In one of the lesser heralded July deals this season, the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim acquired Alberto Callaspo of the Kansas City Royals in exchange for pitchers Sean O’Sullivan and Will Smith. This trade, predictably, hasn’t had much of an effect on the 2010 playoff race, but for the Angels, Callaspo must be viewed as a long term investment. He won’t receive his first arbitration award until next season, meaning that Callaspo could potentially man third base for the Angels for the next three years or more.
This season, however, hasn’t been kind to Tony Reagins’s new investment. Callaspo has a .256/.298/.323 slash line with the Angels in his 209 plate appearances with the team, a mark reminiscent of his terrible first seasons with the Arizona Diamondbacks in 2006 and 2007. Callaspo’s power has all but disappeared, as he has only mustered two home runs and seven doubles with the Angels after putting up eight and 19 respectively with the Royals. Combine that with a drop in BABIP to .262, and the recipe is a disastrous line for Callaspo.
Callaspo isn’t a great hitter because he doesn’t provide much pop, (.115 career ISO), doesn’t walk much 6.9% career walk rate, and has relative struggles with balls in play (.291 BABIP). However, Callaspo is among the best in the league at avoiding the strikeout, as he has only suffered the strikeout only 7.6% of the time in his career, less than half of the league average. It’s this skill that has allowed Callaspo to produce in the majors in the past, as he has managed to accrue 4.1 WAR in 1600 PAs despite the deficiencies in his offensive game. He’s sustained this ability in his time with Los Angeles, striking out only 11 times so far, just over 5% of his plate appearances.
There’s definitely reason to believe that Callaspo can return to respectability. He hit well enough in Kansas City to post 1.2 WAR before the trade. CHONE projected Callaspo for a .335 OBP and .417 SLG as of August 28th. However, Callaspo’s time with the Angels has shown that simply making contact isn’t enough to create a good major league hitter. And still, despite the struggles, at least Callaspo has far outperformed Brandon Wood and his 10 wRC+. The Angels should still feel good about this trade despite the lack of early returns, as Callaspo should be a useful player for the Angels, whether it’s in a starting role or as a solid utility player.