Tuesday December 13, 2011
Peter Stein (Fantasy Baseball Analyst – MLB reports): Unless you have been living under a rock for the past two weeks, you are probably well aware of the splash that the Angels made in the free agent market with the signings of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. Certainly, the balance of power in the American League West has shifted to the Angels, who have set themselves up for a championship run. While Pujols and Wilson have a good chance to bring home a championship in Los Angeles, they will likely be on many winning fantasy rosters as well.
As I discussed a few weeks back, Pujols has been the best fantasy player in baseball after 10 Ruth-like seasons after he busted onto the scene in 2001. However, 2011 was an interesting year for Pujols, the first in which he did not produce a .300 average, hit 30 HR and drive in 100 runs. He missed this feat by just one RBI and one average point. Through the Cardinal’s first 54 games, Pujols batted .257 with 8 home runs and 28 RBI. However, in the final 108 games, which included the time missed with the wrist injury, he batted .322 with 29 home runs and 71 RBI’s. That is the Pujols that we have all been accustomed to over the last decade. Therefore, I do not think you need to be overly concerned about a significant A-Rod-esque drop off just yet. The back-end of Pujols’ contract will certainly get ugly for the Angels, but expect the usual slugger for the first few years. Now, the other factor on Pujols’ performance is the shift to a new team and new league. In terms of ballparks, Busch Stadium and Angels Stadium are very similar in degree of hitter friendliness. For the switch to the AL. below are his career interleague numbers, which add up to almost one full major league season:
143 GP 39 HR 121 RBI .348 AVG 1.071 OPS (1.037 career)
The stats show the Albert dominates against the American League, with numbers that even exceed his career averages. With a hitter as good as Pujols, it’s the American League pitchers who will be tasked with making adjustments and not Pujols. The Angels lineup is actually pretty similar to the Cardinals, and if people step up (Kendrys Morales), it has potential to be a lot better. Therefore, I expect the usual greatness from Pujols.
Projections: .312 39 HR 120 RBI 117 R 12 SB
C.J. Wilson enjoyed his finest season as a pro in 2011 with a 16-7 record and a 2.94 ERA. At age 31 and not as young as many expect, there is not too much room for actual skill development with Wilson. However, the major factors that impact pitchers results after a team change are in favor for Wilson. Let’s start with park factors and opposition. Wilson no longer has to pitch as many games in Texas, where he sported a career 3.89 ERA, compared to 3.26 on the road. The contrast was even starker in 2011, when he posted a 3.69 ERA at home and a 2.31 ERA on the road. Much of the reason for his success on the road were his regular matchups against the lowly Mariners and Athletics offenses, which he will continue have. Fortunate to have Pujols on his team now, he will still have to face his former talented Rangers teammates. Looking at the defense behind Wilson, it is pretty much a wash. The Elvis Andrus and Ian Kinsler double play combination was one of the best in baseball, but the Angels outfield is significantly better than the Rangers. Lastly, although the Angels made significant offensive upgrades, it is still safe to think the Rangers would provide more run support, potentially cutting into his win total.
The move to the Angels appears to make Wilson potentially more valuable in 2012. His FIP and XFIP indicate that his ERA range should have been closer to 3.20-3.30, so it might be tough to expect a sub-3 ERA in 2012. However, his recent success, coupled with his change of scenery (most importantly out of Texas), indicate that he should be one the game’s most valuable pitchers in 2012.
Projections: 208 IP, 16-9 WL, 3.28 ERA, and 180 K’s
***Today’s feature was prepared by our Fantasy Baseball Analyst, Peter Stein. We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers. You can also follow Peter on Twitter (@peterWstein).***
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