Results tagged ‘ Kendrys Morales ’

Cool stuff from Mike Trout …

Mike Trout won the American League’s Most Valuable Player Award on Thursday, collecting all 30 first-place votes from the Baseball Writers’ Association to become the youngest unanimous MVP in Major League history. In tune with that, I’ve compiled all the cool stuff Trout did this season in video form below. Enjoy.

March 31: Trout’s first at-bat of the season, after securing a six-year, $144.5 million extension, is a home run against King Felix

April 4: Solo homer at Minute-Maid Park gets out in a mesmerizing 111.6 mph …

… Two innings later, he throws out a runner at home for his first outfield assist since September 2012

April 15: Trout does everything possible to win, hitting a ninth-inning, game-tying homer (shown here), then reaching on an infield single and stealing second in extra innings in an eventual loss to the division-rival A’s …

April 29: (Sort of?) robs a home run …

May 15: Diving catch in the first …

… first career walk-off in the ninth …

June 7: Game-tying grand slam off a dejected Chris Sale

June 11: Robs Yoenis Cespedes of a home run (maybe) …

June 17: Trout hits two home runs in Cleveland, the last of which came on a low and inside pitch that shocked Hank Conger, who concluded Trout has “the fastest hands west of the Mississippi”

June 27: Hits one 489 feet to dead center into the fountain at Kauffman Stadium, good for the longest home run in the Majors since 2012 …

July 3: Stumbling, shoestring catch, then finishes on his feet …

July 4: Another walk-off homer, this one on a Tony Sipp slider that almost hit the dirt (note: don’t pitch him low) …

Sept. 12: A triple on a standard liner in the gap …

Sept. 13: Another two-homer game …

Sept. 21: “I got hops,” Trout said, channeling the playground scene from “He Got Game” …

Sept. 27: Leaping, twisting, no-look catch to rob Kendrys Morales

Oct. 5: Solo shot off James Shields, the lone highlight of a short-lived postseason debut


Angels waiting on Baldoquin’s visa to finish deal

The Angels’ $8 million agreement with Cuban middle infielder Roberto Baldoquin, terms of which were reported on Tuesday, is still hinging on a visa.

Once Baldoquin secures a visitor visa from the Dominican Republic, he can fly to the United States, take his physical, sign on the dotted line and officially join the Angels’ organization. There’s no telling when that will happen – it could be early next week, it could be late in the offseason – but it’s expected to get done eventually.

Baldoquin, who turns 21 in May, would likely be invited to Major League Spring Training and could start the season in Double-A. The 20-year-old right-handed hitter is deemed by some evaluators to already be capable of handling shortstop at the Major League level, but still needs to prove he can produce consistently at the plate.

The addition of Baldoquin would represent the Angels’ first major signing of a Cuban prospect since Kendrys Morales in 2005, and it ends up being about a $14 million commitment due to international spending rules.

The Angels began the international signing period – on July 2 – with a pool of $2,383,700, which has since gone down to roughly $2 million. Because they are expected to exceed the pool by 15 percent or more with the Baldoquin signing, they’ll have to pay a 100-percent tax on the overage and won’t be allowed to sign a player for more than $300,000 over the next two signing periods.

The Angels don’t see the latter as an issue, since they rarely make that type of commitment in the international market and will have the lowest spending pool next year. They’re OK with paying a heavy tax because it doesn’t count towards the luxury tax and because they see Baldoquin as a polished player who could’ve secured a more lucrative, multi-year contract had he been a typical Cuban free agent.

Because he is under 23 and has not played in a Cuban professional league for at least five seasons, Baldoquin is instead subject to the international signing guidelines. That lowers his value and makes him the equivalent of an amateur Draft pick, which means the Angels can stash Baldoquin in the Minor Leagues and he can’t be a free agent until he attains the typical six years of Major League service time.

Baldoquin is expected to be ready to take over at shortstop once Erick Aybar’s contract expires after the 2016 season and could take over for second baseman Howie Kendrick once his contract expires after 2015. The Angels will continue to explore trading Kendrick this season, and Baldoquin’s bat may also profile at third base.

The Angels will face tight restrictions over the next couple of international signing periods, but that doesn’t mean they’ll splurge for what’s left of this one. (Remember, they still face a 100-percent tax on every dollar they spend this year.) They’ll keep tabs on another Cuban infielder, 19-year-old Yoan Moncada, but aren’t expected to go after him hard.

Baldoquin played three seasons for Las Tunas in Cuba’s Serie Nacional, the top league on the island, and was also part of the country’s 16-and-under national team. He’s been training in the Dominican Republic since February and has worked out at the Angels’ academy on the island several times.


Angels lose Vargas to Royals …

The Angels’ hopes of resigning free-agent starting pitcher Jason Vargas were squashed on Thursday, when the Royals announced they have signed the veteran left-hander to a four-year contract.

The average annual value of Vargas’ new deal, a reported $32 million, is $8 million. The Angels were willing to give him that much, but they weren’t willing to go four years (it would’ve been hard for them to even give him a third year).

And so, the Angels still have at least two holes to fill in their rotation.

Jered Weaver, C.J. Wilson and Garrett Richards are returning, Tommy Hanson is likely to get non-tendered in December and Joe Blanton — if not released this offseason — will not go into the season as a guaranteed member of the rotation. General manager Jerry Dipoto did not tender the $14.1 million qualifying offer to Vargas because he was almost certain Vargas would accept it, and by accepting it the Angels would already be dangerously close to the luxury tax threshold of $189 million.

Vargas was acquired in a one-for-one deal with the Mariners that sent Kendrys Morales to Seattle last December. In his first year in Southern California, where he grew up and briefly attended Long Beach State University, Vargas went 9-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 150 innings in a season that saw him miss two months with a blood clot.

The Angels are expected to use the trade market to bolster a rotation that ranked 11th in the American League in ERA last season, but they may also turn to other free agents to fill Vargas’ void. And while they aren’t expected to go after the likes of Ubaldo Jimenez, Ricky Nolasco or Ervin Santana, names like Phil Hughes, Dan Haren, Bronson Arroyo, etc., etc., could be enticing.

Alden Gonzalez 

Jason Vargas, true to form …

Jason VargasJoe Blanton perpetually gets hit around and Tommy Hanson continues to be away from the team because of a family issue, but the other rotation newcomer, Jason Vargas, has pretty much provided what the Angels would’ve expected lately.

On Tuesday night, he bounced back from a dud against the Astros, limiting a pretty dangerous Royals lineup to five hits and one walk while striking out seven batters in seven-plus innings of two-run ball. Vargas, acquired in exchange for Kendrys Morales in December, hasn’t allowed a first-inning run in either of his first eight starts, is 2-1 with a 3.14 ERA at home and, most importantly, has pitched seven or more innings in four of his last five outings.

“I try to go out there every time and keep the team in the ballgame, be consistent out there and try to execute,” Vargas said.

His ERA, at 6.75 after his April 16 start, is now at 4.03. He’s responsible for both of the Angels’ complete games (though one was eight innings of a loss on the road). And though he began the season in the fourth spot of the rotation, he’s clearly the Angels’ third-best starter (perhaps even second, depending on how you feel about C.J. Wilson).

“If you look at Jason, you look at his track record, this guy pitches deep into games,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said of Vargas, who posted a 3.96 ERA and compiled 611 innings his previous three years in Seattle. “It’s one thing saying ‘gives innings,’ but this guy gives you good innings and that’s what’s important to us is these guys getting into the seventh, possibly the eighth, giving those good innings and giving our offense a chance to do what it did tonight.”


Game 22: Angels-Mariners …

Angels (8-13)

CALPeter Bourjos, CF
Mike Trout, LF
Albert Pujols, 11B
Josh Hamilton, DH
Mark Trumbo, RF
Howie Kendrick 2B
Brendan Harris, SS
Hank Conger, C
Luis Jimenez, 3B

SP: LH C.J. Wilson (1-0, 4.13 ERA)

Mariners (9-15)

Kyle Seager, 3B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Michael Morse, RF
Justin Smoak, 1B
Kelly Shoppach, C
Robert Andino, 2B
Endy Chavez, CF
Brendan Ryan, SS

SP: RH Aaron Harang (0-2, 10.24 ERA)

  • It’s been a week since Ryan Madson threw his last sim game in Anaheim, and another one is still not scheduled. He’s in Arizona still, rehabbing, but Mike Scioscia didn’t want to call his last-Friday sim game a setback. “He wasn’t set back for any other reason than normal rehab and trying to get over the final hump. That’s what rehab is. At times you’re going to take a step forward, at times you’re going to plateau. He’s certainly ready for the challenge of facing hitters.”
  • Just a day for Hamilton, who’s at DH for the first time this season (and, of course, his Angels career.
  • Speaking of DH … Erick Aybar did that in his second game of extended spring training in Arizona, but Scioscia said he also ran well and that his left heel “felt great” as the day went on. He’ll most likely play the field again on Saturday, but Scioscia was non-committal when asked if he’d be available in Oakland early next week.
  • Pujols is tied with Giancarlo Stanton for the biggest drop of pitches seen inside the strike zone from 2012 to ’13 (h/t Fan Graphs). The interesting thing about that is Stanton has the likes of Greg Dobbs and Placido Polanco hitting behind him; Pujols has Hamilton — signed to a five-year, $125 million contract, but currently struggling.
  • Wilson is 5-1 with a 2.11 ERA in his last seven starts against the Mariners.


Game 21: Angels-Mariners …

Angels (8-12)

laaPeter Bourjos, CF
Mike Trout, LF
Albert Pujols, 1B
Josh Hamilton, RF
Mark Trumbo, DH
Howie Kendrick, 2B
Brendan Harris, SS
Chris Iannetta, C
Luis Jimenez, 3B

SP: RH Garrett Richards (1-0, 2.55 ERA)

Mariners (8-15)

SEAEndy Chavez, CF
Kyle Seager, 3B
Kendrys Morales, DH
Justin Smoak, 1B
Dustin Ackley, 2B
Kelly Shoppach, C
Carlos Peguero, RF
Jason Bay, LF
Robert Andino, SS

SP: RH Brandon Maurer (1-3, 7.45 ERA)

  • Pujols, in case you didn’t notice, is playing first base today for the first time since April 15. He’s started seven straight games at DH, including nine of his last 10. The plantar fasciitis on his left foot, he said, is no better and no worse. But he doesn’t feel like it would bother him too much playing defense. He hopes to start three of the four games of this series there, then Monday and Tuesday against Oakland.
  • Seeking some length in the bullpen, with Michael Roth and Jerome Williams both knocked out, the Angels called up Barry Enright, who has been struggling mightily in Triple-A. He’ll serve as a long reliever.
  • Sean Burnett (right forearm) is good to go. He was ready on Wednesday, if needed. But the game got out of hand in a hurry.
  • Tommy Hanson is tentatively scheduled to rejoin the team on Monday and start that game — the series opener against the A’s.
  • Erick Aybar (left heel) played five innings in extended Spring Training today and will be re-evaluated tomorrow. No word yet on when he can be back.
  • Alberto Callaspo has progressed towards during sprints, but his right calf is still bothering him when he moves side to side. He isn’t expected to return from the DL on this road trip.
  • Right-handed reliever Elvin Ramirez cleared waivers and was outrighted to Triple-A Salt Lake, clearing a spot on the Angels’ 40-man roster (now at 39).


Previewing the 2013 season …


Come Monday, Jered Weaver will be making his fourth straight Opening Day start, Josh Hamilton‘s reunion tour will begin and the Angels will (once again) try to cash in on the grand expectations they carry into the season.

Before that happens, here’s a station-to-station look at where they stand heading into what should be a very fun 2013 …

Position players: I don’t see a way this team won’t be among the top three in runs scored in the American League this season. From mid-May to the end of the season last year, when Mike Trout arrived in more ways than one and Albert Pujols remembered he’s Albert Freakin’ Pujols, the Angels led the Majors in runs per game. And that was without Hamilton, mind you. The Angels have three dynamic speed guys (Peter Bourjos-Trout-Erick Aybar) and three lethal power hitters (Pujols-Hamilton-Mark Trumbo) all conveniently lining up together. The rest of the guys (Howie Kendrick, Alberto Callaspo, Chris Iannetta) don’t need to be anything more than themselves for the Angels to be an offensive juggernaut. Defensively, Trout-Bourjos-Hamilton could be the best defensive outfield in baseball (which tailors perfectly to their flyball-heavy pitching staff) and the infield is solid at every position.

WEAVERStarters: Angels starters got their necessary work this spring, but just barely. Spring Training may not teach us much, but it certainly didn’t quell any apprehensions about this rotation. Everyone except the no-walks Joe Blanton struggled at some point, with Weaver, Jason Vargas and Tommy Hanson all bringing temporary concerns that they wouldn’t have enough stamina heading into the regular season. But they do, and most importantly, they’re all healthy. Are they good enough to match one of the best offenses in baseball? No. Will they be adequate enough to eat innings (so the ‘pen doesn’t get worn out) and keep the Angels in games (with the lineup taking care of the rest)? That’s the plan. The key: C.J. Wilson, the $77.5 million No. 2 starter who should be a lot better than his 2012 second half.

Relievers: The Angels are deeper here, with or without Ryan Madson (who is still on track to return in late April or early May, barring another setback). They’ve added arguably the best free-agent lefty available in Sean Burnett, will have a full season of Ernesto Frieri, are banking on Kevin Jepsen‘s last three months being no fluke and, along with Scott Downs, seemingly have four formidable options to protect leads late in games. There’s also the high-upside Garrett Richards, coming off a great spring, the hard-throwing Mark Lowe, who the Angels have targeted since November, and the veteran Jerome Williams. Many will point to last year’s 22 blown saves as the biggest reason the Angels ultimately missed the playoffs, and this year, they’re better in the ‘pen. But that’s on paper. Relievers are a very unpredictable species.

Reserves: If all their everyday players stay healthy, this won’t be much of a factor, particularly in the AL. Chances are, though, injuries will happen. And given that, the Angels took a step back with regards to their bench (though if you’re going to pick one area to downgrade, this would be it). Without Vernon Wells, they don’t have any real power threat in reserve — besides Hank Conger, but he’s the backup catcher — and are pretty darn young. Andrew Romine takes over for the seasoned Maicer Izturis and Conger, awfully talented but coming off a spring soured by throwing woes, has spent most of the last three years in Triple-A. Contact-hitting lefty outfielder J.B. Shuck is the third player on this bench making his first Opening Day roster. The last reserve, veteran infielder Brendan Harris, hasn’t been in the big leagues since 2010.

Depth: The Angels’ farm system is dead last in all of baseball, according to ESPN and Baseball America. But those in the organization will tell you that mostly has to do with pitching; their position-player talent is just fine. Furthermore, the Angels’ front office is confident they’ve built more depth in the upper levels to serve as insurance in 2013. The Triple-A roster has several players with Major League experience, such as Luis Rodriguez, Tommy Field, Scott Cousins, Trent Oeltjen, Chris Snyder (possibly), John Hester, Luke Carlin, Mitch Stetter and Fernando Cabrera. But with Richards’ length shortened in the ‘pen, and Williams’ workload unpredictable as a swing man, where do the Angels turn if something happens to one of their starters? Barry Enright, Billy Buckner, Matt Shoemaker and the young A.J. Schugel figure to make up the Salt Lake Bees’ rotation.

Financials: The Angels’ payroll sits under $150 million, thanks to the Yankees taking on $11.5 million of Wells’ 2013 salary in the recent trade. The deal also bought them some luxury tax flexibility. Prior to the deal, the Angels’ Competitive Balance Tax payroll — which takes into account the average annual value of all 40-man roster salaries, plus benefits and performance bonuses at the end of the season — was $178 million, the threshold at which first-time offenders are taxed 17.5 percent by Major League Baseball. Now, it’s about $172M, giving them some flexibility to take on salary in an in-season trade. Last year, after acquiring Zack Greinke, their CBT payroll was at $178 million, which affected their pursuit of some necessary relief-pitching help.

Underlying theme: Expectations can do some funny things, and it’ll be interesting to see how the magnitude of it all will play into how the Angels go about — and react to — their second year under the microscope. Will it affect them out of the gate? Will it bring turmoil in the clubhouse, especially now that Torii Hunter is gone? Can it cause more tension between Jerry Dipoto and Mike Scioscia, who have their philosophical differences and were at odds at times last season? And what will it lead Arte Moreno to do if they miss the playoffs for a fourth straight season?


In addition to Trumbo at DH, how much time do you think he will get a first base and right field, giving Pujols and Hamilton a day to rest their legs? (Stephen H., San Luis Obispo)

SOSHPlenty. And if I had to pin a number on it, I’d say there’s a very good chance — even if everyone stays healthy — that Trumbo spends about half his time playing the field. If he’s hitting, he’ll be in the lineup for all the Angels’ Interleague games. For a good chunk of April, with Pujols in the early stages of his return from offseason knee surgery, he figures to play plenty of first base. With Wells gone, he’s also the fourth outfielder. And fundamentally, with so much money tied to Hamilton and Pujols long-term, Scioscia will get them off their feet as often as necessary now that he has a revolving door at DH (that wasn’t very feasible with Kendrys Morales there last year).

Do you see the day when the Angels move Trout down in the batting order and put Bourjos, if he can cut it, in the leadoff spot? (Albert H., Los Angeles)

I do. Scioscia continues to say Trout profiles better in the middle of the order, the reason being that you want your best hitter to be in as many RBI situations as possible. The makeup of the Angels’ lineup right now — with Pujols, Hamilton and Trumbo in the middle of the order, and no clear solution in the leadoff spot just yet — means Trout is the best fit to bat first. You can argue that the Angels’ everyday lineup doesn’t figure to change much any time soon, with almost everyone in the books long term. But Trout is the kind of player you construct a lineup around, and his bat figures to eventually become too potent to not put in the 3 spot.

Is this the year the Angels finally get back to the playoffs and make a deep run? (Samuel M., Tempe, Ariz.)

Who knows. I do think that, on paper, they are the best team in the AL West and should win the division. Once you get in the playoffs, it’s a crapshoot. The sample size is too small. But 162 games is not a small sample size, and if the Angels stay healthy, there is no excuse for not taking the division crown. The Rangers’ lineup took a step back, replacing Hamilton with Lance Berkman, and the pitching staff won’t have Neftali Feliz, Colby Lewis or Joakim Soria to start the season. The A’s are deep, but will need a lot of guys to over-perform again. It’s nice to see the Mariners spending money, but they still have holes and concerns all over the place. And the Astros are a last-place team. But who am I kidding — predicting a baseball season is a foolish act.

Now, at last, we can see how it all plays out on the field.

Don’t forget, you can also follow me on Instagram and Google+.


Catching up with Angels of yesteryear …

Torii HunterThe Angels, in case you missed it, had quite the turnover this offseason. I knew that. But it didn’t really hit me until today, when I decided to compile a list of all the guys who are on a new team this spring. Below are nine of them — with Jason Isringhausen still in limbo — to catch you up on how 2012 Angels look heading into 2013 …

RF Torii Hunter (DET)

Numbers: .207 BA (6-for-29), 1 HR, 2 RBI

Notes: No surprises for Hunter this spring. He’ll play right field and bat second (Jim Leyland likes him there). His son, Darius McClinton-Hunter, was not indicted in the sexual-assault case.

SP Zack Greinke (LAD)

Numbers: 3.60 ERA (2 ER, 5 IP), 3 K, 1 BB

Notes: Greinke missed Sunday’s bullpen session with minor forearm tightness and missed Wednesday’s start because of the flu, but he had an impressive bullpen session on Friday. Earlier in the spring, Greinke went into his social-anxiety disorder and his decision to sign with the Dodgers.

SP Dan Haren (WAS)

Numbers: 0-1, 3.60 ERA (2 ER, 5 IP), 5 K, 1 BB

Notes: Haren felt “a lot of good stuff” came out of his last outing. Last year, he said, “I didn’t trust myself.” Haren was involved in a prank-call this spring. Somebody made Peter Bourjos‘ cell phone ring in a pre-workout meeting — he suspected Mark Trumbo or Jered Weaver, or both — and the person on the other end was Haren, who was put on speaker phone so he could briefly talk with all of his ex-teammates.

SP Ervin Santana (KCR)

Numbers: 1.80 ERA (1 ER, 5 IP), 6 K, 1 BB

Notes: At $13 million, Santana is the highest-paid player on the Royals this year. They’re counting on a bounceback year.

DH Kendrys Morales (SEA)

Numbers: .320 BA (8-for-25), 2 HR, 4 RBI

Notes: Now that he has a full season under his belt after that devastating ankle injury, Morales can finally just have a normal spring. That’s big, given that this is his walk year.

INF Maicer Izturis (TOR)

Numbers: .160 BA (4-for-25), 1 RBI

Notes: Not a good start for Izturis, since he’s going to be fighting for playing time.

RP Jordan Walden (ATL)

Numbers: 1 IP, 4 R (1 ER), 3 H, 0 SO, 0 BB

Notes: Walden hasn’t appeared in a game since Feb. 23 due to a bulging disk in his back. He received an epidural injection in Atlanta on Wednesday, and if he continues to progress, he could throw off a mound again this weekend.

RP LaTroy Hawkins (NYM)

Numbers: 1 IP, 0 R, 2 H, 1 SO, 0 BB

Notes: Hawkins is 40 years old and now, after signing a Minor League deal with the Mets this offseason, has a good chance to make an Opening Day roster with his 10th different team.

C Bobby Wilson (NYY)

Numbers: .167 BA (2-for-12)

Notes: Some of you may be surprised to see he’s even on the Yankees. Wilson was claimed off waivers by the Blue Jays early in the offseason, but was released in late November and signed with the Yankees on a Minor League deal a couple weeks later. He’ll be in Triple-A, but with not much talent in front of him — Austin Romine, Francisco Cervelli, Chris Stewart — perhaps he can win playing time.


Mariners 9, Angels 8 …

Angels Mariners Spring Baseball

Plenty of story lines in the Angels’ fourth Cactus League game of the spring. Mike Trout debuted, Kendrys Morales faced his former team and Chad Cordero made his first appearance in a professional game since 2011.

That put Garrett Richards, making his spring debut, way in the background.

Richards worked two innings, giving up an unearned run on two hits while walking none and striking out one. The 24-year-old right-hander has been working with pitching coach Mike Butcher on keeping his posture straight as he drives towards home plate. Richards believes that has given him more control over his fastball, which will ultimately help him get ahead of hitters.

“Last year, I felt like I was a little bit herky jerky,” Richards said. “Now, I just feel like I’m free and easy. I’m throwing the ball about 80 percent and I don’t feel like I’m losing any velocity or any sharpness on my ball. I feel really good right now.”

Here are some quick hits on the Mariners’ (3-1) walk-off victory over the Angels (0-4), a game that saw each team notch 14 hits.

The good

Trout, leading off and playing left field, singled on a chopper in his first 2013 plate appearance, then flied out to shortstop and drew a walk before exiting. So, he’s hitting .500 in the Cactus League — but I’m not really sure what his WAR is yet.

The first batter Cordero saw in the bottom of the third, Brendan Ryan, hit a solo homer to left-center field. But the 30-year-old — who racked up 113 saves for the Expos/Nats from 2005-07, had shoulder surgery in 2008, lost his 11-week-old daughter in 2010, left baseball in 2011 and is now trying to make a comeback in the Angels’ Minor League camp — retired the next three batters on flyouts. He sat between 89 and 91 mph, where he’s always been, and said he “felt like a rookie again.”

Hank Conger, catching while Chris Iannetta started at DH, hit the Angels’ first home run of the spring — a two-out, three-run shot to left-center field in the first inning — then hit an RBI double and added a two-out RBI single, giving him five RBIs. His throwing may still be a little inconsistent, but his bat may get him on the roster.

Chad CorderoThe bad

Luis Jimenez, ranked sixth in the Angels’ system, made two errors at third base. He dropped a fly ball in the first inning and had a liner bounce off his glove in the fifth.

Kole Calhoun had a couple of misplays at first base, bobbling a grounder before making the out and then having another one go through his legs. He won’t be counted on to play much first base, though. Mike Scioscia just wanted to get the lefty-hitting outfielder in the lineup today.

Mark Sappington (taking in the fifth round in 2012) and Matt Oye (in the Angels system the last four years) came over from Minor League camp and struggled, giving up a combined six runs on seven hits in the seventh and eighth. R.J. Alvarez (a third-rounder last year) suffered the loss after giving up a triple to Francisco Martinez and a walk-off single to Brian Moran in the bottom of the ninth.

Best play (that I saw)

In case you needed any reminders, Peter Bourjos is fast. After drawing his second walk, he moved from first to third — third! — on a wild pitch. He recalled doing that a couple times in the Minors.

Best quote

Cordero (pictured top right) on Trout: “He’s like one giant muscle.”


Protecting Josh Hamilton …

Josh HamiltonThere was a point in the offseason, immediately after he was signed, when placing Josh Hamilton in the No. 2 spot made some sense.

Less than a week later, though, that went out the window.

“When Josh was originally signed and we had Kendrys Morales, who’s a bat we felt was going to be there, I think there was definitely some lineups that looked like it worked with Josh in the 2-hole,” Angels manager Mike Scioscia said, referencing an eventual trade that sent Morales to the Mariners for Jason Vargas on Dec. 19, four days after Hamilton was signed to a five-year, $125 million contract.

“It might evolve to adjusting it a little bit here or there. But right now the way we line up, and wanting to take advantage of Albert’s on-base percentage, where you project it to be, Josh hitting behind him makes sense right now both from a balance and production perspective.”

Pujols’ career on-base percentage is .414; Hamilton’s is .363. It makes sense to bat Albert third and Hamilton fourth, for the simple fact that he’d get more chances throughout the course of a season. For the Tigers, Prince Fielder started all 162 games last year in the cleanup spot and got 690 plate appearances; Miguel Cabrera started one less game in the No. 3 spot and finished with 697 plate appearances.

Subtle difference, sure, but you’re usually going to want the better hitter getting those extra 10 or 15 plate appearances.

Albert PujolsAs a whole, though, would the Angels’ lineup be better off if Pujols and Hamilton flip-flopped in the middle of the order, simply because of what it would mean for Hamilton?

Consider: Nobody in baseball saw fewer fastballs than Hamilton last year (44.6 percent) and nobody swung at more pitches outside of the strike zone (45.4 percent). With Pujols in the on-deck circle, and Mike Trout frequently on base, Hamilton only figures to see more fastballs and more strikes if he’s batting third rather than fourth.

But would pitchers really attack him much different — significantly different than they would if Hamilton batted fourth and Mark Trumbo was behind him?

Scioscia doesn’t think so, pointing to the fact Adrian Beltre was protecting him in Texas and Hamilton still saw an inordinate amount of breaking balls out of the strike zone. So, for now at least, he’s sticking to Hamilton as his cleanup hitter.

“I think it’s just a function of how Josh was pitched,” Scioscia said. “Sometimes the pitches [hitters] see is not going to be contingent on who’s behind him, it’s just going to be how guys are trying to pitch to them. And with Josh, I think it was more that case than anything else.”


%d bloggers like this: