by Jason Martinez
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LOS ANGELES ANGELS OFFSEASON PREVIEW
One of the most talented teams on paper, in recent memory, the Angels failed to make the playoffs despite an 89-win season. Angels fans can rejoice, however, because Mike Trout is under team control for the next five years and at just 21 years old, he's probably going to get better. And he's already among the top five players in the game, arguably. So yeah, that's saying a lot. Some guy named Albert Pujols, one of the best hitters of this generation, will also be on the team for a long time. Probably longer than they would want him to be, but he should have several good years left in him.
Before getting too excited about the future of this organization, it's important to note that they could lose three-fifth's of their starting rotation to free agency this winter. They have the money to fill the holes and upgrade in other areas so it will be interesting to see if they can make another splash as they did last offseason when they landed Pujols and starter C.J. Wilson.
STARTING LINEUP ANALYSIS
Trout and Pujols will be joined by designated hitter Kendrys Morales, who hit 22 HR and drove in 73 runs after missing nearly two years with an ankle injury, Mark Trumbo, who has 61 HR in his first two big league seasons, and the middle infield duo of Erick Aybar and Howie Kendrick. Catcher Chris Iannetta will also return after he signed a contract extension, keeping him in Anaheim for the next three seasons.
Alberto Callaspo is penciled into the starting third base job, but don't think the Angels won't look for ways to improve at the hot corner this winter. The 29 year-old switch-hitter is one of the rare players who walks almost as much as he strikes out, but he posted a subpar .692 OPS in 138 games. There isn't a lot available in free agency and the Angels don't have the prospects to trade for an impact bat, so I wouldn't be too surprised if Callaspo returns.
Re-signing Torii Hunter, who is still going strong at age 37, could be on the agenda early this offseason. Unless the team want to give the defensively-gifted but offensively-challenged Peter Bourjos or Vernon Wells, who is paid like a starter but hits like a 5th outfielder, a starting job, they'll need to bring back Hunter or replace him through free agency.
STARTING PITCHING ANALYSIS
Jered Weaver and Wilson form a very good 1-2 punch at the top of the rotation. Bringing back free agent Zack Greinke, who they acquired for three prospects in July, could be the top priority of their offseason, however. Declining club options on Dan Haren and Ervin Santana, who both underperformed in 2012, would save them $24 million and give them an even better shot at re-signing Greinke.
Garrett Richards and Jerome Williams could fight it out for the 5th starter's spot if the Angels only bring back two starters, but I wouldn't count on it. I'd expect them to not only land one of the top starters in free agency, but add a much cheaper back-of-the-rotation starter and re-sign Haren or Santana on a lesser deal.
Lefty Nick Maronde is their top pitching prospect heading into 2013. He could end up in the bullpen if the Angels don't make enough upgrades this winter. The 23 year-old allowed just 1 ER in 6 IP over 12 relief appearances during a September call-up. Ideally, he heads back to the Double-A rotation, where he can continue to build upon a strong 2012 season in which he posted a 2.26 ERA with 19 BB and 90 K in 99.2 IP between Double-A, Hi-A, and AZL.
RELIEF PITCHING ANALYSIS
Ernesto Frieri was a savior for the Angels after coming over in an early May deal with Padres. In 56 appearances with the Halos, he posted a 2.23 ERA with only 26 hits allowed in 54.1 IP. The 27 year-old also walked 26 and struck out 80 hitters while saving 23 games in 26 chances. He should return as the closer in 2013 with Scott Downs (3.15 ERA, 24 holds), Kevin Jepsen (3.02 ERA, 18 holds), and Jordan Walden (3.46 ERA, 8 holds) his primary setup men.
They lack depth after those four so finding another late-inning option wouldn't hurt. Of course, if they build up the rotation enough to allow Richards to pitch in relief, it could lessen the need.
TOP OFFSEASON PRIORITIES
1 Starting Pitcher
3 Starting Pitcher
5 Setup Man
2012 HITTING STATS
2012 PITCHING STATS