Thursday, October 11, 2007

By Sean Scanlon - Columnist

Part 3 of the Red’s 2007 Season Recap (Part 1 – pitching, Part 2 – infield)

If the Angel’s infield is where the young bucks reside, the emerald green (actually, I’m a tad bit color blind so for all I know it could be Kentucky bluegrass green) Angel Stadium outfield is where the grizzled, and hobbled, vets reside. Led by future hall of famer Vlad Guerrero most of the Angel pop resides in the outfield, and most of next year’s roster questions also reside in the outfield as well.

Without further machinations let’s get to it.

Vlad Guerrero A- - Another spectacular year from what should be the first hall of famer to be inducted wearing a Halo. Vlad is the straw that stirs the Angel’s drink, the man, the wonder, the freak who has never seen a pitch he won’t hack at. While noticeably hobbled Vlad continues to put up dominating numbers, near the league lead in most offensive categories. Watching Vlad hobble around the bases, questions start to arise; have those years playing on the concrete turf of Montreal started to catch up with Vlad, how long will his knees hold up? Moving forward I think you’ll start to see Vlad spend more time at the DH position as his bat will continue to be a critical factor in the Angel’s offensive production.

Another question has also reared its ugly head. Does Mike Scioscia’s edict that the Angel’s will not retaliate make Vlad a human bulls-eye? Seeing as the league will not take matters in to their own hands I think it’s time for the Angel’s to revisit this policy. If opposing teams know their star players can expect some nice backside bruises, it might afford some protection to the increasing number of pitches that “accidentally” end up around Vlad’s head. It’s nice and dandy to be good sports and all Mike, but enough is enough.

Garret AndersonD/A - In Angel's land there are two rites of spring…pitchers and catchers reporting and wondering what ailment will slow GA during the upcoming year. For a man who has arguably been the greatest career Angel of all-time (notice I said arguably), more "discussions" have occurred about GA and his abilities than Erstad and his grittiness. Starting the year knicked up, once again GA seemed destined to end up back on the DL and leave the Angel’s without a presence behind Vlad…and then suddenly out of nowhere, as if Scioscia lit up the bat signal (available for $9.98 at your local costume shop), the GA of old appeared. Hitting the ball out of the park, hustling down the line (some may say he never actually did that before), driving in was 2002 all over again. Until the whole cyclops incident that is.

So now the question begs…who is the real GA? The dinged up grizzled vet who has more desire than ability or the middle of the order run producer we saw down the stretch? A huge question moving forward, though my expectation is that GA will be penciled in to the LF/DH role next year. I can already see the arguments…Scioscia only likes vets and why won’t GA do what’s best for the team on the right…look what happened last year on the left…let the dead horse beating begin, there is no surer sign of spring in Haloville!

Gary MatthewsC – Probably the most controversial free-agent signing in recent Angel's history, and that was before allegations of HGH use. Destined to become the new Erstad whipping boy in the near future Gary’s first year with the Halos had mixed results. Defensively Gary was close to as advertised, chasing balls down in the gaps and making numerous game saving plays. There are statheads who will throw out zone rating, Pythagorean theorem’s and Capt. Cheeze Whiz’s defensive twister percentages…but the reality is Gary played a solid center field especially when you consider the two aging warriors to his left and right.

At the plate was another story, Gary’s average was below his career year in Texas, but his number's weren’t atrocious. If he can provide solid defense and similar offensive numbers the next 2-3 years the Angel’s won’t be getting a bargain for their 10 million…but they won’t be getting ripped off either (hey Finley…feel guilty enough to send back some of that cash yet?). And for those hang wrining about the 5 yr. you really think it's a coincidence only the first three years include a no trade clause?

Reggie WillitsB – A surprise starter at the beginning of the year when GA was slowed out of the gate, Reggie Willits opened a lot of eyes. His patient approach, Elvis like sneer and grit factor won a lot of fans (as the Reggie…Reggie…Reggie…chants will attest). Tapering off towards the end of the year as teams learned their best bet was to throw the ball down the middle of the plate and make him swing, Reggie still had a solid first year. Roaming the outfield is another issue…his routes and reads are definitely below average and he relies on his speed to make up for mistakes. This is a definite downside, making it hard to envision Reggie as a 4th outfielder…if he’s a defensive liability. But, with his work ethic, I would hope he could improve in those areas.

What is the future for Reggie? To be honest I’m not sure. He’s an Orlando Palmiero type of 4th outfielder who can play all the outfield positions (but none of them all that well). Reggie’s future with the Angels is most likely tied to who they pursue during the offseason. If the Angels bring in a power bat it will be in the OF or at 3b (which would move Figgins to the OF), meaning Reggie’s days with the Halos could be numbered.

Nathan HaynesB – I know, a B for Haynes is ridiculous, but seriously…that’s simply for his helping out Figgins. The Curtis Pride feel good story of the year, Nathan was the “oh yeah, he’s still on the roster” guy. Lightening fast with a solid glove, we didn’t see much from Nathan at the plate this year. I actually don’t expect to see him with the Halos next year, but he’ll be a nice role player, 4th outfielder, for some team next year.

Juan RiveraINC – After a solid 2006 year the Angel’s had penciled in Juan to be a power bat in the lineup, only to see him go down late in Winter ball with a horrific broken leg (leading to the signing of Shea Hillenbrand (ha...who saw that link coming?)…for that he should get an F!). A big question surrounds Juan, going in to 2008 do you pencil in Juan as a corner OF’er/DH? Or, is he a valuable trade commodity who can be packaged with an arm?

Terry EvansC – Another career minor leaguer who seemed to find himself last year with St.Louis (as well as provide a moment of comedy as his dad was caught videotaping his first big league homerun). He provides a nice arm in the outfield with some pop, but really doesn’t figure in to the Halos long term plans in the outfield unless something changes.

Tommy Murphy – D – My choice for breakout player of the year (which is why he gets a D...make me look stupid will you) Tommy lost out to Reggie coming out of spring training and then saw Reggie grab the bull by the horns and win a big league job when GA went down. Probably one of the best defensive outfielder’s in the Angel’s system the same problems he had as a no-hit shortstop in the minors plague him still…he still can’t hit. Another guy who could probably catch on with another team as a 4th/5th outfielder.

Overall Outfield Grade – B-

Outside of Vlad, and solid half seasons from GA (second half) and Reggie (first half) the Angels offensive production from the outfield was hit and miss. Time will tell about the GMJ contract, and questions exist about who the real GA is. I wouldn’t expect much to change with the Angel’s outfield next year as their hands are somewhat tied unless the Angel’s do some very surprising things. Next year’s most likely scenario is who will man the DH/corner OF role with Vlad and GA…Rivera or Figgins.

This concludes my three part analysis of the Angel’s 2007 season that was. Oh, don't cry...Next up we'll start on moving forward and 2008, with the first question probably setting the tone for this offseason….to Bill or not to Bill....check in, you may be surprised! (but probably not).

Love to hear what you think!


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