Predicting the Los Angeles Angels’ 2014 Opening Day Lineup
The Los Angeles Angels went through their second straight disappointing season in 2013. Not only did they have the same star studded lineup they had the year before, but they added free agent Josh Hamilton to the fray. Still, they only went 78-84. That kind of season will not work with a team like this.
The Angels have one of the best lineups in baseball on paper. They have one of the two or three best players in the game in Mike Trout. They have Albert Pujols, who was at one point on pace to break many hitting records. Manager Mike Scioscia needs to do something to get this team back on track.
The lineup could be changing every single day depending on who is hot and who is not. With so much talent up and down this lineup, you cannot afford to play poorly.
The Angels currently have the seventh highest payroll in the majors, and there is a certain expectation that comes with that -- especially when you are going to pay your best player a paltry $1 million next season. The future payroll, based on how they formed some of their contracts and the fact that they have to pay some of their young stars, is going to skyrocket even higher. When that day comes, they better hope these kinks are worked out.
This season needs to provide dividends for the Angels. If it doesn't people are going to get fired. It all starts with the first lineup. This is the Angels' projected Opening Day lineup.
1. CF Mike Trout
When you have a player who can get on base over 43 percent of the time, you try to get him as many at bats as you can. The fact that at any time he could hit a leadoff home run only makes the decision easier. Trout should be leading off or hitting third for whatever team he is on, and since this team already has power hitters in the three spot, keep Trout here. Did I mention he steals more than 30 bases a year? Yeah, there is that too.
2. 2B Howie Kendrick
Some may expect Howie Kendrick to bat lower in the lineup, but I expect a huge Spring Training out of him. If he can lower the strikeout numbers some, then he will be in this spot for most of the season. Him and Trout back-to-back will leave plenty on base for the next two.
3. 1B Albert Pujols
Pujols was at one time the greatest hitter, by far, in baseball. Last season was by far his worst season since he came into the league in 2001. He hit .299 three years ago and has gone down both seasons since then. He needs to get back to the guy who earned his ten-year deal. Whoever this is was not worth half of what he got. He needs to be at least a .290 hitter with 30 home runs and 100 RBIs, especially with this lineup around him.
4. RF Josh Hamilton
You almost feel for Hamilton until you look at how much money he is making. After having a rough time trying to get back to baseball thanks to drugs and alcohol, he found himself with a $125 million contract. His 2014 is not starting off well with the news he is going to miss a few weeks with a calf injury, but he should be good to go to start the year. He also hopes to turn around his career with the Angels in his second year with the team.
5. DH Raul Ibanez
Raul Ibanez was this season's big signing. He isn't exactly Hamilton or Pujols, especially at this point in his career, but he can bring a ton to the table for the Angels. His power will give protection to the two players in front of him and he will bring a certain veteran presence.
6. 3B David Freese
David Freese was brought into the Angels through a trade with the St. Louis Cardinals. He is once again throwing to Pujols at first base. He is going to look into once again being a premier third baseman, this time in the American League.
7. SS Erick Aybar
The fact that Erick Aybar is so far down the lineup is the surprise of the article. I see a major decline starting for him, and it will be prevalent to start Spring Training. He will have an uphill battle all season to stay relevant. My prediction is he spends most of the season on the disabled list and is a complete disappointment.
8. LF Kole Calhoun
Kole Calhoun was a decent hitter for the Angels in his rookie season. He is the new left fielder of the future. Hopefully he can build off that season and provide some hitting at the back end of the lineup.
9. C Chris Ianetta
You need a catcher, and most teams can't have a catcher that can hit. You look around the league and this position is the softest hitting among them. Chris Ianetta works well with the pitchers, and that is as much as he will be asked to do.