If you were to pick an area of the Angels that was their Achilles heel last season, you’d have to start with a look at the failures of their starting pitching. Yet during the offseason, the Angels made the biggest splash in the free agent market when they opted to throw another $125 million into their outfield and continued to transform their lineup into a premium offensive juggernaut. For fantasy owners looking for both power and speed in the outfield, the Halos have become a one-stop shop that can easily satisfy all of your needs.
To start, here’s a quick look at the team’s initial outfield depth chart…
|Right Field:||Josh Hamilton||Mark Trumbo||Vernon Wells||Kole Calhoun|
|Center Field:||Peter Bourjos||Mike Trout||Vernon Wells||Travis Witherspoon|
|Left Field:||Mike Trout||Josh Hamiilton||Vernon Wells|
Obviously, the easiest place to begin is in left with Trout. After providing fantasy owners with what was arguably the best season a rookie has ever had, all time — a .326 average and just one stolen base shy of a 30-50 season — the 21-year old phenom comes into the 2013 season as a top three overall pick. Where he falls in relation to Miguel Cabrera and Ryan Braun is entirely up to you, but given his level of talent and the production he provides, his name is easily deserving of mention with the other two despite just one season of production.
Will he regress this season? Maybe. There are plenty of “experts” saying that he will. After all, he did slow down towards the end of the second half of last season, didn’t he? And now there are reports that he has tacked on an additional 10-15 pounds of muscle to his frame, something that could hinder how well he runs. But then again, he also has the benefit of playing a full season up in the majors so perhaps those extra 25 games will help make up the difference. Either way, while it’s real easy to say that he won’t be as productive this year as he was last year, the bottom line remains that, with his ability to hit for both power and average while also being capable of stealing a ton of bases, Trout is going to be one of the most highly sought after commodities in drafts this year.
Which now moves us over to right field where the Angels opened up the coffers to bring in Hamilton who, when healthy, is one of the most feared hitters in the game. Last season’s first half, in which he hit .308 while belting 27 home runs with 75 RBI was absolutely ridiculous and provided his owners with more production than many outfielders give for an entire season. The drop-off in the second half was a bummer, but still…who’s thumbing their nose at 16 home runs and 53 RBI in a half year?
There are two things though, as Hamilton gears up for his first season as member of the Angels, upon which the skeptics are are focusing — his health and the move from hitter-friendly Arlington to pitcher-friendly Angel Stadium. While they are right to express concern for his health (the shoulder, the back, etc.), the worries over the park change can easily be assuaged with a look at his home/road splits. Last season he hit just one more home run at home than he did on the road and over the last three years, he’s had a 58/42 split. It’s pretty safe to say that he’s going to rake in whatever ballpark he hits, making him an obvious must-have with a bit of caution to boot.
Now center field is where it gets a little tricky. Right now Bourjos is slated to be the starter and bat eighth or ninth, giving the Angels fantastic defense and a strong element of speed at the bottom of their order. If he’s guaranteed playing time, then he’s definitely someone to target in the later rounds of your draft. The problem is that manager Mike Scioscia doesn’t seem to be 100-percent committed to him right now, according to a recent report in the Los Angeles Times. “Peter is definitely in the mix to earn playing time; he gives us an incredible defensive look in the outfield,” Scioscia said. “But there are a lot of lineups, depending on who the designated hitter is and if things change, where Trout is in center. We have some guys who are fighting for playing time.”
Should Bourjos struggle at the plate initially, Scioscia could turn to Wells or Trumbo in left, pushing Trout back into center field. We’ve all seen how Scioscia can be when he isn’t fully confident in a player and while most in the organization seem to favor Bourjos, the ultimate decision lands with the manager. Bourjos is probably the best choice, but fantasy owners will have to err on the side of caution here as, even if he does hit, he could still lose some time when Scioscia moves Trumbo around to get guys like Hamilton and Albert Pujols a rest from the field while keeping their bats in the lineup. A late-round flier on Bourjos for outfield depth is the ideal move and should he lock himself in, you then have yourself some nice roster depth and flexibility.
As for reserves, you’ve got some nice quality in Calhoun and Witherspoon. Calhoun has a solid glove in the outfield and is a good power/speed combo just waiting for an opportunity. Should he make the team out of camp, you could see him as a late-game defensive replacement or pinch runner and if anything were to happen to Hamilton for any length of time, he could be a nice sleeper candidate as he’s probably a better option than Wells. As for Witherspoon, he’s an even darker horse and will likely open the season in Triple-A but should also be one of the first up should the Halos need some additional depth. He’s got good speed and a little bit of power but is in definite need of more seasoning.