For the LA Angels to make the playoffs in 2019, they will need a handful of players to bounce back after disappointing 2018 seasons. However, none of these players might be as important as Kole Calhoun.
Amongst LA Angels fans, there is a wide variety of opinions about Kole Calhoun. Some may tell you they’d rather have him in right field come Opening Day rather than Bryce Harper. The others may tell you he is a fine option, while the rest are impatiently waiting for top prospect Jo Adell to ascend to the MLB.
And, to an extent, every single one of those cases has a point. Harper of course is a superior player, but the contract and inconsistency do hurt his value, so why not play Calhoun for a fraction of the price? The people who believe he is average are correct in the present tense, as his 0.7 WAR in 2018 is exactly that – average. And the people waiting for a generational talent in Adell, someone who has more natural talent than three Kole Calhouns combined, have a lot to look forward to.
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But right now, we are focusing on 2019. Calhoun is going to be the starting right fielder for the LA Angels, for better or for worse. His historically awful first half last season has been well-documented, as well as his complete turnaround over the summer, when he was one of the best hitters in baseball.
This article is not to predict which Calhoun we’ll see in 2019, but to simply state the importance of him. In the field, Calhoun is still a Gold Glove candidate year after year, despite turning 32 this year. While many assumed his defensive value would dwindle once he hit the wrong side of 30, he had a career-high defensive runs saved in 2018.
This is why even during Calhoun’s poor stretch to start the year he was still in the lineup. His elite work in the field outweighed his performance at the plate, and he was continuously helping the Angels win games.
The batter’s box is where things get interesting. On the wide spectrum of possible outcomes, Calhoun can impact a potential lineup card more than most Angels next season. If he can be the hitter he was in the second half, he can be slotted in front of Mike Trout to leadoff games, creating a ripple effect as quality bats such as Zack Cozart and David Fletcher can hit in the bottom half of the order, creating a consistently solid lineup.
If he struggles, he’ll be slotted in the last third of the lineup every day. This would force a player like Cozart or Fletcher, who would be better suited and more effective/valuable in the bottom half of the order, into the leadoff spot. With a sub-par hitter leading off, that means fewer RBI opportunities for the beef of the Angels’ lineup in Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, and Justin Upton.
The Angels need a lot to go right in 2019 if they plan to make the playoffs for the first time in five years. Staying healthy, getting healthy, and consistency are the most important for the team, but no one player can impact the Angels, in a negative or positive way, than Kole Calhoun in 2019.