With the 2011 season just days away, many Angel fans anxiously await this offseasons most asked questions to be answered. We all wonder if our team will be able to pull through and finally prove every “expert” analyst in baseball wrong. The key players in this coming season won’t be players like Weaver or Hunter, who have carried the team in the past. This year, the most important players will be the 4 rookies going into their first full season of Angels baseball. If these rookies can show what they are made of not only will they be the tape that holds the team together, they will be the rocket that propels the Angels to the next level.
Note: Conger doesn’t look to figure into the Angels plans for the season, most likey going to go down once Downs or Pineiro come back, so I’m leaving him off this list. He’ll most likely play as a reserve for the first few weeks of the season and again once September call-ups roll around.
Sorry you won’t be joining us for the entire 2011 season, I fully expect a 2012 full of Hank Conger.
Michael Kohn- 2010 Season: 21.1 IP, 2.11 ERA, 8.4 SO/9, 6.8 BB/9 2011 Spring Training: 11.0 IP, 0.89 ERA, 6.5 SO/9, 1.6 BB/9
If you’ve seen this kid pitch, then you know that he is ready for the major league level. Last year Kohn looked iffy in the control department, but as you can see from his ST stats he’s getting his head around his control issue. One outing that comes to mind is a ST game in which Kohn pitched an inning against the White Sox. Right out of the pen Kohn allowed the first three batters on base, facing a very grim bases loaded no out situation. Even though it was a one run game in the late innings you could see Kohn put his head on straight and regain his confidence, almost at the flip of the switch. Kohn followed by retiring the next three batters in a row, coming out of the inning with ZERO damage. Yes I am aware that it is only spring training, that fact doesn’t make it any different for the players who are playing the game. Kohn handled the pressure of the situation like a veteran.
Kohn will no doubt be able to handle the pressure of pitching a full season with one of the top teams in baseball, his confidence is undeniable. We all saw how the Angels bullpen were in shambles last season until the roster expansions. The consistency of pitchers like Kohn and Walden leveled out the bullpen to something a lot more respectable than what the Angels faced earlier in the season. The thing I like the most about Kohn is the fact that he didn’t start pitching untill college, which means less wear and tear on his arm. His “fresh out of the box arm” is sure to keep his trips to the DL almost non-existent, and his tenure in the majors should experience extra longevity.
Kohn is going to be a pitcher the Angels can rely on to hold tight leads or keep games close. Heck, he could even close out a handful of games if needed. Kohn will prove to be one of the most reliable and consistent pitchers on the Angels pitching staff. I’ll even give Kohn the benefit of the doubt and say that he WILL be the most reliable player on the pitching staff.
Jordan Walden- 2010 Season: 15.1 IP, 2.35 ERA, 13.5 SO/9, 4.1 BB/9 2011 Spring Training: 8.0 IP, 0.00 ERA, 9 SO/9, 2.3 BB/9
Who else would you want pitching in the late innings besides this guy? Would you want Fernando Rodney closing out a game, the guy who has all the experience and non of the skill? Maybe Downs, the guy who has the skill and lacks the experience? Or maybe Jordan Walden, the young rookie with everything to prove? What else would you want in the arsenal of a closer, this kids got the fastball and the breaking balls to keep any hitter off his feet. The one thing the Angels have had to deal with the past few seasons is a closer who makes things way to interesting and way to close for comfort. With strikeout numbers like that, balls will be kept out of play and batters off the basepaths. At first the 9th inning is going to be exciting for Angel fans, but once we get use to Walden it will be comfortable uneventful and boring. Sure it’ll be interesting to watch Walden strike out hitter after hitter after hitter. Eventually it will become mundane and expected, how comforting does a mundane 9th inning sound in your head? Very comforting i would bet
The one thing we would all like to see out of Walden is better control, something we all may have begun to see. Walden managed to handle his control and drop his walks off to a much more respectable level. As a closer it would be be a little nicer if he would work it down just a bit more, but as of right now you gotta be pretty happy with what you see. As soon as Rodney is gone, or he proves himself to be utterly useless as a closer, the glorious age of Walden will fall upon us all. So far with Walden, Kohn, and Downs managing the late innings, you have to feel pretty good the way the bullpen is shaping up.
Peter Bourjos- 2010 Season: 181 AB, .204/.237/.381, 6 HR 15 RBI, .618 OPS 2011 Spring Training: 51 AB, .373/.468/.588, 2 HR 12 RBI, 1.056 OPS
Do you remember how boring the Angel season was once the Angels proved themselves to be far from contention and all hope was lost? It was pretty sad to watch, at least untill Bourjos was called up. After Bourjos had his way with AAA and dropped it off on the street corner, he turned his eyes towards the next level, The Major Leagues. Once he came up, Angel games were not just easier to stomach, they had actually become fun to watch once again. His defense was unlike anything the Angels have seen from a player as young as Bourjos, the way he carried himself on and off the field turned him into an overnight sensation amongst endearing Angels fans. Bourjos has fun running down balls all over the outfield, out in the field Bourjos is just a kid playing a game.
The one gripe we all have with Bourjos is his struggle to get a handle on major league pitching. Bourjos has the skill-set to lead off, speed that Carl Crawford trains to one day obtain, and power that many leadoff hitters wish they had. The power he brought surprising many Angel fans, it may not be home run crushing power, but its still something to marvel at. Bourjos can smack balls down the line and in the gaps and come out with triples and doubles on a regular basis. Not to mention his base-running skills, which rival that of longtime Angel Chone Figgins. Give Bourjos a season or two of seasoning and he’ll be putting up 50 SB a year. Last season he stole 10 bases despite only getting on base 37 times, and he was caught 3 times. For such a small sample size as that a 70% success rate doesn’t look too shabby. I’ll leave it up to you to try and figure out what kind of SB and CS numbers Bourjos will put up next year, I am neither a statician nor do I have a tight grasp on basic algebra.
All in all, let’s be glad that we found a way to fix our outfield problems from last season with only one player. Not to mention the fact that what we’re paying for him is a steal compared to what people with that skill-set have asked from us (your contracts a joke Crawford, you’ll never live up to it!).
Mark Trumbo- 2010 Season: 15 AB, .067/.125/.067, 0 HR 2 RBI, .192 OPS 2011 Spring Training: 68 AB, .309/.329/.706, 6 HR 20 RBI, 1.035 OPS
Believe it or not, Mark Trumbo is going to be the most important player for the Angels offense. Trumbo is the only player on this roster that has the potential to put up the same power numbers that Morales put up, if not better. Just imagine if Trumbo can perform at the major league level, that lost production will be back, and then if Morales comes back just as strong? Thats a lot of power potential in the lineup, but then again it is just potential. Having Morales and Trumbo at 100% will do some major damage to any team that dare steps in their way, can’t forget to mention the fact that we’ll be getting superstar production at an incredibly low price. To put the cost of these two players in perspective, we’ll be paying less than what we give Maicer Izturis for the production of Teixeira two-fold. That is assuming that both players show up 100%.
Mark Trumbo is the bridge between the heart of the lineup and the abysmal bottom of the lineup. We can’t afford to have any kind of drop-off anywhere in the lineup, having Trumbo bridge the gap with strong power production is going to do wonders for this Angels offense. Plus, if he proves to Scioscia that the Angels cannot afford to keep him out of the lineup when the post-season race heats up the only place the Angels will be able to slot him is the DH spot. Platooning Abreu and Trumbo at DH will keep Abreu’s AB’s down, which will signifigantly improve the Angels chances of avoiding his pesky option for the 2012 season. Not only will that save some much needed money, it will open up a roster spot for a much younger, much more productive player. Nothing against Abreu, he is still a solid player at his age, but why would you want a solid aging player on a decline when you can have a young stud like Trumbo providing some power assistance in a power starved lineup?
These four players are tiny fishes in the massive pond that is Major League Baseball, the odds have been against them since they made their debuts last season. They’re going to have to prove fast that they can excel at this level, the consequences for their failures will be too great for this team to handle. Not only does the future of the season rest in their hands, the future of this organization lies with them.