Originally written on Midwest Sports Fans  |  Last updated 7/5/12

Coming into 2012, the Angels’ big offseason had many people, like myself, expecting them to challenge the two-time American League Champion Texas Rangers in the AL West.

To be honest, I actually picked the Angels to overtake them in the division.

Yet after a very slow start, the uphill battle became very steep for the Angels. They have gotten close to the Rangers at times, but for the most part have sat tight in 2nd place.

C.J. Wilson has not disappointed since moving from Texas to LA. (Photo courtesy USA Today)

Currently holding a very respectable 45-37 record, Los Angeles is five games behind the dominant Rangers, who have the best record in the MLB.

We all know they’ll be tough to catch, but a five-game gap is not out of reach. Realistically, that could be made up for with a hot week and a half, or so.

So, let’s delve right into it.

Angels: Contenders or Pretenders?

I do see the Angels as contenders because they’re the only good team in their division besides the Rangers. With the lowly A’s and Mariners being there, there are plenty of games to be won.

But as far as their team goes, here’s why I see them to be contenders:

The Rotation

The Angels have as good of a front-end of a rotation as you’ll find.

Between Jered Weaver and C.J. Wilson, you’ve got two Cy Young candidates who can beat anybody with a dominant performance on any given night. Weaver is 9-1 with a 2.13 ERA and Wilson is 9-4 with a 2.33 ERA, so the statistics speak for themselves.

Sure, there’s a fall off after that, but they have guys with a ton of potential who have been dominant before in Ervin Santana and Dan Haren. I still view those guys to be assets to a contender despite rough first halves of the season.

With formidable back-end guys like Jerome Williams and Garrett Richards, I view this unit to be pretty complete. If they go up against Texas in a series, they’ve got a good shot to win it if Weaver and Wilson are starting.

A Powerful Lineup

We all knew that the LA lineup would be better this year, but we thought it would be large in part due to the Albert Pujols acquisition.

While Albert got off to an awful start, he has his stats climbing … as all of us expected them to. Currently hitting .273 with 13 HR and 49 RBI, he could wind up with a final line of 30 & 100, which would put his slow start far on the back burner.

But what’s been even more surprising than Pujols’ struggles has been the emergence of two stars: Mark Trumbo and Mike Trout.

Rookie sensation Mike Trout (Photo courtesy ESPN)

Twenty-year old rookie Mike Trout’s call-up in late April was overshadowed by Bryce Harper being called up in Washington, but but no one in baseball has overshadowed Trout in the months since then. Hitting .343 with 10 HR, 36 RBI, and 23 SB in just 60 games, Trout has emerged as one of the best all-around ball players in baseball.

In addition to that, Mark Trumbo is hitting .310 with 20 HR and 55 RBI.

Now, of course, adding Pujols to the lineup has made it a lot easier for these guys to succeed, but nonetheless they’ve still emerged as MVP candidates.

My Bold Prediction

When you’re looking at the AL West, you’ve got two good teams, with the Angels sitting 4.5 games behind the Rangers and having been in a spot close to that for most of the year.

Before the season, I predicted that the Angels would overtake the two-time defending AL Champs, and I’m going to stick to that. I think the Angels will get hot and the Rangers will struggle, propelling LA into first place some time in August.

With a lineup that has Trout, Trumbo, Pujols, Morales, among other crafty veterans (if you will), I think they have enough to ride an extreme hot streak from their starters to first place, which I feel is inevitable.

The Rangers are great, don’t get me wrong. But I think their pitching is a bit overrated. I know their staff will be healthier soon, but I don’t think Yu Darvish is a number 1 guy, let alone Harrison, Oswalt, or Lewis either. This is a problem that could be detrimental considering the Angels have a few guys who are capable of filling a number 1 role with great success.

Photo courtesy coolwaves.org

So there you have it, I’ve got the Rangers faltering and the Angels overtaking them in the AL West thanks to a late hot streak behind Weaver, Wilson, and a deadly middle of the lineup.

I’m sure this will upset a lot of Texas fans, but I’ve got to stick to my early predictions once in a while.

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