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Wednesday, January 18, 2012
The case for Alberto Callaspo

By Mark Saxon

He led the Angels in batting average and on-base percentage and played above-average defense last year, so why is everybody ready to dump Alberto Callaspo as the team's third baseman?

It's about power, perception and potential. Mark Trumbo made a major splash in Anaheim by mashing 29 home runs within a stone's throw of where he grew up in his rookie season, perhaps just a hint of what the powerful 26-year old can do. If he keeps getting everyday at-bats and can improve his plate discipline, he looks like a guy who could hit 40-plus home runs.

But are the Angels better off if Trumbo can adjust to playing third regularly?

According to Baseball Reference's Wins Above Replacement statistic, Trumbo is the Angels' third-best option at third (assuming we leave Albert Pujols -- who played seven games there last year -- out of the discussion). Trumbo's 2011 WAR was 2.1. Callaspo's was 4.5 and Maicer Izturis' was 3.2.

The Angels don't sound like they're in as big a hurry to turn Trumbo into a third baseman as many of their fans seem to be.

"One thing I'd like to clarify is we have no intention of turning Mark into an everyday third baseman," general manager Jerry Dipoto said recently. "The idea is to get him some exposure there to see if he can be part of our positional versatility. It's an attache, to let him into the lineup more often. Our intention is not to put him out there 120 games a year."

The Angels certainly don't need all three guys. Assuming Callaspo plays 135 games (less than he played last year) and Trumbo plays a handful, Izturis is virtually without a role. Erick Aybar is a durable shortstop and Howie Kendrick figures to float around less now that the Angels have Pujols and greater outfield depth. In a pinch, the Angels could always call up scrappy Alexi Amarista.

Izturis is a free agent in the fall and there are still some teams searching for a good utility guy. Assuming the Angels hold onto Trumbo (who earns around the league minimum), don't be surprised if Izturis -- the longest tenured Angel -- is playing somewhere else within a few months.