club is still full of questions, and the division they’re still new to is much better.
Most important player: Springer. The 24-year-old outfielder, ranked 23rd by MLB.com, is expected to make his Major League debut at some point in 2014. And if his numbers at Double-A and Triple-A are any indication, he could make an immediate impact.
In 25 words or less: They’ll be a little better this year, with Fowler, Feldman and Qualls adding necessary veteran presence, and should be much better in a few more.
Last year’s record: 96-66, 1st place (lost to Tigers in ALDS)
Key additions: SP Scott Kazmir, CL Jim Johnson, RP Luke Gregerson, RP Fernando Abad, INF Nick Punto, OF Craig Gentry, SP Drew Pomeranz, SP Phil Humber
Key subtractions: C Kurt Suzuki, OF Chris Young, SP Bartolo Colon, RP Grant Balfour, OF Michael Choice, SP Brett Anderson, RP Pedro Figueroa, 2B Jemile Weeks
Biggest strength: Pitching, as usual. Colon is a big loss — literally and figuratively — but with Johnson and Gregerson, the A’s could have one of the deepest and most dominant bullpens ever. Seriously. And if Sonny Gray is the same guy we saw down the stretch and in the playoffs, the rotation — with Jarrod Parker, Dan Straily, A.J. Griffin and Kazmir also in it — looks outstanding once again.
Biggest question: Second base. Weeks didn’t necessarily pan out, Alberto Callaspo is out of position there, and it looks like it’ll be Punto and Eric Sogard in some sort of platoon.
Most important player: Kazmir. The 30-year-old left-hander parlayed a miraculous comeback season into a two-year, $22 million contract with a team that can’t afford bad contracts. If he’s the guy he was with the Indians last year (4.04 ERA, 1.32 WHIP, 9.2 K/9 in 158 innings) the A’s will be in great shape. If he reverts to the guy who was out of baseball for a year, they could be in trouble.
In 25 words or less: They’ve won back-to-back AL West titles, only to be eliminated by the Tigers in back-to-back first rounds. They seem primed to take the next step.
Last year’s record: 71-91, 4th place
Key additions: 2B Robinson Cano, CL Fernando Rodney, 1B/OF Corey Hart, 1B/OF Logan Morrison, C John Buck, INF/OF Willie Bloomquist, SP Scott Baker, OF Travis Witherspoon
Key subtractions: 1B Kendrys Morales, OF Raul Ibanez, SP Joe Saunders, RP Oliver Perez, RP Carter Capps, OF Carlos Peguero
Biggest strength: Second base. Well, they seem to have that position figured out pretty well. They better, with a $240 million investment for Cano.
Biggest question: Protecting Cano. Right now, they have Hart coming off knee surgery that put him out for all of 2013, which is no sure thing. If you spend that much money on someone like Cano, you ought to make sure someone actually throws him a strike every once in a while. Nelson Cruz could be a big help in the cleanup spot.
Most important player: Taijuan Walker. The Mariners already have a dynamic one-two punch in Felix Hernandez and Hisashi Iwakuma. If Walker — 21 and the fourth-ranked prospect in the Majors by MLB.com — steps up, Seattle’s rotation can compete with some of the best teams in the American League.
In 25 words or less: It’s great to see them make a splash, but it’ll take lots more than Cano to take this from a 91-loss team to the playoffs.
Last year’s record: 91-72, 2nd place (lost to Rays in Wild Card tiebreaker)
Key additions: 1B Prince Fielder, LF Shin-Soo Choo, C J.P. Arencibia, OF Michael Choice, 3B/1B Kevin Kouzmanoff, INF/OF Brent Lillibridge, SP Armando Galarraga, RP Jose Contreras, RP Daniel Bard
Key subtractions: C A.J. Pierzynski, DH Lance Berkman, RF Nelson Cruz, OF David Murphy, SP Matt Garza, CL Joe Nathan, 2B Ian Kinsler, OF Craig Gentry
Biggest strength: Offense. With an on-base machine in Choo at the top and Fielder protecting Adrian Beltre in the middle — not to mention giving them that left-handed power bat they lost with Hamilton — the Rangers’ lineup is a guaranteed juggernaut.
Biggest question: Health, particularly of their pitching staff. Opening Day starter Matt Harrison is coming off two back surgeries and an additional procedure to treat Thoracic Outlet Syndrome in his right shoulder. Colby Lewis is coming off hip surgery. Derek Holland won’t be ready until midseason because of knee surgery. And Neftali Feliz is coming off Tommy John surgery.
Most important player: Feliz. The Rangers no longer have a closer now that Joe Nathan is in Detroit, but Feliz was their guy when they went to the World Series in 2010 and ’11. If he can get back to being that, Texas is set for the ninth inning.
In 25 words or less: The Rangers look very good on paper once again, but that’s given the health of Harrison, Lewis, Holland and Feliz. And that’s a big question.
Predicted order of finish …
OK look, before you freak out by the headline, just keep in mind the Angels probably will get another starting pitcher. If they can’t get Masahiro Tanaka, or they can’t fit Matt Garza into the budget, they’ll likely turn to the likes of Bronson Arroyo, Chris Capuano, Paul Maholm, etc. And chances are they’ll land someone.
But that’s not the point of this exercise.
The question, if given more character space, is something like: Is the Angels’ current five-man rotation already good enough, even without a shiny new free agent?
Impossible to determine, you say. And you’re pretty much right. But thanks to the assortment of reliable projections that exist in this sabermetric age, we can at least come up with some semblance of where they stand among their American League counterparts. For that, I turned to Oliver, which is available subscrition-free via FanGraphs.com (and tends to be a lot more favorable than Steamer). I projected the five-man rotations for each team, and added up the cumulative ERA, FIP, WAR and innings total. For the Angels, I have Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson, Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs (pictured).
Before we take a look at where the Angels (project to) stand, some notes …
- A lot of teams — most, actually — have a fifth spot open. In deciding who to pick as the fifth starer, I chose the guy projected to have the highest WAR.
- The best teams have quality depth beyond the five starters, and the Angels still lack in that department. That isn’t really reflected in this.
- Things can change drastically for any team that signs Tanaka, or Garza, or Ubaldo Jimenez, or Ervin Santana.
- Derek Holland isn’t listed with the Rangers because the projections came out before it was learned that he’d be out until midseason due to knee surgery.
- THEY’RE PROJECTIONS; NOT FACTS. (Obvious, but worth reminding.)
OK, now, here’s a look at each team individually, in alphabetical order. The first cumulative number is ERA, the second is FIP, the third is WAR and the fourth is IP …
Angels (Weaver/Wilson/Richards/Santiago/Skaggs): 18.27|19.62|9.0|826
Astros (Feldman/Cosart/Oberholtzer/Peacock/McHugh): 21.78|22.3|5.0|736
Athletics (Parker/Kazmir/Gray/Griffin/Straily): 18.27|19.91|9.0|782
Blue Jays (Dickey/Marrow/Buehrle/Happ/Hutchison): 20.85|21.44|8.1|757
Indians (Masterson/Kluber/McAllister/Salazar/Carrasco): 19.41|18.99|9.1|755
Mariners (Hernandez/Iwakuma/Walker/Ramirez/Paxton): 18.05|19.06|11.4|802
Orioles (Gonzalez/Tillman/Chin/Norris/Bundy): 20.03|21.62|7.9|764
Rangers (Darvish/Harrison/Ogando/Perez/Tepesch): 19.3|20.41|10.5|727
Rays (Price/Cobb/Moore/Hellickson/Archer): 17.85|19.12|11.0|848
Red Sox (Lester/Buchholz/Lackey/Peavy/Dempster): 19.38|20.16|12.7|860
Royals (Shields/Vargas/Guthrie/Duffy/Davis): 20.97|21.36|8.6|827
Tigers (Verlander/Scherzer/Sanchez/Porcello/Smyly): 17.01|16.5|19.2|904
Twins (Nolasco/Correia/Hughes/Pelfrey/Worley): 21.23|20.99|7.8|783
White Sox (Sale/Quintana/Danks/Johnson/Rienzo): 19.37|21|8.8|743
Yankees (Sabathia/Kuroda/Nova/Phelps/Pineda): 19.6|20.5|9.9|783
Now, the fun stuff (as if you weren’t having fun already). Here’s where the quintets rank. We’ll start with cumulative ERA (obviously, the lower the number, the better) …
Now, FIP (like ERA, the lower the better) …
Now, WAR …
Lastly, IP …
To summarize, the Angels’ current group projects to rank tied for fourth in ERA, fifth in FIP and innings, and tied for eighth in WAR. For comparison’s sake … in 2013, the starters ranked 11th in ERA, sixth in FIP, 11th in WAR and ninth in innings. So, they’re already much better, right? Well, no. Or, perhaps. Who really knows. But Jerry Dipoto has said several times since the Winter Meetings that he’d be perfectly fine with going into Spring Training with this current group, and that may not be just a negotiating ploy.
Some other takeaways from these numbers …
- Despite losing Doug Fister, the Tigers will probably still be very, very good.
- Despite adding Scott Feldman, the Astros will probably be really, really bad.
- If you’re a big believer in FIP, then the Indians are a lot better than given credit for, even without Ubaldo.
- The Rangers have a lot of talent, but also a lot of health uncertainties, as reflected in their projected innings total.
- If the Mariners get Tanaka, they can be pretty scary.