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Given the $21 million that Vernon Wells is owed this season, it’ll be nearly impossible for Trout to win this job outright during the spring, and the Angels have insisted that they will not open the season with Trout on the Major League roster if they don’t have a place to play him everyday.
Given his struggles during his MLB debut last year, that’s not a bad approach for the team. However, it isn’t the performance of any of Anaheim’s other outfielders that is blocking the future star’s path to the big leagues.
Bobby Abreu finally appeared to lose his battle with Father Time last year, and at 38 is nothing more than a platoon player at this point in his career.
Wells regained some of his power last season, producing 25 home runs in only 131 games. But his .218 average and .248 OBP are absolutely unacceptable for a team expecting to contend for a World Series this year, and at 33 his days as a 15 to 20 stolen base threat are far behind him.
Peter Bourjos emerged as a solid starter in center field, providing unexpected pop to go along with stellar defense and 22 stolen bases. The Angels would love for him to get on base a little more, but Trout has zero chance of taking his starting job out of camp barring an injury.
Torii Hunter proved that he still has a bit left in the tank, even at 36. Like Wells, he’s no longer a legitimate stolen base threat, though his .262 average makes him look like Tony Gwynn compared to Wells. He doesn’t get on base frequently enough, and he no longer flashes the elite glove that was his calling card throughout his 15-year career, but he's also far from a liability.
Any outside shot that Trout has of getting regular playing time with the Angels to start the year has been slowed by a bout with the flu, causing him to lose 10 pounds and miss valuable spring at bats.
Like Harper, expect Trout to spend at least a month or two in the minors before reemerging in the Majors for good, but be aware that a slow start by any of Anaheim’s geriatric outfield crowd could accelerate Trout’s Rookie of the Year campaign.