The Los Angeles Angels made a big move for the second straight offseason, this time signing outfielder Josh Hamilton to a five-year, $125 million contract in December. Hamilton will be another upper echelon option for fantasy baseball owners on the Angels’ roster, to go along with Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.
Here is a closer look at the Angels from a fantasy perspective for 2013.
Catcher- By signing him to a three-year contract extension this offseason, the Angels appear committed to Chris Iannetta as the starter here. He missed significant time in 2012 with a fractured right wrist, but he has at least 14 home runs in all three seasons in which he had at least 350 plate appearances with the Colorado Rockies (2008, 2009, 2011). Durability concerns prevent him from being an elite fantasy option, and his batting average is likely to hurt more than help, but those who choose to wait on a catcher in AL-only leagues can do worse than Iannetta.
If Iannetta again struggles to stay in the lineup, Hank Conger is likely to be in line to start. He has yet to get significant action in the big leagues, but he has shown solid offensive potential in the minors.
First Base- Albert Pujols shook off a slow start in 2012 to put up close to his standard numbers (.285, 30 home runs, 105 RBI) in his first season with the Angels. At age-33 with signs of decline and potential durability concerns, he is no longer the top fantasy first baseman, but owners that set reasonable expectations for Pujols in 2013 should be happy with their investment.
Second Base- Howie Kendrick hit just eight home runs last season, bringing his streak of double-digit home run seasons to an end, but fantasy owners should have been happy with the rest of his stat line (.287, 67 RBI, 14 stolen bases). He has shaken off injury issues from early in his career to play in at least 140 games in each of the last three seasons, and has now become one of the more reliable options for fantasy owners at second base. If he can take more walks (just 29 in 2012), Kendrick could post career-highs across the board from a spot near the top of the Angels’ lineup.
Shortstop- Erick Aybar has a firm grip on the starting job here, and he has become a solid fantasy contributor over the last few seasons. He could score a lot more runs if he hits near the top of the Angels’ lineup, which is not a given, but a nice stolen base total and solid batting average should come regardless.
Third Base- Alberto Callaspo hit 10 home runs and had 53 RBI over 520 plate appearances last season, but a significant drop in batting average (.252) limited his fantasy value. A little bit better luck (.271 BABIP in 2012) should lead to a batting average rebound in 2013, but Callaspo’s fantasy value is limited to AL-only leagues.
Since the Angels have outfielders that could see action at multiple spots, I will not break the situation down by each position in an effort to focus better on each individual.
Mike Trout will head into 2013 as the top outfielder on a lot of fantasy draft boards, and rightfully so with the numbers he put up last season (.326, 30 home runs, 83 RBI, 49 stolen bases, 129 runs scored). Those totals are even more impressive considering he spent basically the first month of the season in Triple-A. It’s risky to blindly project Trout’s 2012 numbers over a full season to assess what he might do in 2013, but there’s little doubt he will again be a big five-category producer for his fantasy owners.
Josh Hamilton’s overall numbers last season (.285, 43 home runs, 128 RBI) is deceiving, as a strong start (.368, 21 home runs in April and May) masked a slow finish (14 home runs from August 1 on) and he also struck out a career-high 162 times. Hamilton brings durability concerns and moving to a more pitcher-friendly home park adds some risk, but his upside potential still makes him a legit top-10 fantasy outfielder for 2013.
Mark Trumbo may see a lot of time as a designated hitter this season, but as long as he finds at-bats fantasy owners will be happy to have him. He strikes out too much (153 times last season) to offer much in terms of batting average, and he simply does not run enough to offer many stolen bases. But if Trumbo can avoid his late-season struggles from 2012 (.208 with just five home runs after August 1) there’s no reason he can’t surpass last season’s 32 home runs and 95 RBI. He could also be eligible at first base (21 games in 2012) and third base (eight games) in some fantasy leagues.
Peter Bourjos is likely to struggle to find consistent playing time, but if he somehow finds at-bats he could be a useful option for stolen bases in AL-only leagues.
Vernon Wells has two years and $42 million left on his contract, so he is virtually certain to back with the Angels in 2013. But without multiple injuries in the team’s outfield, there’s no reason to think he will even see 300 at-bats this season.
Jered Weaver’s 2012 season was highlighted by a no-hitter and reaching 20 wins for the first time in his career, but he failed to top 200 innings pitched for first time since 2008 and a downward trend in his strikeout rate (6.8 K/9) continued. His win total should still be good in 2013 with ample run support likely, but there is some risk in drafting Weaver if last season’s minor arm issues become more significant.
C.J. Wilson was not quite the ace the Angels paid for last season, going 13-12 with a 3.83 ERA, and he particularly struggled after the All-Star break (5.54 ERA over 16 starts). That late season fade may have been due to an elbow issue that required offseason surgery to fix, but all indications are he is on track to be ready to go for spring training. Fantasy owners that don’t let his salary guide their expectations should be happy to have him on their roster as a No.2 or No.3 starter.
The Angels made some additions to their starting rotation this winter, adding Tommy Hanson and Jason Vargas via trade and signing Joe Blanton in free agency. All three have some appeal in AL-only and very deep mixed leagues, with Hanson carrying the most upside and Vargas being the most solid all-around option among them, but there are certainly better options out there.
Ryan Madson missed the entire 2012 season after undergoing Tommy John surgery last April, and if he continues to make progress he will be first in line for saves in the Angels’ bullpen. He had 32 saves for the Philadelphia Phillies in 2011, but that is his only extensive experience as a primary closer and there is some health risk now too.
Ernesto Frieri was acquired in a trade from the San Diego Padres last May, and had a 2.32 ERA and a 13.3 K/9 rate while converting 23 of 26 save opportunities for the Angels. He is draftable in all league formats, but Madson’s presence and manager Mike Scioscia’s willingness to juggle his bullpen makes Frieri a fairly high-risk/high-reward fantasy option.
Brad Berreman is a contributing writer at Rant Sports. Follow him on Twitter @bradberreman24.