Although the Angels can't decide what city they play in (How about the D.C. Orioles of Baltimore while we're at it?) they sure know where they belong in the standings. For the first time in years, the AL West looks like it has a clear-cut favorite even with the losses of longtime Angels Troy Glaus, Troy Percival and David Eckstein -- not to mention Tim Salmon, who likely will miss the entire season. The Angels have the talent to take the nation's attention off of the Red Sox and Yankees.
Worth Every Penny
Just a year removed from a debilitating back injury that had him in traction for weeks, Vladimir Guerrero showed no ill effects and was the AL's MVP in his first post-Expos season. There is no better five-tool player in the game, and the 29-year-old Guerrero will be a consistent 30-30 threat for at least three more seasons.
About To Blossom
Francisco Rodriguez appeared on the scene down the stretch during the Angels' 2002 championship season and was an instant sensation. He immediately was given the title of heir apparent to Percival as the Anaheim closer of the future. Percival now is a Tiger and the future is here. With a strong starting staff, a great offense and solid setup men in front of him, Rodriguez should be in line to challenge for the AL saves title.
Don't get me wrong: second baseman Chone Figgins is one of my favorite players in the majors, and I'm not predicting any doom or a sudden collapse from his breakout season last year. But there's a good chance Adam Kennedy will get his starting job back when he returns from knee surgery, most likely before June. That will leave Figgins as a super utilityman. He's still a good pick, but shouldn't be priced as a surefire starter with the same skills set.
Do You Feel Lucky?
Paul Byrd made a very strong comeback from elbow-ligament replacement surgery last season for the Braves. He was recalled from his rehab assignment in June and won eight games down the stretch, showing good velocity on his fastball He even toyed with a sinker, something that will be a big weapon with the excellent Angels infield defense behind him. Byrd won 17 games for the Royals in 2002 before the injury, and with this team, he could easily reach that number in 34 starts.
Jeff DaVanon has never had a regular job in the majors and was one of the most overlooked fantasy players last season. With Salmon out, Cuban defector Kendry Morales not ready and Juan Rivera not ready to take the fulltime DH job himself, the switch hitting DaVanon -- who stole 18 bases as a reserve last season -- could have a big year on the base paths. And don't overlook Orlando Cabrera, who stole 49 bases in 2002 and 2003 combined, but stopped running in Boston last season.
If Something Should Happen To Francisco Rodriguez
The loss of Percival means the Angels no longer have the security blanket in the pen that Rodriguez represented. But Brendan Donnelly has nasty stuff of his own and a scowl that is reminiscent of Percival's. He'd get the chance if K-Rod mysteriously fizzles.
Don't Forget About
Garret Anderson, Steve Finley, Cabrera, Bartolo Colon
Don't Bother With
Jarrod Washburn, Robb Quinlan, Kennedy, Jose Molina
David Sabino is the associate editor in charge of statistics at Sports Illustrated and the author of the book, Dominate Your Fantasy Baseball League (Muska & Lipman/Premier-Trade).