What might turn out o be the greatest offseason in Angels franchise history will transition into Pitchers and Catchers reporting to Tempe this Sunday morning. Many 86-Win teams don't bother with anything but window dressing. Arte Moreno, though, poured a new foundation with the signing of Albert Pujols and C.J. Wilson. The improvements still leave the team and fanbase with questions. Here are the Top 12 you may come across on the blogs during this Spring.
1. Will Mark Trumbo Appear at 3B?
If last year's ROY runner up can provide even serviceable defense at the hot corner, the Angels lineup will have firepower to spare. Trumbo's short career has so far been a delightful dousing of doubters. The club is in no hurry to trade anyone and the switch-hitting Alberto Callaspo is a suitable 3B solution in a Righty-heavy lineup. But the thought of Trumbo and Pujols in the same lineup makes any fan with outfield seats excited about the free souvenirs sailing their way.
2. Is Team Depth Measured by the Health of Kendrys Morales?
Last seen falling all over himself at home plate and subsequently singing Billy Idol's Catch My Fall (If I Should Stumble) for a year and a half, a healthy Kendrys Morales is guaranteed playing time at DH. But the term "healthy" is not subjective. If Morales cannot perform tasks as basic as making the turn at 1B on on a single up the middle, the Angels are out a switch hitting MVP-caliber bat. A full recovery would see K-Mo in the field at 1B and maybe even LF on occasion. The more thorough his recovery from the most self-inflicted freak injury of the decade, the deeper the whole club becomes.
3. What Playing Time is due Bobby Abreu?
The Angels lineup is as starved for left-handed hitting as much as OBP and great baserunning. One would think the team would welcome a senior citizen who brings all this on his resumé, but Abreu is buried in the depth chart and might be worse at playing a corner outfield spot than nearly every Angel player, pitcher and peanut vendor.
4. When is Cutting Vernon Wells the Bargain?
Outfielder Vernon Wells is owed over $60 Million and had the worst offensive season by a major league outfielder as measured by OBP since the Roosevelt administration... the TEDDY Roosevelt administration. His mere presence in the outfield blocks Mike Trout. His right handed bat at Designated Hitter is less desirable than Abreu batting Left or Morales switch hitting. His speed, range and arm are subordinate to fringe fifth outfielder Jeremy Moore and everyone above that on the depth chart. It is really that lousy.
5. Is the "Future" in Howie Kendrick's "Future Batting Champion" Now?
Angels 2B Howie Kendrick gave the team a discount in signing a four-year extension and must have seen something through the lens of his ever-present camera as clearly as the dead-red fastballs that are coming his way when he bats in front of El Hombre. This might be the year all the predictions of Kendrick's potential manifesting as greatness come together.
6. Will Chris Iannetta behind the plate bridge the Mathis - Napoli divide?
The Angels finally jettisoned the favorite subject of MLB.com dinosaur scribe Lyle Spencer, the otherwise universally-loathed catcher Jeff Mathis and traded for Colorado backstop Chirs Iannetta. Your grandmother's mailman could outhit Mathis, no doubt, and so the expectations for Iannetta start out quite forgiving. But can the veteran produce enough with his bat to make up for some of the offense that former GM Tony Reagins flushed down the Los Angeles toilet of Anaheim when he sent Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera to Toronto for Wells?
7. Who will the #5 Starter Be?
The Angels avoided arbitration with reclamation project Jerome Williams (a rare feather in the Reagins cap) and he seems to be the favorite to take the #5 spot in the rotation. But the team also acquired Brad MIlls form Toronto for Mathis and prospect Garrett Richards would be the #4 or #5 on more than half of the big league clubs in baseball so it seems a waste of his arm to keep him at AAA Salt Lake. The ANgels are paying quite deeply and dearly for the luxury of a great front four, but there is talent bubbling over for the #5 spot as well and making the right choice for those starts could mean a lot if the division race is a tight.
8. Is the Bullpen Set?
Perhaps the absence of Fernando Rodney will be a plus and the addition of LaTroy Hawkins can hardly hurt, but other than Scott Downs having one of the great setup-men seasons ever, the 2011 Angels bullpen stunk. Closer Jordan Walden is on the the hot seat to improve or move but unlike almost every other position on the team, there is no heir apparent or obvious replacement in waiting.
9. Is Maicer Izturis the Greatest Utility Bench Threat in Baseball?
10. Is Erick Aybar's contract year a distraction or motivation?
After the Kendrick extension, Erick Aybar's negotiations seemed to go nowhere. In eight months, the Gold Glover is a free agent who is going somewhere and 2012 might be the type of season that inspires some other team to sign him for performing well in Anaheim this year.
11. How Does Mike Trout Get Playing Time?
Blocked by a still-nimble Torii Hunter, a still-developing Peter Bourjos, an overpaid Vernon Wells and three Designated Hitters (Abreu, Morales and Trumbo), the maddening inevitability of the game's most exciting prospect giving his all for the Salt Lake Bees looms as the dark side of depth.
12. Will Dennis Kuhl dump "Buttercup"?
The Angels chairman is rumored to be the Yankee-loving source of presenting Derek Jeter with a gift oil painting on behalf of the Angels after the Yankees shortstop recorded his 3,000th hit. But to add loathing to incredulity he is also rumored to be the amateur disc jockey responsible for replacing the second chorus of Take Me Out To The Ballgame during Angel Stadium's Seventh Inning Stretch with the 1960s bubblegum screecher Buttercup, whose lyrics concern the acquiescence to a subordinate loser status, none of which is lost on halo fans everywhere. It is a pretty awesome sign, though, that the stadium experience dominates Angels blogging discussions when Arte Moreno has so improved the on-field product to compete in 2012 and beyond.