Checking in on the Angels’ No. 2 spot …
- There are basically three candidates: Howie Kendrick, Erick Aybar and Alberto Callaspo.
- Spring Training will not be the judge of who primarily hits in that spot this season. They’ve each played long enough that Mike Scioscia knows what he’s going to get out of them, and a lot of the time this spring, they won’t even be hitting between Trout and Pujols (who won’t get in games until about mid-March).
- At the start of the year, Scioscia will match up. And if somebody grabs hold of it, like Torii Hunter did last June, even better.
- The most important thing to the Angels’ skipper is “passing the baton,” which immediately leads you towards Callaspo’s on-base ability — but it’s not necessarily that simple. “A guy like Erick Aybar is in that case, where his on-base percentage may not be off the charts, but he’s in scoring position a lot,” Scioscia said. “Same with Howie, with the amount of doubles he’ll hit. Callaspo has the best on-base percentage of the three, and that’s something that would give him a lot of looks in the 2-hole.”
Here’s a quick overview of the pros and cons each of them brings to that spot (I went into it more extensively over the offseason).
Pros: Power (career OPS of .756), good fastball hitter, descent speed.
Cons: Splits show he’s much more comfortable hitting lower in the lineup.
Pros: Patience (takes a lot of pitches, allowing Trout to steal bases, and draws more walks than any of the three).
Cons: Not a lot of speed and not very productive in general (.252/.331/.361 slash line last year).
Pros: Good speed (combined 72 stolen bases the last three years), good strike hitter, great bunter.
Cons: Not patient (least amount of pitches seen per plate appearances — 3.28 — in the AL last season).
Now, about that whole matching up thing at the start of the season … Scioscia could do it simply based on their numbers based on who’s starting on a particular night, or perhaps who’s riding a hot bat, but here are some things to keep in mind, based on their splits …
- Callaspo probably shouldn’t bat second against a righty. The switch-hitter is a career .264/.331/.371 hitter against righties, as opposed to .306/.349/.418 against lefties.
- Aybar is a notorious slow starter, with a career .261 batting average during the first two months of the season.
- It may make most sense for Kendrick to bat second on the days Vernon Wells replaces Peter Bourjos in the lineup — that’s a whole other subject — because the Angels will have more power towards the bottom of the lineup.
“I think Howie can match up against guys and he’s going to be not as much a situational hitter, just the good matchup guy who’s going to hit the ball hard and take advantage of whatever Trout creates,” Scioscia said. “Callaspo’s got more of a situational component, as does Erick.”