Torii Hunter is officially no longer an Angel, something we all have seen coming for weeks now. For the most part, we've all made our peace with his departure and moved on. We know the Halos have as they've already made it clear that they have a succession plan in place. Peter Bourjos will take Hunter's spot in the outfield. Albert Pujols and Mike Trout will fill his leadership void. As for his spot in the lineup, the two-hole, that will be filled by…
Wait… who the hell is going to bat second for the Angels now? Umm, OK, maybe the Angels didn't quite plan for everything. They certainly have options to take over that spot, but none of them really seem like a perfect fit.
The common thought is Erick Aybar will get the first shot at hitting second. With his speed and bunting skills, Scioscia has been trying to jam him into the top of the order for years now anyway. Plus, as a switch-hitter, he breaks up the string of righties the Angels have littering the rest of the first half of the lineup. The only problem is that Aybar isn't exactly an on-base machine with a .320 career OBP. That's kind of a big deal. It is also the reason that he has never been able to stick in the top of the lineup. Frankly, it is probably for the best that Aybar doesn't earn the job because there is the great threat that Scioscia will constantly have him sac bunt to move Trout over, instead of just letting Trout steal the base which he can do, you know, without giving up an out.
The next most popular choice, the choice of the people, is Howie Kendrick. On paper, this seems like a good idea because Howie will supposedly feast on fastballs hitting between Trout and Pujols. The Angels actually tried that last season and Kendrick fell on his face… and then grounded into a doubleplay. Sorry, but Kendrick just isn't the kind of situational hitter that traditionalists prefer hitting second. Non-tradionalists really don't care, they just want the best hitters at the top of the order, a criteria that Kendrick doesn't necessarily fit either.
The least popular choice amongst the fans, but possibly the best actual choice is Alberto Callaspo. He has a marginally higher career OBP (.335) than Aybar and Kendrick, is also a switch-hitter, is a good situational hitter and is very difficult to strike out. What he isn't is clearly one of the team's best hitters and he really wasn't even that close.
The outside the box choice could be Peter Bourjos. He most definitely has the speed and pop you like to see in the two-hole, that is if he can hit like he did in 2011. If he is more of the 2012 version, then he is just an awful choice. As such, it probably makes sense for the Angels to give Speedy Petey a several weeks to prove himself and regain both his confidence and the confidence of the team before moving him up in the order. One way they might do that is by having him only bat second against southpaws, much as the Angels did with him in the leadoff spot late in the 2011 season.
There is also the possibility that the Angels could fill Hunter's vacated lineup spot with someone who isn't currently on the roster. By everything Jerry Dipoto is saying publicly, he is perfectly content with the current roster. But he has played possum on off-season moves before. Nick Swisher or Shin-Soo Choo would certainly be pretty ideal replacements for Hunter. Alas, that might just be wishful thinking on my part.
Of course, the Angels could drop Mike Trout down to second in the order to take better advantage of his power, but that creates the same problem, just one spot higher with the added wrinkle of not wanting to use a slower runner like Callaspo who would only clog up the bases for Trout.