The time is now for the Los Angeles Angels. They've got the players: sluggers like Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton; baseball's best young player in outfielder Mike Trout; and pitchers like C.J. Wilson and Jered Weaver. They've spent the money – a Yankees-like $300 million over the past two years. They're not built to just contend, but to win a championship. If they feel the pressure that comes from those expectations, they aren't showing it: At spring training in Tempe, Arizona, the Angels seem relaxed and confident. "We go karting, target shooting. I put together group dinners, just fun stuff we can do with the guys," says Wilson. "They're looser than ever because they have such a good team," says ESPN baseball analyst Tim Kurkjian. "It's easy to be confident with this kind of offense."
Garrett Richards: 24, pitcher (right)
Richards, a power-pitching right-hander, made his major-league debut in 2011 in New York, against the Yankees. He lasted five innings, gave up six runs, and took the loss. But he says there was one good moment: "Striking out Derek Jeter." Despite that start, if there's one guy all the Angels expect to break out this year, it's Richards. "He's shown flashes of just pure talent," says Wilson. "I tell him all the time, he has the best pure stuff in the locker room." Richards likes to paint, and recently turned the garage of his off-season home in Oklahoma into an art studio. "I'm really into graffiti art and abstract paintings. My friend from high school puts on art shows, and we get a live band and a couple of kegs and just check out everyone's art."
Credit: Photograph by Michael Muller