Even though Punxsutawney Phil didn't see his shadow this year, foretelling an early spring, but we Angel fans still need to wait until Sunday for the Halos to officially start their Spring Training. I, however, just can't wait to finally get to see something resembling real baseball and, more importantly, see some real news about the Angels. In anticipation of that juicy news, I figured I'd go ahead and call my shot for how this spring's key stories (as they shall be sold to us by the Angel propaganda machine) will unfold.
We're driving to Tempe, who's coming with us?
Storyline: Fresh off his arbitration loss, Jered Weaver's relationship with the team will be in question.
Prognostication: This is obviously going to be at the forefront of everyone's minds given that the abitration loss just happened. Jered is bound to be bombarded by questions the instant he unpacks his bag in Tempe and he will do his darndest to answer as professionally as possible, likely breaking out the "I'll let my agent worry about that" line. But then sometime around the start of the actual Cactus League games, rumors will leak out that the team is re-opening extension talks with Weaver. Those rumors will linger until about mid-March when the team comes out and says they made good progress but couldn't strike a deal, so they will table talks until after the season. Scott Boras will celebrate this event the way he always does, drowning a bag of puppies.
Storyline: We don't know who will start at third. Really, we have no idea.
Prognostication: This will likely be the hottest topic throughout the spring since this is really the only real starting job up for grabs. Mike Scioscia will be extremely political about the process and say nice things about everyone involved, but he won't actually commit to anyone until the team breaks camp and heads back to Anaheim. The great and mighty Sosh will anoint Alberto Callaspo the starter but assure us all that Maicer Izturis will still be rotated in on a regular basis... until he gets hurt.
Storyline: Hey, look! Brandon Wood actually hit the ball!!!
Prognostication: For better or worse, the Angels are going to try and cram the rejuvenation of Brandon Wood down our throats, even if they have to manipulate the facts to do it. Anytime Wood does anything remotely positive, the team is going to talk about how dedicated he has been in the off-season and now they are seeing it pay off. This might seem like they are trying to talk us into giving Wood another shot at the starting third base job, but in reality, they are trying to pump up Wood's trade value so they can flip him for a decent prospect and open up a bench spot for someone that they actually will have some more use for. Ultimately, their plan will fail, but not before we all see the potential deals leaked to some news source.
Storyline: Mike Trout is awesome with awesome sauce on top, but not awesome enough to be in the majors this year.
Prognostication: Now that Mike Trout is the official best prospect in the entire free world, we are going to be getting nearly daily updates of his exploits, many of which will be greatly exaggerated. Calling it hyperbole would be an insult to hyperbole. But most of that excitement will be from the fans and media, the Angel brass will take every opportunity to commend Trout while also reminding us that he is still so very young and needs time to develop. Still, at the end of spring, Trout will finish with a solid line that will make everyone wonder in the back of their mind if the Angels might not reneg on their promise to keep Trout in the minors until 2012 once he starts ripping up the Texas League.
Storyline: Kendry Morales looks a lot like Frosted Flakes. He's grrrrrrrrrrrrreat!!!!!
Prognostication: Even if Kendry shows up at Tempe Diablo Stadium limping like Verbal Kint or using one of those motorized Rascals to get around the clubhouse, Angel management will assure us that K-Mo looks like his old self and possibly even better. This company line will end up getting trotted out early and often when Morales starts off the Cactus League schedule looking extremely rusty. In fact, there will be a mild undercurrent of concern amongst Angel fans when we reach March 10th and Morales still doesn't have a homer. Fret not, because I think he is going to finish strong and allay much of the concerns we all have about his health.
Storyline: Vernon Wells loves LA (of Anaheim).
Prognostication: Actually, there is no real prediction here, this is more of a warning. We are going to be absolutely BOMBARDED with story after story about how Vernon Wells is like a new man now that he has finally escaped his exile to Canada. Everyone will rave about what a great dude he is. Everyone will praise his work ethic and the positive influence it is having on the youngsters. Everyone will make subtle allusions to how Vernon might have a monster year. Most of all though, we are going to be told over and over and over again how he and Torii Hunter are, like, totally BFFs and some junk. In other words, we are all going to be sick and tired of hearing about Wells before he even plays his first regular season game for the Angels.
Storyline: We think the closer situation will work itself out naturally.
Prognostication: I don't think the Angels even know what the hell they are going to do at closer. Scioscia is too much of a traditionalist to just readily accept a closer platoon, but he is also smart enough to realize that nobody on the roster appears to be suited for the gig. Fernando Rodney, Scott Downs, Kevin Jepsen and Jordan Walden will all get looks during Spring Training, but Sosh will focus mostly on Downs and Rodney. For lack of better options, Scioscia will close camp by telling us that he still hasn't fully made up his mind but, for now, Rodney will be the primary closer although Scott Downs will "get some chances." He said similar things about Brian Fuentes though and never gave any other reliever any "chances." So, yeah, Fraudney is going to be the closer be default. I REALLY hope I'm wrong on this one.
Storyline: Jeff Mathis is going to flourish as the full-time starter.
Prognostication: The Angels are running out of excuses for why they remain so committed to Jeff Mathis despite his very obvious fatal flaws, but the guarantee of a starting job is one they haven't trotted out yet, so they are going to get their money worth. We'll hear about Hank Conger and Bobby Wilson being given an opportunity to compete for the starting job, but Scioscia will anoint Mathis the primary catcher before either Bobby or Hank has a real chance to make a case for themselves. This announcement will be followed by me losing most of my hair.
Storyline: Player X is having a tough spring, but the team thinks he will be just fine when the real games start.
Prognostication: I'll save you the intrigue, I'm pretty sure Player X is going to be Scott Kazmir, although Erick Aybar is a dark horse. Someone always has to have a bad spring, but the Angels know they have a few guys that are going to be under the microscope. They'll do the right thing and say things like the storyline suggests, but deep down they know they might have a real problem on their hands. I just think Kazmir fits this profile to a tee since there has been almost no news about him over the off-season, which makes me think he hasn't worked out any of his issue yet. Nonetheless, the team will do their best to protect him, but don't be surprised if there are rumblings that he is a candidate to be waived before the end of April if his spring struggles carry over into the regular season.
Storyline: We really like all these young kids, but they still need to prove themselves.
Prognostication: Tease, tease, tease. Guys like Walden, Conger and Mark Trumbo are going to get plenty of playing time this spring but none of them are going to carve out major roles with the team and there is a pretty good chance that Walden might be the only one that even breaks camp with the team. Walden will continue to draw raves for his eye-popping fastball, but he is going to end up being too inconsistent and quickly remove himself from the closer competition. Conger is going to be impressive offensively, but Scioscia will remind us every chance he gets that Conger's defense needs work, but it will wind up being good enough for Conger to make the Opening Day roster. And finally, there is Trumbo. I don't like Trumbo, but I think he would be an interesting bench piece for the Angels since he has excellent power. Alas, he'll strikeout at an alarming rate in the Cactus League and end up being optioned to Salt Lake in the final round of cuts.
Storyline: We are still looking for solutions at the leadoff spot.
Prognostication: I've saved the best for last because the search for a leadoff man is going to be downright comical. Half the roster is going to end up getting a legit audition for the leadoff spot and the end result is going to be day after day of Mike Scioscia making statements to the press about the situation in which is frustration will only be very thinly veiled. He'll slowly whittle down the choices, but as he narrows down the list, it will become painfully clear that the inevitable solution will be giving Erick Aybar the job again. This will directly result in Scioscia developing a stomach ulcer, which will be great because he'll end up becoming a spokesman for Rolaids, foregoing his deal with Howard's and saving us from those terrible commercials.