When Mike Trout got called up, there was much rejoicing among the Halos faithful. Finally, the Trout era could begin and the five-tool super prospect to bring a much needed spark to a struggling Angels lineup. All spring, we hoped against hope that one of the aging outfielders blocking Trout’s ascent to the majors (preferably Vernon Wells and/or Bobby Abreu) would magically get out of the way. While it didn’t happen coming out of spring training, it turns out we didn’t have to wait long as Abreu was released following a 3-2 loss in Cleveland and Trout got the call up.
Trout immediately got plugged into the lineup as the leadoff hitter. It was one of the weakest parts of a weak Angels offense and Trout had been on fire in Triple-A Salt Lake. In 20 games, Trout hit .403 with an OPS of 1.091 and 13 RBI. It was easy to see why fans were chomping at the bit to get Trout called up when forced to watch the hacking (and consistent missing) of Wells and Abreu. With one of the two roadblocks out of the way, the Trout train could officially get out on the tracks.
One of the assumptions that a lot of Angels fans made when they heard that Trout was coming to the big leagues (myself included) was that he would get his playing time by taking starts from Wells or maybe Torii Hunter. However, it’s been the other young outfielder, Peter Bourjos, who has been squeezed out of the lineup because of Trout’s arrival. Bourjos, who came into his own as one of the best defensive center fielders last season, has ridden pine in four of the last five games and has apparently yielded his defensive spot to Trout. That wasn’t exactly the outfielder fans were hoping to get pushed out, but is it the right choice?
So far this season, Bourjos has struggled at the plate. He’s hitting just .167 with 14 strikeouts in 48 at-bats. Last season, Bourjos made major strides at the plate in the second half of last season and finished hitting .271 with 12 home runs and scored 72 runs. The Angels had hoped that the 25-year old would continue his improved approach at the plate, and eventually transition into a leadoff hitter with his speed and pop, but things haven’t worked out that way. Meanwhile, Torii Hunter has found his offensive stroke and has been one of the few Angels to produce consistently, and Vernon Wells has paced the Halos in home runs for much of this season. Trout started off his majors campaign sluggishly, going without a hit until his third game on Monday against the Twins, but has the tools to turn it around in a hurry.
Bourjos is still a top-notch defender, but the offensive rut this team has found itself in is prompting some kind of change. If Bourjos doesn’t figure out his issues at the plate, he’ll have a difficult time finding playing time, and if he finds playing time scarce, he could find himself optioned back town to Salt Lake, which would be his first minor league assignment since 2010. Trout is universally considered the better offensive prospect, and could more quickly fill a need for a leadoff hitter while still playing a solid defensive center. So while Bourjos isn’t the outfielder fans would like to see pushed out (that honor falls to Vernon Wells), he may be the best choice…at least until another one of these old guys gets out of the way.