As we head into next season, we'll look at middle-tier impact players and/or sleepers on each team's roster. Some of these names are poised to make big jumps in value next season. Some of the players are just safer decisions, which will give your team a solid return. We hit on the Mets last article and today we examine the Los Angeles Angels.
Fantasy Prep 2011: Looking at All the Angels
Monday January 10th, 2011
The Los Angeles Angels had, by all indications, a very disappointing season in 2010. Losing top slugger and first baseman Kendry Morales to a freak injury on a walk-off home run celebration certainly didn't help, and disappointing years from a handful of other players only added to the team's struggles. However, from a down year came some positive things. Pitcher Jered Weaver had easily the best season of his young career, finishing among the AL leaders in several categories and leading his league in strikeouts with 233. Likewise, first baseman/catcher Mike Napoli hit a career high 26 home runs while filling in for Morales, second baseman Howie Kendrick played a complete season and posted career highs across the board, and often-inconsistent pitcher Ervin Santana led the squad with 17 wins. While they failed to make a big splash in free agent signings this off-season, there are some new faces to watch for on the fantasy radar in Anaheim in 2011.
Peter Bourjos - OF (193 PA, .204/.237/.381, 6 HR, 15 RBI, 10 SB)
Much of the attention showered on 23 year-old Angels centerfielder Peter Bourjos last season had to do with his fielding prowess and how he was pushing veteran Torii Hunter to a corner outfield spot. However, one shouldn't overlook the season he had at the plate at both the minor and major league levels, particularly when assessing fantasy players on the Angels' roster in 2011. Bourjos hit a meager .204 with a .237 on-base percentage in 193 plate appearance for the Angels in 2010, but it was his first taste of major league pitching and he finished the season with hits in his final four games. He began 2010 as a first-time Triple-A player and hit .314 with a .364 OBP and 27 steals in 102 games. Combining his major and minor league numbers, Bourjos stole 37 bases against just 8 times caught, a clear sign of his base-stealing potential. He also posted some surprising home run stats. With 6 dingers for the Angels and another 13 for Triple-A Salt Lake prior to his call-up, Bourjos had a combined 19 homers last season. He had shown some power in his previous minor league seasons (he had 15 combined in his seasons at high-A and Double-A in 2008 and 2009), but his outburst last season surprised many. He likely won't become a player who regularly slugs 20 home runs, but if he can bring his batting average up and use his impressive speed to put up high stolen base numbers, even 12-15 home runs per year would cement Bourjos as a fantasy dynamo. He's still young and there will likely be some growing pains, but if Bourjos can keep himself in the majors and at the top of a potent Angels lineup, he could be an interesting fantasy sleeper.
Scott Downs - RP (61.1 IP, 2.64 ERA, 0.99 WHIP, 48 K)
Though they missed out on some bigger name free agents, the Angels did make some off-season acquisitions and reliever Scott Downs was one of them. The Angels have had trouble with their late-inning relief ever since the departure of former closer Francisco Rodriguez, and the lefty Downs should help bring some stability to that area. The former Blue Jay has experience as both a setup man and as a closer, and he might be a big part of the bullpen in 2011. While Fernando Rodney will likely enter the spring as the Angels closer, Downs and righthanders Kevin Jepsen and Jordan Walden could get a shot if Rodney is unable to overcome the struggles that plagued him in 2010, when he had 7 blown saves (though some came while he was a setup man) and posted a 4.24 ERA. Rodney struggled mightily after becoming the full-time closer when Brian Fuentes was traded, so a reliable veteran like Downs could snag a handful of saves while the younger hurlers adjust to high-pressure, late-inning duties. In a fantasy auction or draft, a guy like Downs could be a nice cheap bid or late-round selection, contributing a good ERA and WHIP (and holds, if your league counts them) and possibly some saves in 2011.
Hisanori Takahashi - SP/RP (122 IP, 3.61 ERA, 1.30 ERA, 114 K)
Like Downs, Hisanori Takahashi is another notable pitcher who will don an Angels uniform for the first time in 2011. Takahashi had success as both a starter and reliever for the New York Mets in 2010, but really thrived in the bullpen and will likely work there in the upcoming season. As a relief pitcher, Takahashi posted a 6-2 record with a 2.04 ERA, a 1.13 WHIP, and 60 strikeouts in 57.1 innings (as compared to a 4-4 record, a 5.01 ERA, a 1.45 WHIP, and 54 strikeouts in 64.2 innings as a starter). Takahashi also logged 8 saves as a part-time closer for the Mets (coincidentally as a replacement for injured former Angel Francisco Rodriguez), and with uncertainty in the Angels bullpen, it's possible he may get a look as a late-inning option. The 35 year-old Japanese import had good overall numbers in his first season in the United States and a 2.66 ERA in the second half of the season may be a signal that he just needed time to adjust to his new environment and competition. His signing was relatively low-profile, but if he assumes an important role in the Angels bullpen, Takahashi could be a fantasy player worth taking a look at late in a fantasy draft or as an in-season free agent pickup. His probably numbers won't blow you away, but on a winning team he could scoop up a fair amount of wins or saves, depending on what his bullpen role ends up being.
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