Who will replace Torii Hunter as the Angels’ No. 2 hitter?
There are bigger questions facing the club going into spring training – you or I could hit between Mike Trout and Albert Pujols and probably see some juicy fastballs – but by process of elimination we know it’ll be either Erick Aybar, Alberto Callaspo, Peter Bourjos, Howie Kendrick, Chris Iannetta or Mark Trumbo.
For what it’s worth, Aybar, Bourjos and Kendrick were all among the top 25 sacrifice bunters in the American League last year. Iannetta seems an unlikely choice, though his patience and power are above average for a catcher, while Trumbo has the best chance of replicating Hunter’s .313/.365/.451 slash line from a year ago.
Perhaps unwittingly, FanGraphs.com makes a strong endorsement today for Callaspo, who signed a two-year contract yesterday. Callaspo’s best skill at the plate – hitting to contact while avoiding strikeouts – is typically the skill that managers value most in their number-two hitter:
Even in his best years with the bat (2009 and 2011) his BABIP was only around .310. But avoiding strikeouts does a lot for a player’s bat. This is not because strikeouts are all that much different from regular outs. It is because putting the ball in play simply allows other things to happen. Callaspo does not get an exceptional number of hits on balls in play, and the hits he does get on contact usually do not go very far. He simply ends plate appearances with the ball going into play often enough that even given average (and below-average) rates of favorable outcomes, he is able to be close to average overall as a hitter (95 wRC+ career).
It’s something to think about as Spring Training approaches.
Which defunct ballpark, and which former National League MVP’s reputation, are getting blown up? Read on …
• Tony Bosch, who provided PEDs to several major leaguers out of his clinic in Miami, has now been linked to former University of Miami star Ryan Braun, too. Unlike Alex Rodriguez, Braun isn’t denying a connection to Bosch.
• Angels third-base prospect Luis Jimenez played his second game for the Dominican Republic at the Caribbean Series Tuesday, going 1-for-4 with a double and a run. Jimenez had a more-than-respectable .309/.334/.495 battling line at Salt Lake last year. His steadily improving fielding percentage and range factor at third base (3.05) last season hint that he’s close to being ready for the majors defensively. With Callaspo under contract for two more years now, it’s not inconceivable that the Angels would look at Jimenez to take over the starting third base job in 2015. He’ll be 27 then; Callaspo will be 31.
• Former Angel Fernando Rodney pitched a scoreless ninth inning in the same game. He’s appeared in three of the five games for the Dominican team, which is 4-1.
• Attention, graphic designers: Wrigley Field is turning 100 and needs an anniversary logo.
• One Angels fan is a finalist in the 2013 MLB Fan Cave contest. Vote for him here.
• Some dynamite news via the San Francisco Chronicle: “Everything has a life, and Candlestick (Park) has exceeded it.”
• If you were hoping Fox’s new sports channel would be heavy on heavy-hitting sports journalism, prepare to assume the fetal position. Courtesy of the Sports Business Daily, “Sources say (Regis) Philbin would serve as the main host of a show that would look like a sports version of The View, with Philbin serving in the Barbara Walters role as the part-time host.”
• Happy birthday, Babe Ruth.
• English prog-rock band Babe Ruth is related to the baseball player in name only, but somehow I can envision The Great Bambino jamming out to “The Mexican”: