Welcome to my inaugural blog entry. We finally hit 80 degrees again in SoCal this week and pitchers and catchers have begun reporting to camp. Spring Training is finally here, and all is right in the world again. My beloved Angels are set to embark upon a season of great anticipation and hope. The 2008 Angels are perhaps the best squad to ever don the uniforms, solid from top to bottom and deeper than they have any right to be. Six capable outfielders, Seven capable starting pitchers, a slew of switch hitters, and plenty of youth mixed with a few seasoned veterans. But even the veterans are young on this team. (Yes, even Garret Anderson is only 35.) In fact, only one player on the roster is over 35 years old, and that is 38 year old bullpen lefty Darren Oliver.
There are only three questions facing this team, in my opinion:
First, will they be able to fill the hole left at SS after trading Orlando Cabrera for Jon Garland? This is the only true hole on this team. The club is big on Eric Aybar and his upside to fill that hole. I am not so convinced his bat is ready. In my opinon, Maicer Izturis is a far better option. Great glove, great bat. The only knock on him is that Aybar may have a higher ceiling and uber-prospect Brandon Wood is waiting in the wings.
Second, is Chone Figgins the answer at third base? Figgings certainly had a magnificent year in 2007 despite his early injury and initial slump, and is the spark that ignites this offense. He deserves to start every day and his defense at third is more than adequate. But everyone out there seems to think that the Angels need to trade for a third baseman that hits 25+ home runs instead. Why? Just because everyone else does? Last time I checked, the Halos were doing just fine on offense despite their lack of power. Which brings us to the thrid question.
Third, who will protect Vlad in the lineup and provide more power to the lineup? Nobody seems to be impressed with the addition of Torii Hunter and his 25-30 HR runs to solve this issue. Many think he will bat 4th after Vladdy to protect him. These are both short sighted views. The Angels have significatnly increased their power already simply by getting healthy. In addition to Hunter, Juan Rivera is back this season with 25 HR power. Young guns Howie Kendrick and Casey Kotchman also have another year under their belt and both missed time on the DL last season, so their power production should improve at least 5 HR's each. And most importantly, Garret Anderson is finally healthy again. In case you didn't notice, he had a monster 2nd half in 2007. Add in the fact that he is a lefty, and you have your #4 hitter behind Vladdy, with Hunter adding further support in the 5-hole. GA should add 10-15 more HR's this season than in 2007. So between GA, Rivera, Hunter, and improved totals from blossing youngsters Kendrick, Kotchman, Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis, the Angels should finish 2008 with at least 70 more home runs than they did in 2007. And that's without adding any production from prospect Brandon Wood, who hit 50 home runs in the minors in 2006. If he hits his way into the lineup in place of weak hitting Erick Aybar, that total will jump even more. Teams that still think the Angels have no power and no protection for Vladdy are in for a rude awakening.
Everyone seems to acknowledge that this team is very good, but nobody seems to realize that they might be great. Perhaps their dismal showing against Boston in the playoffs has given everyone a distorted view of the Halos, but they were crippled by injuries heading into that series and were not accurately represented on the national stage. I think this season, the Halos are going to surprise a lot of people. Especially given the weakness of their division, I expect the Angels to win over 100 games easily, possibly 110.
So that's my early take on the Halos. I'll focus more on the pitching next time. The Kelvim Escobar injury is certainly a topic to discuss. In the meantime, I'll be working on my web biz. Feel free to checkout out my online malls at www.EZShoppingSource.com and www.E-SoftwareSource.com to find everything you need all in one place. You'll never need to leave home again.