Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim Better than You think

I wanted to post this prediction before the first game of the regular season especially since I seem to be going against the grain.

For years, since I was a child in the Ryan/Tanana days, I have predicted the Angels to win the world series whether I had really believed it or not.  But back in the days, even when the Angels hit below .240 as a team, I still believed, on day one of the regular season, that the Angels would be in first on October 1.

Even as a more rational adult, I probably still grade the Angels better than they would be, but this year, I really think the Angels will contend for the division title, and for the World Series championship.

I thought the experts would see it the same way this year, but apparently not. The consensus is that the AL West will be a two team race between Houston and Texas with no regard for the other three teams.  I found one prognosticator predicting the Angels would finish in second, but by and large, the Angels are not even thought of as an afterthought for many baseball "experts."  One writer predicted that the Angels will post the worst record in the American League, and another basically made fun of the lower half of the projected Angels lineup.

They say Mike Trout is really the true offensive weapon the Angels have, and that Richards cannot carry the starting rotation.

While Trout may be the most potent offensive player the Angels have, I really don't see much weakness in the Angels offensive. Conversely, I see them as a very balanced team.  Last year, they were good at getting on base; they just weren't very good at scoring those runners.  They very rarely sacrificed last year (If I had to guess, take out Aybar and the pitchers in inter-league games, the Angeles probably sacrificed less than five times the entire season). I believe this has been corrected this year.

Here is my take on the Angels offensively.

1. Escobar is will a great leadoff hitter. He will hit for average and get on base.
2. Calhoun can hit for power and average and can run. He can fit anywhere between 2 - 5 on any team's lineup and even hit leadoff on some teams, as he has done in the past with the Angels.
3. Trout  - do I need to say more?
4. Pujols - Had foot surgery last November, and yes, getting older.  I know he wants to, but he will probably play less first base this year and DH more. This will save his energy, and I think he will have the best offensive year he has had since joining the Angels.
5. Cron - had a great 2015 spring, and a good second half of the season.  He had a good spring this season. I think this year, he will have a good full season this year. Also has power.
6. Simmons hasn't matured offensively as people expected when he first came up with the Braves, but he's had a good spring, and I think he will have a really good offensive year also.
7. Perez/Soto.  Both of these guys are capable of hitting for power and average.
8. Nava/Gentry - When Nava is in the game, he will probably hit second, but both these guys are also very capable, offensively.
9. Giavotella - can bat first or second when needed. Hits for average, and has some pop in the bat.

So, there you have it, according to my thoughts.  I think up and down the lineup, the Angels have good hitters. They have a nice combination of speed and power, and batters who might bat in the lower third of the lineup who could on any given day, bat at the top of the order.

Here is my take on Angels defensively.

1. Perez/Soto -No shame here. Soto is a veteran, but this is Perez' third year, and the first two were behind Chris Ianetta, but this year, people will get to know Perez and how appreciate how good of a player he is.
2. Cron - Admittedly, I'll still take a less mobile Pujols over the younger Cron, but Cron has improved a lot at first, and will continue to improve defensively the more he plays. And Pujols, though known for offense, knows how to play the position, and is one f the best defensive first basemen in the league.
3. Giavotella - worked a lot in the off season and they say his defense has improved a lot as a result. But even with lapses last year, he showed good range and play making talent.
4. Simmons - no questions on defense here, regarded as one of the best defensive shortstops, if not the best.
5. Escobar - strong arm and good range. Quality third baseman.
6 - 8. Outfield: Trout, Calhoun, Nava/Gentry - Best outfield in the majors.

And on pitching. I think they have a great starting rotation. Much better than what most experts give them credit for.

1. Richards - one of the best young arms in the game, watch him revert back to 2014 form.
2. Heaney - another great young arm. Watch him have a breakout year.
3. Santiago - would have lapses at inopportune times.  He has sped up his game this year, and I think this will help him a lot. Watch him have a big year as well.
4. Weaver - so he has lost a lot of velocity over the past few years, but he is still great and changing speeds and still one of the great curveballs in the game.
5. Shoemaker - remember, he won 16 games his rookie season. Still has a great forkball/split finger. I think he needs another "outpitch." On many other teams, I'd have him as the third starter.

On top of this, Tyler Skaggs is still recovering from Tommy John surgery. He is also one of the great young arms the Angels have. And CJ Wilson, though inconsistent at time the last couple of seasons, is still a quality pitcher and one of my favorite players in the game.

Am I being a little bit overly positive? Maybe. But it is the first full day of the regular season.  And more importantly, I really do believe the Angels are fielding a very good team this year, and will be in the running to win the World Series this year.

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