Fangraphs recently released Bill James' projections for the 2012 season. Check out what he has to say about the Halos after the jump.
Before we get into the projections here is a little background on the method behind the projections...
PT% - The Playing Time Percentage was largely determined by James' projected plate appearances. I made a few minor adjustments so the total team PT% equals 900% (nine line-up spots, 100% playing time per position).
PA - Plate Appearances is the product of PT% * 700.
wOBA - Bill James' projected wOBA
wRAA - Weight Runs Above Average derived from James' wOBA projection.
Fld - Weighted 3-year average of runs saved from 2009-2011.
BsR - Weighted 3-year average of runs created on the base paths from 2009-2011.
Pos - Product of PT% * fWAR positional adjustment.
Rep - Product of PT% * fWAR replacement level player.
RAR - Runs above replacement
fWAR - Projected 2012 Fangraphs' War
Alright let's get to the results..
James doesn't project a monster season for Conger, but his 1.6 fWAR will feel like an all-star campaign coming off a year where Halos catchers combined for -0.8 fWAR. In this scenario the Angels will pick up nearly three wins in the standings.
James doesn't project Kendrys to return to 2009 form, but does expect him to rebound to his 2010 level which would bode pretty well for us. Needless to say we'll know a lot more about Morales' situation in a couple of months.
Mark Trumbo is in line to match Morales' production making up ground in the field and on the bases.
Howie Kendrick will regress a bit but remains one of the top ten second basemen in the game. He will be the premiere free agent second baseman on the market a year from now.
Aybar is also due to regress a bit but should still provide above average production at short stop.
Don't expect anything spectacular out of Callaspo. However, he should fly under the radar and put up another solid, slightly above average season.
Maicer will again serve as a fine utility infielder, albeit in a more limited role than 2011.
Bourjos' incredible glove and speed on the base paths are a huge factor in a team-leading 4.6 fWAR in 2012. If James is right, Bourjos figures to be a top eight big league center fielder.
Cross your fingers James is right as he calls for a rebound season out of Wells. Vernon doesn't project as much more than a league-average left fielder, although that would pull the Halos a full two wins closer to Texas in the standings.
Torii is projected to basically duplicate his 2011 season.
If Dipoto is telling the truth about Mike Trout playing every day, you have to figure he will start the season in AAA with Abreu serving as the fourth outfielder. That's unfortunate considering Trout's projected 3.0 fWAR in under 300 plate appearances. Trout's projected wOBA seems a little optimistic but it's pretty clear he would produce at a very high level if given the opportunity to play ever day in the bigs. Much like in 2011, Trout is only a DL stint away from Anaheim.
Despite regression from Kendrick, Aybar, and Callaspo, the Halos project for 31.1 fWAR. This number is nearly seven wins better than last year's line-up.
Let's take a quick look at a few of the free agents/trade targets being discussed here at Halos Heaven...
Bill James likes Wright to produce at a level he hasn't touched since 2008. James' projection would make Wright one of the elite third basemen in the game, at least offensively. On the other hand, Wright figures to be one of the worst defensive third basemen in the majors, second to only Mark Reynolds. Add it all up and he's about a 1.5 win upgrade over Callaspo.
Fielder should be one of the top sluggers in the game but his overall production is hindered by his sub-par defensive and base running skills. If given the same amount of plate appearances, Trumbo or Morales figure to put up a three win season making a $200MM contract for Fielder an awfully poor investment. The $25MM/year Fielder is commanding should be spent to upgrade other areas rather than adding 1.5 wins to the first base position.
Hernandez appears to be a nice platoon option to pair with Conger as long as the Halos don't have to part with a first round pick to sign him. He would add one extra win over the Mathis/Wilson combo.
On to the pitchers...
Count on Weaver to be the ace he has been over the past two seasons making him a legit Cy Young candidate in 2012.
Dan Haren will rival Cliff Lee as the best "#2" in baseball once again.
Ervin Santana is set to repeat his 2011 campaign which would make him one of the top-25 starters in the American League.
Unfortunately, after the big three the rotation is in bad shape. I raised Chatwood's and Williams' projected innings to get the staff innings pitched closer to a realistic total over 162 games. Over the course of a full season, neither project to crack 1 fWAR in 2012. According to James, Trevor Bell would make for a decent number four if given the opportunity. If Bell were to land a spot in the rotation and pitch as well as James projects Chatwood and/or Williams could hold down the final spot. Still, the Halos would be one injury away from handing 40% of the starts to very suspect starters.
Let's looks at some outside options...
Free Agent Starting Pitchers
James expects the top starter on the market to pay immediate dividends for his new team. While signing a 31-year old starter to a five year deal comes with plenty of risk, Wilson figures to be a full four wins better than Chatwood or Williams.
The second best starter on the market also comes with some risk. A bum back limited Oswalt to just 23 starts in 2011. Still, if Oswalt pitches as well as James projects he would give the Angels four of the top 25 starters in the American League.
Another option that would come with a much smaller investment than Wilson is Hiroki Kuroda. Kuroda has made it pretty clear he only wants to play in LA. If the Dodgers don't get involved in the bidding the Halos have no competition to sign Kuroda who would be a terrific number four.
At 28-years old, Edwin Jackson is likely in line for a multi-year deal. So far, there has been no mention of Jackson from the Angels front office.
Mark Buehrle is a safe bet but with as many as thirteen teams interested in his services, he's not likely to sign at a very nice value. He's a solid option but it appears he's going to land a good-sized deal wherever he ends up.
Chris Capuano is asking for a multi-year deal. Depending on the price, Capuano could be a decent number four as long as the deal doesn't exceed two years.
Adding a left-hander like Maholm to the rotation could shake things up a little bit. Maholm figures to be a league-average starter in 2012 and we shouldn't have to break the bank to sign him.
The bottom of the free agent barrel features guys like Aaron Harang and Bartolo Colon. Neither are expected to be anything special, but upgrades over Tyler Chatwood and Jerome Williams nonetheless.
Dipoto has gone on record saying he intends to upgrade the bullpen which was a huge problem in 2011 (7th worst WPA in baseball). Dipoto could go the trade route, otherwise, here are some options that are available on the free agent market.
James says K-Rod is the top free agent reliever on the market and aside from his 2008 season, Frankie has earned that title. It's unlikely Dipoto spends the coin to land one of the big time relievers so I wouldn't count on seeing K-Rod, Madson, or Bell in a Halo uniform in 2012. There are, however, some other options that could help upgrade the pen.
Joe Nathan recently signed with the Rangers making Frankie Francisco the top remaining option. Admittedly, I have no idea what kind of contract he is looking for, so he may not be a realistic option after all. However, guys like Hawkins, Peralta and Dotel could step into high leverage roles. Todd Coffey and Matt Capps could end up providing a very minimal upgrade.
Pitching Staff Summary
The three-headed monster of Weaver, Haren, and Santana is vicious. However, ~68 starts out of Chatwood and Williams isn't likely to turn out well for the Angels. It's evident we need to add a starter this winter too minimize the liability of the back end of the rotation.
There are still a few solid bullpen arms that could undoubtedly add some punch to a lackluster bullpen. A right-handed power arm to toe the rubber in high leverage situations should help the Halos improve on their 25 blown saves from 2011.
Both the rotation and bullpen project to put up collective fWARs almost identical to their 2011 marks. Adding a decent number four starter and a power arm in the pen could improve this team by about two wins. Combine those added victories with the seven extra wins James projects the offense to contribute and the Halos could very well be in contention for the AL West crown in 2012.