Hear that? It’s the sound of the Los Angeles Angels‘ bats coming alive after 42 games of dormancy.
After a 15-27 start in which the Halos’ $142 million payroll seemed more like an albatross around the franchise’s neck than a recipe for success, the team has won its last eight games and appears to have finally found a groove as its play has heated up with the late spring weather.
At the center of this offensive renaissance has been center fielder Mike Trout.
Trout’s performance through the first quarter of the season disappointed fans who had hoped he could recapture the magic of the 2012 campaign in which he was awarded American League Rookie of the Year honors. During the Angels’ win streak, however, the 21-year-old’s play has been phenomenal: hitting .406 with a pair of home runs, seven RBIs and four stolen bases over the eight game stretch — not to mention a game in which he hit for the cycle.
Trout has surely quelled the fears of those who wondered if his excellent rookie campaign had been a mere fluke, raising his average to .302 less than a month after it stood at .263. Though his plate discipline still leaves something to be desired — he has struck out 12 times over this same period — it’s safe to say that Trout is sure to be a fixture at Angel Stadium for years to come.
Manager Mike Scioscia will be forced to make a few key decisions regarding Trout once center fielder Peter Bourjos, who is sidelined since April 30 with a strained left hamstring, returns to play in the near future. Bourjos had been batting leadoff and starting in center field, but with the return of shortstop Erick Aybar to the leadoff slot and Trout’s usual, stellar play in center field, Scioscia is unlikely to move Trout from either the second hitting spot or center field.
As the Halos’ middle of the order is stacked with power hitting, Scioscia would be equally unlikely to move Trout down in the order. The most likely scenario would probably involve Bourjos moving to left field (though interim left fielder J.B. Shuck has acquitted himself rather nicely at the position), Mark Trumbo remaining at first base and Albert Pujols staying put at designated hitter until his plantar fascitis-ridden left foot shows signs of healing.
With all of his contributions to the Angels over the past two years, it seems downright unfair that the franchise chose not to give Trout a significant raise prior to the 2013 season. Though under no obligation to do so, it would have been a nice gesture for the team to have paid the young star a salary more commensurate with his valuable services.
But instead, the Halos opted to re-up Trout for a meager $510,000. In case you forgot, the Angels are the same team that lavished $21 million on Vernon Wells in the 2012 season before mercifully ridding themselves of his contract this year. The mere mention of Wells’ name in front of an Angels fan is likely to elicit a deep sigh, if not an exasperated rant.
Let’s just say that Trout will have a very strong case for naming a high salary figure when he becomes eligible for arbitration prior to the 2015 season.
At any rate, Halo fans are relieved that Trout is back to his high performing ways at the plate, and he will need to stay that way if the Angels are to continue their climb out of the cellar and into contention for an American League playoff spot.
Tony Baker is a Los Angeles Angels blogger for Rant Sports. You can follow him on twitter at @tonloc_baker