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MLB Los Angeles Angels

Los Angeles Angels: Is Erick Aybar Primed For A Breakout 2014 Season?

Erick Aybar

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Erick Aybar will be heading into his eighth year in the majors as a member of the Los Angeles Angels, and it could be the best season of his career.

The 29-year-old is coming off a productive year where he batted .271 with six home runs, 54 RBI, 68 runs scored and tied his career-high 33 doubles in 138 games played. Throughout his career, Aybar has produced with consistency at the plate and on the field as he has been an outstanding fielder as evidenced by his Gold Glove Award in the 2011 season.

Although it was a productive year for Aybar, he has some extra motivation heading into next season as his team is looking to redeem themselves after a horrid 2013 season where they finished with a 78-84 record that put them 18 games out of first place. During last season, Aybar was a part of that struggle as he had two months of the year batting .252 or lower and also had issues with his left heel and right hamstring that forced him to miss a combined 22 games.

And to go along with his struggles last season, his name was mentioned in several trade scenarios before the July 31 deadline. At one point he was discussed as a possible piece to the trade with the St. Louis Cardinals that landed the team third baseman David Freese.

So with that said the seven-year veteran will be entering the 2013 season with plenty of motivation to not only help his team recapture an AL West title, but also prove to the Halos that he is an invaluable asset to the team’s future. With that added motivation, it could be the spark that leads to him putting together another solid season similar to one he had in 2009. That season was his best statistical year in his career as he had career-highs in batting average (.312), hits (157), triples (9), on-base percentage (.353), slugging percentage (.423) and second-highest in RBI (58) and runs scored (70).

What also plays in Aybar’s favor is that other players on the team such as Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton will be looking to prove that they are worth their large contracts. This will provide the shortstop more opportunities to either score more runs if his placed at the top of the batting order at the leadoff spot or drive in more runs if put behind them in the lower half of the lineup.

Another interesting thing to note is that Aybar will have a chance to make a case at being the Angels’ leadoff hitter with J.B. Shuck‘s spot in the expected to be taken by either Kole Calhoun or Raul Ibanez. This again will give the 29-year-old an opportunity to thrive as the leadoff hitter of a Halos’ lineup that is looking to redeem themselves after a difficult 2013 season.

He will also have his mind set on improving defensively as he was part of the problem last season by committing 15 errors on an Angels team that had the fourth most committed in the league at 112. Throughout his career Aybar has been an outstanding defensive player, and if he can recapture anywhere near his 2011 Gold Glove season where he was third in fielding percent (.980), fourth in assists (406), first in double plays turned (102) and third in putouts (240) it would be a big step in helping improve the overall team defense.

Nonetheless, with plenty of motivation heading into the 2014 season, Aybar could be in line for a very productive year at the plate and in the field as the Halos’ shortstop.