2009 MLB Preview: #5 Los Angeles Angels

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Offseason Movement: The Halos added outfielder Bobby Abreu for cheap and also signed former Colorado reliever Brian Fuentes to replace long-time closer Francisco Rodriguez. Along with K-Rod, the club also lost Garret Anderson, Jon Garland and Mark Teixeria via free agency.

Top Prospect: Nick Adenhart, RHP
Some feel as though Jordan Walden is the Halos’ best prospect, but Adenhart is the one that will have the opportunity to make the big league roster this year as a fourth or fifth starter. With Ervin Santana, Kelvim Escobar and John Lackey all sidelined due to various injuries, Adenhart will likely start the season in the starting rotation. He could be sent down as soon as the rest of the starters get healthy, but if he does well he’ll no doubt earn a future spot in the rotation. Thus far in spring training, Adenhart has displayed good command and struggled just once in five outings.

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Are the Yankees better off without A-Rod?

Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports.com writes that there is no way the Bronx Bombers are better off without A-Rod in the lineup.

The Yankees need him — badly. They can find a stopgap at third base and patch together a lineup while he misses the first part of the season. But if Rodriguez does not return from hip surgery as the A-Rod of old — or something close to it — then the team will be in trouble.

Rodriguez, Jason Giambi, Bobby Abreu — all posted on-base percentages of .370 or better last season while combining for 87 homers and 299 RBIs. Giambi and Abreu left as free agents. Rodriguez is now questionable. Mark Teixeira cannot replace all three.

The offense already had offensive issues; the Yankees finished only seventh in the American League in runs last season. Jorge Posada and Hideki Matsui are coming off surgeries. Either Brett Gardner or Melky Cabrera will likely be a below-average producer in center field. And Teixeira, for all his gifts, is a .259 career hitter in April.

The Yankees should be far better at run prevention now that they’ve added CC Sabathia and A.J. Burnett to their starting rotation, and the return of a healthy Rodriguez in May would make them reasonably whole.

But no one should assume that Rodriguez will simply return to his normal level of production, not when he will require further surgery at the end of the season.

Anyone who thinks the Yanks will be better without A-Rod is dreaming. Their pitching staff has dramatically improved over last year’s staff, but it’s hard to replace a bat like A-Rod’s (he hit .302 last year with 35 dingers and 103 RBI) with Cody Ransom, even with guys like Teixeira, Posada and Jeter in the lineup.

Maybe the clubhouse will be free of distraction without Rodriguez present, but the current Yankee players will still have to field questions about A-Rod’s absence and his steroid issues no matter what. Granted, those questions should fade after a while, but Rodriguez will return at some point and then the circus will start up again.

The bottom line is that the Yanks need A-Rod’s bat if they want to compete with the Red Sox, Rays and Angels this year in the AL.

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