I’m not trying to sound like a broken record but there are things in baseball that bear worth repeating. The Houston Astros will finish in last place even in a new league and division. The Tampa Bay Rays will threaten in the AL East. Bud Selig will say something or do something that is outright stupid. Oh, and the Los Angeles Angels will NOT finish in first place in 2013.
That brings me to this upcoming season. I still believe that the Angels will finish behind the Rangers. The Angels starting rotation is weaker than last season. Tommy Hanson is a question mark coming off surgery, Joe Blanton is a home run derby waiting to happen and Jason Vargas isn’t a stud himself. Texas has had tough times against Weaver (who hasn’t) but has also shown it can beat him. C.J. Wilson isn’t exactly at his best when he faces the Rangers. Jason Vargas has a career 4-6 record, 4.68 ERA and 1.379 WHIP against Texas. I realize that the wins and losses don’t matter because he pitched behind the Mariners offense but it should be pointed out that the Rangers have scored the most runs (44) and hit the most home runs (15) against Vargas than any other team in his short career. The Angels’ rotation isn’t exactly a top ten squad.
The losses of Torii Hunter, Kendrys Morales and Bobby Wilson will hurt the team. Yes I said Bobby Wilson. Chris Ianetta will be the Angels primary catcher in 2013, but will Hank Conger be as effective a backup as Wilson? Then there’s Vernon Wells who will be one of the highest paid bench players in baseball. The acquisition of Josh Hamilton solidified that. And just how healthy will Hamilton be? How long will it be before his actions grow tired with the crowd in Anaheim? Will his attitude bring down his teammates like it reportedly did in Texas last season?
And are Andrew Cousins and Scott Romine really that much of a threat coming off the bench?
The other flaw with the Angels can be found in their farm system depth. Last season they traded away three of their top ten prospects in Jean Segura, Johnny Hellweg and Ariel Pena in order to acquire Zack Greinke who bolted this winter for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Without that youth they may be hard pressed to trade players like Peter Bourjos or Mark Trumbo in July if they find themselves desperate.
Of all the moves the Angels have made in the offseason I only see their bullpen as having improved. Sean Burnett and Ryan Madson are solid additions but if the starters don’t hold up then they may end up being overused which will benefit all in the division (except the Astros).
2013 should be a fun year in the AL West and I look forward to the games with the Angels as they are always fun, but if I am going to pay close attention to any opponent it’s going to be the young and hungry Oakland Athletics. I’m not quite ready to make a complete prediction as deals are still being made and spring training has yet to start but I will say this: The Rangers, A’s and Angels will finish in the top three in the division next season and the Angels will not finish first.
James Holland is a Senior Columnist for Shutdown Inning. He can be reached at James.Holland@shutdowninning.com or @SDIJamesHolland on Twitter.