Monday, February 6, 2012
Position previews: Third base
By Mark Saxon
For a team that's supposed to have a gaping hole at third base, the Angels got pretty good production out of their third baseman last season.
Alberto Callaspo led all qualifying third basemen in on-base percentage (.363), was second in batting average (.288) and third in OPS (.740).
That might say more about the state of the position last year than it does about Callaspo. Evan Longoria, Adrian Beltre, Pablo Sandoval, Kevin Youkilis, David Wright and Chipper Jones all missed time with injuries and there aren't a lot of promising young third basemen moving into the void. Brett Lawrie and David Freese might be exceptions.
The Angels might not find it so easy to squeeze more power out of the left side of their infield. Teams that have good third basemen aren't in a hurry to give them up.
That leaves Angels manager Mike Scioscia with two less-than-ideal options on a given night. He can take the safe route -- the contact hitting and solid defense of Callaspo or Maicer Izturis -- or the riskier, higher-reward path, Mark Trumbo.
In Trumbo, he has a player who homered once every 19.8 plate appearances in 2011. In Callaspo, he has a player who homered once every 89.3 at-bats. Trumbo struck out once every 4.5 plate appearances, more than three times as often as Callaspo. Izturis has more speed, but he and Callaspo otherwise boast similar skill sets.
But even if Scioscia chooses power over fielding and slap hitting -- which would seem to contradict the style he's become linked to -- can Trumbo even play the position adequately? It's not as easy as it looks, and Trumbo is 6-foot-5, is coming off a stress fracture in his foot and hasn't played there since a brief, failed attempt after he was drafted in 2004.
Again, it could be a question of risk vs. reward. Until they get a better sense of how well Trumbo can play there, they'd be foolish to part with Callaspo or Izturis.