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Los Angeles Angels Preview

Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports

With the second team in the AL West, I will be previewing the team that has the worst farm system in all of baseball, the Los Angeles Angels.  This is common knowledge among baseball fans, and has been the case for the last 3-5 years.  Sure, the big league roster has talent and past Angels' teams have overcome this lack of farm system depth, but how much is enough?  MVP and arguably the best player in baseball, outfielder Mike Trout, has to be getting frustrated.  So, here are predictions in a pivotal year for the franchise.

PROJECTED ROTATION: Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Tyler Skaggs, Ricky Nolasco, Alex Meyer, Nick Tropeano*, Andrew Heaney*
Garrett Richards at one point looked like he could be the ace of the future for the Angels, yet early season struggles which led to a season ending injury really dampened those spirits to this point.  However, expect a bounce back year from him, and another strong output from Matth Shoemaker.  After that, this rotation is sketchy, as Tyler Skaggs only started 10 games last year and was mediocre.  Ricky Nolasco has been struggling for the past five years, although he was okay for the Angels in 11 appearances last year.  Alex Meyer is young, and only started five games last year.  Tropeano and Heaney are both recovering from Tommy John surgeries.  After that, the Angels just added non-roster invitee Bud Norris to the Spring Training roster, and he might have a real chance of making the rotation.  Number five prospect Nate Smith is also among the contenders.

BULLPEN: Huston Street (CL), Cam Bedrosian, Jose Alvarez, Deolis Guerra, JC Ramirez, Andrew Bailey, Mike Morin
The bullpen appears to be better off than the rotation, as closer Huston Street had the worst year of all seven guys I listed.  Yes, he was among the numerous injuries the Angels faced last year, but in 26 appearances his ERA was over 6.00, and he blew three saves as well.  His job isn't as secure anymore.  Bedrosian and Alvarez had the best years and will have the first opportunities to step in line, and Andrew Bailey had a bounce back season last year and has closing experience.  Guerra, Ramirez and Morin round out what looks to be a pretty stout bullpen.  Keep an eye on Daniel Wright, Vicente Campos and Jesse Chavez to push for jobs as well.

CATCHERS: Martin Maldonado, Carlos Perez
With only two catchers listed as going to Spring Training at this point, I think these player's jobs are pretty safe.  Martin Maldonado was traded in from the Milwaukee Brewers, and although he lacks offensive skills he is one of the best defensive catchers in baseball.  Carlos Perez has been a fringe starter for the Angels for a while now, and I'm assuming at this point that they will be splitting playing time.  Look for the Angels to invite a catcher or two to Spring Training, as only having two catchers in camp isn't a good decision.

INFIELDERS: Albert Pujols, Yunel Escobar, Andrelton Simmons, Luis Valbuena, Danny Espinosa, CJ Cron, Cliff Pennington
I don't understand why people think Albert Pujols is falling off, because he hit .268 with 31 HR and 119 RBI's last season.  If he were hitting .300 instead, he might have won the MVP instead of his teammate Mike Trout.  Pujols will mostly DH, and the combination of newcomer Luis Valbuena and CJ Cron will share the first base and DH duties with Pujols.  The other three infield spots are pretty much set as well, with leadoff hitter Yunel Escobar at third, defensive standout Andrelton Simmons at short and newcomer Danny Espinosa at second.  Cliff Pennington is able to play all three of those positions and will be the primary backup for them.  Kaleb Cowart and Jefry Marte are going to compete for spots, but are likely just minor league depth.

OUTFIELDERS: Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun, Cameron Maybin, Ben Revere
Mike Trout's job is safe as long as he is playing, and the same can be said for Kole Calhoun.  Cameron Maybin was brought in from the Detroit Tigers, and he had a good enough season last year to essentially be the clear favorite for the third outfield spot.  Additionally, bringing in free agent Ben Revere as a fourth outfielder was a strong move, as he can come in late in games to pinch run then play defense, or he can hit leadoff if he starts that day.  The Angels don't have a fifth outfielder because of the flexibility of the aforementioned four, as well as CJ Cron can play in left and right.  Journeyman Ryan LaMarre is the only other outfielder on the roster.

LINEUP: Escobar (3B), Trout (CF), Pujols (DH), Calhoun (RF), Valbuena (1B), Maybin (LF), Espinosa (2B), Simmons (SS), Maldonado (C)

Outside of the bullpen, the Angels are a dangerously thin ball club, and yet have a much higher payroll than a lot of teams.  The rotation has no answers if somebody goes down, and the same can be said about behind the plate.  If the outfield were to lose Trout or Calhoun, it would be catastrophic, and same with any of the infielders.  If the Angels struggle to begin the season, don't be surprised if they start tanking and trading away guys like Escobar, Maybin, Street, and possibly even debate on trading Mike Trout.  I don't think they will fall flat enough to start doing that, and I have them winning 77 games this season.