Team-by-team outlooks

The Angels went through a rough 2006 season and their offseason hasn't been a bowl of jelly beans either. Last year, they couldn't seem to get going offensively, ranking just 18th in the majors with 766 runs scored as a team. You're expected to rank higher than that with Vladimir Guerrero as your anchor at the plate.

From the mound, the Angels essentially pitched over their heads. Their staff ace, Bartolo Colon, dealt with a shoulder injury that limited him to only 10 starts -- the fewest in his career. The team is still trying to take a cautious approach with him this spring, allowing him as much time as his shoulder needs to come back healthy. Considering he threw over 200 innings in seven of his previous eight seasons, it's not a surprise that he broke down last year.

The only thing that made Colon's absence less painful for the Angels was the fantastic performances of their young pitchers. Ervin Santana came through with a stellar sophomore campaign and despite overtures from other teams -- including the Yankees -- the Angels have kept him. He threw a career-high 204 innings and entering his third year as a starter, we have high hopes for the right-handed Dominican.

Jered Weaver had a rookie-of-the-year type season -- unfortunately, it was in a year that was already stocked with several other incredible rookie performances (Justin Verlander, Jonathan Papelbon and Francisco Liriano to name a few). But he lost only two games, posted a 2.56 ERA and his WHIP was an impressive 1.032. While he's a superb talent, it's reasonable to expect him to take a step back in his second season as opposing teams begin to figure him out. Remember how Felix Hernandez struggled a bit in '06?

The Angels' bullpen is still anchored by two of the best relievers in the game. Francisco Rodriguez used his unorthodox delivery to stifle opposing hitters to the tune of just a .197 opponent's batting average. Scot Shields continued to dominate in his setup role, proving that he would probably be a solid closer for almost any other team. He has 25 relief wins in the past three seasons and has averaged 97 strikeouts over the past three seasons. He's an excellent case of a setup man that could benefit any Rotisserie squad more than most shaky closers.

On the offensive end, the Angels spent a boatload of cash on Gary Matthews, Jr., who will bat leadoff. His arrival moves Chone Figgins out of the top spot, down to the ninth spot in the batting order. That one switch hurts Figgins' Head-to-Head value considerably, since he'll be looking at far fewer at-bats on a week-to-week basis.

Juan Rivera broke his leg during a game in the Venezuelan Winter League and is expected to be out until at least June. He had a career season and was once again expected to be a nice source of power. Consider grabbing him late in mixed leagues if you have injured reserve space on your Fantasy rosters.

The Angels reacted to the injury by signing Shea Hillenbrand to a deal. He'll serve as the primary designated hitter for the Angels in the first half. He has always been known as a first half hitter, so they're hoping to capitalize on the pairing of Hillenbrand/Rivera for a big year. Hillenbrand has hit 27 points higher before the break than after it over his career.

Spring position battles

Catcher -- Mike Napoli vs. Jeff Mathis

The Angels were ecstatic with the performance of Napoli last season, but they likely would have preferred that Mathis had that breakthrough season. Napoli fell back to earth (hitting only .164 after the break) and he'll have to hope that Mathis continues to bumble his way through spring training if he hopes to hold onto the starting job.

First base -- Casey Kotchman vs. Kendry Morales, Shea Hillenbrand and Robb Quinlan

The Angels hope the sweet-swinging Kotchman can finally grab hold of this job this spring and develop into the above-average hitter many expect. Morales came over from Cuba a couple seasons ago and he is also a breakout candidate. Hillenbrand could move over to first base once Rivera returns, forcing Anderson to hit in the DH spot.

L.A. Angels Outlook
Projected lineup Pos. Projected Rotation
1 Gary Matthews, Jr. CF 1 John Lackey RH
2 Orlando Cabrera SS 2 Ervin Santana RH
3 Vladimir Guerrero RF 3 Kelvim Escobar RH
4 Garret Anderson LF 4 Jered Weaver RH
5 Shea Hillenbrand DH 5 Bartolo Colon RH
6 Casey Kotchman 1B Alt Joe Saunders LH
7 Howie Kendrick 2B
8 Mike Napoli C Top bullpen arms
9 Chone Figgins 3B CL Francisco Rodriguez RH
Top bench options SU Scot Shields RH
R Erick Aybar INF RP Justin Speier RH
R Juan Rivera OF RP Hector Carrasco RH
Rookies/Prospects Age Pos. 2006 high Destination
1 Jeff Mathis 23 C Majors Majors
Former super prospect has to overcome disappointing '06
2 Brandon Wood 22 SS Double-A Triple-A
Power potential for position off the charts; could end up as best prospect
3 Erick Aybar 23 SS Double-A Triple-A
Stuck between Orlando Cabrera and Wood, but can get SBs now
4 Nick Adenhart 20 RH SP Class A Class A
Popular name at trade deadline; could be reason he gets early look
5 Terry Evans 25 OF Double-A Triple-A
Ridiculous '06 numbers came out of nowhere; keep him in mind
Best of the rest: 2B Sean Rodriguez, 21; RHP Jose Arredondo, 23; RHP Young-Il Jung, 18; OF Tommy Murphy, 27; RHP Stephen Marek, 23; RHP Tommy Mendoza, 19.

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