Will Carroll
Tuesday March 1st, 2011

No team confounds The System like the Angels. For years, the team has done slightly better than expected, an edge that can be explained by two things: Francisco Rodriguez and that I'm missing something. Rodriguez came up with his violent-appearing motion, looking for all the world like someone whose arm might snap on any given pitch, but it hasn't. The System doesn't actually see at this stage of its evolution, so it can't judge mechanics, but it saw the workload, the reliance on the slider, and expected the same. Rodriguez has been gone, but that slight edge remains and it wouldn't surprise me a bit to see it again. Then again, the Angels do have a new Head Trainer this season and maybe we see a baseline from which to judge the work that Ned Bergert did over the years. The Angels have a division of relatively healthy position players and more risky pitchers, which would seem like a decent enough mix. Pitchers tend to have more catastrophic breakdowns, have time between starts to recover, lessening the deadline on the medical staff. Unfortunately, it doesn't work that way behind the scenes, with one longtime MLB Trainer estimating that he spends two to three times more time on pitchers than position players. We'll see how the Angels deal with that equation as they deal with being the underdog in their division for the first time in a decade.

(HEAD TRAINER: Adam Nevala; FIVE YEAR RANK: 9; 2010 RANK: 21)
For explanation of these ratings, click here
 
GREEN LIGHT
1B Kendry Morales
Morales gets a green despite an injury that will make those "odd baseball injury" stories forever. Let's just hope his teammates take two steps back next time they're celebrating a walk-off homer.

3B Alberto Callaspo
Next time someone tells you about a crop of prospects that's going to change a team's fortunes, point to Alberto Callaspo. Brandon Wood was the foremost of a great crop of prospects that the Angels had and none of them established themselves as stars. Sure, eight of the 10 are in the big leagues, including Callaspo (who was No. 8 on Baseball America's 2005 list), but did they change the Angels dramatically? Certainly not for the better. Callaspo took the long way to Anaheim, but at least he's relatively healthy and cheap.

LF Vernon WellsEvery time I see "Vernon Wells LAA," I laugh. I know I shouldn't, but I still can't believe that trade actually happened.

RP Scott DownsMike Scioscia might be a secret sabermetrician. Maybe he just likes the name "Scott." Downs, not Shields, will fill the eighth inning role that is likely to yield many high-leverage outings.

Also Green:
2B Howie Kendrick
SS Erick Aybar
CF Peter Bourjos
DH Bobby Abreu
SP Dan Haren
SP Jered Weaver
 
YELLOW LIGHT
C Jeff Mathis
Mathis doesn't have to split playing time with Mike Napoli anymore, but he doesn't have a solid backup behind him, at least until Hank Conger comes in and challenges for the starting role. Mathis will need to be healthy to keep that from happening in '11.

RF Torii Hunter
Hunter will be helped by the move to right, especially if the hit to his pride stings less than last season. If there's any real effect as we move out of the so-called "steroid era," it will be on the aging curve as much as power. Hunter, a good guy by acclimation, might make a good test case since we have to assume he's stayed away from banned substances in his career.

CL Fernando Rodney
Rodney has his share of arm issues, but he came out of Detroit's fireball factory with most of his original equipment, unlike most of the others.
 
RED LIGHT
SP Ervin Santana
Santana has gone above the 200-innings mark twice before, just like last year. Both times, he followed up with a down year marred by injuries. No one likes that pattern, least of all The System. If he doesn't change it now, he's going to be one of those guys that should be held around 170 or so, which isn't a bad thing. It's just not an ace.

SP Joel Piniero
Piniero pitched well, something most guys who owe their careers to Dave Duncan and leave the Cardinals don't do. The injuries held him to just over 20 starts, which isn't a great sign. He's 32 now and needs to show that this was an aberration, not the start of a slide.
SP Scott Kazmir
Kazmir continued to free fall, from a top AL starter to an afterthought that might never get the big free-agent bucks. His 2010 wasn't much different than his 2009, but his mechanical problems hung around all season. He's pitching for his future in 2011 and has to hope his mechanics, his shoulder, and his elbow hold up. There's still some upside left here if they do.
 

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