Willits has “proven” just as much in AAA ball as, say, Morales has.
Willits spent all of 2007 with the Angels, posting a very respectable .293/.391/.735 earning himself ROY votes. He received two second place votes and 5 third place votes.
I would say the Angels need exactly what Willits offers when he has full playing time.
In 2008, just one year removed from his outstanding rookie year, Willits was displaced by an outfield with absolutely no room for him. The signing of Hunter basically bumped Willits to the horrible agony of “too valuable to send down but no room to start” zone.
Even with his extremely limited playing time (only 82 at-bats) he posed a .321 OBP.
That OBP of .321 puts him ahead of:
I actually think with some playing time and some consecutive at-bats instead of pinch running duty for GA we could have an actual leadoff hitter. Figgins is completely expendable with a productive Willits, and with a reasonable arbitration avoidance contract agreement not too long ago, is very attractive to other teams.
Now, assuming his offense is worthy of the lineup we should also take into consideration other factors
With full playing time Reggie has a RF (range factor) of 2.51. Since this is hard to explain its easier to just compare this stat to other outfielders.
Willits: 2.51 (in 07 with consistent playing time)
There are other defensive sabermetrics, but these basically illustrate my point. Reg is somewhere near Torii in range, and completely blows Rivera out of the water.
Since there are no real reliable arm stats, we have to go on opinion. His arm is less powerful than Rivera's, but slightly more arm than GA when he left. I never felt he had a "Jane Damon" arm, but not really a cannon. We can call it league average for sake of argument.
His place in the lineup:
Obviously the outfield is not full of space and playing time opportunities. However with a few lineup changes he could easily fit.
Trading Figgins and possibly packaging either Ayabr or Izturis could land some significant young talent. Move Rivera into the DH spot and Wilits into left the lineup would look like this:
Kendrick - 2B
Wood - 3B
Rotating Willits and Rivera with Vlad or Hunter as they need rest would work perfectly. So there is a definite spot for Mr. Willits.
Willits represents everything the Angels are not at the moment; walking, taking pitches, and make pitchers work. I believe with more playing time Reg can be more productive than not, and I think he has shown this in the past. Since the Halos are going with a youth monvement this year, may as well go balls out.
What do you crazy kids think?