60 players, 25 spots — welcome to Spring Training
It’s difficult to pinpoint what spots are available and what competitions are open for one simple reason: Trades probably (likely?) will occur at some point. The signing of Albert Pujols created a logjam at the first base/third base/designated hitter spots, but exactly what kind of logjam they’re looking at can’t be known until they see what they have in Mark Trumbo and Kendrys Morales.
Here’s how I’ve handicapped where they stand right now, though …
Locks: Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, C.J. Wilson (L), Ervin Santana (likely in that order)
Spots open: Fifth spot
Candidates: Trevor Bell, Eric Hurley, Brad Mills (L), Garrett Richards, Matt Shoemaker, Jerome Williams
Situation: Barring an addition, you can call Williams a heavy favorite in this competition. Basically, after an out-of-nowhere year that saw him go 4-0 with a 3.68 ERA in 44 innings down the stretch, he’s earned it. As is the case with most teams, though, the fifth-starter spot could be a revolving door throughout the year, and it’d be unrealistic to think Williams can give you 30 starts and 200 innings. The Angels will just take what they can out of him. Here, as with the bullpen, there will be a lot of arms that won’t have a chance to sniff the roster no matter how well they do. They’re here either so the coaching staff can get a closer look at them before they get busy with other things, or to just fill up innings with the lighter workloads of spring. That’s the reality of this time of year.
Not named: The fairly young and inexperienced Fabio Martinez-Mesa and Ariel Pena.
Locks: Jordan Walden (CL), Scott Downs (L), LaTroy Hawkins, Hisanori Takahashi (L)
Spots open: Three, at most
Candidates: Bell, Ryan Brasier, David Carpenter, Ysmael Carmona, Bobby Cassevah, John Hellweg, Kevin Jepsen, Michael Kohn, Matt Meyer (L), Francisco Rodriguez, Rich Thompson, Daniel Tillman, Loek Van Mil
Favorites: Bell, Cassevah, Thompson
Situation: Barring the Angels picking up a veteran reliever this spring — and that’s definitely a possibility — these are seemingly the three favorites to fill out the ‘pen, considering their impact last year. Bell, also a marginal candidate for the fifth-starter spot, and Thompson are out of options, meaning they’d have to slip through waivers before being sent down to the Minor Leagues. So perhaps you can consider them near-locks. Cassevah, however, has an option year left. So the Angels do have some wiggle room there for competition — or an addition. Of the remaining group, Jepsen, Kohn and Rodriguez have Major League experience. And Van Mil is listed at 7-foot-1 (I just like throwing that out whenever possible).
Lock: Chris Iannetta
Spot open: Backup
Candidates: Hank Conger, Robinzon Diaz, Alberto Rosario, Bobby Wilson
Situation: This is an important spring for Conger, who needs to prove he’s taken significant steps behind the plate to eventually be an everyday catcher in the Majors. Regardless of how well he plays, though, that won’t happen this year now that Iannetta is on board. So the question becomes whether it’s best for Conger to play sparingly as a big league backup or get some much-needed at-bats as an everyday player in the Minors. The latter makes more sense, which is why I have Wilson — who played 57 games for the Angels last year — listed as the favorite. He’s also out of options.
Not named: The fairly young and inexperienced Jett Bandy and Carlos Ramirez.
Lock: Albert Pujols, Kendrys Morales, Mark Trumbo, Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo, Maicer Izturis
Spots open: None (for now)
Situation: The infield is the most tricky aspect of the Angels to pinpoint, because so much of what happens here hinges on Trumbo’s ability to adjust to third base and Morales’ ability to bounce back. Trumbo wouldn’t be a full-time third baseman, per se, but it’s tough to not consider the infield overly crowded if the above-mentioned factors play out. If a spot does come open with a trade, then look for Alexi Amarista, Jorge Cantu and Andrew Romine to have a shot.
Others: Amarista, Cantu, Luis Jimenez, Taylor Lindsey, Efren Navarro, Darwin Perez, Romine, Jean Segura
Lock: Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos, Bobby Abreu
Spots open: None (again, for now)
Situation: There are two wild cards at play here. One of them, of course, is Mike Trout. So many factors — his age, his lack of Triple-A experience, the Angels’ current outfield situation — point to Trout starting the year in the Minors for more seasoning. But a guy with Trout’s skill set could be tantalizing, especially if he has a killer March. The other wild card is Abreu, who the Angels would like to move but is owed $9 million on his contract. If Morales becomes an option at DH, there’s really no spot for Abreu (unless he’s riding the bench), and if they can find a club willing to take on a reasonable amount of his salary, then Ryan Langerhans and Jeremy Moore could have a shot. Or, um, Trout.
Others: Kole Calhoun, Doug Deeds, Langerhans, Moore, Matt Long, Trout