TEMPE, Ariz. — Monday marked one of the milestones of spring training, the Angels playing their First Game With A Full Lineup.
Although the lineup still didn’t include Albert Pujols, who is rehabbing from foot surgery, and there is still some question about whether Martin Maldonado or Carlos Perez will be the primary catcher, for the most part, the lineup for Monday against the San Diego Padres included the players who figure to be their regulars.
Which means it was the first opportunity of 2017 to see Mike Scioscia’s preferred lineup, as of now anyway.
It looked like this: Yunel Escobar, Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout, Luis Valbuena, C.J. Cron, Cameron Maybin, Danny Espinosa, Perez and Andrelton Simmons.
When Pujols is healthy, he will hit fourth and either Valbuena or Cron won’t be there, but beyond that, Scioscia showed the order he prefers.
“I think there are some really good groupings that make sense,” he said. “I think we definitely want to see how we grow with this lineup.”
The biggest question was whether Scioscia wanted to experiment with moving Calhoun down to the middle of the lineup.
Calhoun and Maybin, who is new this year, are the two wild cards in the lineup, because both have the skills to serve as table-setters in front of Trout and Pujols, or run-producers to protect them.
Scioscia has said the Angels’ top priority in lineup construction is to get players on base in front of Trout. In years the Angels haven’t had many on-base threats, they simply put one player ahead of Trout and had him second. Last year, the addition of Escobar allowed the Angels to have two good on-base threats ahead of him. Escobar (.355) and Calhoun (.348) both reached base at a better-than-average clip, allowing enough opportunities for Trout (100 RBI) and Pujols (119) to produce lots of runs.
Now, Maybin’s addition gives the Angels a third player who has the on-base potential and speed to be a legitimate possibility to hit ahead of Trout. Maybin’s career on-base percentage is .322, which is not spectacular, but last year he reached at an exceptional .383 clip.
“I am one of those guys you can stick anywhere,” Maybin said. “It doesn’t matter to me. My approach and mentality stay the same. It’s good to have athleticism and speed on the bases (at the top of the lineup) or you can have someone with a lot of contact if runners are out there in front of me. It makes for a really good situation. You can play around (with different lineups).”
Scioscia said one of the reasons he still prefers Calhoun in front of Trout is that Calhoun has some pop, so if pitchers decide to go after him, he can make them pay with more than just a single.
Calhoun said he’s happy either way.
“Hitting in front of Trout, (the pitchers) keep a focus on him,” Calhoun said. “They don’t want anybody on base for Trout. You’ve got a little protection. It’s definitely a good spot to hit. But hitting lower, you definitely have guys on base.”
Since Calhoun’s first full season, in 2014, his slugging percentage has gone down and his on-base percentage has gone up, indicating that he may be better suited to set the table than clean it up.
Calhoun also hits left-handed, and Maybin is right-handed. If the Angels want to keep a balanced lineup, it makes sense to have Calhoun at the top amid the right-handed hitting Escobar, Trout and Pujols. Maybin’s right-handed bat blends in better in the second half of the lineup, with the left-handed Valbuena and switch-hitting Espinosa.
Of course, all of this discussion comes with a couple big caveats.
First, studies have shown lineup construction doesn’t make that much difference. As long as you have as many good hitters as you can, and you have them bat as often as possible, the specific order doesn’t matter much.
Also, it’s going to change all year because players will get hot and cold and injured. If, for example, Ben Revere outplays Maybin and starts playing the majority of the time in left, the equation changes. Revere hits left-handed and, in his career, has been much more of a table-setter. In that case, it could make sense for Revere to hit second and Calhoun to hit fifth.
“However it’s best for the team is how is going to shake out,” Calhoun said. “Either of those spots are good spots to be in. As long as we’re part of the lineup, that’s all we care about.”
Cam Bedrosian said he's throwing again and will be able to throw a bullpen session within the next few days. Bedrosian had missed some time with a groin injury...
Shane Robinson had been out with a sore calf, but he was back on the lineup card and available to play in Monday's game...
Andrelton Simmons is scheduled to leave on Tuesday for Seoul, where he will be playing for the Netherlands team in the World Baseball Classic. Simmons is likely to miss about two and a half weeks for the tournament.
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