What I suspect we'll see: I think there's a 50/50 chance that Bengie will be back next season, if not better. I think teams are smart enough to realize that this season was an abberation offensively, and while he had an excellent ALDS, I'm guessing that will be balanced out by his unimpressive ALCS. Teams that do their homework will realize that his defense has suffered, although he does deserve some credit for the success of the pitching staff. He'll get some action on the market, but as the dollars go up, teams will realize that he really isn't that much of an upgrade, regardless of what they currently have behind the plate, and though they may overpay, the Angels will pony up the extra half million it will probably take to sign him. Failing that, I think Jose will get 65-70% of the starts, with Mathis backing him up.
What I'd like to see: Bengie in another uniform, Mathis the majority starter, with Jose backing him up and getting the starts against the toughest right handers. I'd like to see about 70% Jose in April, with that trending downward by about 7-10% each month, to the point where Mathis is getting most of the starts by July, with the idea of Mathis being the number 1 guy in 2007.
What I suspect we'll see: Erstad. He'll be here one more year, and I really don't think they're going to move him back to the outfield. In the team's opinion, the risk of injury is too great. As I mentioned in a comment at the Chronicler's site, I say big deal. What's the downside of an Erstad injury to anyone not named Darin Erstad? Are they really that much worse off without him in the lineup? Kotchman will factor in as well. Between days off for Erstad and the DH position, I think he'll play in roughly 120 games
What I'd like to see: Kotchman, Kotchman, and more Kotchman, with Erstad either in center field or left out. kotch needs to play every day. The Angels need his bat in the lineup, and the drop-off defensively, if the scouts are right, will be negligible. It certainly won't be enough to make up the gap in the extra offense that Kotchman will provide.
What I suspect we'll see: Kennedy. Another year on the contract, and what could be a big year. He's another year removed from his 2004 injury, and he's in a contract year, which should add some incentive. I see no downside, really. The only alternatives are to make Figgins the every day second baseman, or to use Izturis, and neither of those are realistic or necessary. And if he does break out, he'll either be a key piece in a third straight trip to the post-season, or he'll be dealt in late July for a mid-level prospect or better.
What I'd like to see: See above. I think that pretty much covers it. Looking ahead, I'd expect that he will not be re-signed as the team prepares to turn the position over to Howie Kendrick in 2007.
What I suspect we'll see: McPherson, occasionally spelled by Figgins and, on rare occasions, Izturis, with some time at DH. D-Mac missed much of spring training last season, and the first few weeks of the season. Despite a power surge in late May/early June, he never really got going, and injuries were probably the main culprit. His defense, in my opinion, was adequate to good, and a pleasant surprise given the scouting reports coming in. Although he lacks the range of Glaus, I found his arm to be much more consistent.
What I'd like to see: Lots and lots of D-Mac. I really do think that with a full spring, and if his injuries are behind him, he could hit 30+ homers next year.
What I suspect we'll see: Orlando Cabrera proved himself to be an outstanding defensive shortstop, and deserves some credit for the improvement of the pitching staff. The Angels could use some more offense out of him, and although reports are that he felt more comfortable in the 2 hole, his numbers didn't improve appreciably when in that spot. Still, he doesn't strike out a great deal, and he's not an awful hitter as a number 2. But I wouldn't expect great things from him offensively over the last three seasons of his contract. If he's average in two of those and above average in the other, I think that's all the Angels can reasonably hope for.
What I'd like to see: I have no problem with OC staying in OC for two more years, but I'd like to think the Angels will be smart enough to move him out if and when Brandon is ready.
What I suspect we'll see: Garret Anderson will spend the majority of time here should he stay healthy. The rest of the time he'll DH, and this spot will be covered by some combination of Juan Rivera and Chone Figgins. GA has three years left, kids. He's not going anywhere.
What I'd like to see: Rivera and Figgins almost exclusively with the occasional start by Anderson, unless the winter rest relieves Anderson of some of his many ailments. When healthy, he's an excellent fielder, but he was clearly affected by some combination of age and injury this season.
What I suspect we'll see: Unfortunately, I think management will commit to Finley here until mid-May or so, by which time he'll either have experienced a rebirth, or he will have made clear to everyone that he's done. There was optimism late in the season when he was benched for long stretches. And he did provide some very big hits down the stretch in the race for the division championship, but after Scioscia took the bait, Finley pulled the switch, disappearing in the playoffs until Scioscia, in a desperate move, benched him in favor of the aging Anderson in center in game five of the ALCS.
What I'd like to see: Erstad for the majority of the season, spelled by Figgins when he isn't giving someone else a day off. Like I said earlier, it's possible that his body can't handle a full season of center field. Well, for starters, that's what Figgins is for. And second, so what? If he gets hurt, the result is that his bat comes out of the lineup in exchange for maybe a small drop-off on defense (but not assuredly), and a loss of some versatility as Figgins would become the every day center fielder. That's a chance I'm willing to take.
What I suspect we'll see: Vlad.
What I'd like to see: A rotation of Izturis and Quinlan. Just kidding of course. Despite missing a month of the season after Ron Roenicke inexplicably sent him from first on a double, leading to an awkward slide and a shoulder injury, Vlad still hit 30 homers (leading the team by a ton), and drove in over a hundred runs. He suffered through a stretch where he wasn't getting anything to hit, a frequent target of intentional walks. When he did get something to hit, he obviously tried to do too much and went into a prolonged slump. He escaped in time to lead the team to another division title. He'll be a fixture here at least through 2007, at which point he might move to DH for the final year of his current contract.
What I suspect we'll see: Some sort of platoon by Kotchman and Rivera, both of whom should be in the field more often than not. They'll be splitting at bats when they should both be in the lineup.
What I'd like to see: Mostly Anderson. Play him in left about 25-30% of the time, on which days Figgins can give McPherson or Vlad a day off their feet at DH.
What I suspect we'll see: Ztu, Quinlan, Davanon, whomever is sitting in favor of Figgins, that day's loser in the Kotchman/Rivera battle, and the backup catcher of the day.
What I'd like to see: Ztu, Quinlan, Davanon, whomever is sitting in favor of Figgins, and maybe Brian Specht or Zach Sorensen, either of whom if taught to play outfield, could be a very versatile utility guy, and could at least be as valuable as Finley, who should be cut barring a terrific spring. Granted, I know virtually nothing about Specht other than he's a middle infielder who had a very solid season as the bat coming back from injury. Someone who knows more can tell me I'm full of crap. But if the first four are set, you really need another outfielder (although Quinlan can play left). I'd rather one of those guys learn than surrender more at bats to Finley. Also, backup catcher of the day.
What I suspect we'll see: Colon, Escobar, Lackey, Santana, and Byrd, or another free agent. Washburn leaving appears to be a done deal at this point, which leaves Byrd as the likely candidate to return, preferably with a one year deal. If he commands too much on the free agent market, then I wouldn't mind seeing Arte either go for broke with a guy like A.J. Burnett (hey, fight fire with fire, our AJ against yours). The alternative would be to see who steps up among Joe Saunders, Jered Weaver, and Chris Bootcheck, with the option of a late spring trade if none of those guys are capable of winning the job.
What I'd like to see: Pretty much what you see above. I say let Washburn go, unless something breaks and he's not as valuable as we suspect. Bring Byrd back, but only on a year deal, or maybe a one year deal with an option/buyout for the second year. Give Saunders a chance to grow another year, or even make him the lefty and long option out of the pen, with an eye on moving him into the rotation in 2007, alongside Weaver who would replace Escobar as his contract expires.
What I suspect we'll see: Frankie and Shields are no-brainers, as it probably another year of Donnelly and Yan. I expect final two spots to be used on Bootcheck and whatever lefty they sign in the coming months, if not Saunders. I'd have no problem with Saunders in this position, but I'd like to see him as more than a LOOGY if he's going to start in 2007. He could be a good in that role, however, if they also give him longer outings in mop-up.
What I'd like to see: Pretty much what you see above. What I don't want to see is big money being thrown at a LOOGY or seventh inning guy. First, I think this coaching staff has shown an excellent ability to identify middle to late relief talent, Turnbow, Wise, and Jenks notwithstanding. I don't know, maybe the magic is gone, but I think those guys validate this skill more than anything. The talent is there, they just need to utilize it a little better than they did this season. I'd rather not see them throw money at this spot. Lord knows too many bad contracts have been given to the Mark Petkovseks and Mike Remlingers of the world. Relief talent at the back of the rotation is often a crapshoot. I'll take my chances with the coaching staff and use that money elsewhere.
To shorthand it, here's what I suspect to see on opening day next season:
Pos PlayerI think that's 26 players, actually, so something's gotta give. Someone will probably get hurt in the spring.
C Bengie/Jose Molina
Bench Quinlan, Izturis, Davanon, Backup catcher,
Pen Frankie, Shields, Donnelly, Yan, Bootcheck,
Saunders, or free agent
Here's what I'd like to see, with what I see as the difference (positive/negative):
Pos Player gain/lossI see the bench and pen being about the same. Not appreciably better, not significantly worse.
CF Figgins =
SS Cabrera =
RF Guerrero =
DH Anderson + over 2005 DH spot
LF Rivera + def and probably off over GA
3B McPherson + power makes up for def lost (Fig)
1B Kotchman + Offense makes up for slight def loss
C Mathis - growing pains, but a long term move
2B Kennedy + one year removed from injury
SP Colon - slight regression
SP Escobar + hopefully healthy
SP Lackey + continued improvement
SP Santana + year of experience
SP Byrd/FA + over last year's #5 depending
Bench Quinlan, Izturis, Davanon, Backup catcher,
Pen Frankie, Shields, Donnelly, Yan, Bootcheck,
Saunders, or free agent
Clearly, there's a lot that can and will happen between now and when pitchers and catchers report, and probably some more movement between that time and opening day. This is essentially an exercise in futility before we know what might happen. According to the Times, they could anyone from Konerko to ManRam to Carlos Delgado. Really, I hope they don't. If I'd wanted them to do something like that, I would have put it up there. This Angels team has the minor league talent and the budget to be the spend the next decade as the Yankees of the last decade. I'd rather not see them blow that by becoming the Mets of the last decade, throwing good money after bad. This is the strongest the farm has even been in my lifetime, and it's happening at a time where we all have the tools to follow the progress of the prospects like never before. Winning is fun, but one of the things that made 2002 great was the personnel that the Angels took to the Championship. I think it will be more fun to watch a victory lap by the guys that we followed as they climbed the ladder. As such, my general philosophy is when in doubt, go with the kids.
Time to relax and watch the lucky ones battle it out. I've got a hockey season, college football season, and college basketball season to keep me busy until March, but I'll always have one eye trained on the Angels. Fire up the hot stove. It's gonna be an interesting winter.