Hughes, Hutchison, and Leake bring the VP jelly to BP this week.
With a big wave of interleague on the horizon, pitcher values vary in a way we haven’t seen yet this year as they face new teams in new venues. For example, the Angels and Athletics have featured some useful starting pitchers this year, the former more so than the latter, but as they each head into Coors Field to face the Rockies over the next week, there could be some trouble on the horizon. This could be especially problemsome for Ervin Santana, Bartolo Colon, and Tom Milone given their home run rates.
Pitching and defense carried the Angels last season and will aid them again in 2012, though a couple new bats might make the difference in the division.
The most famous play of Peter Bourjos’s major-league career to date comes in the bottom of the fourth inning in the Bronx on August 10, 2011, with the Yankees already out to a 5-0 lead. Bourjos is set up in center and just a few steps towards right when New York infielder Eduardo Nuñez is late on a 3-2 fastball and lines it into the right field gap. Both Bourjos and Hunter break for the ball; it’s closer to Hunter, and he dives…inches short. Less than inches short. He’s so close to catching it that it almost looks like he tips it with his glove, but the ball continues on its course untouched.
Good thing, too, because as Hunter extends in mid-air to make a highlight-reel-worthy play on the ball, Bourjos comes streaking out of nowhere behind him and gloves the ball knee-high on the run, stops, plants, and delivers the ball back towards second, where the Angels almost double up a disbelieving Russell Martin. In the three, maybe four seconds between Nuñez making contact with the outside fastball and Bourjos retiring him, the Angels center fielder crossed from medium-deep center to make a play in front of the scoreboard in right and remained on his feet while doing so, allowing him to try for the double play. The putout makes highlight reels across the country; after all, it has a spectacular dive, an out, and a near-collision in the outfield. It’s not really important which of the outfielders was responsible for what.
Genuflect, genuflect, genuflect to Mike Trout and his supernatural powers.
Prospect #1: OF Mike Trout Background with Player: My eyes; industry sources. Who: It’s a little cheap to include Trout in these rankings; after all, he belongs at the major league level in 2012 and already accrued 40 games there in 2011. But this is my series and I can do what I want, and what I want to do is wax poetic about Mike Trout. The 20-year-old prospect is not a mystery to man; he has been on the prospect landscape since a breakout debut campaign in 2009 put him on the map and an even greater sophomore season peeled back the layers of his superiority and left the baseball world with a top tier talent. Trout can do just about everything on a baseball field, with elite speed, a near-elite hit tool, plus power potential, a plus-plus glove, and enough arm to grade around average. That’s a legit five-tool talent, and while we are being honest here, if given a choice of any prospect in baseball to build a team around, I’d take Trout over Harper, I’d take Trout over Moore, and I’d take Trout over Profar. I’ve only seen the kid play five times in two years, but each time his performance triggered an internal existential debate: Is Mike Trout the archetype of the modern player? Is Mike Trout a baseball deity?
What Could Go Wrong in 2012: Trout’s physical skills are straight out of your favorite fables, but he’s only 20 and those post-biblical skills aren’t refined. As a right-handed hitter, Trout struggled with his first-taste of major league quality stuff, especially arm-side stuff on the inner half of the plate, be it sharp fastballs, benders with depth, or sequencing that kept him guessing on both. I fully expect to see more struggles of this variety in 2012, as Trout should pound lefties and remain inconsistent against the arm-side. To his benefit, Trout has lightning-fast hands and strong wrists which give him good bat control and contact ability. With those attributes, his contact rates should climb in 2012, but negotiating the difficulties associated with electric arm-side stuff is something you can only overcome through exposure, and setbacks are intrinsic to that process. In the end, Trout could be a perennial MVP candidate as a Gold Glove-caliber center fielder that is going to hit over .300, reach base at a high clip, slug 20 homers and a ton of doubles, steal bases, and change the fortunes of the Angels franchise more than their recent free agent additions. The Church of Trout starts here.
The Braves sign a cast-off from elsewhere in the division, the Angels exhume two pitchers for the back of their bullpen, one Oriole's season goes down the drain while another's looks up, and the Pirates assess Pedro Alvarez.