Spring camp has opened for the Los Angeles Angels as pitchers and catcher started Spring Training workouts today in Tempe, AZ. Every team is in first place with fans full of hope and excitement that this is their year.
For the Angels 2012 brings high expectations. After missing the playoffs to division rivals, the Texas Rangers (coming off World Series appearances two consecutive seasons) something had to give.
What gave was Angels' owner Arte Moreno's pocketbook. Los Angeles made a "huge splash" (for real this time) signing the two premiere free agents on the market. One signee was taken directly from the competition. Left-handed starting pitcher CJ Wilson, a 16 game winner with a 2.94 ERA for the Rangers (great number considering he played in a racquet ball court in Texas).
And of course the biggest story of the MLB off-season. The Angels landing future Hall of Famer and the greatest hitter of his generation. Albert Pujols.
Moreno delievered and now it is time for Mike Scioscia and his ballclub to do the rest. At 86-76 in 2011 this was not a bad team, Texas was just better.
The Halos may posses the top four starters in the AL - Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Dan Haren, Ervin Santana. Even with the 5th starter job open (Jerome Williams, Garret Richards). The top four should give the Halos enough quality starts to give the club a shot at the division. With free agent Roy Oswalt still on the market (and rumored to be talking to Texas) adding Oswalt to this rotation might seal the deal before we get to the offensive component of the club.
Albert Pujols is a game changer for the Angels. Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells do not have to be the 3-4 men in the lineup. Mike Scioscia will have a lot of weapons to use on a daily basis especially if Kendrys Morales can return as the DH with Mark Trumbo potentially taking over at third. It is not inconceiveable that this years Angel club will hit and hit a lot.
The one area of concern is the bullpen. LaTroy Hawkins the man to get outs in the 7th or 8th that players like Fernando Rodney, Kevin Jepsen and Michael Kohn could not. Is second year closer Jordan Walden mature enough to handle closing on a potential World Series team. Can Scott Downs repeat his 2011 season in case Walden is not the man.
2012 - Projected Rotation:
Jered Weaver (18-8, 2.41) CJ Wilson* (16-7,2.94) Dan Haren (16-10, 3.17) Ervin Santana (11-12, 3.38) Jerome Williams* (4-0, 3.68)
2012 - Projected Bullpen :
Jordan Walden, Scott Downs*, LaTroy Hawkins, Hisanori Takahashi* are locks. With Rich Thompson, Kevin Jepsen, Michael Kohn and Bobby Cassevah fighting for the final spots.
2012 - Projected Lineup
1. Erick Aybar SS
2. Howie Kendrick 2B
3. Albert Pujols 1B
4. Kendrys Morales DH
5. Torii Hunter RF
6. Mark Trumbo 3B
7. Vernon Wells LF
8. Chris Iannetta C
9. Peter Bourjos CF
Bench - Bobby Abreu, Maicer Izturis, Alberto Callaspo, Hank Conger/Bobby Wilson, Mike Trout
The pieces are in place for this group of Angels to get back to the World Series. And what better a time than during the 10th anniversary season of the clubs first World Series win.