This is the second of a seven part series previewing the Los Angeles Angels for the 2012 season. We started with the catchers last week, but let’s go around the horn and determine what we can expect out of the Angels’ corner infielders this season:
Everyone remembers where they were when they found out the Angels came out of nowhere to land the biggest free agent on the market in years. I had just woken up. I thought I was dreaming. It wasn’t until my roommate barged into my room with a giant smile on his face that I knew it was real. Finally, the franchise, middle of the lineup bat the Angels have been sorely missing. Fully healed from his broken arm he suffered last June, Albert Pujols is ready to anchor the lineup for the next decade. You can take .300-100-35-100-.950 to the bank and there is a great chance he blows past those numbers.
Across the diamond, there has been a lot of chatter around Rookie of the Year runner-up Mark Trumbo’s potential move to the hot corner. Given Mike Scioscia’s preference towards veterans and defense, Alberto Callaspo figures to get the lion’s share of playing time at third base. He isn’t your stereotypical third baseman, but top notch defense and an on-base percentage north of .350 makes him a very serviceable major leaguer.
Trumbo was never regarded as a great defender coming up through the minor leagues, but according to FanGraphs UZR/150 only four big league first basemen flashed better leather than Trumbo last season. The slugger has made huge strides defensively which would certainly bode well for his chances to rack up plate appearances in 2012. With the addition of Pujols and impending return of Kendrys Morales, Trumbo is looking at a super-utility role, but he could force his way into the lineup if he continues to build on a solid rookie campaign.
Trumbo’s batted ball data suggests he was a little unlucky last year. Don’t be surprised to see his BABIP climb its way back to the .295 range where it belongs. As his plate discipline develops his batting average and on-base percentage will climb with it. Modest improvements on his K%, BB%, and BABIP could leave Trumbo with a .275/.315/.500 line. If he produces at that level Scioscia will be forced to find a spot for him. There are only so many plate appearances to go around so I’ve been pretty conservative with Trumbo’s playing time, but he could end up in a much larger role down the stretch.
Morales is running the bases and should be penciled into a Cactus League lineup this week. It will be interesting to see how long it takes Kendrys to return form after the 22-month layoff. Expecting Morales to revert right back to his 2009-10 self might be a little too optimistic, but there is still a lot to like. He will see the bulk of his plate appearances in the DH role, but will likely be given periodic days off as he re-adjusts to the grind of a 162 game season, opening the door for Trumbo to produce.
In the end, our corners will give us something along these lines…
Up next, we’ll take a look at the middle infield.