Thursday, October 7, 2010
11 questions for the Angels in '11
By Mark Saxon ESPNLosAngeles.com
Some of the biggest questions hanging over the Angels for next season:
1. Can they chase down Carl Crawford?
This is agenda item No. 1 and 1A on their offseason docket, particularly since they don't have to worry about trying to keep any of their own free agents. They've targeted Crawford for years, but can they enter the deep financial waters if one of the East Coast teams ups the ante?
2. What's the K-Mo factor?
Can Kendry Morales return from injury to ignite the offense?
Kendry Morales was on the cusp of superstardom when he broke his left ankle in late May. Then he decided to jump on home plate celebrating a game-winning home run and the Angels' season went down the sewer. He begins heavy-duty rehab early this winter and should be healthy by the spring, but will it slow him down or affect his swing?
3. Can they sort out the catching conundrum?Mike Napoli is clearly the best-hitting option, but he's not a good enough catcher to play every day. Jeff Mathis has proven by now that he just can't hit at the major league level. Hank Conger is probably too young to instill much confidence in manager Mike Scioscia yet. What to do?
4. Will they ever support Jered Weaver?
The guy had a career year and barely broke .500, going 13-12. Nobody will be happier if the Angels add some offense this winter than Weaver, who led the major leagues in strikeouts.
5. Can Maicer Izturis stay healthy for once?
If he could make it through a season, he could help improve the defense, the base-running and, probably, the offense. But he hits the disabled list for long stretches virtually every year.
6. Is Fernando Rodney the end game?
Scioscia danced around the question of who will close games for him next season as if he had tap shoes on. Rodney did nothing to inspire much confidence after the team traded Brian Fuentes. And the other options, such as Jordan Walden and Kevin Jepsen, are still young.
7. Will fans keep showing up?
Remember, the Angels haven't been a powerful organization for long. Before Arte Moreno bought the team, fans showed up sporadically. If the Angels endure another sub-.500 season, things could return to the bad old days and that will hurt the on-field product eventually.
8. What about those kids?
The Angels fired their scouting director, an indication they haven't been happy with recent drafts. Remember when the Angels' system was the toast of baseball? Now, with guys such as Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick and Mathis failing to live up to the hype, teams aren't so sure the Angels can produce talent internally.
9. Is Abreu on a slippery slope?
The Angels rewarded Bobby Abreu for his outstanding 2009 season with a two-year deal. He responded by hitting more than 40 points below his career average (.296). He'll be 37 next year, so maybe that contract wasn't a great idea.
10. Who's the third dimension?
Wood was a disaster, Izturis couldn't stay healthy and then Alberto Callaspo arrived and shored things up until he got hurt. Can the Angels continue to get limited production from third base, typically a premier offensive position? Or do they go the free-agent route and take a chance on an aging veteran such as Adrian Beltre? If so, what do they do with the other three guys?
11. Is Mike Scioscia too powerful?
On most teams nowadays, the manager takes his orders from the general manager. You wonder if things work in reverse on the Angels, who have made a total commitment to manager Mike Scioscia. It's possible too much power has been centered in the manager's office, leading to a lack of creative tension within the organization. The only thing that can take care of that perception is winning.
Mark Saxon covers the Angels for ESPNLosAngeles.com. Follow him on Twitter.