The situation in the Los Angeles Angels outfield looks far more hellish than it did a season ago. Mike Trout reprises his role as all-around best player in the game, but he’ll be flanked by the aging Josh Hamilton and an unproven Kole Calhoun. While everyone will be rushing to grab Trout early, both Hamilton and Calhoun can make or break teams. A rebound by Hamilton, or breakout from Calhoun, could shoot fantasy teams up the leaderboard. Is either player worth the risk?
There’s not much more we can say about Mike Trout in an analytical sense. He’s easily the best player in the game, and arguably the best player in fantasy depending on how much you value position scarcity. While he lost some points in wOBA, his overall slash line was identical to his ridiculous rookie season breakout. Trout also managed to increase his already strong 10.5% walk rate to a near-league leading 15.4% last year. On top of that, he also slightly cut down on his strikeout rate. Oh yeah, did we mention he’s entering his age-22 season? Barring an injury, Trout should once again be one of the best players in fantasy, and a must-have anchor for any team.
J.B. Shuck is slated to be the team’s main backup at each position in the outfield. He proved to be a useful player last season, though he probably shouldn’t be thrust into a full-time role. As a part-timer, he can slap the ball around enough to provide value. He’s not a patient hitter, but he’s also not going to strikeout much. He’s a solid fourth outfielder who can hit singles and occasionally steal second. There’s value there for a real-life team, not so much for fantasy teams.
Does Josh Hamilton have anything left in the tank? The outfielder slogged his way through the first four months of the season before finally coming around in the final two months of the year. This didn’t necessarily show up in his power numbers, but was reflected in his average. The big issue the past two years for Hamilton has been his increasing strikeout rate and his approach. While neither issue hurt him much in 2012, both showed up last season. Admittedly, Hamilton’s approach did improve at the plate last year, but the strikeouts remained, and his numbers bottomed out. Hamilton will be 33-years-old in May, and it’s time to start to wonder whether he’s starting to show some natural decline. If he’s lost even a little bat speed, that could drastically alter his upside at the plate. There were also far too many times where Hamilton would hopelessly swing at the low and outside slider last year. It’s certainly possible Hamilton improves during his second season in LA, but there are plenty of reasons to show caution, or just stay away completely.
Despite never making a top-100 prospect list, Kole Calhoun has some useful skills. Calhoun’s numbers came in just 222 plate appearances last year, but he showed enough to make him a potential sleeper this year. Calhoun walks at an acceptable rate, and doesn’t strikeout at an alarming rate. The biggest questions appears to be how much power and speed he’ll give fantasy teams. Calhoun was capable of hitting 20-22 home runs in the minors, and that could carry over in the bigs. It might be a stretch to expect double-digit steals, but he could swipe a handful of bases. While those numbers are solid, Calhoun’s spot in the batting order should suppress his chances at racking up runs or RBIs. Though Jeff Zimmerman compared Calhoun to some interesting outfielders, those guys will hit in the middle of the order for their teams. Calhoun will begin the year at the bottom of the order until he proves he can handle more.
In case of emergency, Raul Ibanez
Raul Ibanez deserves to be mentioned here, though he’ll mainly be utilized as a DH. We know what Ibanez is at this point. His only redeeming skill is his power. He should never play the field, even if Trout can cover an obscene amount of ground. Ibanez’s slash line won’t be good enough to use regularly in most leagues, so his power will be his only asset.
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