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Wednesday Halolinks: Angels have new focus as camp opens

The last two years saw the Angels stagger out of the gate once the season started, they'll try to avoid making it three-in-a-row.

Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Today marks the first day full-squad workouts begin, while the Angels first Spring Training game is just 9 days away.  Is anyone else excited?  Here are today's Halolinks, is anyone else excited?

  • After the previous two off-seasons where the Angels signed the biggest free agents, I suppose it's possible the players came into camp last year with a sort of "we'll win" expectancy.  Hopefully, C.J. Wilson is right, and there's more seriousness in this spring's camp:  Wilson sees a more disciplined Angels camp -  "Wilson wouldn't name names, but he said a lot of guys came into Spring Training out of shape last year, and he believes several of the injuries that haunted the Angels all season -- Jered Weaver's broken left elbow being a clear exception -- were fitness-related. This year, he sees "a general increase in energy."  Here's a Vine of Wilson's energy:
  • Okay, which is it, are the players more disciplined or are they more subdued?  Can they be both?  Angels welcome a more subdued camp -  "Pitchers will throw live batting practice before the spring games start. Batters will focus more on situational hitting. Relievers will throw more often and with more intention. But Manager Mike Scioscia said he will not treat exhibition games any differently, because he has always treated them with importance. "Our philosophy is that it's a baseball game," Scioscia said. "It's not a spring game. It's not a regular-season game. It's not a pennant-race game. It's not a playoff game. It's a baseball game, and you have to go out there and do the things you need to do to try to win. That's what we want to do."  That's not all together true.  These games are spring games, and are played differently, or else they wouldn't have players coming in and out of the game after playing just a couple of innings.  Whatever the club did the last two years needs to change as the division race is going to be very close, and each regular-season win will be important.  Yes, that's right, the games in April-May are just as important as the games in August-September.
  • The number one player on this list is Mike Trout, only because his so12 and 2013 seasons were so good, they figure no one can sustain that level of performance.  However, with the thin starting pitching roster, this would be very bad news: The Lineup Card: Eight Players We Expect to Decline in 2014 - Baseball Prospectus.  "7. Jered Weaver Weaver has been outpacing his peripherals for a while now, but he has a list of potential issues that threaten to undo the magic balancing act that’s made him as good as he is. His four-seam fastball averaged under 87 mph and will probably fall further in 2014. At some point, that is going to clash frightfully with his extreme fly-ball tendencies, especially as his slider has lost effectiveness in recent years. His 2013 strikeout rate was two percent lower than this career average and probably won’t get much better in the future. Sample sizes be damned, his LD% was also a career-high last year. His awkward mechanics are also more likely to become an issue now that he’s on the other side of 30. A history of back and shoulder tightness worries me that an extended DL trip (aside from a freak accident like last year’s broken elbow) could be on the way. No offense to PECOTA, but I’m thinking 3.6 WARP is optimistic. —Dan Rozenson"
  • Remember this guy?  New-era outfield arms - Beyond the Box ScoreDframmf_medium_medium
  • With the loss of Mark Mulder, how important is it to sign this guy?  Capuano discussing deal with Red Sox, Mariners - MLB Daily Dish.  "The 2006 All-Star has been a consistent, league average arm since returning from Tommy John surgery in 2010. He has spent the past three years as a member of the Dodgers' and Mets' rotations, notching a 4.15 ERA, 3.14 SO/BB rate, and 4.8 WAR over 490 innings. In 2013, Capuano enjoyed a career-best 3.67 xFIP, 3.55 FIP, and 9.6 HR/FB in 105.2 innings, missing time due to various injuries, including a strained calf. He saw his fastball velocity jump in 2013, as his 88.4 MPH average was his best since the early 2000's in Milwaukee."  I would say VERY important (which is also VERY sad).
  • Nine teams that could be surprise playoff entrants - Tom Verducci -  "3. Los Angeles Angels (78-84) If Albert Pujols stays healthy and Josh Hamilton stays strong (he put back the weight he lost last year), the Angels should contend. Mike Trout, the best player in baseball, deserves a true pennant race. The difficulty for Los Angeles is that its rotation is full of questions, even if Jered Weaver returns to workhorse form. Garrett Richards, Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs are very unproven. Heavens, did you know the Angels have gone four straight years without making the playoffs?"  Yes, I do know the Angels have gone 4 years without making the playoffs.
  • I mentioned that this year appears to be shaping up as a close division race.  FanGraphs has the season like this: Playoff Odds - FanGraphs Baseball
    Rangers - 85.2 wins
    A's - 84.1
    Angels - 84.0
    Mariners - 83.2
    Astros - LOL  (sorry, it's actually a respectable 73.1)
  • The Angels plan on giving away a rather frightening Mike Scioscia Mr. Meatball Head: