Friday, May 4, 2012

By Jonathan Northrop - Columnist

OK, so Abreu is gone and Trout is up - we're getting there. But we've still got a log-jam in the outfield with Wells, Hunter, Bourjos, Trout, and Trumbo - five players in three slots (with Trumbo getting some starts at 3B and DH). So what to do?

It isn't that complex, really. First, you play who is performing well - which means Torii gets his starts as long as he stays hot. Second, you get Trout into as many games as possible. Third, you play wait and see with Wells and Bourjos, giving them both at least a half-time gig. You keep giving Trumbo shots at third base and hope that he improves. You leave Calhoun in AAA to continue his maturation, and as back-up for later in the year.

This is going to continue for another month or so until Dipoto and company see how it plays out. We just don't know what will happen, just that there are some key questions that will determine what the lineup is on July 1, in rough order of importance:

1) Will Wells recover some of his 2010 form and if so, how much? This is the biggest question, really.

2) Is Trout "ready"? (By "ready" I mean ready to perform better than all but two other outfielders).

3) Will Bourjos hit well enough to start in CF? His defense is so good that all needs to do, really, is hit about .250/.700 OPS.

4) Can Trumbo do better than a .714% fielding percentage at 3B? (Yeah, its been that bad - an error in almost 30% of chances). He doesn't have to be Brooks Robinson at 3B, but he needs to at least get to Mark Reynolds badness, which is an error in about 10% of chances).

5) Has Torii discovered the elixir of life? Even if he hasn't, he's better than Wells and Bourjos with the bat and will likely start 80+% of the time, but if he continues to mash and the others improve as well, he could be a surprise trade candidate for a third baseman.

6) Will Morales stay healthy and continue to hit? He seems to be improving - but now the question is whether the power will come.
These questions will be closer to being answered within the next month or so. As the saying goes, "Time heals all wounds" - or, in this case, time will answer all questions. Let's see how this plays out.

I will speculate, however, how I think those questions will be answered:

1) No, not really. Wells will become a part-time player sometime in June.

2) Yes. I think Trout will improve throughout the year and end up with numbers something like .290/.800.

3) Yes. It might not be pretty, but Bourjos should be a similar player to Darin Erstad in his non-2000 years. He might hit .250/.300/.400 one year and then .290/.350/.450 the next. As long as he can keep that OPS above .700 and his legs work, he is an asset. If he hits .800 he's a star.

4) I think he'll improve but probably not enough to start more than 40-50 games in the year, and in that time he'll end up with 15-20 errors or so. Finding at-bats for Trumbo is going to continue to be a problem all year, but the Angels are unlikely to trade him, at least this year.

5) I think he's going to continue to do well and end up somewhere in the vicinity of 2010 numbers, maybe hitting .280/.350/.450 in 130 games. A nice swan song for his career as an Angel.

6) I think he will. He's looked better and better and while he probably won't repeat 2009, he still should be the second best hitter on the team.
Love to hear what you think!

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