Baseball player Albert Pujols wears an Angels cap after he is introduced by the Los Angeles Angels during a news conference at Angels Stadium in Anaheim

Running down the rosters: Los Angeles Angels

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Over the next couple of weeks, I’ll be projecting 25-man rosters for each of the 30 teams. I’m starting today with the Angels.

The winter’s biggest spenders, the Angels are now again poised to threaten a Rangers team that appeared to be in pretty good position to set up its own little mini-dynasty in the AL West. Texas still has more depth and minor league talent to play with, but the Angels have the better rotation and now arguably the game’s best hitter anchoring the lineup.

Rotation
Jered Weaver – R
Dan Haren – R
C.J. Wilson – L
Ervin Santana – R
Jerome Williams – R

Bullpen
Jordan Walden – R
Scott Downs – L
Hisanori Takahashi – L
LaTroy Hawkins – R
Rich Thompson – R
Bobby Cassevah – R
Trevor Bell – R

SP next in line: Garrett Richards (R), Bell, Brad Mills (L), Eric Hurley (R)
RP next in line: Kevin Jepsen (R), Michael Kohn (R), Francisco Rodriguez (R)

The Angels would still like to add one more reliever, probably Luis Ayala. Scott Linebrink is another possible fit. It’s disappointing that they haven’t picked up any quality rotation insurance. Mills, who was acquired from the Jays for Jeff Mathis, doesn’t really qualify. Their big four starters have stayed remarkably healthy lately, but there’s always the chance one will go down, and Williams is far from a sure thing in the fifth spot.

Lineup
SS Erick Aybar – R
2B Howie Kendrick – R
1B Albert Pujols – R
DH Kendrys Morales – S
RF Torii Hunter – R
LF Vernon Wells – R
3B Alberto Callaspo – S
C Chris Iannetta – R
CF Peter Bourjos – R

Bench
C Bobby Wilson – R
1B-3B Mark Trumbo – R
INF Maicer Izturis – S
OF Bobby Abreu – L

Next in line: C Hank Conger (S), INF Alexi Amarista (L), INF Andrew Romine (S), OF Mike Trout (R), OF Ryan Langerhans (L)

Obviously, that projection hinges on both Morales (ankle) and Trumbo (foot) being healthy for Opening Day. Morales’ status is still very much in doubt. If Morales starts off on the DL, then Abreu and Trumbo figure to platoon in the DH spot, opening up a place for Langerhans on the bench.

If Morales does prove healthy, then there’s the chance the Angels will send Trumbo down with the idea of playing him at third regularly. He’ll get reps at the hot corner this spring, but it’s doubtful that he’ll manage to overtake Callaspo or Izturis on the depth chart there right away.

It’s clear that the Angels expect to start Trout off in the minors. Perhaps that would change if he swims circles around Wells this spring, but I doubt it.

There will be a battle between Wilson and Conger for the backup catcher gig. Since Iannetta figures to play plenty, the Angels will probably send Conger down and let him start in Triple-A. I’m pretty sure Conger would be able to help while catching twice a week and DHing another once or twice, but the Angels won’t have that kind of playing time open for him.

Yordano Ventura represented the best and worst of baseball’s culture

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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It was reported this morning that Royals pitcher Yordano Ventura was killed in a car accident in the Dominican Republic. Former prospect Andy Marte was also killed in a separate car accident. Along with Jose Fernandez and Oscar Taveras, the baseball world has lost a lot of young, exciting talent in a very short amount of time.

Ventura was, like all of us, a complex human being. At his best, he was an exciting, talented, emotive pitcher who featured an electric fastball which sat in the mid-90’s and occasionally touched 100 MPH. At his worst, he was an immature, impressionable kid trying to fit in by exacting revenge against batters he felt had wronged him by slinging those electric fastballs at vulnerable areas of their bodies.

Baseball needed Ventura when he was at his best. It is players like him and Fernandez, not Mike Trout, that bring in new fans to the sport. To baseball die-hards, Angels outfielder Mike Trout is the pinnacle of entertainment because we know he’s an otherworldly talent. But to the average fan, Trout is just another player who hits a couple of homers and doesn’t do anything particularly interesting otherwise. Trout is milquetoast. Ventura was never an All-Star, but fans knew who he was because he made his presence felt every time he made a start. He was fun, if sometimes vengeful.

Ventura’s baseball rap sheet is rather lengthy for someone who only pitched parts of four seasons in the big leagues. Early in the 2015 season, Ventura found himself in a handful of benches-clearing incidents in quick succession. On April 12, he jawed with Trout, apparently misunderstanding the motivation behind Trout yelling, “Let’s go!” Though catcher Salvador Perez intervened, Trout’s teammate Albert Pujols ran in from second base and the benches cleared shortly thereafter. On the 18th, some drama between the Athletics and Royals continued. Ventura fired a 99 MPH fastball at Brett Lawrie, resulting in his immediate ejection from the game. More beanball wars ensued in the series finale the following day. Finally, on the 23rd, Ventura hit White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu with a 99 MPH fastball in the fourth inning. Ventura was not ejected… until after the completion of the seventh inning. Walking back to the dugout, Ventura barked at White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton and — you guessed it — the benches cleared. All told, Ventura was fined for his behavior with the Athletics and suspended seven games for the White Sox incident.

In August 2015, Ventura called Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista a “nobody” and accused him of stealing signs. He apologized shortly thereafter. Two months later, during his start in Game 6 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Ventura got into it with Jays first base coach Tim Leiper. Nothing happened beyond that, but apparently it was part of the Jays’ plan to try to put Ventura “on tilt.”

Most recently, in June this past season, Ventura hit Orioles third baseman Manny Machado with a pitch. Machado charged the mound and got in at least one punch before the players spilled out onto the field in a blob of royal blue and orange. Ventura was suspended for eight games.

Ventura was by no means a model of civility, but he was a product of baseball’s intransigent culture forcing players to assimilate or be ostracized. The old culture taught players to never show emotion. Hit a home run? Put your head down and circle the bases in a timely fashion or risk taking a fastball to the ribs. Players like Fernandez and Bautista — typically players from Latin countries — challenged those old cultural norms and are, as a result, the vanguard of the new culture. Ventura displayed aspects of each, the worst of the old culture and the best of the new. He was not a one-dimensional person; he was strikingly complex. At one moment willing to use a fastball as a weapon, the next stopping by some kids’ lemonade stand and giving out fist bumps. Baseball is made more entertaining and more interesting by its personalities and Ventura’s was a behemoth, for better or worse. His absence from the sport will be felt.

MLB remembers Yordano Ventura and Andy Marte

BOSTON, MA - AUGUST 28:  Yordano Ventura #30 of the Kansas City Royals delivers in the first inning during a game against the Boston Red Sox on August 28, 2016 at Fenway Park in Boston, Massachusetts.  (Photo by Adam Glanzman/Getty Images)
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Following the tragic passing of 25-year-old Yordano Ventura and 33-year-old Andy Marte, both of whom were killed in separate car crashes on Sunday morning, players and executives from around Major League Baseball expressed an outpouring of grief and support for the players’ families and former teams.

Fans have gathered at Kauffman Stadium in memory of the former pitcher.