Spring Training is Underway at Tempe Diablo Stadium for the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim. Mike Scioscia’s teams always are very versatile. In fact they are almost too versatile. Chone Figgins at his best made Mike Scioscua and the Angels look good. But Scioscia has been criticized in the last few years for tinkering with his day to day lineup too much. There was little consistency or routine last season. The Angels roster got much deeper, and much more talented when they signed Josh Hamilton in the offseason. But with more options still, will the Angels depth in the outfield help this team or ultimately hurt them?
Two of the best 3 position players in the American League are now in the Angels outfield. Center-fielders Hamilton and Mike Trout are the best combination in the league, even before you mention Albert Pujols. Trout plays stellar defense, is a menace on the basepaths, had nearly the best average in the league last year, and scored 129 runs as a rookie. As the younger of the 2 centerfielders, Trout would likely get the nod at center, but both have proved to be very versatile outfielders, playing both left and centerfield when called upon.
What to do with the rest of the deep outfield is a welcome problem to face, but in the hands of veteran manager Mike Scioscia, his bread and butter can cause a jam with the team. Mark Trumbo played plenty of right field last year. But that was with Kendrys Morales hoarding the DH spot while he was still recovering from his injured ankle. Now that Morales is gone, Trumbo should see a majority of time at DH. But Trumbo also plays 1st and 3rd base. Based on last season, Trumbo shouldn’t get too comfortable at 1 spot because despite stellar numbers in his sophomore campaign, he was constantly the moving piece in the Angels puzzle.
Then there is Peter Bourjos, the speedy third center-fielder in the Angels outfield mix. Barring injuries, the Angels more than likely will have only 1 of their 3 starting outfielders playing their natural position—whoever is playing center field. Last year when Bourjos was in the lineup, he played center and Trout unselfishly moved over to left field. That’s probably how the Angels will play it on Opening Day, and move Hamilton to a less familiar right field. Hamilton and Trout have both proved to be very versatile outfielders, and they will work the corners of the maybe the fastest outfield in the Majors.
Don’t get Angels fans started on the fifth wheel in the outfield—Vernon Wells. When healthy in the last two years Mike Scioscia has stuck with him in the lineup seemingly with the mentality, “He’s not this bad. He has to break out of this slump.” There’s $129 million reasons that says he will. If only to try and salvage some trade value, Wells continued to see playing time. Wells has been a good pro about it, but he doesn’t have much of a choice. If the Angels are winning, then his .222 average as an Angel can sit on the bench, but if they are struggling they could have a problem on their hands if he finally ruffles more than just the fans feathers.
For as versatile as this outfield is, and as accomplished as Mike Scioscia is at mixing and matching his lineups to get the most out of them; Scioscia would be better served to let ‘em play this year. Give everyone a chance at their role on the team, before changing it completely—well, everyone but Vernon Wells.