The Anaheim, or is it Los Angeles, Angels have been the class of the American League West for the better part of a decade. They have won five divisional titles since 2002, but ironically their only World Series title came in a year that they won the wild card playoff berth as opposed to their division. They have won the American League West in each of the last three seasons and in five of the last 6. For Seattle, Texas, and Oakland, they know that the road to playoffs goes through Anaheim, so that makes 2010 already a daunting challenge.
Anaheim is a team that is getting older, however. They suffered a terrible blow early in the 2009 season when promising young pitcher Nick Adenhart was tragically killed in a traffic accident by a drunk driver. The Angels came together after the death of their teammate to win 97 games and cruise to the American League West title. They then knocked of Boston in the first round of the playoffs before falling to the Yankees in the American League Championship Series. That gives them tons of promise coming into the 2010 season, but this is a team that is getting older while teams in their own division like Texas and Seattle are younger. Anaheim still has enough power to win another division title in 2010, but don’t be surprised if they face a tougher test from Seattle and Texas. The fact that this is the only division in baseball with four teams means that it is that much easier to go from worst to first, so look out for Oakland as well.
Young shortstop Erick Aybar is a promising building block for the future. He led the Angels in batting average in 2009 by batting .312 in just his second full season in the Majors. At age 26, he is a player that could be a candidate to break out and have a very good year in 2010. The Angels also recently signed Hideki Matsui from the World champion Yankees, giving them a solid bat to place in the middle of the lineup. With slugger Vladimir Guerrero turning 35 this season the Angels need to replace his power. Guerrero hit only 15 home runs in 2009. The last time he had a season below 25 home runs was 1997. If his power numbers return tot heir career norms the Angels will get even better, but look for Bobby Abreu and other players to carry more of the power burden if Guerrero continues to decline.
Anaheim has a pair of solid pitchers that are young and can be a threat to win any game they start. Jared Weaver and Joe Saunders are both under 30 and both won 16 games in 2009. Those are two solid building blocks at the top of the rotation that will power another run to the West crown. Brian Fuentes and his 48 saves last season has also developed into a solid closer that will finish any game he is asked to finish.