Sunday, November 23, 2014


By Robert Cunningham, AngelsWin.com Columnist - 

If you were to create a perfect position player what would he look like?

Ideally the player would be someone who can hit both LHP and RHP equally well with a high wRC+, plays excellent defense, has sharp athletic instincts, and can steal bases at an efficient rate.

Unfortunately there is only one Mike Trout.

Finding a good position player continues on a downward slide after Trout. The next best thing might be a switch hitter who can make good defensive plays or it might be a left-handed batter who can hit RHP well but isn’t quite as good against lefties but has one or more of the other desirables.

Considering that a majority of the pitchers in MLB are right-handed (70%-75%) it makes sense that teams would be more inclined towards drafting, trading for, or signing free agent switch, or left-handed, hitters.

This is especially true at the high-value defensive positions such as C, SS, 3B, and 2B where having a left-handed hitting, right-handed throwing player is a slight, incremental advantage (positional bias).

In fact, generally, a smart GM would a) try to acquire hitters that can hit both LHP and RHP, b) in lieu of (a) try to construct a roster that has more left-handed hitters than it does right-handed ones and c) find versatile right-handed hitting utility players to spell (b) players when facing LHP. Of course if they happen to be exceptional defenders that is truly an added bonus.

In fact it is no surprise that some of the Angels hitters have minimal platoon splits versus LHP and RHP such as Pujols, Trout, Aybar, and Kendrick.

Additionally it is no coincidence that we acquired or brought up additional left-handed bats over the last couple of years such as Calhoun, Conger, and Hamilton with the intent to incrementally improve the team. Even some of our in-season call up’s were left-handed hitters such as Navarro and Boesch.

Also, let’s not forget that many of our bench players in 2014 were right-handed utility types that can hit LHP such as Cowgill, Cron, McDonald, and Green.

Remember just like football, baseball is a game of inches as well. Even small incremental improvements can have a larger effect over a 162-game season.

Let’s take a look at each position and discuss the possibilities for the 2015 season. In this part, we will focus only on the starting infield players. In Part III we will focus on the outfield and DH spots. The Steamer projections are for 600 PA’s (or 450 for catchers) so please adjust accordingly for part-time players.

Catcher

Author’s Note: The Hank Conger trade caught me off-guard. It really seemed that the Angels would retain and even extend Conger based on his excellent pitch framing skills. However the trade did bring back Nick Tropeano so the Angels did exchange a good backup catcher for a good back-of-the-rotation pitcher, who might turn out to be a lot more. Tropeano’s name was part of a longer list of AA/AAA pitchers that I thought Dipoto would have interest in and so it has, surprisingly, come to pass in a rare inter-divisional trade.

2015 Steamer Projections

AVG
OBP
SLG
wRC+
WAR
Chris Iannetta
0.223
0.338
0.357
106
2.7
Carlos Perez
0.232
0.286
0.330
75
1.1
Jackson Williams
0.211
0.272
0.306
68
0.7

Chris Iannetta is not good at pitch framing. However the rest of his defensive game is consistently above average (according to the questionable accuracy of the defensive metrics) and perhaps more importantly his experienced batting eye (high OBP) and plate discipline contributed to an excellent 2014 season in the batter’s box.

Iannetta has one more year remaining on his original 3-year contract, which he signed prior to the 2013 season, at a very reasonable $5.525MM for 2015.

Carlos Perez, the second part of the Hank Conger trade, is a defensive-minded, game-caller whose bat can potentially become a bit above average if things break right. He has patience at the plate and quick hands, which essentially could make him a Chris Iannetta “mini-me” as his career develops. Perez has a solid arm with a career Minor League caught stealing rate of 33%.

Acquiring Perez, who has a fairly minimal platoon split in the Minors from 2011-2013, allows the Angels to minimize any possible production lost in the Conger move.

Both of these catchers have value for the team. Now that the Angels have traded Conger instead of Iannetta, it is clear that the Halos are leaning in the direction of the more experienced veteran.

It would be an additional surprise at this point if Iannetta was traded. However there certainly appears to be a market for veteran catchers so you never know if Jerry will try to extract the added value that the remaining member of his 2014 catching corps has at this time.

It is possible that the Angels could offer Chris an extension for, say, another 2 years for $10MM-15MM, could simply start him and try to ride him into the post season, or even trade him away at the deadline if the Angels are out of contention.

If Jerry needs to cut payroll in order to sign a free agent, issue an extension contract, or make room for a higher priced trade acquisition Iannetta might be moved to make that happen. Chris definitely has value and could bring back a quality prospect or 2-3 lesser prospects.

There are other replacement candidates out there such as veteran Rene Rivera (Padres) or prospect Ryan Lavarnway (Red Sox) that could be obtained to replace Chris if the Angels choose to go that route. At this point that seems unlikely.

Educated Guess: Now that Hank is gone, Chris Iannetta is in the driver’s seat for 2015. Carlos Perez appears to be Hank’s successor in the backup role.

The recently waiver-claimed Jackson Williams, rated the Pacific Coast League’s Best Defensive Catcher in 2010, could also be the guy who will replace Conger. Jackson slashed .383/.479/.533 against LHP in 2014, albeit on an inflated .478 BABIP in the PCL.

Jett Bandy, Charlie Cutler, and Zach Zaneski are upper Minors depth options (John Hester elected free agency).

First Base

2015 Steamer Projections

AVG
OBP
SLG
wRC+
WAR
Albert Pujols
0.269
0.330
0.466
127
3.0
C.J. Cron
0.255
0.296
0.412
103
0.6
Efren Navarro
0.253
0.315
0.347
93
(0.1)


Not much to talk about here. Albert Pujols will be fairly-well entrenched at the position for at least the next 3 years. Once Hamilton’s contract expires (or he is potentially traded at some point) you would expect Pujols to DH a lot more.

Additionally, it is very likely that the team will continue to carry Efren Navarro on the 40-man roster as insurance against a Pujols injury.

Although his bat isn’t even in the same realm as Albert’s, Efren is a gold-glove caliber first baseman and can capably hit RHP and can play left field when needed. He would add value at an inexpensive price (league minimum in 2015 and 2016). It should be noted that the Steamer projection heavily penalized his defense resulting in the negative WAR estimate.

Finally, unless he is traded, C.J. Cron will likely be on the 25-man roster to start the season and he too could play first base when he is not hitting out of the DH spot. Cron has prodigious power which can help the Angels this year or could be used as a trade chip in an offensively-starved player market.

First base is not an area of concern for 2015. Unless the Angels use C.J. to pull off a trade for a young controllable third baseman or pitching prospect Cron will play a prominent role in the offense, mainly at DH.

Educated Guess: Duh, Pujols. Cron will primarily DH and occasionally spell Pujols at first. Navarro will be a primary depth option at Salt Lake (AAA). Calhoun or Green could play first base in a pinch.

Second Base

2015 Steamer Projections

AVG
OBP
SLG
wRC+
WAR
Howie Kendrick
0.280
0.328
0.401
110
3.2
Grant Green
0.266
0.306
0.381
99
1.6
Shawn O'Malley
0.242
0.303
0.324
84
0.1
Gordon Beckham
0.238
0.288
0.346
84
0.7

The Angels 2B situation will be a real source of discussion this off-season for the team and their fans.

Howie is entering the last year of his contract extension he signed three years ago and is owed $9.5MM for 2015, which is a bargain for a player of his caliber.

In addition Kendrick had a very successful 2014 campaign increasing his value in the off-season trade market.

To top it off he would likely be a candidate for a Qualifying Offer (QO) which could add a compensatory draft pick if he were to refuse it at the end of the 2015 season. This would increase his current value before the new season begins.

Howie is on the wrong side of 30 (he’s 31 years old and will be 32 before the All-Star Break) but to his credit he stays in shape and keeps an excellent work ethic. If any player were to age gracefully and maintain a level of high performance he would certainly be a candidate in that regard.

This could play out a bunch of different ways depending on how the trade market shapes up in the coming weeks.

At this point it wouldn’t be surprising if the Angels traded him, signed him to an extension, or kept him and then offered him a QO after the 2015 season.

Also the QO presents its own issues.

The first is will Kendrick play well enough in 2015 to warrant a QO in the first place?

Second do the Angels want to risk him accepting an approximate $16MM QO for 2016?

Finally if Howie rejects the QO and hits free agency do the Angels want to walk the high wire of trying to leverage him into re-signing with the team at a slightly reduced market rate?

The front office decision on whether or not to trade Howie will come down to what they project he will contribute in 2015 versus what his replacement(s) would produce.

Jerry Dipoto certainly seems to be preparing for such action. The acquisition of Gordon Beckham adds to a list of second base candidates that also include Grant Green, Shawn O’Malley, and Alex Yarbrough.

Gordon Beckham would cost about $4MM less than Howie and is good defensively although his bat is very questionable.

Grant Green would certainly be capable of playing second base from an offensive standpoint but it really looks like Grant is being groomed for a super-utility role based on his playing time with the Salt Lake Bees (Scroll to Fielding at bottom).

The Angels recently traded Taylor Lindsey which really screams that they see Alex Yarbrough as a potential future second baseman in Anaheim (or Tustin or wherever the team ends up). Alex is a switch-hitter but he has hit RHP much better in his Minor League career than he has LHP (.770 vs .692 OPS).

Yarbrough has a good line drive approach and is mainly a singles and doubles type of hitter, although this author did personally witness him knock 2 home runs out of Dickey-Stephens Park during an Arkansas Traveler’s (AA) game back in May (not an easy feat to do) so his power may develop last as it does with many prospects.

Finally there are two interesting options that should become available later in the off-season: Cuban second basemen Jose Fernandez and Hector Olivera. Both Fernandez and Olivera are highly rated keystone players in their home country and both have different, but great, offensive profiles.

Jose, who is only 26, is renowned in Cuba for his on-base skills and level swing from the left side of the plate. Due to his age the Angels could offer a long-term contract of 7-8 years at $10MM-$13MM per year.

Hector, who has a touch more power and hits from the right side, is approaching age 30 so expectations should be tempered but a 5-year/$50MM-$65MM contract might be achievable for the Angels.

Either one of those players could speculatively find a home in the front part of the Angels batting order. Fernandez seems like a better fit as he could become the new lead-off hitter and bump the entire lineup back a step. Alternatively Olivera could hit in the 2-spot and bump Trout to the 3-spot or even have Hector hit in the 5-spot.

There are two other Cuban 2B, Andy Ibanez and Yoan Moncada, who should be available soon but they are subject to International Draft Pools and are not quite ready for the Majors, making them long-term, future prospect pickups, at best, for the Halos.

Spring Training will surely see a lively competition between the veteran Beckham (if he is tendered a contract which looks unlikely), Green, Yarbrough, and O’Malley for a shot at being the new Angels second baseman if Howie is, indeed, traded and no other 2B is acquired by the team.

The good news here is that if either of the Cuban players is delayed in obtaining their legal status in the United States before the season starts, the Angels could easily deploy Green or Yarbrough at 2B to start the year until Fernandez and Olivera become available if that is the team’s goal.

This decision will be difficult for Jerry Dipoto. The facts are:

1) Kendrick’s trade value will never be higher than it is now
a. If Howie is traded in-season, he will not be eligible for a QO and the associated compensatory draft pick return it could bring
b. If the Angels keep Kendrick they will have to take the risk that he might accept a QO, if the Angels make it, for what will be approximately $16MM for the 2016 season. This would be a difficult payroll decision for 2016 and could result in the Angels NOT making a QO (and lose the compensatory draft pick anyway)
2) The pool of available trade partners is at its maximum before the 2015 season begins
a. Despite all 30 clubs being available as trade partners, most of them will not trade for Kendrick unless they can extend him or have a need to upgrade at 2B and feel they will be in contention in 2015
b. The possible return in value, at the trade deadline in-season, is problematic because it relies on there being a demand by contending teams for an upgrade at 2B which may or may not exist
3) If the Angels do trade Howie his production will be difficult to replace in 2015
4) Team payroll is an issue and moving Kendrick’s salary would make an impact in reducing it

Of course, the priority is to win, particularly in light of the fact that Dipoto only had one option year (2015) picked up by owner Arte Moreno, so retaining Howie to start the season is very plausible and would likely be the most productive option at 2B for the team in 2015.

However, Howie does have considerable value if you believe his Steamer projection above. The 3.2 WAR is certainly a viable estimate considering Kendrick produced 4.6 WAR in 2014.

Even if you take a more conservative estimate of 2.7 WAR, Howie still has enough value in his remaining contract year to pull a top prospect in trade.

No matter what happens the Angels have a lot of flexibility and options at second base (which is why Lindsey was expendable).

If you look around the Majors and Minors there are really no viable second basemen available that could provide the production that Howie can.

In fact the drop off is fairly substantial between Kendrick and any readily available options. While there are certainly teams who could use the upgrade at 2B, there aren’t that many teams who are desperate for one.

The reality is that most teams don’t have the 2B options the Angels do and can’t wait for Fernandez or Olivera’s legal status to be approved before starting the season without a viable keystone player in place.

Before the Tropeano acquisition, Kendrick looked like the most likely trade chip that could bring back a young, cost-controlled, high quality pitching prospect. Now that the Angels have picked up Nick, it appears that moving Kendrick is an option and luxury rather than a requirement.

In fact now that the Angels have Tropeano in the fold, Dipoto can focus on trading Howie for an equally valuable player at a different position.

For instance the Angels could trade Kendrick for the Nationals Jordan Zimmermann and still maintain an equitable production level. A different route could be to trade Howie for OF Steven Souza (Steamer projection of 2.2 WAR), move Hamilton to DH and trade Cron for a pitching prospect.

The point is that there are many options and variations that could come out of a Kendrick trade while maintaining overall team production.

Certainly trading Howie could cut payroll but if he is retained, Jerry could make cuts in other areas by non-tendering Beckham and/or trading David Freese or perhaps Kevin Jepsen. The drop off in production, if at all, from Freese or Jepsen to a replacement isn’t nearly as steep as it is with Kendrick.

Educated Guess: Unless the Angels feel they will not be able to adequately fill their 2B need or that the loss of overall team production is too great, Kendrick will be traded. I am sure that Jerry is a responsible and ethical General Manager but if he is worried in any way about his job security he will only move Howie in trade for equitable production. Otherwise Kendrick stays in Anaheim.

Shortstop

2015 Steamer Projections

AVG
OBP
SLG
wRC+
WAR
Erick Aybar
0.271
0.312
0.378
99
2.9
Shawn O'Malley
0.242
0.303
0.324
84
0.1


This one is likely a no-brainer too. Erick Aybar has 2 years left on his extension that he signed before the 2012 season. Aybar is only owed $17MM for the remaining life on his contract making him an attractive, affordable option for an impact shortstop.

We spoke, above, about the real possibility that Kendrick might be dealt in the off-season. It seems doubtful that Dipoto would trade Aybar, also, because that would likely disrupt the roster too much. However the Angels front office may find that Erick draws a lot of trade interest and may move him instead.

The only major problem with trading Aybar is that we have no legitimate shortstop prospect that is capable of replacing him. Stamets has the potential to be a real defensive wizard akin to players like Andrelton Simmons, Alcides Escobar, and J.J. Hardy but Stamets bat is still raw and another year in either AA or AAA would certainly go a long way towards developing his offensive profile.

Beyond Stamets we did have Rondon but he was traded to the Padres for Huston Street. The only remaining internal candidate is Shawn O’Malley who showed impressive plate discipline in the Pacific Coast League at Salt Lake this year.

Also the Angels just signed 20 year old Cuban middle infield prospect Roberto Baldoquin for a reported $8MM signing bonus. Baldoquin could potentially play in the middle infield, the hot corner, or even the outfield. However he, too, probably needs some time in the Minors to polish his skills before stepping into the Majors.

Unless Dipoto pulls off a surprise trade it seems very likely that Aybar will stay at SS in 2015. For the team this seems to be the best solution.

Educated Guess: Erick Aybar will be our 2015 shortstop to start the season. If the Angels perform poorly, there is a real possibility he gets traded at the deadline or in the 2015-2016 off-season. Depth options in the Minors are Shawn O’Malley, Eric Stamets, and Roberto Baldoquin.

Third Base

2015 Steamer Projections

AVG
OBP
SLG
wRC+
WAR
David Freese
0.260
0.328
0.388
109
2.0
Grant Green
0.266
0.306
0.381
99
1.6
Gordon Beckham
0.238
0.288
0.346
84
0.7


Third base will be another interesting decision point for the Angels this off-season.

David Freese will be entering the final year of his arbitration control and will become a free agent after 2015. His arbitration price will likely run up as high as the $7MM range for next season. MLBTradeRumors estimates his 2015 salary to be $6.3MM (which is probably accurate).

For the entire 2014 season Freese had a slash line of .260/.321/.383/.704. Against LHP he had an .876 OPS but against RHP he had a .656 OPS. Because he is on the wrong side of the platoon split that is quite a bit of money to pay for what should be a platoon player.

However in the last 28 days of the season Freese did pick up the pace. His slash line during that time was .315/.367/.562/.929!

The Angels will need to decide who the real David Freese is and act accordingly with their off-season plans because the Angels have no clear successor or prospects for the third base position beyond Grant Green and the newly acquired Roberto Baldoquin.

Because the Angels appear to be focused on Green being a super-utility player it would seem more logical that Jerry Dipoto would rather acquire a left-handed hitting third baseman. This would allow Green to regularly substitute in at 3B, 2B, and occasionally at SS, against LHP, as needed.

Beyond those two, there are some interesting young left-handed hitting 3B prospects that include Garin Cecchini (Red Sox), Brock Holt (Red Sox), Jake Lamb (Diamondbacks) and Kyle Kubitza (Braves) that are possibly available in trade. Additionally there are multiple third basemen that will be available in free agency including switch hitters Pablo Sandoval and Chase Headley.

Kaleb Cowart has floundered offensively playing for the Arkansas Travelers and the Solar Sox this year. Although the Angels would love for him to be the answer at third base long-term it is appearing less and less likely that Cowart will reach his potential in the timeframe that the Angels will have a need and opening for him. Kaleb may have to convert back to a reliever soon to extend his career.

The Angels could look to pick up a short-term option like Kelly Johnson on a 2-year contract with an option year attached to try and bridge the 3B gap to a prospect like Sherman Johnson, Cal Towey, Kaleb Cowart or Roberto Baldoquin. This might be an alternative path to acquiring a left-handed hitting 3B prospect.

Finally it is possible that the Angels could trade Freese and insert Gordon Beckham at 3B. This would not be an ideal choice in my opinion but it could be a temporary measure for this season.

Whatever happens, it certainly would seem to be in the team’s best interest to find a permanent long-term solution at the hot corner.

Educated Guess: Now that the Angels have acquired Tropeano, David Freese, and his estimated $6.3MM salary, is much more likely to be traded.

To be clear Freese does have positive trade value. However that value is only likely to pull a low to mid-level prospect or possibly a Major League reliever.

The Angels could try to make a trade centered on David Freese, plus other assets, for a 3B like Jake Lamb. The Diamondbacks have Brandon Drury in the wings and they could use Freese for one season at 3B or even trade him at the deadline.

In the end it is my feeling David will be traded and the Angels will sign Kelly Johnson to man the hot corner. It would be a surprise if we picked up a bigger 3B free agent and it doesn’t seem like we have quite enough trade chips, that we are willing to part with, to pull a young prospect like Lamb.

In Part III we will continue with the outfield and DH discussion.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

 photo picaw1_zps0167074e.jpg

By Glen McKee, AngelsWin.com Columnist/Satirist - 

There are many things we love here at the AngelsWin.com executive offices.  Beating a dead horse is just one of them; we also enjoy publishing our opinions in a not-so-timely manner.

About two weeks ago a rumor was posted that the Angels were looking to trade either Kendrick or Freese.  AngelsWin founder, Chuck Richter, has recently put the kibosh on the rumor of a Kendrick trade and Freese is virtually untradeable, but that won’t stop me from speculating about whether a Kendrick trade would be worthwhile.  Oh no it won’t!  Let’s go ahead and give a (non-) definitive take on whether the Angels should trade him.

Don’t trade him – it’s really that simple.

It’s hard to believe that we’ve already had nine seasons of Howie at 2B.  It seems like just a few years ago he was a hot prospect who was guaranteed to have a few batting titles by the time he has retired.  Dude had hype to spare, and that is part of the problem when considering Kendrick.  You have to step away from the hype to see how valuable he is, even with only a year left on his contract (and that he only has a year left at an affordable price makes him even less tradable).  Forget the hype and just look at his raw stats over those nine years: .293 BA, .347 OBP, .744 OPS.  Compare that to the career stats for the sports media’s favorite rat-boy, Dustin Pedroia: .278, .337, .712.  If you asked just about any writer or casual baseball fan who they’d take between Kendrick and rat-boy, about 115% would take rat-boy despite the inferior stats. 

Howie is like Amy Adams before American Hustle.

Here’s a picture of her in The Muppets and in Talladega Nights:

 photo AMY1_zps6fe405ca.jpg  photo AMY2_zpseedea598.jpg
             
Certainly easy on the eyes but nothing that makes you take more than a second glance, especially within the context of movie stars.  

And then she did American Hustle:

 photo AMY4_zpsa634ef48.jpg  photo AMY3_zpse85d47da.jpg

I can’t quite put my finger on what was different for her in that movie (really, I can’t) but it made everybody take notice.  She’s the Howie Kendrick of the Angels.  Easy to take for granted until you see her in the right context, and then you realize what she has to offer.  Hopefully it’s not too late for us with Howie.  
This is especially important when you consider the two possible replacements for Howie.  First is Grant Green.  Grant Green is like Hugh Grant after Four Weddings and a Funeral.  Looking good, lots of potential, and everybody wants to see more from him.  And then this happened:

 photo AWGM_zpsf4b75e04.jpg

If we made Grant Green our starting 2B because we traded Howie, his play would be the equivalent of Hugh Grant getting busted with a hooker while he was shacking up with Elizabeth Hurley.  Grant would be Hugh, and Kendrick on another team would be Elizabeth Hurley in Bedazzled:

 photo awgm2_zps008f41b4.jpg
I won’t cast judgment on Hugh Grant for giving up that to get a little something on the side because we don’t know what was going on with him and Liz, but damn…on the surface that looks like the Hollywood equivalent of trading Napoli for Wells. Now, I’m not comparing Vernon Wells to a prostitute, but yeah – we’ve been down that road and paid the bill, and watched Mike Hurley move on to greater success and a WS championship, while we couldn’t wait to kick Vernon out of our car.  And by the way, thinking of Mike Napoli mixed with Elizabeth Hurley is giving me the oddest feeling that I can’t describe in a family atmosphere. 

The other possible replacement for Howie is Gordon Beckham, and he could be had for arbitration rates which would probably be somewhere over $6 million, which is roughly half of what Howie is making.  In 26 games with the Angels last year he performed above his career averages (thanks, Scioscia and Baylor!) across the board, which means either he likes it here and will continue to perform at that level or that he found a package in the locker room with Brad Fullmer’s name on it and helped himself to the contents.  Well, it’s also possible that playing in Anaheim instead of Chicago would make anybody happier and thus perform better (thanks, Obama!).  Either way, he was certainly decent with us and showed potential to be a good replacement for Howie, and if he tanks we still have Divine Green to pick up the slack.
  
The key word in there is potential and it’s a killer.  Brandon Wood had potential, and so did Mike Trout.  Charles Manson had potential to be a pop star; Dennis Wilson – Dan Haren’s dad as far as looks go – even stole a song from him after Manson was in prison.  That’s how iffy potential is.  Now, I’m not suggesting that Gordon Beckham is Charles Manson, but I’m just saying they both have potential.
  
The bottom line is that we know what we have with Howie, even if it’s only for another year, and we don’t know what we have with Divine Green or Gordon Manson.  We also don’t know what we could get for Howie.  He has one year left so a trade would have to be to a contending team that needs a 2B.  Oakland could use Howie but the only thing worse than watching that dillweed Eric Sogard tear us up would be seeing Howie in an Oakland uniform going deep on Matt Shoemaker, and you know that would happen.  What other contending team needs a 2B and has a pitcher to spare for a trade? After last year’s Trumbo trade I have confidence in Jerry Dipoto, but I doubt there is much out there for one year of a very good 2B.  The potential isn’t worth it. 

Keep Howie and see how Grant Green develops, and give the job to him next year. 

As we celebrate our 10th anniversary at AngelsWin.com we've focused our attention on our writers, mods, contributors & website members. Today we put the spotlight on Dochalo, one of our longest tenured members, writer and a great contributor to forum discussions. Doc is as witty as they come and a fan favorite among all members at AngelsWin.com. As our resident doctor, Jason has provided insight into player injuries and even aided some of our members when ailing with an injury. 

Let's get to know Dochalo a bit more in today's Member Appreciation Interview.

AngelsWin.com: When and how did you first come to AngelsWin.com?

dochalo:  I was an ESPN lurker till 2002 and then joined the board right when it went to hell. Thanks God you created this place or I'd have spent countless hours over the past ten years doing something constructive. I have been here since the start and have a general sense of entitlement as a result

AngelsWin.com:  What keeps you coming back to the site?

dochalo: In the immortal words of Elwood - 'This mall has everything'. Excellent info on my favorite sports related topic.  Inside scoops, great articles, but mostly the forum banter.  The day to day interaction can't be beat.  

AngelsWin.com:  What have been some of your favorite articles and threads?

dochalo: Adam's Foe Fodder articles about the A's. The Munkee thread with the pic of the vomiting chimp. The Vernon Wells trade thread. All of the saber related articles and countless stuff in the hangout.  

AngelsWin.com:  What in-person events have you attended from AngelsWin.com (Spring/Summer Fanfests, Charity Golf, Charity Softball)?

dochalo: Early on I had a little more time to attend the softball games but kids and work have made our schedule pretty hectic these days.  I am hoping that with my new job and weekends free I can start to come around more.

AngelsWin.com:  Why is AngelsWin.com your internet home for the Angels?

dochalo: The people first and foremost.  It's fun to discuss such a broad range of topics with people from all walks of life with such differing experiences and opinions.  Yet the common denominator being the halos.  

AngelsWin.com:  In your opinion, what is AngelsWin.com’s best feature: the articles, charitable events, game-day chat, message boards, Fanfests, podcasts, etc?

dochalo: To me, it's the message board followed closely by some of the articles/features.  So many creative and funny people.  So many perspectives.  
  

Lighter Side


AngelsWin.com:  Where do you live and what do you do?

dochalo: I don't just play a Doctor on tv.  I am a radiologist and love my job very much.  The healthcare world is changing like crazy right now in so many interesting ways.  Not all good.  Not all bad.  I feel very fortunate to be in a position to do what I want as a physician yet have time to be with my family.  

I live in pasadena.  I really like the San Gabriel Valley and I love living in California after being in the midwest for 9 years.  Chicago is a great city but very cold.  Milwaukee is just very cold.  

AngelsWin.com: Why are you an Angels fan?

dochalo: I didn't have a choice.  It's in my DNA.  Dad has been a fan since before I was born.  Played a ton of ball growing up so I am just a huge baseball fan in general.  I was a bit of a closet fan for many years.  My friends would make fun of me as they are all Dodger fans.  I quit being a fan for the 1987 season.  I was at the stadium for THE 1986 playoff game.  I was 14 at the time and actually cried.  It didn't take long for me to restore my fandom.  

AngelsWin.com:  What was your first Angels game that you remember? Who’d you go with?

dochalo: Not my first game, but one that really sticks out is one of the Milwaukee Brewers playoff games.  I went with my Dad and we sat in dead center above the tunnel back before they redid the stadium.  I couldn't see shit even with binoculars.  Grew up in Arcadia and we used to just hop down the 57 to the game in 35mins.  Now it's just a slog to get down there on a weekday.  No offense to anyone, but I am hoping they move the team closer.  :)

AngelsWin.com:  Who have been your favorite players? Why? Any great stories or interactions with them?

dochalo: Home grown players mostly although I loved Vladdy.  It's amazing to have a generational player in Trout on the team right now.  Otherwise, Salmon, Edmonds, GA, Chili Davis, Joyner, JT Snow.  I'm left handed so I tend to like those guys most.  

I been able to hang out with Scioscia a few times.  We play golf with him and a few other guys a couple times.  He was in the foursome behind us and was walking up to the tee when I was teeing off. I hit a hole in one!!  I've seen him a couple times since and he says - 'hey, the doctor who hit the whole in one'.  I thought that might be a cool nickname but my wife refused to call me that.  

AngelsWin.com:  How do you survive the offseason?

dochalo: I enjoy the offseason from about mid November thru January.  Waiting for the season to start those last couple of months is brutal.  Right now is the worst time until the hot stove gets going.  College and NFL football otherwise.  Been getting into hockey a little. 

AngelsWin.com: What’s one thing you’d like everyone in AngelsWin.com to know about you?

dochalo: I am a big soccer fan, but I don't like cats or arnold palmers, and I hate scones.  What a waste.  Shit load of calories and butter but they are still dry.  It defies physics. I am also one of those annoying foodie people, but I've been one prior to it being pseudo cool.  I generally cook for the family most nights. My wife is super hot and super sweet.  I totally out kicked my coverage on that one so I locked her up quick.  My kids are smarter, nicer, and better looking than anyone else's kids.......just like everyone else's kids.

By Robert Cunningham, AngelsWin.com Columnist - 

To begin any conversation about the 2015 season, and the preparation for it, we need to generally understand some of the team’s goals, restrictions, and long term needs.

The obvious and overarching goal is to put a winning-caliber team on the field of play to bring home a World Series Championship. Anything less will be on a sliding scale of disappointment for owner Arte Moreno, the front office, coaching staff, players, and the fan base.

Beyond that keeping the team budget below the luxury tax threshold is a goal that Arte Moreno himself voiced as a requirement in 2014. It would seem logical that Jerry is under the same restriction for next season.

The luxury tax threshold for 2015 (and 2016 as well) is $189MM per the current Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and Baseball Prospectus.

If Jerry Dipoto is truly restricted by the threshold, above, then it is likely the Angels won’t start the season with a payroll higher than about $160MM-$175MM.

This is, in part, because Dipoto will likely want to keep some margin available, as the trade deadline approaches, if the Angels need to reinforce or upgrade the roster for a possible playoff run. Also he will need a small buffer of payroll space for injury replacements during the season (40-man call up’s).

Another reason payroll might be an important factor is whether or not the front office wants to sign some of their young or veteran players to long-term extensions.

Several players including Garrett Richards, Grant Green, Kole Calhoun, Matt Shoemaker, Hector Santiago, Chris Iannetta, Howie Kendrick, and possibly Kevin Jepsen (never thought those words would be seen on e-paper!) seem like potential candidates.

As it currently stands, if the Angels bring back all of their contracted and controllable players and you add in benefits, payroll will be approximately $183MM based on Average Annual Value (AAV) as seen below:

 photo AWFinal1_zpsd069e877.png

Major League minimum salaries increased approximately 5.75% from year to year on average over the last 8 years. The $528,750 reflects that average raise although it may be lower or higher from that estimate once a cost of living increase is factored in and it is officially announced. This increase will be fairly negligible to the total payroll discussion.

Also per the CBA, Benefits cannot exceed more than 10% of the preceding year’s base number from year to year. The above number of $11,880,000 represents the maximum dollar amount for 2015. It may be slightly lower but for the purposes of this discussion the difference is negligible.

Per the CBA, players who are not on the active 25-man roster will receive their Minor League salaries unless their Uniform Player Contract indicates otherwise.

If they are called up to the 25-man roster they will receive a pro-rated share of the Major League minimum based on the number of days the Major League assignment is, as compared to the total days of the season. Players who go on the Disabled List still receive their Major League salaries.

As an example last year, when Tyler Skaggs was placed on the Disabled List, Michael Roth was called up from the Minors (best guess making approximately $30,000) to take his roster spot. Roth spent approximately 33 days on the Major League roster through the playoffs. This is about 1/6th of the approximate 180 day season resulting in an additional $78,333 ($500,000 x 1/6 - $30,000 x 1/6 = $78,333).

If, over the course of a season, you call up and send down 20 players like this you would incur an additional $1.56MM to total team payroll. This has to be planned and accounted for, now, when determining what payroll will look like for next season.

Jerry Dipoto and staff will likely offset their payroll goals by $2MM to account for this needed margin buffer. Thanks to Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register for the reminder about the 40-man salaries.

For the ‘Non-25 Man Salaries’, the 15 players who are on the 40-man but not on the active roster must have their potential MLB minimum salaries (assumed) removed from the Grand Total calculation. So $528,750 x 15 = $7,931,250 is the total of those salaries and is subtracted out of the ‘Grand Total’ number.

However the same 15 players will receive their Minor League salaries which do count towards team payroll. This number is approximated at $1.2MM total which must be added back into the ‘Grand Total’ calculation.

So ($7,931,250) + 1,200,000 = ($6,731,250) which helps us derive our ‘Grand Total’ calculation.

The $183,015,417 represents the projected team payroll as a snapshot moment in time. Clearly there are arbitration agreements, non-tenders, trades, and free agency signings that will change this number before the season begins.

The number includes benefits, player buyouts (Burnett and Blanton), and the removal of MLB salaries for those players not on the active roster plus those same players estimated Minor League salaries that do count as mentioned above.

What this does do is allow us to better approximate where the Angels stand as far as their payroll obligations. As mentioned above Jerry will likely want some breathing room so shaving at least $11MM (this includes the $2MM injury buffer above) off of the estimated $183MM payroll number would likely be required, possibly more.

This would create the necessary margin needed to operate in-season: $189MM (Luxury Tax Threshold) - $15MM (In-season trade margin) - $2MM (Injury buffer for 40-man call up’s) = $172MM minimum payroll target goal.

Additionally Arte Moreno is trying to figure out the Big-A situation which may have an end result of a large capital layout for a new stadium in the near future. That potential expenditure could also possibly be contributing to a decision to limit or cap spending on team payroll.

The caveat to all of this payroll discussion is that Arte has never been afraid to shell out money to make the team better, so this known/perceived budget issue may be more of a guideline than a hard rule. The Angels carry no debt and own a large share of Fox Sports West which brings in quite a bit of revenue for the team.

In terms of possible roster composition needs, it appears that the Angels, by external examination and through Jerry Dipoto’s own recent statement, would like to upgrade their rotation, bench depth, left-handed relief, and possibly find less expensive, long term options at second and third base. Some of these needs, in the rotation and bullpen, have already been addressed.

Finally Jerry Dipoto and the front office staff will reconcile their current needs and restrictions with their longer term plan (the 5-year plan). This 5-year plan focuses more on the nucleus of the active and extended rosters and where the team sees payroll, the farm hands, stadium operations, data analysis, and even coaching and front office personnel over a broader time horizon.

Clearly though, when you have the best player in the game on your team for the next six years, the goal should be to build around him and make a push for the playoffs as the team did this year and will certainly try to do next year.

2015 40-Man Player Roster Composition

The two easiest things to do when making an educated guess about next year’s roster is to identify the players whose contracts are expiring, or are not likely to return, as well as the players who are most likely to stay.

Based on expiring contracts the following players probably won’t be on next year’s roster:

John Buck
Sean Burnett
John McDonald
Joe Thatcher
Jason Grilli

That’s a lot less B’s and J’s!

On the flip side the following players, mostly due to long-term contracts or team control, will likely be here next year:

Mike Trout
Albert Pujols
Erick Aybar
Kole Calhoun
Grant Green
Collin Cowgill
CJ Cron
Jered Weaver
Garrett Richards
Matt Shoemaker
Cory Rasmus
Huston Street
Joe Smith
Tyler Skaggs
Nick Tropeano
Cesar Ramos
Drew Rucinski
Jose Alvarez
Carlos Perez
Jackson Williams

The above group is certainly a good core of players to build upon. Hank Conger was originally on the first draft of this list but as you can see no one is really safe unless their name is Mike Trout (and we can revisit this statement in 5 years)!

Another thing we can do is take a guess at potential non-tender candidates. In examining the above 40-man roster the following stand out as possibilities:

David Freese
Gordon Beckham
Kevin Jepsen
Wade LeBlanc

Looking at that list it is likely that Freese and Jepsen would be traded before being possibly non-tendered. They both have some trade value although either one is not likely to bring back much on their own.

Beckham would be an easy way for Dipoto to rid himself of $5MM off of total payroll. There is a possibility that the Angels might re-sign him on a one-year contract as a backup infielder but that seems unlikely with Grant Green in the fold as a potential super utility option.

If Gordon is taken off the books team payroll would sit at about $178MM give or take. Trading or removing Freese would reduce this number to approximately $172MM which would meet the minimum target payroll to start the season.

Some beat writers have suggested that Wade LeBlanc might be non-tendered as well. For reasons that will be discussed when we get to the starting rotation options it really seems like LeBlanc is a value play at a mere $800,000 if the Angels feel he can replicate his 2014 performance.

This is why Dipoto has stated that the 2015 team will look very similar to the 2014 team. There are simply too many contracted and league minimum players with very little in between (i.e. difficult arbitration and non-tender decisions).

In Parts II & III we will discuss the Starting Position Players.

Special thanks to AngelsWin.com members: Dochalo & Inside Pitch for their assistance in this major feature series.

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