I have said all along that the top three teams, in my opinion, are in a league of their own. The Angels have had a solid team for the past several years and were a perennial playoff team until the Texas Rangers run over the past two season. The acquisition of 1B Albert Pujols and LHP CJ Wilson and the return of 1B/DH Kendry Morales instantly makes this team a contender. Along with Jeff Weaver, Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, Wilson gives the Angels the best four starters in baseball. If they can find a way to get all regular players such as Mark Trumbo, Morales, Bobby Abreu, Vernon Wells, Tori Hunter and Peter Bourjos all in the lineup at the same time, they could be scary offensively.
Erick Aybar (.279, 10, 59, 32 SB) will leadoff and play SS. Howie Kendrick (.285, 18, 63) will play 2B but can play outfield if necessary. Pujols (.299, 37, 99) has the record contract and should be fine for the past several seasons in spite of the calling for his demise. Trumbo (.254, 29, 87) finished 2nd in the AL ROY voting and is expected to be an important cog in spite of the uncertainty of where he will play. He has worked out at 3B, as 1B and DH (Morales) are taken. If Trumbo can hold up at 3B, the lineup becomes as deep as any in baseball, but there will be some concern defensively, especially with the pitching staff being so good. Morales was great in his last full season in 2009 (.306, 34, 108) and should return to form after missing over a year and a half. Tori Hunter (.263, 23, 82), Bobby Abreu (.253, 8, 60) and Vernon Wells (.218, 25, 66) have all been better players and are in different stages of decline. Hunter and Wells may also return to CF at different points to keep all their bats in the lineup. Peter Bourjos (.271, 12, 43) will see most of the time in CF, which will make it difficult for Abreu to get as much playing time as he needs. A trade is a possibility.
Chris Iannetta was brought in from Colorado to be the everyday catcher. He hit .238, 14, 55 last year and will be backed up by 24 year old prospect Hank Conger (.209, 6, 19). Alberto Callaspo (.288, 6, 46) will see time at 3B, 2B and in the crowded OF if necessary. And don't forget about the one time top prospect in all of baseball, CF Mike Trout. Trout made his debut at age 19 last year (.220, 5, 16) after putting up solid numbers in AAA (.326, 11, 38, 33 SB, 13, SB. 82 RS). If manager Mike Scioscia can juggle all these players, they should score a ton of runs. The best offensive lineup would be 1. Aybar SS 2. Kendrick 2B 3. Pujols 1B 4. Trumbo 3B 5. Morales DH 6. Hunter RF 7. Wells CF 8. Abreu LF 9. Iannetta C. This is the more likely lineup 1. Aybar SS 2. Kendrick 2B 3. Pujols 1B 4. Trumbo/Morales DH 5. Hunter RF 6. Wells LF 7. Iannetta C 8. Callaspo 3B 9. Bourjos CF. Either way, this team has more offensive depth than any other team in baseball.
The rotation is led by Weaver (18-8, 2.41). Haren (16-10, 3.17) is the most underrated 2nd starter in baseball. Wilson (16-7, 2.94) comes over from Texas and is not expected to be the ace. I think he will thrive in LA. Ervin Santana (11-12, 3.38) is the best forth starter in the game. They expect former Giants prospect, RHP Jerome Williams (4-0, 3.68 in 6 starts after missing over three years with arm problems) to be the fifth starter. Garrett Richards is also an option. The Angels have been checking out the market, as a trade is a distinct possibility.
Jordan Walden (5-5, 2.98, 32 saves, 62 games) pitched well last season. He throws hard and has the makeup to be a closer. The Angels have an underrated depth in the bullpen, though. Scott Downs (6-3, 1.34, 60) and Hisanori Takahashi (4-3, 3.44, 61) return to help from the left side. Latroy Hawkins (4-3, 2.42, 52) comes over from Milwaukee and Jason Isringhausen (3-3, 4.05, 7, 53) comes over from the Mets.
The Angels will have higher expectations this year due to the signings of Pujols and Wilson. If they miss the postseason, it will be considered a big disappointment. Led by their manager Scioscia, who is still one of the best in the game, they will get it done this year. Vegas has them at 92.5 for their O/U, and I say they will finish over, at 97-65, first place in the AL West. Though the 97 wins make them the regular season champions, both the Tigers and Yankees match up well with them going into the postseason.