The Angels season is over from a competitive standpoint. Nothing left to do but to play out the games and see what you have headed into 2014. Interestingly enough, it appears as though a few "quarterback controversies" are beginning to develop within the organization. In fact, looking at the Angels' system right now, the future is chalk full of position battles which are likely to infuriate fans and draw media attention.
The Receiver - Napoli-Mathis was a fun time. It was great to see Naps hit bombs and stare at women from the dugout and possibly even more fun seeing Twitter blow up every time Mathis started over Napoli. We won't see anything quite as dynamic in 2014, but legitimately, the Conger-Iannetta debate will heat up. While there's no bad guy in this scenario (except maybe Scioscia), it's becoming clear the Hank Conger is outplaying Chris Iannetta in every facet of the game. Given that he's a local product, homegrown, less expensive and younger, you have to wonder how much longer Scioscia can justify starting Iannetta more often, or if Iannetta can justify Scioscia's never-wavering trust in veterans.
Too many cows in the pasture - In 2013, we as fans were privy to the gloriousness that was Trout in LF, Bourjos in CF and Hamilton in RF. At least for a while. Bourjos has been hurt most of the season, but played outstanding when he was healthy. Trout is back in CF and we've seen J.B. Shuck go from worst defensive OF in baseball to surprisingly valuable. While this normally wouldn't be newsworthy, Kole Calhoun killed the ball at every minor league stop and is possibly the best kept secret in baseball. So where do we go from here? Peter Bourjos is the best defensive CF in baseball, by a lot. But Shuck has guts and Trout's an outstanding CF in his own right. Then there's Kole Calhoun, who combines Shuck's guts with a rocket for an arm. Calhoun vs Shuck vs Bourjos. Who plays? Sure, you might find a way to answer that question by trading one of them, making another a full time OF and another a 4th OF, but that only fixes this problem temporarily, because in a year or two, you'll have to answer the question again, but this time with Travis Witherspoon and Randal Grichuk involved. Witherspoon's speed and defense make him an ideal 4th OF, but he's also got considerable power in his bat. Then there's Grichuk, whose contact ability and thunderous power profile perfectly in any corner OF and he'll probably be MLB ready around age 23, young enough to play under contract all through his prime.
Too many roosters in the pen - The Angels bullpen profiles nicely entering 2014. Frieri, Jepsen, De La Rosa, Kohn and Burnett is a really good group and either Blanton or Williams are fine to fill in as long relievers. A six-man bullpen is pretty normal sized. But suddenly the Angels look like they may need to carry a couple more relievers. Nick Maronde has made adjustments and looks like the obvious choice for a spot in middle relief as an extra lefty. But then there's Brandon Sisk coming off surgery, his numbers in the minors have been outstanding. There's also Cory Rasmus, who has posted even better numbers in the minors. And what of Mike Morin, who has the best numbers in the minors and simply doesn't look challenged in AA? What about R.J. Alvarez, who should be ready midway through 2014? This may be a good problem to have, but given the inconsistency or Jepsen and Burnett's health issues, it may be time for the young kids to take over.
Over-population – Here's a fun one to figure out. Who plays second base for the Angels in the future? Howie Kendrick, Grant Green, Taylor Lindsey or Alex Yarbrough? Here's a hint: You're right! Kendrick isn't old by any stretch and probably has at the very least five good MLB seasons left in him. So why talk about replacing him? Well he makes 9 million dollars and Grant Green is a Top 100 prospect and is putting up really good numbers in AAA. Taylor Lindsey is a homegrown talent that's just added power and discipline to his resume at the tender age of 21 and looks ready for the majors. Alex Yarbrough is probably the best overall player of the group and is only a half season behind Lindsey in terms of development.
Even if you move one of them to third base, you'd just be creating even more controversy, Would you play either of them above Chris Nelson, who is only a year removed from hitting .301 in his rookie season with the Rockies? How about Luis Jimenez who has also killed every step of minor league baseball? Or what about Kaleb Cowart, who is still a couple years off but has the highest upside of any player in the system?
And then there's shortstop – Erick Aybar is fine, unchallenged for the time being. In fact, he's a lot like Howie in that he isn't making a ridiculous amount and still has at least five more years of above average production left in him. But Grant Green's bat would look amazing coming from shortstop. Fast-forward two years and enter Eric Stamets and Jose Rondon. Stamets would already challenge as the best defensive shortstop in baseball with Brendan Ryan and Andrelton Simmons. And as it turns out, Stamets has excellent plate discipline and can run just like Aybar, but for a fraction of the price. But Jose Rondon's upside is undeniable. He may not be in Stamets' and Aybar's defensive class, but would still maker an average defensive shortstop. But it's his build (looks like a young A-Rod), advanced approach at just 19 years old and future power projection (it's coming folks) that make this kid look like a potential future all-star.