Angels’ 2012 hopes hinge on enigmatic lineup

The Angels hope Vernon Wells can bounce back from a disappointing 2011. (Jeff Golden/Getty Images)

If the Angels hope to improve on their encouraging 2011 performance, they absolutely must score more runs.

That’s not to say they were abysmal on offense last season. If anything, they were only mediocre. Their 667 runs scored were the 17th-most in the league, which is still far from good enough to contend with the likes of the Texas Rangers.

Nobody on the Angels’ starting nine could muster a .300 batting average. Third baseman Alberto Callaspo led the team with a .288 AVG. Catcher Jeff Mathis brought up the rear at .174.

The big issue heading into 2012 is whether Kendrys Morales will be anywhere as good as he was before he broke his leg in 2010. With the slugger out of the game for nearly two years, it simply makes sense to suspect he’ll return with a considerable amount of rust. Simply having Morales back at full strength may put the Angels back in the playoffs on its own.

The catching situation for the Halos is nothing short of a mess; last season, Jeff Mathis, Hank Conger, and Bobby Wilson all split time behind the plate. All three backstops couldn’t get their bats going (Mathis .174, Wilson .189 and Conger .209), so the situation is hazy at best. Conger and Wilson may be better than their numbers indicate, but until they get more playing time than they’ve gotten so far, we won’t know.
Elsewhere in the lineup, Vernon Wells hopes to bounce back from a down season. The left fielder, acquired from Toronto for Mike Napoli and Juan Rivera, received plenty of flak with an ice-cold bat and a defense best described as painful to watch. The pressure is on for the veteran to deliver on the big contract he brought with him from Toronto. Wells has had a recent history of up-and-down seasons, so fans don’t too much reason to fret yet.

On the positive side of things, Mark Trumbo and Peter Bourjos will take the field next season with a full season of MLB experience under their belts. Bourjos’s defense in center field is nothing short of a spectacle, and Trumbo’s brute power will be a force to be reckoned with if honed correctly. Obviously, it may take a while before these two players reach their full potential. But Bourjos’s speed (his 11 triples last season led the team by far) and Trumbo’s hitting ability might possibly lead the Angels of tomorrow.

It’s uncertain at this point whether or not new Angels GM Jerry DiPoto will make a move to bolster the Angels offense. There was some talk swirling about earlier about Prince Fielder or possibly Albert Pujols coming to the Big A, but they have since then dissipated. It’s still relatively early in the offseason (and in DiPoto’s tenure as Angels GM), so the direction the Angels will take with regard to acquisitions is unclear.

It may not be a terribly comforting notion, but the Angels will rely on their batters to get them over the hump and into the playoffs in 2012. As things stand now, it’s difficult to tell whether the club will have taken a step forward or backward. An abundance of youth shows promise for the future, but the issue at hand is whether the Angels will compete in this upcoming season. The Halos lineup may turn out to be the biggest mystery in baseball.

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