When Angels’ manager Mike Scioscia unveiled his plan to bat 33-year old righty swinging 3B Yunel Escobar leadoff in 2016, I was a little skeptical. Escobar played in 139 games for the Nationals last year and he was 168 of 535 (.314 avg, .790 OPS) with 75 runs scored, 9 homers, 56 RBIs and 2 stolen bases. He has scored 75 or more runs only 3 times in his first 9 years in the show. But in digging deeper stat wise during Escobar’s career, he has been a good leadoff hitter. When batting leadoff in game, which he has done 246 (242 starts) times so far in his career, he is 288 of 993 (.290 avg, .767 OPS) with 142 runs scored, 22 homers, 90 RBIs and 5 stolen bases. In those 242 starts, Escobar is 79 for 222 (.356 avg, .923 OPS) with 7 homers in his first at bat of the game! When leading off an inning in his career, he is 326 of 1,121 (.291 avg, .744 OPS) with 22 homers! It looks like leading off Escobar might just pay off in spades for the Los Angeles Angels.
33-year old righty starting pitcher Jered Weaver is starting the downside of his career. I watched him pitch a spring training game last week and he could barely keep his fastball over 80 mph. One thing he does have going for him is the deception in his delivery, but it’s hard to see him excelling with smoke and mirrors. He pitched in 26 games (all starts) for the Los Angeles Angels last year and he was 7-12 with a 4.64 ERA and a 1.23 WHIP. 2015 was the first season of Weaver’s 10-year career that he did not win at least 11 games for the Angels. He is a three time All-Star and he did lead the American League in wins in both 2012 and 2014…..which wasn’t that long ago. He has now pitched in 291 games (all starts) in his first 10 years with the Angels and he is 138-81 with a 3.40 ERA and a 1.16 WHIP.
The Los Angeles Angels dealt starting pitchers Sean Newcomb and Chris Ellis over the winter to the Atlanta Braves for shortstop Andrelton Simmons. That has moved 24-year old lefty starting pitcher Nate Smith up the prospect rankings for the Angels, as he is currently their #3 prospect according to Baseball America. Smith pitched in 24 games (all starts) in AA+AAA-ball last year for the Angels and he is 10-8 with a 3.86 ERA and a 1.26 WHIP. Smith has now pitched in 60 games (54 starts) in his first three years in the minors and he is 23-16 with a 3.50 ERA and a 1.19 WHIP. Smith might be the first starting pitcher called up this year by the Angels if the need arises.
Left field is still a wide open competition this spring for the Los Angeles Angels. 26-year old switch-hitting Todd Cunningham is the best bet here. He comes into this season as the Angels’ #26 prospect despite being acquired off waivers over the winter from the Atlanta Braves. Cunningham played in 39 games for the Braves last year and he was 19 of 86 (.221 avg, .547 OPS) with 13 runs scored, 0 homers, 4 RBIs and 2 stolen bases. He also played in 97 games in AAA-ball for the Braves last year in which he was 86 of 329 (.261 avg, .663 OPS) with 42 runs scored, 2 homers, 31 RBIs and 9 stolen bases. Another option would be to use Cunningham in a platoon with 33-year old switch-hitting Daniel Nava or 32-year old righty swinging Craig Gentry OR the Angels could platoon Gentry and Nava in LF. Nava played in 60 games for the Red Sox and Rays last year in which he was 27 of 139 (.194 avg, .560 OPS) with 13 runs scored, 1 homer, 10 RBIs and 1 stolen base. Gentry played in 26 games for the A’s last year and he was 6 for 50 (.120 avg, .396 OPS) with 6 runs scored, 0 homers, 3 RBIs and 1 stolen base. Not too impressive. But, Nava has a career .281 batting average with a .787 OPS against righty pitchers and Gentry has a career .274 batting average with a .720 OPS against lefty pitchers. So you can see what the front office is thinking. Austin Jackson recently rejected a one year offer from the Angels. If none of these three guys step up this spring, the Angels should think about signing Marlon Byrd or Alex Rios to a 1-year, incentive laden deal.
30-year old righty reliever Dane De La Rosa has been a bright spot for the Angels during a very dim 2013 season. No one really blinked an eye when the Angels dealt reliever Steve Geltz to the Tampa Bay Rays for De La Rosa last March 27th, but it has been a huge move for the Angels. De La Rosa has pitched in 73 games (0 starts) for the Angels so far this year and he is 6-1 with 2 saves, a 2.92 ERA and a 1.18 WHIP. De La Rosa has given up only 56 hits and 28 walks while whiffing 63 batters in his first 71 innings for the Angels, which are very impressive numbers. De La Rosa has now pitched in 85 games (0 starts) in his first three years in the majors and he is 6-1 with 2 saves, a 4.10 ERA and a 1.27 WHIP.
You would never now that the Angels were stinking it out this year if you concentrated on watching 22-year old righty swinging outfielder Mike Trout. He finished #2 in the A.L. MVP Voting last year and he is showing this year that was only a glimpse of things to come. Trout has played in 150 games for the Angels so far this year and he is 186 of 568 (.327 avg, .999 OPS) with 108 runs scored, 26 homers, 92 RBIs and 33 stolen bases. Trout also has walked an A.L. leading 102 times while whiffing 125 times so far this year. Trout is leading the Angels in both runs scored (108) and stolen bases (33) in 2013 and he is also second on the team in both homers (26) and RBIs (92). Trout has now played in 329 games in his first three years with the Angels and he is 395 of 1,250 (.316 avg, .952 OPS) with 257 runs scored, 61 homers, 191 RBIs and 86 stolen bases.
28-year old righty closer Ernesto Frieri is back in a solid groove for the Angels. He was taken out of his closer’s role for a little bit and he has returned a better pitcher. Since August 1st, Frieri has pitched in 17 games (0 starts) for the Angels in which he is 2-1 with 9 saves, a 2.41 ERA and a 0.96 WHIP. He has given up 15 hits and 3 walks while whiffing 26 batters in his 18 2/3 innings since August 1st. Frieri has now pitched in 62 games (0 starts) overall this year for the Angels and he is 2-4 with 34 saves, a 3.68 ERA and a 1.24 WHIP. Frieri has really tightened up his control lately and the Angels hope that continues into the future.
25-year old lefty swinging outfielder Kole Calhoun is taking advantage of his shot to play this year for the Angels. He has played in 8 games for the Angels so far in September and he is 11 of 28 (.393 avg, 1.040 OPS) with 3 runs scored, 1 homer and 7 RBIs. Calhoun has now played in 39 games for the Angels overall this year and he is 35 of 122 (.287 avg, .856 OPS) with 19 runs scored, 6 homers, 21 RBIs and 1 stolen base. Calhoun came into this season as the Angels’ #11 prospect according to Baseball America and he’s trying to show that he’s going to be ready for a big role in 2014 and beyond for them.
26-year old righty swinging outfielder Peter Bourjos won’t be able to bat the rest of the 2013 season due to lingering discomfort in his right wrist. He will be allowed to play defense and pinch run if needed. Bourjos has played in 55 games for the Angels so far this year and he is 48 of 175 (.274 avg, .710 OPS) with 26 runs scored, 3 homers, 12 RBIs and 6 stolen bases. He has now played in 354 games in his first four years with the Angels and he is 258 of 1,026 (.251 avg, .704 OPS) with 144 runs scored, 24 homers, 89 RBIs and 41 stolen bases. The Angels got a lot of younger outfielders to cover for Bourjos in CF the rest of the way in 2013.
UPDATE: (9/9/2013) – The Angels will be without Peter Bourjos for the rest of the season, as he will have surgery tomorrow on his right wrist.
25-year old switch-hitting catcher Hank Conger is hot at the plate right now. He has played in 22 games since August 1st for the Angels and he is 18 of 59 (.305 avg) with 6 runs scored, 1 homer and 6 RBIs. Conger has now played in 79 games for the Angels overall this year and he is 52 of 201 (.259 avg, .751 OPS) with 22 runs scored, 7 homers and 20 RBIs. Conger is starting to prove that he could handle being the starting catcher for the Angels as early as next year.