What to Expect Out of the Angels Left Field


When Josh Hamilton went down with a shoulder injury that will require a surgery keeping him out for about two months, our already low expectations for him took another hit. Last season he missed a significant amount of time after sliding headfirst trying to beat out in infield hit. Before that ill conceived decision Hamilton was enjoying his finest stretch in Angel red. He came back and was the same Hamilton who faded in the end with the Rangers and struggled out of the gate with the Halos. But, it’s not like Hamilton is far removed from being a star caliber player. In 2013 he crushed 43 home runs. With the uncertainties around him we have to wonder what kind of production the Angels will get from left field this season. 

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Fangraphs Steamer expects Hamilton to play in 130 games, a number which may be optimistic (something steamer isn’t known for). His surgical recovery puts him back into playing shape not long after opening day, but when you have a player who couldn’t hit a home run in his home ballpark the previous season you have to wonder what kind of power he can muster with a weak shoulder. While 130 games isn’t out of the question I would have to say 100 games seams much more reasonable, and many of those games may come as at DH. Steamer projects his offensive output at .247/.311/.415. Those are not great numbers but sadly may be very close to the realities. If he can put up the power numbers they predict he would actually come out at a better than average producer.

Jul 10, 2014; Arlington, TX, USA; Los Angeles Angels left fielder Josh Hamilton (32) bats during the game against the Texas Rangers at Globe Life Park in Arlington. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports

With a lot of games likely going to a backup, who gets those at bats and outs in the field? Colin Cowgill should be first in line. He stepped up in a big way when Hamilton was down last year. By seasons end he held his own and slashed .250/.330/.354. That was good enough to put him right at league average with an OPS+ of 98. For a backup that’s a good thing. His defense is solid to very good, his UZR rated at 8.1 last year. He’s coming into his age 29 season and Steamer projects a significant decline with a .229/.293/.336 batting liner. I’m not buying it. With the extra playing time and experience in his prime years I believe Cowgill will again step up and provide a good all around game.

If Cowgill can’t repeat his strong season the Angels do have Matt Joyce. An experienced veteran who was brought on to be the primary DH, Joyce has more than enough experience in left field to take the job (1792 innings). His defensive value isn’t great but won’t do a lot of damage. His bat once again should be good with Steamer projecting a wRC+ of 112. Much of his offensive value comes from a good eye that has produced a career OBP of .342. That’s a skill which usually ages better than most parts of a players game.

If Hamilton can be healthy and even remotely resemble the player of a few years ago the Angels could have one of the best left fields in the game. More likely however I believe that with a lot of innings and at bats going to Cowgill and Joyce the Angels will have a slightly better than average production from the position. With the available depth, they shouldn’t be at a high risk of it becoming a hole should Hamilton once again be the player the Angels have been witness to.

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