Los Angeles Angels outfielder J.B. Shuck certainly has plenty to play for in the 2014 spring training with questions about his role on the team for the upcoming regular season.
The 2013 regular season was a breakout year for the 24-year-old as he played in his first full season as an everyday outfielder for the Halos. Shuck posted career highs across the board most notably in batting average (.293), RBIs (39), doubles (20) and runs (60) which helped earn a fifth-place finish in the American League Rookie of the Year voting.
Entering last season Shuck was seen at most as a fourth outfielder. But when oft-injured Peter Bourjos went down a left hamstring strain that forced him to miss from May to throughout June, he took advantage of the increased playing time as he batted .291 with 10 RBIs within that span.
Although his numbers were not that impressive, Shuck was able to get a significant amount of at-bats for the first time in career as a starting outfielder for the Halos. After Bourjos returned in June, it would be short-lived as he once again suffered a fractured left wrist that this time end his season.
In Bourjos’ absence, Shuck was a respective all-round player in the Angels’ lineup. He was a consistent hitter at the plate who had a triple slash of .293/.322/.365 with two home runs, 20 RBIs and 39 runs scored over the last three months of the season.
He also made several plays in the outfield including an impressive over the left-field wall robbery of Toronto Blue Jays outfielder Jose Bautista‘s would-be home run. Shuck also often at times took up the responsibility as the team’s lead-off hitter and had a solid month of August where he hit .333 with one home run, 12 RBIs, 14 runs scored and a .422 slugging percentage.
But with that said, let’s fast forward to this offseason as it was looking great for Shuck when the Halos traded outfielder Mark Trumbo which appeared to open a playing spot for the left-handed hitter. But that thought was quickly erased when the team signed Raul Ibanez as their full-time designated hitter. It also did not help that Kole Calhoun made an impact (.282 BA, eight home runs, 32 RBIs) after being called up last July that has appeared to close an opportunity in the outfield for Shuck.
So as he enters his second spring training with the Angels, Shuck will once again be playing to prove that he is worthy of a significant role on the team in the 2014 regular season. But with the deck stacked against him, it’s hard to believe he will play over the four outfielders in front of him.
The entire Angels outfield is a motivated bunch of players. Calhoun will be looking to improve off last season’s performance. Josh Hamilton has redemption on his mind after a lackluster 2013 season. Ibanez has his eye set on proving that he can be a full-time DH and help the team win. Finally, the cornerstone of the franchise in Mike Trout will once again be gunning for another shot at the AL MVP award after coming up short in his first two seasons.
So with that said, it looks bleak for Shuck, but anything can happen from now to the opening day of the regular season.