It appears to be a sure thing that the Angels will deal long-time second baseman Howie Kendrick this winter for young pitching, but who will take his spot in 2014?
The Angels are likely going to try to regroup this offseason to contend while the aging core of Jered Weaver, CJ Wilson, Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton can still contribute. Though Kendrick would certainly help the Angels’ odds in 2014, their need for pitching is much greater than maintaining an offense that scored the 7th most runs in baseball last season. Plus, any loss in production by Kendrick’s replacement will likely be made up for by the return of Pujols and the fact that Hamilton really can’t be any worse than he was last year*.
The Angels’ farm system was ranked last by many publications entering 2013, and that ranking is unlikely to improve much come spring. Fortunately, the one bright spot in the Angels’ organization is their outstanding depth at the keystone. With three potential starting caliber 2nd basemen who have already reached Double-A, the Angels may already have a solution on their hands. However, despite an abundance of outfielders, the Angels went out and signed Josh Hamilton last winter, which indicates that this club may look for their starting second baseman on the free agent market. No matter the case, the Angels have a plethora of options to replace Kendrick.
In House Options
Taylor Lindsey: The 21-year-old former first round pick was ranked by Baseball America as the 7th best prospect in the Angels organization entering the year. A Double-A All-Star in 2013 and Pioneer League MVP in 2011, Lindsey has a potentially plus hit tool and is likely the top prospect in the Angels’ organization as of now. While he has the potential to hit .280+ in the majors, Lindsey lacks a second plus tool, which limits his ceiling as an above-average regular. This year, Lindsey hit .274/.339/.441 with 17 home runs for Double-A Arkansas, and it looks like he will start 2014 in Triple-A. His likely timetable to reach the majors is late next year, but his advanced hit tool could move up his debut.
Grant Green: A 2009 first round pick, Green was acquired by the Angels in the Alberto Callaspo trade this past summer. He played 40 games down the stretch for the Angels this year, all at second base. In 137 plate appearances with the Halos, Green hit .280/.336/.384, but was slightly less successful defensively. Already 26, Green’s upside is limited, but he is clearly big league ready and is probably the leading candidate to be the Angels’ starting second baseman come April.
Alex Yarbrough: Like Lindsey, Yarbrough’s calling card is his hit tool which could be plus at the big league level. Yarbrough also has solid pop which could enable him to hit for league average power in the majors. His tools are solid across the board, and if it weren’t for his lack of decent plate discipline, Yarbrough may be more highly regarded than he currently is. Yarbrough spent all of 2013 with High-A Inland Empire (where I scouted him back in June), and hit an outstanding .313/.341/.459 with 14 steals, 11 home runs, 10 triples, and 32 doubles in 136 games. He currently sits behind Lindsey on the depth chart as Yarbrough will likely spend a majority of 2014 in Double-A. His advanced bat could allow him to progress quickly and reach the big leagues sooner, but it is likely that we won’t see Yarbrough don an Angels’ uniform until at least September.
Brandon Phillips: The Reds have made it known that they are looking to deal the 32-year-old former All-Star, and the $50 million he is owed over the next 4 years will certainly lower his price tag. The Angels organization has shown a willingness to spend, so Phillips’ contractual obligations should be no problem for the club. Despite coming off a down year, Phillips is still a valuable commodity and may actually be an upgrade over Kendrick.
Robinson Cano: This is pure speculation on my part, and I highly doubt it happens, but with the team’s splurges the past two offseasons, it wouldn’t be surprising to see the Angels push to sign the MVP candidate. Cano, who hit .314/.383/.516 with a 7.6 WAR, would certainly be an upgrade over Kendrick, but his price tag will be enormous as the Yankees obviously want to retain the 5 time All-Star, and the financially limitless Dodgers have long been thought to make a run at him this winter.
Omar Infante: Infante has been quite productive for the Tigers over the past one-and-a-half seasons, and with Detroit lacking an obvious in-house replacement, Infante could remain with the Tigers. However, the 31-year-old utility man who has played every position except pitcher, first base, and catcher at the big league level is coming off a year in which he hit .318 and posted a 113 OPS+. He could look to capitalize on his career-year and take his talents to the highest bidder.
Were the Angels to deal Kendrick, they have a variety of options to replace him. My guess would be Grant Green starts the year at second before moving over to third once Lindsey is ready to take over, but we really won’t have a clearer picture of the situation until later this offseason.
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