Earlier this offseason, Buster Olney ranked the Angels’ outfield as the best in baseball, and it’s hard to disagree with that assessment.
The Angels’ outfield was already one of the best (if not the best) in 2012, but it’s possible that 2013′s threesome could be even better. The Halos’ current outfield has the mythical Mike Trout patrolling left, Peter Bourjos racing around in center, Josh Hamilton holding down right, Vernon Wells warming up the bench, Mark Trumbo rotating between first base, designated hitter, and possibly the outfield, as well as Kole Calhoun and Scott Cousins toiling around in the upper minors.
Mike Trout, as you all know, is coming off a historic season, and the chances of him duplicating it are an extreme uncertainty. It’s possible that Trout may have peaked in 2012, but it’s also possible he will encounter the normal aging curve that most players go through (which would be scary). This remains to be seen, but either way, Trout should be among the most valuable players in baseball this year. ZiPS projects Trout to have roughly an 8 WAR season. Keep in mind that ZiPS is a relatively conservative projection system, and that makes that number jump out even more. In 2012, Trout hit .326/.399/.564 with 30 home runs, 49 stolen bases, and 129 runs scored. Trout probably won’t be able to replicate the .326 batting average he had last season, mostly due to his insanely high .383 BABIP, which may or may not be sustainable. With the batting average drop, Trout’s OBP should drop slightly as well, although I do expect some improvement in his walk rate next year as most hitters tend to become more disciplined the further they get in their careers. Power wise, Trout could hit 30 home runs again in 2013, but scouts never saw him as a guy with that kind of over-the-fence power. He might regress slightly to the 20-25 home run range next season, albeit with plenty of doubles and triples. Hitting in front of the likes of Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will certainly boost Trout’s runs scored, making him a safe bet to cross home plate 100+ times. One thing that shouldn’t regress in 2013 is his speed, and therefore his stolen base totals. Trout played less than a full season last year, and still managed to lead the league in steals. Trout is the complete package, and his presence alone is a source of optimism for the state of the franchise.
In center, Peter Bourjos is penciled in as the starter, making the Angels’ outfield defense among the best in baseball, even without mentioning Josh Hamilton, who primarily played center field in Texas. Bourjos received sporadic playing time in 2012, making his seasonal statistics somewhat misleading. Bourjos hit just .220 in 186 at-bats, and although he played in a modest 101 games, many of those appearances were late entrances as a defensive replacement or pinch-runner. In 2011, Bourjos’s only full season in the big leagues, he did post a .765 OPS with 22 steals and a league-leading 11 triples, while being worth 4.5 wins above replacement. These varying results, make his potential offensive impact a question mark. The real Peter Bourjos is probably somewhere in between the performances he had in 2011 and 2012. Bourjos should be able to provide some decent offensive production with the bat from the 9 hole, but most of his value will be tied to his outstanding defense, where he is among the best outfielders in baseball.
The presence of Mike Trout and Peter Bourjos will force Hamilton to move over to right field in 2013, where he should still be sound defensively. Hamilton had the highest swing and miss rate in all of baseball last year, and while that is certainly not a good thing, he also led baseball in ISO. Adding Hamilton’s potential 40+ home run bat to a lineup that already featured three 30 home run hitters is quite scary. It should also be noted that Hamilton’s 25.5 strikeout rate from last season was by far the highest of his career, and well above his career mark of 19.7%. He also posted a career high 9.4 walk percentage last season, something that has been overlooked amidst his growing eagerness to swing the bat. Hamilton has a career .386 wOBA (an exceptional number), and although he probably won’t repeat his insane 2010 season, an average version of Hamilton is still among the best hitters in the game.
Mark Trumbo will likely get the majority of starts as the designated hitter. Trumbo should also be somewhat of a super-corner-sub for the Angels next season, as he can play first base, left field, right field, and even third base if you don’t mind statue-like range and having to look the other way every time a ball is hit in his direction. But of course, Trumbo’s real value is in his bat. Like Hamilton, Trumbo is one of the free-est swingers in baseball. He made contact on just 71% of pitches he swung at, good for the 11th worst mark in baseball. Nevertheless, his overall production is undeniable, as he was 26% better than the average batter last season, and his raw power is among the best in the game. His OBP will likely never be high, with the chances of him topping .320 this season rather slim, but his .346 wOBA last season was quite strong, and it’s reasonable to assume that he can repeat that.
The profoundly overpaid Vernon Wells will once again be riding the pine for the Angels. In what came as a relief to many Halos fans, Wells spent quite a bit of time on the 60-day DL last season, but he should be good to go for 2013. When he is playing, Wells could be hard to watch, as he has posted wRC+’s of 79 and 88 as an Angel. He still should provide decent power, as he hit 11 long balls in just 262 plate appearances last season.
Of the outfielders hanging around the upper minors, Scott Cousins and Kole Calhoun are the two most likely to contribute in 2013. Cousins has a brutal OPS+ of 41 in just 188 career plate appearances, making him a probable last resort for the club. Calhoun had an .876 OPS in Triple-A last season, and managed to squeeze in 25 plate appearances at the big league level. Calhoun’s bat has always been a strong-suit for him, and he should be at least a 4th outfielder at the big league level, with a decent chance to outgrow that projection. The real problem for him is the fact that he’s likely the 5th or 6th best outfielder in an organization that is quite strong at the position.
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