The Los Angeles Angels finished six games ahead of the Seattle Mariners to win the AL West last season. They played a lot better in Angel Stadium than they played away from their home ballpark in 2007.
At home, the Angels had the best record in the major leagues (54-27), but they need to improve their road record (40-41) in order to have another successful season.
During the offseason, the Angels made two significant moves in order to prepare for the 2008 season. First, they traded shortstop Orlando Cabrera to the Chicago White Sox for starting pitcher Jon Garland in November. Almost immediately following the trade, the Angels signed center fielder Torii Hunter to a five-year contract.
The Angels improved their pitching by trading for Garland and their defense improved with the addition of Hunter. Pitching and defense will help the Angels to play deep into October this season. They're the favorites to win the AL West again in 2008.
Los Angeles Angels
2007 record: 94-68 (1st in AL West)
Key additions: CF Torii Hunter, RHP Jon Garland
Key losses: SS Orlando Cabrera, RHP Bartolo Colon, 3B Dallas McPherson
Most valuable fantasy performers:
1. Vladimir Guerrero, RF – Last season, Guerrero hit .324 with 27 home runs and 125 RBIs. He has a .325 career batting average and he's never hit below .300 in 11 full seasons, so it's likely that Guerrero will hit at least .300 this season. The 32-year-old outfielder only needs 35 more home runs to reach 400 for his career. There is an outside chance that he could reach the milestone in 2008, so it'll be interesting to watch this pursuit throughout the season. Guerrero is one of the five best outfielders in baseball and he should be drafted in the first few rounds of your draft.
2. John Lackey, RHP – Lackey finished third in the AL Cy Young Award voting last season after going 19-9 with a 3.01 ERA. Lackey struck out 179 hitters, which was his lowest total in three seasons. With the addition of Jon Garland to the rotation, there won't be as much pressure on Lackey this season. He'll likely win 15-20 games in 2008 and pick up 180-190 strikeouts. It would be good to grab Lackey in the third or fourth round of most draft formats. He's a workhorse that will pitch a lot of innings.
3. Francisco Rodriguez, RHP – Following three consecutive 40-save seasons, there doesn't seem to be much room for improvement. However, with the addition of Garland, there's a chance that Rodriguez could establish a career high in saves in 2008. He has a 2.37 career ERA, so he'll also help your team in that category. Rodriguez is the top closer available because he'll strike out around 100 hitters as well. His strikeout total rivals most starting pitchers and his total innings are substantially less.
4. Torii Hunter, CF –Since he was drafted in the first round of the 1993 draft, Hunter has been a part of the Minnesota Twins organization. Now, Hunter moves west to Los Angeles. He'll see most of the time in center field, but will also occasionally serve as the team's designated hitter. Last season, Hunter hit .287 with 28 home runs and 107 RBIs. It was only the second time that he has collected over 100 RBIs, so don't expect him to reach that mark this season. It could still happen, but he'll probably fall just short. Pick him up somewhere between the seventh and ninth round.
5. Chone Figgins, 3B – If you're looking for a power-hitting third baseman, then you shouldn't look at Figgins. However, if you want a third baseman with a batting average close to .300 and 50-60 stolen bases, then you might consider drafting Figgins. He'll also score around 100 runs. Figgins should be drafted in the early to middle rounds because he'll be one of the top 10 third basemen in the 2008 rankings.
6. Jered Weaver, RHP – In his first two seasons with Los Angeles, Weaver was 24-9 with a 3.33 ERA in 47 starts. If these two seasons are any indication, then he'll be a pleasant addition to one fantasy team in your league. Weaver will likely win between 12-17 games this season, so pick him up if he's available in the later rounds of your draft.
1. Howie Kendrick, 2B – Kendrick has hit .306 with nine home runs and 69 RBIs in 160 games in the past two seasons. While he has shown the ability to hit for average, Kendrick hasn't shown much power in the major leagues. That could change this season because he's slated to see the majority of the playing time at second base. He had moderate power in the minors, so it wouldn't be out of the question for Kendrick to have 15-20 home runs in 2008. If he hits around .300 with 70-80 RBIs, then he could be valuable at second base. Based on his potential, Kendrick should be drafted in the middle rounds of your draft. He could sneak his way into the top 10 rankings at the position.
2. Casey Kotchman, 1B – Kotchman finally received significant playing time in 2007 and he had decent numbers. He hit .296 with 11 home runs and 68 RBIs in 137 games. If he's able to stay healthy, then Kotchman could hit 15-20 home runs. However, the biggest problem so far in his career is that he's been unable to remain healthy. He's not worth a prominent place on your fantasy team unless he has a big spring. Keep an eye on how he performs during the first couple weeks of March before you make a decision.