|Trumbo Faces Challenges at Third||| Print |||Send|
Written by Jim Mancari (Contact & Archive) on March 24, 2012
There could've been one complicating factor in the Angels pursuing Albert Pujols this offseason.
The team already had first basemen Kendrys Morales and Mark Trumbo on the roster. But a player like Pujols is only on the market once in a blue moon, so if a team has the funds, they are inclined to go all-in -- no matter who else is on their roster.
Once again, Pujols is Pujols -- simple as that. That's exactly what the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim figured this offseason, when they signed Pujols to a 10-year, $254 million contract.
Morales is coming off an injury that has kept him off the field since late May 2010, when he fractured his lower left leg celebrating with his teammates after hitting a walk-off grand slam. As the saying goes, "Don't do anything great, if you can't handle the congratulations."
Even without Pujols, Morales would have likely been relegated to a DH role anyway to allow him to ease his way back as a regular player, so the Pujols signing doesn't really affect him.
But the signing has had huge implications on Trumbo, a second-year Major Leaguer who burst onto the scene during his rookie year. He clubbed 29 home runs, drove in 87 runs and finished second to Tampa Bay Rays starter Jeremy Hellickson for AL Rookie of the Year.
Trumbo started 143 games at first base last season and appeared in 11 games as a corner outfielder. However, the Angels have asked him to move across the diamond to become the team's starting third baseman. The corner outfield spots for the Angels will be occupied by Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells, both Gold Glovers.
With Pujols and Morales in house and the corner outfield spots blocked, Trumbo doesn't really have a say in this matter. He recently told MLB.com that he feels confident he can make the routine plays and will work hard every day to get better.
Trumbo's transition to third base won't happen overnight, and there will likely be growing pains along the way, especially in fielding bunts. But Trumbo will attempt to show his versatility by proving he can play all over the diamond.
Ironically, Alberto Callaspo -- the other third baseman on the Angels roster -- has been instrumental in Trumbo's development. Callaspo, however, has been helping Trumbo with the his footwork and range at the hot corner. Trumbo will likely receive the bulk of the playing time early on, which may limit Callaspo's appearances.
An old baseball proverb states that "If you hit, they'll find a spot for you in the lineup." Such is the case with Trumbo. Of course, pitching and defense win games, but you can't win games without scoring runs.
The Angels believe that Trumbo's offensive production can offset any defensive miscues at third base. Manager Mike Scioscia can potentially use Callaspo as a defensive replacement late in games to strengthen his defense, especially in close games.
Trumbo had a productive year in 2011, but his stats could even be better in 2012. That's because he will likely get a ton of pitches to hit batting behind Pujols. The middle of the Angels batting order could potentially look like this: Pujols, Morales, Hunter, Trumbo and Wells. A modern day Murderer's Row, perhaps?
Let's see how Trumbo handles the position change, but if he hits, the Angels will continue to run him out there every day.