The Angels announced a low risk – high reward move today in signing the recently released Russell Branyan away from the Arizona Diamond Backs. Branyan was brutal this year in 31 games with the D’ Backs ( .210/.290/.339. , however his acquisition for the Angels potentially gives them an instant power threat to add to a power starved lineup. That’s the extent of Branyan’s value. He is not a good hitter and he strikes out a ton. For his career Branyan has 1,097 strikeouts compared to just 670 hits ( 190 home runs), and a career slash line of .237 /.329/.487.
Despite Banyan’s poor peripherals, this move can still have a positive impact for the Halos and here’s why.
Branyan (if productive) provides the Angels with a legit power threat. This is something the team currently has in short supply. Mark Trumbo and Torii Hunter (to a lesser extent) are really the only Angels that pose a real home run threat to pitchers. The obvious lack of long ball artist is a prime reason for the Halos offensive struggles this season. In order to score runs the Angels generally need to string together a slew of hits which makes big innings highly unlikely. Branyan’s presence has the potential to ease some of those limitations ( he’s one of 11 AL players with 25 plus home runs 2 years in a row). However Tony Reagins’ statement in the LA Times article was a bit troubling.
“We’ve had some discussions over the last two weeks about the offense and being able to match up Trumbo better against left-handed pitching,” Reagins said. “Russell’s name came up, and we thought he was a viable option to give Mark some breaks against right-handed pitching.” Reagins said.
Playing Branyan or Trumbo as mutually exclusive parts defeats the reason for acquiring Russell in the first place., which was to add more power to the lineup. With just one of the two sluggers in the lineup ( in its current configuration) the Angels would still be left with only two players ( Hunter and either Trumbo or Branyan) routinely capable of going deep. The most effective lineup scenario until Howie Kendrick ( placed on the DL today) and Vernon Wells return - would be to play Branyan in left field and Trumbo at first base. This would keep both power bats in the lineup and help stem the offensive tide until Wells and Kendrick return. Branyan is by no means a plus defender but he has played 221 career games in the outfield with 151 of those coming in left field.
The interim lineup should look like this – keeping Trumbo and Branyan in the lineup at the same time:
- Maicer Izturis – 2b
- Erick Aybar – SS
- Bobby Abreu – DH/LF
- Torii Hunter – RF
- Russell Branyan – LF/DH
- Mark Trumbo – 1B
- Alberto Callaspo – 3B
- Hank Conger – C
- Peter Bourjos – CF
Once Kendrick and eventually Wells return, I’m all for platooning Branyan and Trumbo at first base with both floating to the outfield from time to time based on pitching match ups. Until then these two should play together. The Angels need the punch.