From the home office in Costa Mesa, CA.
The Top 10 Reasons the Angels will reclaim the AL West championship.
No question this is the Angels strength. With a rotation featuring John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar, Jered Weaver and either Joe Saunders or Bartolo Colon, the Angels should have the best rotation in the division. With a little luck and run support, the top three veterans (Lackey, Escobar and Santana) are 20 game winners waiting to happen.
2. More Pitching
The Angels bullpen has always been one of the most important parts of the team. Last year there was a bit of a drop-off, mainly coming from now former Angels JC Romero & Brendan Donnelly. Bill Stoneman replaced those players with significant upgrades in Justin Speier and Darren Oliver. These additions should be able to lessen set up man Scot Shields workload.
3. Upgrade at Secondbase
It's hard to not getting excited about seeing Howie Kendrick at his proper position for a full season with the Angels. Kendrick, who owns three seasons hitting .360 or better at the minor league level, then .289 as an Angel. Kendrick should be a major offensive upgrade over the departed Adam Kennedy. It's hard to imagine Kendrick not being able to put up at least the same numbers Kennedy did in 06 (.273 4 hr 55 rbi .334 ob%). Defensively, he may not have the range Kennedy, but he is solid and has shown chemistry turning double plays with SS Orlando Cabrera.
4. The Defense can't be as bad as it was in 2006.
Why ? With the addition of Gary Matthews Jr., Chone Figgins will no longer be a super utility player. Moving between the outfield and infield seemed to affect Figgins last season. This in conjunction with Darin Erstad unavailable to anchor centerfield and Casey Kotchman at firstbase, forced the Angels to play aforementioned Kendrick out of position. The other returning starters do have to step up and improve their defense. For instance, Vladimir Guerrero lead the AL in errors with 11, a lot of them on dropped pop-ups. The pitchers will also need to get the wild pitches under control.
5. A healthy Garret Anderson
It appears that the injuries that hampered Anderson since 2004 seem to be in his past. From the second half of 2006 to this spring, Anderson is running freely and looks good in the outfield. While it may be unrealistic to expect Anderson to return to his peak offensive production, .290 20 hr 100 rbi shouldn't come as a surprise.
6. Upgrade at Firstbase
Last year first-base was a problem position from the beginning of the season. Casey Kotchman was out after 29 games due to mononucleosis, Kendry Morales was rushed to the big leagues and finally second-baseman Howie Kendrick played out of position at first which did not help the team's poor defense. This spring, Kotchman is healthy and playing very well in the Cactus League, for that matter, so is Morales. Whoever takes the starting job at 1b, the Angels should be better at that position in 2007 than they were in 2006.
7. The Competition.
Only 4 games separated the Angels from the Oakland A's last season. This off-season the Angels addressed their needs while the A's allowed long time ace Barry Zito and MVP candidate Frank Thomas to walk away from the club.
With the losses of Gary Matthews, Carlos Lee, Mark DeRosa and no significant pitching upgrades the Texas Rangers appear to be no better than they were a year ago.
The Mariners GM Bill Bavasi made the most moves this off-season. However, the moves all seem lateral making the Mariners the favorites to be cellar dwellers in the AL West yet again.
8. Vladimir Guerrero
The anchor of the offense. Guerrero is capable of becoming the only Angel to win two MVP awards. If Guerrero is well protected by a productive Garret Anderson or Shea Hillenbrand. Guerrero will once again put up tremendous numbers.
9. Mike Scioscia
With 609 career victories, Mike Scioscia is 16 wins away from becoming the all time winningest manager in Angels history passing Bill Rigney. This quote from Darin Erstad is the primary reason why Mike Scioscia has been so successful running the Angels.
Mike is always the same. If we're struggling, you wouldn't know it by his demeanor. There's no panic. When you have that in a manager it doesn't put any more pressure on you. It just lets you go out there and work through the tough times. -(former Angel) Darin Erstad
10. The Fans
Make no mistake. Playing in Angel Stadium in front of sold out crowds helps the Angels. They feed off the fans energy. Angel Stadium is no longer a place where visiting teams have a home away from home.