Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

Will Los Angeles Angels’ Success Hinge on Their Outfield?


As Opening Day nears, Halo Hangout will evaluate the key players, position battles, and offseason moves that will make or break the 2014 Los Angeles Angels. Today we look at the trio of Mike Trout, Josh Hamilton, and Kole Calhoun.

One year removed from placing second in the AL MVP race, Mike Trout is poised to lead the Los Angeles Angels into their first playoff appearance since 2009. As sensational as the 22-year-old is, he can’t do it alone.

Josh Hamilton and up-and-coming right fielder Kole Calhoun will play alongside Trout, composing one of the most feared outfield trios in MLB. With Albert Pujols wedged between the three in the Angels lineup, American League pitchers have much to fear when visiting Angels Stadium.

Still, there is room for improvement. Hamilton is coming off a substandard season that saw the former Texas Ranger reach career lows in major offensive categories. And Calhoun, entering his first full year as a Halo, bears the brunt of being named the team’s leadoff hitter.

Avoiding another crippling start hinges on how these three perform. Let’s take a look at the Angels outfield and what we can expect.

Mike Trout – CF

Year

Age

Tm

G

AB

HR

RBI

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

2013

22

LAA

157

589

27

97

.323

.432

.557

.988

179

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

Speculation persists that Trout isn’t discussing a contract extension in preparation for big payday outside of Anaheim, but it may simply be that he doesn’t need in-season distractions. If Cactus League statistics are any indication, Trout has phased the pundits out.

The irreplaceable center fielder has 5 home runs and 16 RBIs through 17 spring training games, and his slash line is .408/.463/.837. Needless to say, Trout appears to be in mid-season form.

An alleged weight issue that followed Trout through camp last spring subsided as the year progressed. This year incessant contract talks are all the 2012 Rookie of the Year award recipient hears about.

Trout signed a one year contract worth $1 million last month, the largest ever pre-arbitration deal for a player. While negotiations on a much bigger contract continued throughout the spring, they appear to have died down for now. Fortunately for Angels fans, Trout won’t be a free agent until he turns 29-years-old.

How can a player averaging 28 home runs and 186 hits in his first two season improve? His runs scored and stolen base numbers were down last year, but that may have been because he didn’t have dependable reinforcements behind him. Pujols missed the last two months and Hamilton never lived up to expectations.

Getting on base won’t be a problem for Trout. The question is whether the heart of the batting order will come through for him.

Josh Hamilton – LF

Year

Age

Tm

G

AB

HR

RBI

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

2013

33

LAA

151

576

21

79

.250

.739

.432

.739

108

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

In retrospect, Hamilton’s 2013 season was doomed from the start. He arrived in Tempe, Ariz. leaner than expected, he was away from the comforts of the Texas locker room for the first time, and his ‘accountability partner” Johnny Narron was hired by the Milwaukee Brewers prior to the 2012 season.

Less than two weeks into his recovery from a calf injury suffered last month, Hamilton looks like the perennial All-Star the Angels signed to a 5 year, $125 contract. He’s batting .417 with five RBIs and four extra-base hits through eight games. It’s a small sample, but one considerably better than last spring.

The Angels hired Arizona Diamondbacks hitting coach Don Baylor in large part to help with Hamilton’s swing. Baylor is an authoritative voice that can help Hamilton regain his MVP form. It seems to be working as “Hambone” has only struck out four times in 25 plate appearances.

A healthy Pujols will also do wonders for Hamilton. Plagued by a plantar fasciitis condition that prematurely ended his season, “The Machine” was never right in 2013. Pujols doesn’t need to be dominant first baseman he was in St. Louis, he just needs to be the cleanup hitter that sets the table for Hamilton.

Hamilton is a natural-born center fielder, but that space is occupied by the face of the franchise. He spent 83 games in right last season, making a career-high eight errors. With the Angels trading Peter Bourjos to the Cardinals last November, Hamilton moves back to left field where he played most of the 2011 and 2012 seasons.

Kole Calhoun – RF

Year

Age

Tm

G

AB

HR

RBI

BA

OBP

SLG

OPS

OPS+

2013

25

LAA

58

222

8

32

.282

.347

.462

.808

128

Provided by Baseball-Reference.com

Calhoun made quite an impression on manager Mike Scioscia in the two months he was with the Angels last summer. With J.B. Shuck falling short of the 2013 AL Rookie of the Year award and Collin Cowgill on the verge of making the ball club, all Calhoun had to do this spring was provide consistency. So far he has.

The former 8th round pick is batting .283 with 17 hits and eight walks through 19 Cactus League games. Even more telling is his aggressiveness on the base paths. He’s stolen three bases and has only been caught once. Calhoun doesn’t have much speed, but he’s adjust to the leadoff role by taking pitches and getting on base any which way he can.

He isn’t flashy like Trout, or gritty like Hamilton, but Calhoun doesn’t need to be. He’s a balanced hitter who can draw a walk. He has a keen eye and can spray the ball to all fields. In the end, that’s exactly what the Angels need in a leadoff man.

Tags: Josh Hamilton Kole Calhoun Los Angeles Angels Mike Trout

  • slorider

    As of right now Trout hits free agency at age 26. The rumored contract extensions could take him to age 29 or 30, but as of now he is under contract through 2017.