The tragic death of Nick Adenhart underscored a depth problem with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim roster that could hurt their competitive chances in the long run. The Angels allowed their talent pool to get a little thin, exposed by a list of injuries that continues to grow.
Below, as of April 25, is the current disabled list for the Angels:
|Kevin Jepsen||RP||Apr 19||15-day||Lower back spasms|
|Darren Oliver||RP||Apr 19||15-day||Strained left triceps|
|Dustin Moseley||SP||Apr 18||15-day||Right elbow irritation|
|Vladimir Guerrero||RF||Apr 16||15-day||Torn right pectoral muscle - out 4-6 wks|
|Kelvim Escobar||SP||Apr 4||60-day||Recovery from right shoulder surgery|
|Ervin Santana||SP||Mar 27||15-day||Sprained MCL, right elbow|
|John Lackey||SP||Mar 27||15-day||Right elbow inflammation|
Losing Vlad Guerrero's big bat is a loss, but the story here is that all the other names are pitchers. Lackey, Santana and Escobar are three of the Angels' top starting arms, all of which began the 2009 season on the DL. Moseley was a rotation replacement who hit the DL last Saturday. Darren Oliver was the Angels' top lefthanded reliever. Jepsen started the season as borderline bullpen filler, but had become by default one of their top relievers when he hit the DL.
Who's left? The rotation was left with Jered Weaver, Joe Saunders and... uh.... When he got hurt, Moseley had already climbed to #3 on the depth chart due to the injuries. Now #3 belongs to AAAA tomato can Shane Loux, a functional strike thrower who probably belongs in the bullpen and is with the big club this year mainly because he was out of minor league options. As a starter, he's going to get hit around: The punchless Seattle Mariners chased him early in last night's 9-3 loss. The #4 starter is 30 year old career minor leaguer Matt Palmer, who had allowed 10 runs in 7.2 innings at AAA Salt Lake before "earning" the recent callup. The #5 starter is raw 23 year old Anthony Ortega, who himself allowed 16 runs in 13.2 innings at AAA Salt Lake before his callup.
The bottom two names indicate that, with all the injury callups, even the AAA club is tapped. Neither Palmer nor Ortega have any business in the bigs: They even struggled against AAA hitters. But that's how many holes the Angels bullpen has right now with the injuries: They're forced to call up AAA garbage because that's all they have left.
The bullpen's hurting too. The team already struggled out of the gate to replace K-Rod, and Brian Fuentes hasn't impressed. They started the season with the dubious Kevin Jepsen and Jason Bulger in the back of the pen and untested Jose Arredondo expected to eat high leverage innings. Now Bulger's forced into a key role, and the bullpen also has some weak callups filling in blanks. 28 year old lefthanded sidearmer Daniel Davidson (pictured above) had all of 11 career appearances at the AAA level before joining the big club, as did unimpressive righthander Rafael Rodriguez. Rich Thompson at least has 32 appearances over 4 seasons, though he hasn't looked good in AAA since 2007. None of those three have any business in MLB, but here they are expected to get outs in a major league bullpen.
The Angels, once lauded for their organization depth that left AAA Salt Lake stockpiled with MLB-ready ballplayers, have let that slide in the past year or two as they decided to spend big money on key components (Bobby Abreu and Brian Fuentes) while leaning on developing young players (Howie Kendrick, Kendry Morales, Erick Aybar). And now they're paying the price, as a rash of injuries led them to raid a cupboard that's now bare.
Meanwhile, their perennial division title hopes are in deep trouble. Never mind their current 6-10 record. The Seattle Mariners, once perennial also-rans, added players that vastly improve their defense (Franklin Gutierrez, Endy Chavez), added depth to their farm system in case of injury (Mike Carp, Jason Vargas, Prentice Redman, Callix Crabbe), and have prospects not far from contributing in MLB (Jeff Clement, Greg Halman, Michael Saunders). Jose Lopez has emerged as a power bat, Felix Hernandez has become the ace the team hoped he would become, and they're winning games with disciplined play instead of giving them away with mistakes like they did before.
And now it's the Angels who are giving games away, as the lack of experience and talent in their replacement level roster has cost them the solid discipline hat buoyed their perennial title runs when the big bats and power pitching wasn't there for them. Their .669 defensive efficiency is 2nd worst in the AL, as is their 12 errors. Their .714 OPS is 11th out of 14 AL teams. Their starting pitching has only topped 100 pitches 3 times this season, 3rd fewest in the majors, as their starters are getting clobbered out of games.
After winning four of the last five AL West titles (and finishing 2nd to Oakland in that off year), the Angels may not have the Disney magic to overcome the loss of all this talent. Even with Lackey's likely return in May, and prospects of Vlad returning in the foreseeable future, the Angels have far too many holes, many of them self-created by poor talent accumulation. This may be the year those upstart Mariners overtake them for the AL West championship.