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A Position-by-Position Breakdown of the Los Angeles Angels at Spring Training

Rick SuterContributor IIFebruary 28, 2014

A Position-by-Position Breakdown of the Los Angeles Angels at Spring Training

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    Ross D. Franklin/Associated Press

    By the time you finish reading this sentence the Los Angeles Angels will have started playing actual baseball in 2014. And, of course, Mike Trout will have hit a grand slam.

    Seriously.

    Here's the video, courtesy of MLB.com.

    And with that excitement in mind, the Angels have 32 days (and counting) to get ready for the 2014 season—all while under the pressure to build a solid team that can compete in a tough AL West and make a playoff push.

    So far, things looks pretty darn good.

    But there is more to the Angels' spring than just phenoms patrolling the center field area. There are a few positions—mostly platoon roles—that should make for some interesting competition.

    Based off MLB.com's current depth chart, I have whipped up the Angels' position-by-position breakdown, with my thoughts on which players will start, possibly start, or have a slim chance to start. And there won't be any wasted time predicting or tossing out crystal ball revelations for anything past Opening Day. Right now, that's the most important series and the one the Angels have to prepare for.

    After that, well, you know how it goes.

    Adapt.

    Let's slide...

Starting Rotation

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    Jered Weaver
    Jered WeaverRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Depth Chart

    RHP Jered Weaver

    LHP C.J. Wilson

    RHP Garrett Richards

    LHP Hector Santiago

    LHP Tyler Skaggs

     

    The Long Shots

    RHP Joe Blanton

    RHP Matt Shoemaker

    LHP Wade LeBlanc

     

    Analysis

    Like every MLB team, how the starting pitching holds up is a major key to success. But the team doesn't exactly come into this spring with a top-tiered group; the club is relying on unproven arms to take on big roles.

    Both Hector Santiago and Tyler Skaggs will need to acclimate quickly, using all of March to progress with the understanding they will be an important part of April (and beyond). That doesn't mean either will have to put the entire team's win-loss record on their shoulders, but they have to stay at least .500 or better.

    There can't be any 2-14 seasons this year by an Angels starter.

    As for the front three, Garrett Richards will have to continue to build on his solid ending to 2013, with the added pressure of being the team's No. 3 starter—for now anyway.

    Jered Weaver will need to prove the critics wrong—something he is eager to do—by taking his drop in velocity and continuing to be an effective ace. C.J. Wilson has only to keep away from the live batting-practice sessions—or maybe wear a helmet—and continue to show his contract was a smart move.

    As for the rest? It's difficult to believe the Angels won't explore more starting options as March rolls into April.

    Stay tuned.

Bullpen

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    Joe Smith
    Joe Smithjim mone/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Depth Chart

    RHP Ernesto Frieri (Closer)

    RHP Joe Smith (Setup/Closer)

    RHP Dane De La Rosa (Setup)

    LHP Sean Burnett (Middle Relief)

    RHP Kevin Jepsen (Middle Relief)

    RHP Michael Kohn (Middle Relief)

     

    Potentially in the Mix

    LHP Brian Moran

    RHP Fernando Salas

    LHP Buddy Boshers

    RHP Clay Rapada

    RHP Cory Rasmus

    LHP Nick Maronde

    RHP Ryan Brasier

    LHP Michael Roth

    RHP Josh Wall

    LHP Robert Carson

     

    Analysis

    The Angels bullpen—assuming its collective health holds up better than it did last season—looks solid. The addition of former Cleveland Indians side-armer Joe Smith helps the late-inning/closer area, which should complement the growth of Dane De La Rosa and Ernesto Frieri and cut down on the 27 games lost in relief last year.

    Kevin Jepsen and Sean Burnett will have a lot to prove this spring, especially considering both have missed significant time due to injuries. Each should be on the Opening Day chart.

    I like Michael Kohn as another power arm in the mid-relief area.

    As for an interesting competition this spring, look to the left-handers. It's possible the Angels will want to fill the seventh spot in the bullpen with another lefty—for matchups and to cover that area if Burnett needs more time—and there isn't any one pitcher that is the easy choice.

    The surprise of the bunch? Brian Moran. He can apparently handle the lefty-lefty situations quite well, according to MLB.com's Alden Gonzalez.

Catcher

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    Hank Conger
    Hank CongerRoss D. Franklin/Associated Press/Associated Press

    Depth Chart

    Chris Iannetta

    Hank Conger

    John Hester

     

    Starter: Chris Iannetta 65 percent

    Possible Starter: Hank Conger 45 percent

    Two heads are better than one—in this case.

    Chris Iannetta holds the starting spot for the Angels, though Hank Conger can make a strong case to be the guy behind the plate.

    Both progressed following the spring last season, especially from a defensive perspective. Conger, who was extremely shaky last March, ended 2013 throwing out 32 percent of baserunners attempting to swipe a bag. Iannetta was also impressive, gunning down 24 percent of would-be base stealers.

    Much like last year, the catching position for the Angels will be critical. With inexperience shadowing three of the five starting pitchers, a good understanding of the game plan by the batterymate can mean the difference between a quality start or an early exit.

First Base

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    Albert Pujols
    Albert PujolsAssociated Press

    Depth Chart

    Albert Pujols

    Kole Calhoun

    Efren Navarro

    Carlos Pena

     

    Starter: Albert Pujols 

    With all the millions and millions of dollars left on Albert Pujols' contract, there shouldn't be much of an argument for which player will take the first base duties for the Angels. If Pujols is healthy—and he says he is, per the Los Angeles Times' Mike DiGiovanna—then the expectation should be somewhere in the neighborhood of 130 to 140 games at first.

    Of course, that does leave one question: What happens when Pujols needs a break and takes a turn at DH?

    With Mark Trumbo gone, the only true first base type available to platoon for Pujols is Efren Navarro. And though he has the potential to be successful in that role, it seems unlikely the club will use that bench spot on a player who doesn't give the team more defensive flexibility.

    That leaves Kole Calhoun, Raul Ibanez or possibly Carlos Pena.

    Stay tuned.

Second Base

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    Howie Kendrick
    Howie KendrickAssociated Press

    Depth Chart

    Howie Kendrick

    Grant Green

    Andrew Romine

    John McDonald

     

    Starter: Howie Kendrick 

    With all the trade rumors coming and going, it's now safe to say that Howie Kendrick is the Angels' second baseman. And that's a good scenario.

    Kendrick is still that special breed of middle infielder—one who hits for power and average while providing solid defense. More importantly, he is a veteran voice in the clubhouse.

    After Kendrick, though, there is an interesting competition to watch.

    Grant Green did an excellent job filling in at second base last season when Kendrick went down with an injury. Brought over from the Oakland Athletics in the Alberto Callaspo deal, Green showed he could handle things defensively and offensively.

    It was enough to make the possibility of trading Kendrick in the offseason seem...well, possible.

    Now, it's an uncertainty.

    Andrew Romine has entered spring in excellent condition, packing on some extra muscle in the offseason. The switch-hitter can play multiple positions—much like Green—and with a solid March could be the platoon option the Angels need.

    It's worth noting that with the rate of progression prospect Taylor Lindsey is displaying, one can count on him being the option at second base in the near future. Period.

Third Base

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    David Freese
    David FreeseAssociated Press

    Depth Chart

    David Freese

    Luis Jimenez

    Grant Green

    Chad Tracy

    Ian Stewart

     

    Likely Starter: David Freese, 95 percent

    Long Shot: Luis Jimenez, 3 percent

    Long Shot: Grant Green, 2 percent 

    Landing David Freese from the St. Louis Cardinals this past offseason was a solid move by the club. With Kaleb Cowart struggling in Double-A and needing more time to progress toward MLB-readiness, the Angels needed to get a solid player to man the hot corner.

    Grant Green wasn't the right fit.

    Freese is coming off a down year, so it's feasible for some to be concerned, but the potential and experience he brings with him is too great for a complete meltdown. If he can provide something close to his 2011 and 2012 seasons, then the Angels will have found their upgrade from Alberto Callaspo—even if it's a year later—for the next few seasons.

    Most importantly, as I have said before, Freese will give Cowart and Jimenez time to mature. It's a win-win situation.

    Remember when Albert Pujols was in the discussion for third base? Yep, that was last season.

Shortstop

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    Erick Aybar
    Erick AybarAssociated Press

    Depth Chart

    Erick Aybar

    Andrew Romine

    Tommy Field

     

    Starter: Erick Aybar 

    Like Howie Kendrick at second base, Erick Aybar has survived the offseason trade rumors and can get back to being a staple of the middle of the Angels' infield. Aybar had a strong 2013, though his fielding percentage was right at the average mark for shortstops (.973). He should continue to give the Angels not only a versatile bat in various parts of the lineup but also an above-average defender in the field.

    For Tommy Field and Andrew Romine, the chances of either getting the nod are so slim it's hardly worth mentioning. Their chances of making the 25-man roster rely solely on how well they can platoon all over the infield.

    Because, without question, shortstop is covered.

Left Field

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    Josh Hamilton
    Josh HamiltonAssociated Press

    Depth Chart

    Josh Hamilton

    Raul Ibanez

    J.B. Shuck

     

    Likely Starter: Josh Hamilton 85 percent

    Potential Starter: J.B. Shuck 9 percent 

    Potential Starter: Raul Ibanez 6 percent

    There may be some criticism for not making Josh Hamilton a 100 percent lock in left field, but there are just too many factors still at play to put all the faith in one player. And with Hamilton currently on crutches nursing an injured calf, plus the uncertainty of a still-maturing Kole Calhoun in right field, seeing more of Raul Ibanez and J.B. Shuck this spring is a safe expectation.

    That doesn't mean a drastic takeover, though. A healthy Josh Hamilton is the clear winner of the race.

    But the outfield is the one area the Angels should have complete confidence in because of the depth. So there is zero need to move quickly.

    And, really, it's never smart to count out J.B. Shuck.

Center Field

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    Mike Trout
    Mike TroutAssociated Press

    Depth Chart

    Mike Trout

    Collin Cowgill

    Josh Hamilton

     

    Starter: Mike Trout 

    There is a simple way to look at this: Unless the Angels really screw up negotiations with Mike Trout in the near future, the next option for the Angels' center field spot is currently in grade school.

Right Field

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    Kole Calhoun
    Kole CalhounAssociated Press

    Depth Chart

    Kole Calhoun

    Josh Hamilton

    Collin Cowgill

     

    Likely Starter: Kole Calhoun 85 percent

    Potential Starter: Josh Hamilton 15 percent 

    Kole Calhoun's final months in 2013 were some of the more exciting moments to watch last season. If he continues on that path this spring then right field is all his. However, much like the left field scenario, there is always uncertainty.

    Should Calhoun start slow and clearly need time to get things clicking, then expect Josh Hamilton to take over the duties in right—hence the 85 percent chance I give him in left.

    Sure, it can be viewed as overkill—Calhoun is a solid player. But the Angels need to start quickly, sending the ole' proverbial message to the new-look Seattle Mariners.

    That requires everything to click.

Designated Hitter

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    Raul Ibanez
    Raul IbanezAssociated Press

    Depth Chart

    Raul Ibanez

    Albert Pujols

    Josh Hamilton

     

    Likely Starter: Raul Ibanez 95 percent

    Potential Starter: Josh Hamilton 5 percent 

    Yes, there will be times when Albert Pujols gets the nod as the team's DH. But if we are going by the first series—and we are—then it would be crazy to assume anyone other Raul Ibanez or Josh Hamilton would be the DH.

    Either lefty will make a good matchup against the Mariners' right-handed heavy staff.

     

    Unless otherwise noted, all stats were courtesy of Baseball-Reference.

    Follow Rick Suter on Twitter@rick_suter

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