Angels spring training preview: Outfielders

Peter Bourjos

Is there a more talented collection of outfielders than the Angels’ Mike Trout, Peter Bourjos and Josh Hamilton? Maybe in Los Angeles. Maybe in Cleveland.

Regardless, the starting three in Anaheim are rather enviable. The glaring issues: New center fielder Peter Bourjos batted just .220 in a platoon situation last year, fourth outfielder Vernon Wells has hit .222 since coming to Anaheim, and there isn’t much depth after that. The NRIs in this group don’t pose a serious threat to make the opening-day roster, but one or more could move up with an outstanding spring. Otherwise it’s a long dropoff from the starters to the bench.

Here’s what to watch for in spring:

Mike Trout

If any 20-year-old has the mental makeup to withstand a sophomore slump, it’s Trout. Of course, no one is counting on Trout slumping after winning the AL rookie of the year award and finishing second in MVP voting. It just seems hard to believe that Trout could improve on his 2012 numbers – they were that good – and he can’t let the occasional drought faze him.

Josh Hamilton

With Trout moving to left field, Hamilton moves to right to accommodate Peter Bourjos in center. That’s two center fielders with new positions, if you’re counting at home, and Hamilton poses the biggest defensive risk. How much of a risk remains to be seen. When healthy, he’ll be hitting cleanup behind Albert Pujols. Keeping two of baseball’s best hitters healthy will be key to the Angels’ success. Hamilton is turning 32 in May, and he hopes that an off-season juice diet keeps him on the field.

Peter Bourjos

Bourjos didn’t play much last year and wasn’t productive when he did. The Angels will take a return to 2011, when Bourjos hit .271/.327/.438 in 552 plate appearances. His range in center field might be the best in baseball; perhaps no one other than Bourjos or Michael Bourn could force Trout to move to left.

Vernon Wells

The highest-paid outfielder in the game was actually good once upon a time. From 2003-10, Wells averaged 25 homers, 87 RBIs, and a .280/.333/.481 slash line, winning three gold gloves and making three all-star teams. Since none of those seasons came in an Angels uniform, fans here are wondering what the big deal is. If one of the outfielders above gets hurt, hope for the vintage Wells — not the guy with an untradeable contract (two more years at $24.6 million per) and a .258 OBP since he left Toronto.

Mark Trumbo

Trumbo is a man without a position listed here by default. Likely, he’s the first one to back up Pujols at first, and maybe Trout or Hamilton in left field (Trout can move to right field and Trumbo can go to left if Hamilton gets hurt). While Trumbo’s defense is shaky and his range non-existent, at least his bat was steady until August of last year, when he went into a deep slump. He’ll use spring to show that he is back to form.

Kole Calhoun

The 25-year-old made his major-league debut last year, playing well in the outfield but not showing much at the plate. Calhoun is still a legitimate prospect. He rocketed up the minor-league ladder the last three years and posted a .298/.369/.507 slash line in Salt Lake in 2012. A strong spring makes him the favorite to earn the fifth outfielder job, though he might have to start the season in the minors.

Scott Cousins

When the Angels claimed Cousins off waivers Nov. 30, they became his fourth team in less than two months. Now that he’s done bouncing off the waiver wire, Cousins must prove that he’s more than a fringe major-league player. He posted a .296/.364/.459 slash line last year at Triple-A New Orleans, but only .183/.231/.291 over parts of the last three seasons with the Marlins in limited time. The 28-year-old is in a tough position, competing with a homegrown talent in Calhoun for the fifth outfielder spot.

Travis Witherspoon

A raw prospect with plus speed, the 23-year-old Witherspoon cracked the Double-A level in 2012, his third pro season. He’s here to learn and still a work in progress.

Randal Grichuk (NRI)

Grichuk, 21, is also a raw prospect who’s here to learn. He spent all of last season at Single-A Rancho Cucamonga compiling a .298/.335/.488 line with 18 homers and 16 steals.

Trent Oeltjen (NRI)

A speedy veteran, Oeltjen’s only major league experience came in 99 games for the Diamondbacks and Dodgers from 2009-11. His bat has never translated to the majors (.220 career average) but his outfield range might be the best in this group behind Trout and Bourjos.

J.B. Shuck (NRI)

The 25-year-old batted .272/.359/.321 in 37 games with the Astros last season. Not much power there, or in five minor-league seasons (seven home runs), but his plate discipline looks impressive on paper. He walked a lot more than he struck out — 111 BB, 65 K — over the last three years at Triple-A.

Matt Young (NRI)

The 30-year-old is the first position player from the University of New Mexico to play in the major leagues. The 5-foot-8 dynamo has played more than 950 minor-league games since 2005, and 25 games over the past two years with the Braves and Tigers.

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