Albert Pujols did the unimaginable. Pujols faked all of us out by signing with the Los Angeles Angels–a team that didn’t even enter the Pujols sweepstakes until two days before he actually signed. The result of the contract is a 10 year commitment from the Angels that will pay Phat Albert $68,493 per day for the next 3650 days–the second largest contract in MLB history.
Pujols is coming off of his worst season of his career, at least by Pujols standards. Pujols suffered an elbow injury and ended the year at .299 with 37 home runs, 99 RBI, 9 stolen bases, and a World Series championship. You know you are a pretty good player when those kind of numbers are your worst ever.
But, there is no denying that Pujols’ batting average has been trending downward for the past three seasons. In fact, 2011 was the first time in Pujols’ career that he failed to hit the coveted .300 mark. He’s a career .328 hitter. Pujols’ home run and RBI have also decreased since he put up 47 and 135 in 2009.
There’s little reason for concern, however, even at the age of 32 when many players start to decline. After coming back from the elbow injury, Pujols hit .318 in his last 74 games. Had he not spent time on the DL, his home run totals and RBI totals projected to 43 and 117. Pujols played in 147 games in 2011.
The move to the American League should not be a detriment to Pujols; at least it hasn’t been in the past. Pujols’ average in inter-league games is .348 with 39 home runs and 121 RBI. Being able to be a DH on occasions, could also help Pujols’ durability as he gets into his mid to late 30′s and 40′s with the Angels. Pujols’ average as a DH has been .360 to date. Finally, without the pitcher hitting every ninth at bat (or 8th at bat if you played for LaRussa), Pujols should get more at bats for the Angels than he did in St. Louis.
We had Pujols listed as our # 2 preseason fantasy draft pick, but with the news of Ryan Braun’s potential suspension, Pujols just may be in the familiar #1 position before long. That is despite the fact that some people keep questioning Pujols’s real age and think he’s 3 years older than he says.
Fantasy Baseball Effects — Kendrys Morales
First of all, let’s get one thing straight: there’s an “s” on the end of this guy’s first name. not even MLB got that right until March, 2011. The Cuban defector is famous for having broken his leg after hitting a walk off homer in 2010 and he didn’t play at all in 2011. Word is that Morales will be non-tendered, therefore not making him eligible as a free agent to the other 29 teams. Clearly, the Angels will wait and see if Morales will indeed be able to play in 2012. Angels manager Mike Scioscia said he expected Morales to not only return to the Angels’ lineup, but also bat cleanup, presumably as the team’s designated hitter. We’ll see.
Fantasy Baseball Effects – Mark Trumbo
With Kendrys Morales on the shelf since May 29, 2010, Mark Trumbo became the full-time first baseman for the Angels in 2010. Trumbo, who was born in Anaheim, finished the season with .254/29/87/9 marks. With Pujols at first base, and Bobby Abreu already having locked down the DH spot, Trumbo will either be traded or will make the move to third base. If he can handle it defensively, Trumbo is the better choice based on his 29 home runs last year.
Fantasy Baseball Effects — Bobby Abreu
Bobby Abreu’s role with the Angels in 2012 will depend in part on Morales’ ability to come back. Abreu appears to be the fourth outfielder at this time and maybe the fifth outfielder if #1 draft pick Mike Trout makes the move to the Bigs. Abreu, who will be 38 in March, is best suited as a DH at this point in his career. Abreu hit just 8 home runs last year, but still managed 21 stolen bases in 142 games. Abreu played 107 of those games as the DH last year as Peter Bourjos’s defense won him the regular center field job. If Scioscia’s statement about Morales is accurate, what role will Abreu have other than being a pinch hitter? One thing is for sure regarding Abreu: at age 38 with a $9 million salary, he has no market value and will be a free agent at the end of the 2012 season.
Fantasy Baseball Effects — Mike Trout
Mike Trout spent 55 non-September days with the Angels last year thus eclipsing the 45 days permitted to qualify as a rookie. MLB, however, has declared Trout to be a rookie again for the 2012 season due to a technicality. At some point, you have to think that the Angels will trade Vernon Wells for some valuable pieces and give Trout the regular corner outfield position that he deserves. For the beginning of 2012, however, Trout may start the season at Triple-A as the Angels are not going to keep him in the Bigs to sit. Dealing Trout has been discussed, but I don’t see that happening. Given the salaries that the Angels have committed to Pujols and C.J. Wilson, they will need a low priced young player in the lineup to balance those huge salaries. Better to trade Torii Hunter, 36, who is in the final year of his contract.
Fantasy Baseball Effects – Maicer Izturis & Alberto Callaspo
Alberto Callaspo played most of the games at third base last year and Maicer Izturis was the infield utility man and qualifies at second base, third base, and shortstop. According to the depth chart at MLB.com, the Angels have Izturis slated as the starter at the hot corner despite the fact that Callaspo played the vast majority of the games there. Izturis hit 5 home runs last year and Callaspo hit 6. If the Angels believe that Trumbo can handle the defense at third base, he will certainly bring more pop to the Angels lineup and Izturis’ and Callaspo’s playing time may be significantly reduced.