Overcrowded Angels in the Outfield

Saturday December 24th, 2011

Sam Evans: Heading into the 2012 season, the Los Angeles Angels of U.S.A. of California of Anaheim have six outfielders that will be vying for playing time in the majors. Three of their outfielders have been selected to at least two all-star games, one is the best prospect in baseball, and the forgotten one was their best player last year. Let’s go through these players and decide who will be the starters for the Angels this coming year.

Mike Trout, CF, LF, RF: Trout has been the best prospect in baseball for the last two years, and looks like a sure superstar in the making. He is a true five-tool prospect, and he has been clocked from home to first in a startling 3.75 seconds. This summer,  a scout told Angels AA manager Bill Mosiello, “Maybe this is what Mickey Mantle looked like when he was 18.”

With the Halos in 2011, the 20-year-old Trout hit .220 with five home runs in forty games. He was probably rushed to the majors a little too early, but he impressed players and coaches with his physical abilities.

In 2012, Trout needs consistent playing time at the major league level. If Trout is on the roster, the Angels have no other choice but to play him. If Trout fails in the majors, then they can send him back to the minors. But he needs a fair shot first. That’s why heading into this season, the Angels should have Trout penciled in as their starting right-fielder.

Ryan Langerhans, LF, RF: The Angels signed Langerhans to a minor league contract on Friday. Langerhans has played for the Mariners, Nationals, and Braves in his career. He has never posted great numbers at the major league level and he’s always struggled against right-handed pitchers. However, Langerhans has established a reputation for being a clutch player. He has 26 go ahead hits in his career.

Langerhans should definitely start in AAA. If any of the other outfielders get injured, he is a solid option to call up to the majors temporarily. For right now, he is just simplynot talented enough to compete with the other Angels outfielders for a full-time gig.

Bobby Abreu, LF,RF,DH: Abreu is a solid, consistent player. Still, he is 37-years-old and his level of play has dropped off drastically in the last couple of seasons. In 2012 (his contract year), Abreu is set to make nine million dollars.  That is a lot of coin to pay someone to sit on the bench.

Last year, Abreu hit .253 with 8 homers, 21 stolen bases, and a .353 OBP. Despite his age, Abreu can get on base and is a solid base runner. He can read the pitcher better than anyone else in baseball. Abreu started 108 games as the Angels DH last year, and he played the outfield for only 28 games.

For the upcoming season, Abreu should split time with Mark Trumbo at DH. The Angels might trade Trumbo, who has drawn interest from other clubs. Another scenario that I could see happening is the Angels trading Abreu at the trade deadline. To a team seeking a productive veteran outfielder, Abreu would be the perfect acquisition.

Peter Bourjos, CF: Last year, Bourjos was the Angels most valuable outfielder. Borjous was an above-average hitter who posted a 115 OPS+, and hit 11 triples to lead the American League. However, most of Bourjos’ value is found is his defense. Bourjos was one of the best defensive outfielder in all of baseball last year. He had a 7.5 Ultimate Zone Rating in 2011.

Bourjos should split time in center field with Trout. Even though both Bourjos and Trout are outstanding defensive center-fielders, Bourjos covers more ground and is slightly more valuable. Bourjos needs to play everyday in 2012, and I’d be shocked if Mike Scioscia didn’t have Bourjos as his opening day center fielder.

Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells, RF and LF: Torii Hunter is one of the more fun to watch players in baseball. He is also extremely respected amongst his teammates. Over his career, Hunter has hit .274 with an average of twenty-four homers a year. Hunter is signed through this year, and is set to make $18.5 million dollars.

Vernon Wells is probably the reason why former Angels GM Tony Reagins quit his position (insiders say he was set to be fired but was allowed to resign instead to save face). The Angels traded Mike Napoli for Vernon Wells and the worst contract in baseball last offseason. Vernon Wells is signed through 2014 and due $21.5 million in 2012. That’s only about four million less than Albert Pujols salary in 2012.  Blown away?  I certainly am.

To put it bluntly, Wells is not a very good baseball player anymore. In 2012, Wells hit .218 with 25 homers, but only a .248 OBP. Compared to Hunter’s .281 AVG with 21 homers and a .354 OBP, Wells looks pretty awful.

Hunter and Wells will probably end up seeing the field about the same number of times. That’s not because of their abilities, it’s just because of Well’s contract. Defensively, Wells actually has a slight advantage over the nine-time gold glover Torii Hunter (although most baseball people would choose Hunter).

Overall, the Angels outfield situation is a mess. The Halos have some very talented players, and a trio of overpaid veterans. The Angels outfield logjam gives the team flexibility, with backup solutions in case of injuries or poor play. I would be mildly surprised if the Angels didn’t make a trade before the season. They need to find some bullpen arms and maybe another starter for their rotation. With their plethora of outfielders, they can and should definitely make a trade. It will be more based around what they can get in return. Happy Holidays!

***Today’s feature was prepared by our Baseball Writer, Sam Evans.  We highly encourage you to leave your comments and feedback at the bottom of the page and share in the discussion with our readers.  You can also follow Sam on Twitter***


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About samevans87

I love writing, talking, watching, and playing baseball. I am a baseball writer for MLB Reports and Fish Stripes. "No game in the world is as tidy and dramatically neat as baseball, with cause and effect, crime and punishment, motive and result, so cleanly defined." -Paul Gallic

Posted on December 24, 2011, in The Rest: Everything Baseball and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 13 Comments.

  1. Well as Braves fan I would love to see Bourjous as OF option for the Braves for this year so why not thw owners of the Angels and Braves make a deal possible Jair Jurrjens and Martin Prado for Bourjous?

    • The Angels have arguably the most vaunted rotation in the majors.

      While I would certainly take Jurrjens over our current 5th starter Jerome Williams (for the record, I like him a lot), Jurrjens would simply be a luxury, not a necessity.

      While Braves fans insist that Jurrjens is an ace, his peripheral stats and quite frankly his pitch arsenal would suggest otherwise, despite impressive ERA’s in 2009 and 2011. For a 25 year old who is a finesse pitcher, his injury history is rather unsettling.

      Prado is a nice player and would probably be a slight upgrade at third.

      That having been said, Bourjos is far too valuable a player to be packaged for luxury pieces. His superb defense, blazing speed and high offensive ceiling are make him a difficult aspect to part with.

  2. “He is a true five-tool prospect, and he has been clocked from first to home in a startling 3.75 seconds.”

    This is impossible. No one can run 90 yards in 3.75 seconds.

  3. Langerhans is not an option. Unless the outfield is decimated with injuries he won’t see the light of day on the ML squad.

    Abreu is not an outfield option. As an occasional fill in he is *OK* at best. His bat just doesn’t play well and his fielding is among the worst in the league. He is a DH only and should be traded ASAP.

    The outfield will start out with Wells/Bourjos/Hunter. Trout will start in AAA (unless it becomes abundantly clear that Wells is not improving). I imagine that those guys all start for at least the first few months of the year. After that, Trout gets pulled up and Wells shifts to the bench.

    The outfield, per se, isn’t overly crowded. It’s a bigger issue with the DH spot. You have Abreu, Trumbo, and possibly Morales all fighting it out. I would love to see Abreu moved and then Morales/Trumbo can split time there.

    • Yeah, i don’t see Langerhans playing in more than thirty games. I just thought it was interesting that they signed another outfielder. I’m not sure what the new GM and Scioscia will do with Bourjos and Trout. I’m not sure how much interest Abreu is going to draw from other teams, but if the Angels ate some of his salary, then i could see a team like the Pirates making a move. I really think that Morales is the wild card. We can;t have any idea of what to expect from him. Trumbo is not valuable at all, unless he can raise his OBP.
      thanks for the comment!

  4. This is a problem that (other than the Wells contract) several other teams would love to have!

  5. I disagree, respectfully.

    Trout playing in the majors in 2012 isn’t a must. Remember, he completely skipped AAA when he was called up last year. It makes sense on three levels (development, player control, and monetary) to stick him at AAA til at least June, and possibly longer (depending on how Wells is playing).

    Scratch one OF off your “logjam” list, albeit temporarily.

    Langerhans shouldn’t even be mentioned. He’s no more than a journeyman role player, and will surely be relegated to the bench, or as you said, AAA.

    Sratch a second OF off your “logjam” list.

    Like you said, Bourjos is obviously a mainstay in CF.

    Hunter and Wells will obviously receive the lion’s share of innings in RF and LF, but that doesn’t mean Abreu will be riding the pine all season…

    Wells/Hunter/Bourjos sat out a combined 52 games in 2011, so that’s 52 starts for Bobby right there (this of course can be diminished should Trout get a call-up). Trumbo, or Morales (who is perhaps the most pivotal cog in the perceived logjam) will certainly receive days off, whether Trumbo matches up unfavorably versus a certain pitcher or Morales simply needs to rest his ankle. That’s another 15-20 starts for Bobby at DH, bringing his games started total to ~72.

    Perhaps the biggest x-factor is the “Mark Trumbo at 3rd base” experiment, which was supposed to take place during winter ball but got shelved when Trumbo sustained an ankle injury. I imagine he’ll see a huge chunk of innings at 3rd during spring training.

    I’m not putting too many eggs in that basket, but if he’s able to perform competently, that leaves the DH spot between Morales/Abreu. If so, Morales will surely be monitored and rested at LEAST once a week as a precaution, so Abreu would receive even more starts at DH.

    Of course, my mentioning of Morales is entirely predicated on his health, of which reports have been rather vague.

    Any way you splice it, Abreu will be the Angels 4th OF, receive roughly 70 games worth of starts between DH/RF/LF, and will be an outstanding replacement should (god forbid) Wells/Hunter/Bourjos sustain an injury.

    • Wow, Trumbo at third base! That’s interesting, if he played third then i’d probably start him off at Triple-A. I don’t see any reason why Trout isn’t ready for the big leagues immediately. I think that he is capable of hitting .280 with 18 hrs and above average defense if he was given playing time this year. The Angels probably will start Trout in AAA, but i’m not sure if that’s the right decision. In Salt Lake City, he won’t be challenged playing in a hitters park against not very good pitching.
      thanks for the comment!

  6. Great article! We also need to consider that Mark Trumbo can play RF and I think will be our permanent RF starting in 2013 once Hunter’s contract expires unless he ends up developing at 3B which is not very likely.

    If the Angels can trade Abreu for any quality reliever or prospect they should do it even if they have to eat most of his salary. They should also seriously entertain trade options for Wells eating most of his contract. I’d rather give Trout a chance to play every day in the majors and develop under the mentoring of Hunter then play Wells every day hoping for improvement.

    Our rotation would also benefit from having premium defensive outfielders which Trout would be an upgrade in over an aging Wells.

    • Trumbo in RF would be interesting.

      Abreu definitely won’t be back, and I assumed Hunter was as good as gone too, but there is strong indication that he may be willing to take a VERY team-friendly pay-cut to remain with the team, now that Albert is on board and the rotation is even more stacked.

      Obviously it comes down to how much (or technically how little) he’s willing to take. I’d say his 2011 production was worth about 10-12 million on the open market, so if he’s willing to sign for 7-8 annually, I say go for it.

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