In years past, Mike Scioscia took a lot of heat from Angels fans for his team stumbling out of the gate to start the year, pointing to how infrequently he played his regulars during Spring Training. That most certainly has not been the case this spring, as Mike Trout, Kole Calhoun and newcomers Yunel Escobar and Daniel Nava have been regular fixtures in the starting line-up. Throw in the speedy recovery of Albert Pujols and this group has led the club to a 15-8 record this spring with what looks to be a powerful and versatile line-up.
Of course, W/L record during exhibition games is hardly telling of how a team will do during the regular season, though you would much rather the hitters make the opposition look silly than not. With less than a week to go before the season opener, it seems pretty clear that Scioscia has settled on his starting nine:
|Player||Spring OPS||Projected WAR*|
*Projected WAR is the average projection from ZiPS, Steamer and PECOTA
Hard to quibble with the choices or the order. Offseason acquisitions Escobar and Nava have done their part to get on base at the top of the order. While Escobar has come as advertised, Angel fans were cynical that Nava was just a wish and a prayer to paper over left field, much like Matt Joyce last season. For his part, Joyce has had a productive spring on the strength of 9 walks and 3 home runes and will break camp with the Pirates this season. Nava thus far has matched that production but has also managed to put the bat on the ball far more often, spraying the ball around to the tune of a .462 BA, doubling Joyce's hit total. It appears as though Nava has put his nagging thumb injury from last year behind him.
Trout, of course, has dominated from day one so his spring numbers will produce little more than a yawn, while Pujols and Calhoun have done - and should continue to do, once the season begins - what is expected of them. Cron started slowly but has picked up his game of late, effectively holding off rule 5 selection Ji-Man Choi for the starting first base/DH job. Andrelton Simmons somewhat surprisingly finds himself batting ahead of Perez and Giavotella, in spite of his reputation as a glove-only guy. Could be that Scioscia is trying to make the club's new star comfortable by showing some faith in his bat and not slotting him dead last in the order. Going into his age-26 season, the time should be now for Andrelton to put it all together in the batter's box. Could also be that he wants Johnny G. to act as a "second lead-off hitter" in the 9-hole, giving Trout as many baserunners as possible.
Going into Spring Training, we were fairly confident that a deep starting rotation would carry the day while our concerns centered around whether this rag-tag group of hitters could produce enough runs for the club to be competitive. As the exhibition season draws to a close, those concerns have effectively flipped and it now looks as though the offense should be as productive as any in the division while the rotation looks top-heavy at best. How confident are you in our starting nine? What changes would you make?