Monday, April 5, 2010

By Jon Hoppie - Fantasy Writer

Game Time
It’s finally arrived… the time of year where baseball junkies like myself get to compete once again in the greatest game known to fans.  That’s right, it’s Fantasy Baseball time!  Whether you’ve got a long running family league, a keeper league, a friendly wager amongst friends, or a chance to show your boss just how much you know about the game… in the end, it’s all about the numbers and who uses them to their best advantage!  I’m sure that by now, those of you who play have already drafted your teams and are chomping at the bit waiting for that first ball to be hurled towards the plate.  Others awaited that final out of Spring Training to be made before you tallied up the preseason totals and locked in on your final draft choices.  Regardless, Spring Training has once again come and gone… It’s game time!

Week by week, Halo by Halo, match up by match up;  I’m going to take you through the Angels lineup and let you know which Angels players I think are worthy of making YOUR squad.  I’m going to keep you informed on hot players, hot streaks, and the occasional historical and overlooked stats to consider as the season goes on.  I’ll tell you how to keep an Angels presence in your lineups at all times, and use the players we all know and love to help you win.  There‘s really only one thing left to say… Let’s Play Ball!

Pitcher - Bulger (RP), Fuentes (CL), Jepsen (RP), Kazmir (SP), Ortega (RP), Palmer (SP), Piniero (SP), Rodney (RP), Santana (SP), Saunders (SP), Shields (RP), Stokes (RP), Weaver (SP)
Catcher - Mathis, Napoli (C,DH), Wilson
Infield - Aybar (SS), Izturis (UT), Kendrick (2B,DH), Morales (1B), Quinlan (1B), Wood (3B)
Outfield - Abreu (RF), Evans (OF), Hunter (CF), Matsui (LF,DH), Pettit (OF), Rivera (LF,RF), Willits (CF)

Scott Kazmir - 15 Day DL (Strained Rt Hamstring)
Anthony Ortega - 15 Day DL (Rt Tricep Tendinitis)
Chris Pettit - 15 Day DL (Recovering from RT Shoulder Surgery)
Reggie Willits - 15 Day DL (Strained RT Hamstring)

MIN @ LAA - 4/5, 4/6, 4/7, 4/8
Stats the past three seasons
Jered Weaver: 3.51 ERA with a 3-1 record against the Twins
Joe Saunders: 4.10 ERA with a 3-1 record against the Twins
Ervin Santana: 6.35 ERA with a 1-1 record against the Twins
OAK @ LAA - 4/9, 4/10
Stats the past three seasons 
Joel Pineiro: Has not faced the A's in the past three seasons
Matt Palmer: 3.86 ERA with no record against the A's last season in seven innings
Jered Weaver: 2.79 ERA with a 2-3 record against the A's

SP - Jered Weaver:  Jered doesn’t have the best stats from this spring to show just how dominating he was.  In 17.1 IP he struck out 19, gave up 19 hits, walked 6 and hit 2.  Clearly a spring where mechanics were worked on.  He’s still going to win 20 in 2010 as the Angels “go to guy” for big wins.

SP - Ervin Santana:  Ervin is a career 10-2 against Oakland, their opponent for the upcoming weekend.  As the rotation currently stands he will not face Oakland this series, but if I were Mike Scioscia I’d be making a change to get Santana in there at least once against the A’s early on.  Joe Mauer has a .588 BA against Santana. 

SP - Joe Saunders:  Coming off a 16-7 year in 2009, the lefty will look ahead at another 100 strikeout season.  With a .263 BAA at home, I take Saunders anytime I know he’s throwing in Angel Stadium, making Joe my MUST START OF THE WEEK.

SP - Scott Kazmir:  Kazmir is still recovering from a strained right hamstring, and was not announced as a part of the Angels opening day roster. Scott will be replaced by Matt Palmer until he has a chance to throw a few games in rehab with Class A Rancho Cucamonga and get a bit deeper into games. Yesterday he went seven innings and gave up 1 R, 6H, 0BB, 3K on 77 pitches. He's getting there.

CP - Brian Fuentes:  Fuentes led the majors last year in saves.  That’s a stat you simply cannot say doesn’t matter.  48 saves is no joke, and with the improved rotation and the return of Shields to the Angels
bullpen, you may see this number go up in 2010.

C - Mike Napoli:  Mike had a great spring, with 38 total bases and an OBP of .368.  While Napoli has a career slugging percentage of .493, if his .760 SLG this preseason is a sign of things to come, he may get more games at DH than we expect.

1B - Kendry Morales:  Morales had another breakout year for the LAA in 2009.  Kendry boasted a .569 SLG in ‘09 (2nd in AL) and was 3rd in the AL with 79 extra base hits.  With his .381 AVG and .603 SLG in the Cactus League this spring, nothing seems to have changed much.

2B - Howie Kendrick:  Howie slumped the first half of the ‘09 campaign, hitting just .236 in his first 58 games.  After washing the stink away in the minors for a bit, he came back to lead the majors with a .351 AVG the second half of the season.  He is a career .303 hitter, and any less than that this season would be a surprise to everyone.  With 21 doubles or more and an OPS of .730 or higher the last 4 seasons, he’s an offensive weapon in every way, that will only get better.

3B - Brandon Wood:  The Halos have clearly put all their eggs in the Wood basket as he gets set to take on the everyday role at third.  In 224 big league AB’s, Wood has hit only .192 with 74 K’s.  Although strikeouts have always been a concern for Brandon, the upside is the promise of his AAA success finally carrying over to the majors.  In just 317 games at Salt Lake, he batted .287 with 355 hits and 76 homeruns.  I picked Brandon as my SLEEPER this season hoping that he can figure out how to establish himself as a major league threat to pitchers.

SS - Erick Aybar:  Erick batted .346 this spring with 5 SB’s clearly making him suitable for the leadoff role following the winter departure of Chone Figgins. Speed is a big part of Aybar’s game, and now in that he's leading off in Scioscia’s lineup you can bet you’ll be seeing Erick turn his wheels on quite a bit this season. Aybar will provide more extra base hits and home runs than Figgins, but will he score 100 runs? That remains to be seen. We'll see how much influence Bobby Abreu has had on Aybar and if he can start taking more walks this season.

OF - Torii Hunter:  Following his offseason hernia surgery, Torii showed up this spring in good spirits, batting .378 with 3 HR’s and 9 RBI’s.  If Hunter can remain injury free in 2010, you can expect to see him put up the same 20 HR/20 SB season as always.

OF - Bobby Abreu:  A .293 hitter in ‘09, Abreu posted 29 doubles, 3 triples and 15 homeruns.  Not to mention those 30 bases he stole, Bobby at 36 years old can outrun some of the best arms in baseball making him a powerhouse stat guy in every fantasy league. Especially if your league uses on-base pct.

Stolen bases - The Angels had 5 players* with 10 or more bags swiped in 2009, and an astonishing 30 stolen bases by Bobby Abreu was a standout number amongst fantasy stats last season.  Though stolen base only players with no extra base power are widely frowned upon by fantasy players on draft day, the numbers become more sexy when a player like Abreu, who can hit for well over 200 total bases in a season, can help you in other categories, especially if you use OBP in your league. Also, as mentioned, look for Aybar to be more aggressive on the base paths and steal at least 25 bases out of the leadoff spot this year. It wouldn't surprise me if he stole 30-35 bases this year either. *2009 - Abreu(30) Hunter(18) Aybar(14) Izturis(13) Kendrick (11)

Sleeper - Brandon Wood
Underrated - Jered Weaver
Overrated - Hideki Matsui

OH SO HOT - Mike Napoli:  Of his 14 hits in Spring Training this preseason, 12 of them were for extra bases.  6 of those 12 left the ballpark in high fashion.  In just 18 games he knocked in 11 runs and scored 11 times himself.  Not too shabby, but the fact that the Halos chose once again to carry 2 additional catchers alongside Naps, his playing time will surely be split again this season.

OH SO NOT - Matt Palmer:  Palmer was lights out for the Angels in 2009, and was slated to be there #5 starter before the acquisition of Pineiro this offseason.  Matt gave up 13 ER on 17 hits in just 9 and two thirds IP this spring.  The 8 free bases that he gave up were no flattering stat either.  If he gets a chance at redemption while filling in for Kazmir early on, you may see improvement.  Otherwise, its back to the bullpen for Matt.

All in all, this week looks to be a great start to what will be nothing less than an All Star season in 2010 for the Angels. Coming off an ALCS loss to New York last postseason, you can bet that the Halos will be right in the mix all season long to win the west.  Get all the help you can for your fantasy squad out of this Series bound team, and trust me… there’s going to be plenty of it!
Love to hear what you think!


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