Youth movement in Anaheim has heads turning

Mark Trumbo is providing a powerful punch for the Angels in his first season. (Harry How/Getty Images)

With injuries and bad front office decisions dogging the 2011 Los Angeles Angels, a couple of rookie studs have come forth and helped perk the team up in a big way.

First baseman Mark Trumbo entered 2011 with some massive shoes to fill. Kendrys Morales, the Angels’ leading power hitter, is out for the season with a broken leg. Trumbo has performed admirably in his stead, posting a .252 batting average in 166 plate appearances. He and veteran Howie Kendrick lead the Angels in home runs with seven, and his 21 RBIs are tied for third-most on the team. Trumbo’s latest contribution was a three-run home run against the Braves on Friday night.

Along the way, he has compiled his fair share of inopportune outs, but nobody expected Trumbo to be perfect in his first season as a Major League starter.

Peter Bourjos has owned his role in center field, dominating the outfield with his tremendous speed. The dazzling speedster has robbed many a batter in center, racking up several highlight-reel catches.

Bourjos’s outfield speed translates well to the basepaths. Despite his lack of discipline at the plate (his strikeout percentage of 32.1 is second only to Reggie Willits’s 33.3 percent), Bourjos has been able to parlay his fleet feet into six bunt hits, a figure that has him tied for first in the majors along with Juan Pierre and Michael Bourn.

Catcher Hank Conger made a name for himself among Angel fans early on in 2011 when he homered in his first at-bat of the season. Since then, he has proven to be a dependable catcher, gunning down seven would-be base stealers and allowing only one passed ball in 22 starts. Jeff Mathis, Conger’s competitor at backstop, has caught five players stealing and allowed four passed balls in 24 starts. All the while, Conger has performed considerably better with his bat, hitting .244 with three home runs to Mathis’s .202 and one home run.

The pitching staff has benefitted from the infusion of youth, as well.

Tyler Chatwood performed predictably to begin 2011. His inexperience showed in his first few starts, which is a primary factor in his 4.06 ERA. He has settled down considerably since then, most recently holding the Braves to one run in interleague play.

And finally, big-armed Jordan Walden has earned his position as closer with his deadly fastball. Walden hit a bit of a rough patch in early- to mid-May but has since recovered, converting his last two saves with relative ease. He’ll look to shrink that 2.82 ERA considerably as the season wears on.

If the Angels don’t turn out to be playoff contenders this season, there wouldn’t be much reason for Halo fans to pout. With the young talent on this team and the steady leadership of Mike Scioscia and company at the helm, the Angels are in a position to field some great teams in the coming seasons.

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