(EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the 15th of 30 team reports by GT sports editor Mark Mayer on major league baseball projections for the start of the 2013 season. Today: Los Angeles Angels. On deck: Tampa Bay.)
LOS ANGELES ANGELS (2012: AL West 89-73, third, 5 out)
When expectations are so high and you don’t come through, the heat is felt. The Los Angeles Angels learned that 89 wins were not postseason material. So they did even more spending.
Acquiring Albert Pujols from St. Louis was supposed to guarantee the Angels a way to dethrone Texas as American League champions. It didn’t and, even worse, low-budget Oakland won the division. Texas took the Wild Card and the Angels got the shaft.
Well if you can’t beat ‘em, hurt them. That’s just what the Angels did in emptying the wallet again for Texas slugger Josh Hamilton. LA’s imposing batting order now has Hamilton, Pujols and Mark Trumbo in the middle.
And we’re just now mentioning last year’s All-World contributor Mike Trout. The 2012 AL Rookie of the Year was so good that he was being touted right away as MVP and baseball’s best player. This in a year Miguel Cabrera won the Triple Crown for the first time in 45 years and Pujols was brought over because he was considered the best in the majors.
Trout put together one of the greatest first-year totals of anyone in baseball history both offensively and defensively. His amazing wall-climbing catches allowed for Torii Hunter to be expendable. Trout took a lot of the heat off a very slow start by Pujols, who settled down to have a stellar second half. The pressure now falls on Hamilton, who as easily could hit 50 homers as miss 50 games with injury.
Jared Weaver came over to the Angels in 2011, signing a five-year, $85 million contract. Weaver won 18 games that year, then posted his first 20-win season last year. CJ Wilson, another Texas export, is a very solid No. 2. After that there are questions. Ernesto Frieri did a nice job as closer, but has just one season in that role behind him.
Manager Mike Scioscia began to be doubted for the first time in his brilliant career behind the bench. If the Angels don’t make the playoffs a second straight season, the criticism will dwarf what he heard a year ago.
Peter Bourjos is rated so high as a center fielder that Trout is actually going to be moved to left. Trumbo is capable of leading the majors in homers as a DH. His emergence made Kendrys Morales expendable.
Howie Kendrick is solid at second base, while Eric Aybar and Alberto Collaspo allow the Angels to play small ball, steal bases or setup the heavy lumber.
Vegas projects the Angels to win 92 games. This season Houston joins the AL West from the NL Central. That should ensure 95 wins at least and a berth in the postseason.
Projected wins (92)
Infield: C: Chris Ionetta; 1B: Albert Pujols; 2B: Howie Kendrick; 3B: Alberto Collaspo; SS: Erick Aybar.
Outfield: LF: Mike Trout; CF Peter Bourjos; RF: Josh Hamilton.
DH: Mark Trumbo.
Pitching: Jared Weaver; CJ Wilson; Tommy Hanson; Joe Blanton; Jason Vargas.
Closer: Ernest Frieri
Top reserves: RP Scott Downs; OF Vernon Wells; INF: Bill Hall.
Mark Mayer has over 35 years covering sports events and is the sports editor at GT. Reach him at [email protected].