Hudson Belinsky runs ESPN SweetSpot's Angels blog, Halos Daily.
The Angels made a pair of key moves this offseason to go from Wild Card contenders to legitimate World Series contenders, signing Albert Pujols and CJ Wilson. The duo, along with the return of Kendrys Morales and potential mid-season call-up of star prospect Mike Trout, might be enough to sneak the Angels past Texas for the AL West crown.
The rotation in Los Angeles was amongst the best in baseball in 2011. Jered Weaver made a serious Cy Young push and Dan Haren wasnít far behind, racking up 6.4 WAR (FanGraphs) and a 2.98 FIP. In 2012, a hungry CJ Wilson, who will look to prove heís worth the five-year, $75M deal that the Angels gave him, will join the duo at the top of a rotation that also includes Ervin Santana, who might just be the best fourth starter in baseball. The fifth slot in the rotation is still a bit up in the air, but Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards both offer plenty of promise.
Offensively, the Angels have become a very deep team, with the Pujols signing creating a logjam of 1B/DH types. The outfield features plenty of talent in Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter, but Vernon Wells and his outrageous contract could play a huge role in the Angelsí season. The longer Wells is productive, the longer Mike Trout gets to hit .350 in Triple-A.
While there is plenty of optimism out in SoCal, there may not be enough to push the Angels past the Rangers. The two-time defending AL champions lost CJ Wilson, but brought in Japanese starter Yu Darvish, who might be the ex-factor in how 2012 unfolds.
In 2011 the Angels went 27-30 in the moderate AL West. In 2012, the Angels should be more competitive against Texas and shut down the Mariners and Aís. Expect a significant boost in the win total there, as well as against the rest of the league.
So where will the Angels be come October? All signs point to the postseason, whether itís as a division winner or one of the two wild cards, you can expect to see at least one champagne celebration. There is a non-zero chance that three AL East teams keep the Angels out, but the relative ease of their schedule and added talent suggests otherwise. Ultimately, the Angels should finish in the 95-win area and find themselves in the postseason, where anything can happen.
Hudson Belinsky can be followed on Twitter at @hudsonbelinsky.