2009 Spring Training Preview: Angels


With today being the first day of Spring Training, it seems to be an appropriate time to preview your 2009 Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. This spring should be one of the most important (in recent memory) for the Angels, as they have to make many tough decisions involving young players that could very well be the core of their team for many, many years. Let’s take a look at everything by position.


With Mike Napoli and Jeff Mathis both returning in 2009, it seems that the Angels are likely to let the two players platoon again this year. Hopefully, Napoli will get more starts than his counterpart this year after putting up a ridiculous .273/.374/.586 line with 20 homers in only 227 ABs in 2008. If “Nappy” is healthy and fully recovered from offseason shoulder surgery, look for him to take hold of the catcher position and put up some big-time power numbers. Backup plans for Napoli are Mathis, Ryan Budde and Bobby Wilson.

First Base:

Kendry Morales will be the team’s starting first baseman in 2009, as management seems content with giving the young Cuban-defector every opportunity possible to perform at a high level after the departure of free agent Mark Teixeira. Morales has very good minor league stats (.332/.373/.543) but has struggled in sporadic playing time in the majors. He should have a good year, depending on where he’s hitting in the lineup, so look for him to at least match Casey Kotchman’s .287/.327/.448 line from 2008, while providing league-average defense at first. If Morales fails to perform, backup plans include Robb Quinlan, Matt Brown and perhaps Juan Rivera.

Second Base:

Howie kendrick is strongly entrenched in the second base slot, and for good reason. Though Kendrick has missed substantial playing time in each of the last three seasons, he still owns a career .306 batting average and hits an absurd amount of doubles. If he can stay healthy, Howie should blossom into an excellent number 2 hitter (should Scioscia play him there) and provide a substantial amount of offense (along with solid defense) for the Angels in 2009. Backup plans for Kendrick include Sean Rodriguez, Erick Aybar, Maicer Izturis and Chone Figgins.


For the past few seasons, Spring Training has decided the starter of this position, and 2009 should be no different. Both Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis played a substantial amount of time at shortstop in 2008, but uber-prospect Brandon Wood is aiming to break that up. All 3 players are capable of playing excellent defense at shortstop (with Aybar being the best of the 3), but only Wood possesses the power bat (.296/.375/.595 in AAA last year) the Angels desperately need. I expect the Angels to break camp with Aybar as the starter, but keep an eye on this battle – it may carry more weight than any of us really know. Backup plans for Aybar include Izturis, Wood, and Sean Rodriguez.

Third Base:

Chone Figgins has made significant strides defensively at third base, and he continues to be the Halos’ main lead-off man, so look for him to remain the starter in 2009. In 2008, Figgins put up a respectable .367 OBP, but had an OPS+ of just 82. He’s stealing less bases and getting caught more, so the Angels might be smart to start looking elsewhere for production at third base.  If, by some unforseen circumstance, Figgins gets hurt or is traded, Brandon Wood will get first crack to replace him. Backup plans for Figgins include Wood, Robb Quinlan, Matt Brown and Freddy Sandoval.


With the recent addition of Bobby Abreu, the Angels once again have a crowded outfield in 2009. Vladimir Guerrero, Torii Hunter and Bobby Abreu will be the starters, with Juan Rivera rotating between LF, RF and DH. Gary Matthews Jr. seems to be the odd man out in 2009, especially since he’ll be recovering from offseason knee surgery. Keep an eye on Vlad Guerrero in 2009 – after (finally) getting his knees cleaned out in the offseason, Vlad could rebound in a big way with his bat. Backup plans for Abreu, Guerrero, Hunter and Rivera include Matthews Jr., Reggie Willits, Terry Evans and Chone Figgins.

Designated Hitter:

Expect the Angels to continue to use the DH as a rotating role for their outfielders to get some rest. Juan Rivera, Bobby Abreu (with his career .405 OBP) and Vlad Guerrero should all see a good amount of time at DH in 2009, which should help keep all three of them healthy for the full season. If he needs some rest, Mike Napoli might also make some appearances at DH in 2009, which should also aid his power production.

Starting Rotation:

John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders and Jered Weaver will all be returning to a star-studded rotation in 2009, with the 5th slot being the only unknown. If all 4 of those players are healthy, they provide one of the deepest, youngest and best rotations in the game today. Nick Adenhart, Anthony Ortega and Dustin Moseley look like the top candidates to fill out the bottom of the rotation, with Moseley being the most-likely to get the job. My pick for 5th starter is Ortega – In 2008, he went 14-7 with a combined 3.12 ERA between AA and AAA. Backup plans for starters include Adenhart, Moseley, Shane Loux, and perhaps Kelvim Escobar, when he returns.


With the addition of closer Brian Fuentes, the Angels will have an extremely solid bullpen in 2009. Scot Shields and Jose Arredondo will return to support Fuentes at the back-end of the bullpen, with Darren Oliver, Justin Speier and Kevin Jepsen returning to middle relief. If the Halos carry another reliever, it will be down to Dustin Moseley, Shane Loux, Rich Thompson and Jason Bulger.