Mar 11, 2012; Goodyear, AZ, USA; Los Angeles Angels right fielder Kole Calhoun (77) following a double during the second inning against the Cincinnati Reds at Goodyear Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports
Cue Angels fans rejoicing:
Calhoun has been red hot all season for the Triple-A SLC Bees putting up an OPS of 1.047 along with 12 home runs in 59 games this season. With Peter Bourjos injured and the light-hitting J.B. Shuck taking his place in the outfield, the Angels blogosphere has been pining for some spark which at first glance seemingly could come from Calhoun.
Instead the Angels signed Brad Hawpe and assigned him to the 25-man roster. Then they picked up Collin Cowgill off waivers and after a short six game stint in Triple-A brought him up as well. Meanwhile Calhoun continued to rake in Triple-A.
Now with the Angels season all but done and Pujols possibly out for the season, Calhoun gets his chance to prove his worth in the big leagues. So what can we expect from him?
It’s important to note that the Pacific Coast League is notorious for inflating offensive numbers. Angels fans will recall Brandon Wood and Dallas McPherson‘s success in Triple-A and at the same time recall the failure to produce in the big leagues. Can Calhoun break through the mirage of inflated Triple A stat lines?
At first glance, the smart answer would be that it’s unlikely. Both Wood and McPherson were more highly touted prospects than Calhoun has ever been. And Calhoun’s cup of coffee last year where he went 2 for 23 doesn’t inspire much more hope. Yet, the possibility that Calhoun’s offensive numbers are, at least, partially for real is still possible. As John Sickels noted last year over at Minor League Ball, Calhoun might be a sleeper worth paying attention to:
"A 5-10, 200 pound left-handed hitter and thrower, the 24-year-old Calhoun lacks premium running speed and athleticism. What he does have is physical strength, along with a good feel for the strike zone and solid hitting skills. So far he hasn’t found any level of college or professional pitching that he can’t adapt to, although it is true that his leagues have been friendly for hitting. On defense, Calhoun’s best attribute is a strong throwing arm. His running speed doesn’t impress, but he has great instincts and the Angels have been willing to give him some playing time in center field."
Even so, Angels fans should temper their expectations. After all, Calhoun might not receive much playing time as it is. Brad Hawpe and J.B. Shuck can also play outfield and are also left-handed hitters. And when Peter Bourjos returns from the disabled list, that will leave the Angels with a surplus of outfielders who hit from the left side. Between Shuck, Hawpe (and Cowgill who is hits from the right-side), Calhoun is the only one who could be sent to Triple-A without going on waivers first. If the Angels want to keep Calhoun on the roster, they would have to run the risk of letting another team pick up Hawpe, Cowgill or Shuck. While neither player is crushing off the bench, they do offer value. Hawpe can play first base which is even more important now that Pujols might be out for the season. While Cowgill offers a right-handed hitting outfielder off the bench.
To keep a spot on the bench Calhoun would need to crush. And whether he will even be given the opportunity is questionable. And even if he does, he wouldn’t get regular playing time with the return of Bourjos. So what would be more important for an Angels team that is out of contention: letting Calhoun warm the bench and get a few pinch-hits a week or for him to get regular playing time at plate appearances in Salt Lake?
But we’re all getting ahead of ourselves. Calhoun has just been called up and hasn’t even had a plate appearance yet. For now, Calhoun is free from Triple-A and has a spot on the roster…finally. Let the Kole Calhoun-era begin.