So, our infield looked pretty good, right?
As pointed out by some of you the other day, they're, by my projections, slated to post a composite WAR of 16.1--which would be an improvement of almost 6 wins over the 2013 infield. But enough about them.
Last year, the Angels' outfield saw one standout, one disappointment, and...one revolving door. The Angels had six outfielders play 50+ games last season, but it appears that that will not be the case this season, with each outfield position set in stone for the first time since the 2011 outfield of Vernon Wells, Peter Bourjos and Torii Hunter (none of whom are with the team anymore--think about that).
Oh, and one more thing: We have an actual designated hitter, that we know will be our designated hitter, whose purpose is simply to be our designated hitter. Raul Ibanez, long an Angel killer in his career, finally joins the team he's been thrashing with his bat since 1998. The last time the Angels had a regular designated hitter (someone who played 2/3 of the team's games there)? Hideki Matsui in 2010. And that (.274/.361/.459, 21 HR, 84 RBI, 126 OPS+) turned out alright.
So let's take a look at our quartet at these four positions for the 2014 season.
JOSH HAMILTON, LEFT FIELD
2013: .250/.307/.432, 21 HR, 79 RBI, 108 OPS+, 158 SO, 1.5 WAR
The worst offensive season of Josh Hamilton's career by far, and it just so happened to come with us. For many Angels fans it was like rewatching Albert Pujols' April of 2012, except stretched out for much longer, leaving many with that horror-movie, "look out the axe murderer is right behind you" feeling--knowing exactly how terrible it was about to be, and not being able to do anything about it. However, right around August he began to figure it out; over the season's final two months he posted a slash of .296/.352/.444, a sign that he maybe figured out what was the problem. Recently, in an appearance on MLB Network's "Hot Stove," he even identified what he found the problem to be--not keeping his hips centered the way he usually did when he drove through the ball. That, coupled with his return to his normal routine of bulking up before the season, seems to give a bit more credit to the collective hope that the 2013 season was purely an anomaly for him, an outlier on his statistical spread.
But how does 2014 look for him?
Well that certainly looks a bit more pleasant. It's not 2010 at all, more like his 2012 season with less of a 3TO approach. I'm not sure anyone expects Hamilton's power to resurface while he's an Angel--not that that's a bad thing at all. I'd rather he hit 24 home runs and bat .283 than hit 44 home runs and bat .243. This isn't the late 1990s, now. Anyway, these totals are still a bit below Hamilton's career averages of .295/.354/.530, but that's no matter. For this lineup to win ballgames, I really don't think any one person needs to be a standout, just so long as all nine guys avoid sucking on a consistent basis. Of course, just because we don't NEED a standout...doesn't mean we don't HAVE one...
MIKE TROUT, CENTER FIELD
2013: .324/.432/.557, 27 HR, 97 RBI, 109 R, 33 SB, 110 BB, 9.2 WAR
Mike Trout didn't just avoid the sophomore slump, he told it to take its marbles and go home. And once it did, Trouty proceeded to smash every single doubt and quash every cry of "he'll come back down to earth." Another season like his 2012 managed to prove that he truly is the greatest player in all of baseball. With the trade of Peter Bourjos to St. Louis, Trouty moves back to center field on a full-time basis. Whether it causes a respective spurt in dWAR remains to be seen; if it does, then yes, all the conjecture of him not liking left field may carry some weight. However, that's a minor issue compared to the grander scheme of things: Mike Trout is poised for another great season, with no intangible "sophomore slump" for doubters to cast upon him. Let's see, then, what 2014 yields for Mikey from Millville.
This man alone makes it so awesome to be an Angels fan. Mark my words, folks: 2014 will be, to date, Mike Trout's best season. In all facets. I think he finally gets his MVP, Gold Glove, Silver Slugger and playoff appearance this season (fingers crossed for a championship ring, but that depends on his 24 teammates and his coaches). His AVG/OBP ratio is a bit down from 2013, but that, I think, will be due in large part to the fact that he is not likely to be batting third in this lineup (as stupid as that is) as he did for a good portion of last season (when his walk totals and OBP began to spike). However, no matter where he bats in the lineup, Trouty's going to rake. His .578 slugging percentage would be his highest ever, as would his 33 home runs, 10 triples, 210 hits, .332 batting average, 1.001 OPS, 183 OPS+, 162 games played, 99 RBI, 747 plate appearances, 633 at-bats, 366 total bases and 11.6 WAR.
KOLE CALHOUN, RIGHT FIELD
2013: .282/.347/.462, 8 HR, 32 RBI, 128 OPS+, 0.6 WAR, 58 games
Kole Alan Calhoun, the newest right fielder for your Angels. No, he won't be eligible for Rookie of the Year in 2014, but his first full season awaits him, and with no other players to block him, it's finally his time. The Angels have had 3 different players manning right field since Vladimir Guerrero left (Bobby Abreu in 2010, Torii Hunter in 2011 and 2012, Josh Hamilton in 2013), though now it would appear that Calhoun will have right field to his command for the long-term. We got a sneak preview last season, when Calhoun proved that he is more than ready to be a big league regular. The team's trade of Peter Bourjos and Randal Grichuk was a bold vote of confidence from Jerry Dipoto and the rest of the front office that Calhoun is ready. Is he ready?
He's ready. What I found remarkable about Calhoun was when I first began his projections, one of the things I did (since he has such little MLB playing time to his name) was I ran his AAA statistics through a minor league equivalency calculator. What I got were results almost identical to his 2013 major league slash. The only difference between those stats, his 2013 stats and these ones given for 2014 is the spike in slugging percentage, which came from me projecting a higher proportion of doubles being hit than what he hit in 2013, a proportion more in line with what the average Angel would hit at home. These stats also assume that Calhoun spends a majority of his time batting fifth and sixth; if he grabs the leadoff spot, all bets are off and you may want to prepare yourself for a showing of historic proportions (even though he is just about the OPPOSITE of Mike Scioscia's prototypical leadoff man).
RAUL IBANEZ, DESIGNATED HITTER
2013: .242/.306/.487, 29 HR, 65 RBI, 123 OPS+, 124 games played
After posting arguably the greatest season ever by a 41-year-old, the Angels swooped in on Ibanez after trading Mark Trumbo to Arizona, banking on the hope that his career success in Anaheim couples with his late-career renaissance for one more season. And though not many hitting seasons exist by a 42-year-old, is it possible that Ibanez's upcoming showing could be the best season ever by a 42-year-old? His career slash in Anaheim of .349/.407/.522 is well-documented by this point, and though it's highly unlikely that he carries THAT kind of success over (though it's a much-welcomed thought), it IS likely to contribute to how he does overall. Let's see how he does.
It's tough knowing that Ibanez is simply a one-year stopgap for C.J. Cron. As much as I look forward to Cron beginning his career as an Angel (now that we know he'll be Pujols' heir apparent at first base when Pujols DOES permanently DH), Ibanez playing here in 2014 is such an entertaining thought, because there's so much that can happen. The thought of him playing terribly doesn't hurt as bad as it would for someone like Pujols or Hamilton, since Ibanez is a cheap signee whose pay beyond the base of $2.75 million is rooted in how many plate appearances he gets. The thought of him playing to his career numbers in Anaheim makes me unbelievably giddy, even though it's almost a guarantee that prolonged exposure to Anaheim's park environment will probably regress him closer to the mean. And the thought of him playing like this makes me perfectly happy, since it'll likely be what the Angels need. One more thing to keep in mind: Ibanez has played in 5 postseasons, including 4 of the last 5 to take place, and a 2012 when the Yankees considered him a playoff hero. Could he be a vital piece that gets the Angels to THEIR first postseason in five years?