Saturday, May 5, 2012

By Jonathan Northrop - Columnist

The short answer is: No, they can't. Think about this: Last year the Angels were 86-76. This year the team has not only added a bunch of new, good players but replaced poor ones with them:

*Replaced Jeff Mathis with Chris Iannetta

*Replaced Mark Trumbo with Albert Pujols, and moved an improving Trumbo into other roles

*Replaced Bobby Abreu with Kendrys Morales

*Replaced Joel Pineiro and Tyler Chatwood with CJ Wilson

*Replaced Fernando Rodney with Latroy Hawkins

*Replaced Rich Thompson with Ernesto Frieri

*Theoretically replacing Vernon Wells with Mike Trout

Now a bunch of players are playing well below their career norms: Albert Pujols most notably, but also Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo, and Peter Bourjos. Only Chris Iannetta, Howie Kendrick, Torii Hunter, and Kendrys Morales are around their normal levels, with Mark Trumbo possibly having taken a step forward.

The rotation is looking terrific: Weaver and Wilson have been stellar, Haren a bit rocky but improving, and Ervin finally seems to have settled down with two good starts in a row. Jerome Williams has been exactly what they hoped he would be: a solid back-end starter.

The bullpen has been bad, but should improve with the addition of Frieri. Also, it seems to start slowly every year and settles in by June or so.

So in summary, this is the same team that is drastically improved from last year. They've dug themselves a bit of a hole but this is not a team that should only be 4 wins better than last year - it should be 8+. The slow start knocks some of that off, but this team should still win 90-95 games. My prediction is that the ship is gradually righted over the course of May, finishing at or close to .500, then get really hot in June and/or July.

Is something wrong with this organization?

I've been an advocate of "let's be patient," even though the Angels' crappy start is starting to wear really thin. But I was looking at minor league numbers and was rather shocked: Pretty much across the board, prospects are struggling, the majority seeming to be performing poorly. Actually, the main exception is Salt Lake - lots of players doing well there, although two of the four legit hitting prospects are down with injury and one is in the majors and trying to find his sea legs.

In AA Arkansas, Jean Segura hasn't done much, Carlos Ramirez has been terrible, John Hellweg has lost his control (again), and Ariel Pena has been mediocre. AJ Schugel has been solid but Dan Tillman has been atrocious (14.85 ERA in 7 appearances). Perhaps the lone standout is Steve Geltz who has yet to give up a run in 14 innings.

In A+ Inland Empire, Jett Bandy, CJ Cron, and Randal Grichuk have all been poor to mediocre. Travis Witherspoon has been solid and Taylor Lindsey has hit well, but nothing special. Nick Maronde and Donn Roach have pitched very well, although Roach is now gone. And then there's Trevor trainwReckling.

In A Cedar Rapids, Abel Baker, Chevy Clarke, and Wendell Soto have been awful. Kaleb Cowart continues his mediocre play from last year - was this guy really a first round pick? A few pitchers--Clevinger, Crowley, and Wood--are all doing pretty well, although nothing spectacular.

To put all of that in context, the Angels organization is having a bad year - except for a few players here and there. So my question: Is there something wrong at the deep organizational level? I still think the Angels will win 90+ games - I just don't see how they can't be 4++ wins better than last year given the additions of Pujols, Wilson, Iannetta, and Morales - but I'm really starting to wonder if something is rotten in Angelsdom.
Love to hear what you think!

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