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Tuesday, January 10, 2006

CATCH-UP ROUND-UP
Very little has been going on as I've tried to re-join the world of the living. However, Josh links to this Steve Bisheff article in The OC Register (registration required) that says it's official that Darin Erstad is moving to center. What's more, The Legs will move to third, and Dallas McPherson might DH.

This isn't just idle columnist speculation; Mike Scioscia is quoted as saying "It's our plan to start spring training by playing Erstad in center field. We want to give it a long look. We think it gives us a lot more versatility."

Bisheff goes on to send a little snark the Angels' way, saying their offseason moves aren't gonna cut it. Well, we could be a lot worse off than:

Figgins, 3B
Cabrera, SS
Garret, LF
Vlad, RF
Rivera/McPherson, DH
Kotchman, 1B
Erstad, CF
Mathis, C
Kennedy, 2B

Just guessing at what the lineup would be. I would prefer switching O-Cab and Kotchman ... either way, that's a pretty unspectacular offense, but Kotch and a healthy McPherson should make it an improvement on last year. All-in-all, I'd say this is good news.

***

There's been typical shifting in the Angel minor league staff this offseason. With former AAA manager Dino Ebel joining the big club as third-base coach, the Angels' Parallel Universe Catcher of the Eighties, Brian Harper (just imagine Bob Boone with a goatee for the full effect) will take over the Salt Lake helm. Charles Nagy will be the pitching coach at AAA, so let's hope catastrophic arm injuries aren't contagious.

Ken Patterson, a former Angel lefty who is not Bob Patterson (a former Angel lefty), will be the pitching coach at AA Arkansas, and Eric Owens, a pretty sorry fourth outfielder for the Lads a few years ago, will be the hitting coach at Low-A Cedar Rapids. Tyrone Boykin moves up from managing Rancho Cucamonga to the Arkansas team, which is where he managed before being moved to Rancho last year.

With our former roving pitching instructor, Mike Butcher (middle name: Dana), off to Tampa Bay and Joe Maddon, Keith Comstock takes the position (he was at Arkansas last year, and originally drafted by the Angels in 1976). Rob Picciolo, whom I'm shocked to discover played with the Angels in 1984, is the new roving infield instructor, and former Angel Craig Grebeck (aka David Eckstein 1.0*) moves from being the hitting coach at Mesa to being the hitting coach at Rancho.

A few other former Angels have minor league jobs: Jim Eppard, a singles-hitting lefty first-baseman in the late 1980s, is the hitting coach at Salt Lake; Keith Johnson, who served a short stint as Mike Scioscia's laundryman in 2000 (Keith had played for Mike in the Dodger system), is the hitting coach at Arkansas; and Erik Bennett, who threw one-third of an inning for the 1995 Halo squad, is the pitching coach at Rancho.

Not much commentary on that stuff, just an FYI about a lot of former Angels still getting paychecks from baseball teams.


*I ran a version of this chart last year when the Angels first signed Grebeck to coach, so here's the update:
            Grebeck      Eckstein
Inches 67 66
Pounds 148 170
AVG .261 .282
OBP .340 .351
SLG .356 .362
OPS+ 87 89
BB/SO .832 .926
AB/SH 40.6 45.8
Eck actually put some distance between he and Grebeck with a solid 2005 campaign. But last year they were nearly identical, I swear!

Comments:
There is always the possibility of Erstad getting hurt, especially in the outfield, where he tends to throw his body around as if he were playing linebacker for the New England Patriots.

When was the last time Erstad got hurt playing the outfield? The last injury I remember him getting while penciled in as the center fielder, he was running the bases.
 
OK, this is probably the dumbest thing I've ever read:
...Carl Everett, precisely the type of DH Scioscia needs...

This comes two paragraphs after slagging Juan Rivera, who is younger, cheaper, and surprise surprise, has outhit Carl Everett over the last two years. What a moron.
 
Erstad himself has said that he has NEVER gotten hurt playing in the outfield.

Rather, all of his debilitating injuries have occured when running the bases.
 
Happy to hear that Erstad will be moved back to center. When he last played in the outfield, Erstad was one of, if not the best, outfielders in the game, so potentially the Angel's defense will improve next year.

However, I'm not happy to hear that Figgins will be starting at third. I think the team will be better served to start McPherson at third, as the team desperately needs an infusion of power, which D-Mac could potentially provide.

As for Figgins, he should start the season on the bench, as the super-utility guy, and bide his time until someone gets hurt. Mike's determination to get Figgie in the line-up at all costs is a mistake.
 
There was that time Erstad crashed into the center field fence with his face. That knocked him out for a couple of days.
 
Erstad once said in an interview -- towards the end of last year, I believe -- that (1) he would prefer to play the outfield rather than first base and (2) the hamstring injuries that cost him so much lost time came about on the basepaths, and not while chasing flyballs.
 
Erstad's hammies are an injury waiting to happen, regardless of whether he's been hurt in the OF before or not. I expect a Fonz/Erstad platoon, with Figgins playing swing man, until Erstad gets hurt. D-Mac should platoon with Quinlan (who destroys lefties) at DH, until Figgins replaces the injured Ersty. With brittle Garret and balky-back Vlad, Rivera will still get plenty of playing time, though hopefully mostly in left....

All in all things aren't so bad. I'm just worried that the middle-infield logjam may soon stunt the growth of Kendrick/Wood. I'd love to see them both in Triple A this year.... Maybe they can move Aybar to CF so he can study to be the next Figgy, after Chone finally settles down in CF in the post-Erstad era?
 
Setphen Smith of futureangels.com has also advocated converting shortstop Erick Aybar to centerfield.
 
As for Figgins, he should start the season on the bench, as the super-utility guy, and bide his time until someone gets hurt.

The "super" in super-utility implies everyday play. And on an OBA-impaired team like the Angels, it makes no sense to bench one of the four players in the lineup who exceeds league average in on-base percentage.

Figgins led the team in hits, runs, walks, steals and triples last season. Benching him is looney-tunes.
 
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