Angels rich with offensive depth
Scioscia enjoys a wealth of powerful plate options
PHOENIX -- Memo to The Boss: The Angels are still the same fun bunch. They're born to run -- all the way, they hope, to the promised land.
From Chone Figgins at the top of the order to Maicer Izturis or Erick Aybar at the bottom, they've been flying around the bases this spring, getting ready to once again torment the opposition with their first-to-third sprint medley. Even the big boppers in the heart of the order get in on the fun, including the long-striding Vladimir Guerrero and easy-moving Garret Anderson.
What a lot of people don't seem to grasp, however, is that there's more to the Angels than flying feet. With the addition of Torii Hunter, the return of Juan Rivera and a healthy right side of the infield in the forms of Casey Kotchman and Howie Kendrick, this team can mash.
In fact, if there's one thing that could separate the Angels from the American League West pack in 2008, it's their offensive firepower.
"We feel like we've improved our depth and our batter's-box offense," manager Mike Scioscia said. "We've got a lot of offensive options now."
The Angels, fourth in the AL in runs scored in 2007 with a lineup fractured all season by injuries, have so much offense, they might have to send one of their most dangerous weapons -- first baseman Kendry Morales -- to Triple-A Salt Lake to make sure he gets enough at-bats to maintain his stroke.
Rivera is a fourth or fifth outfielder on this club, but he'd be the everyday cleanup hitter in some places now that he's fully recovered from his broken leg, a injury he sustained in December 2006.
Hunter, the $90 million, five-year, free agent prize, arrived beaming and hasn't stopped. He came out smoking with the bat, launching bombs, and he happily fits right into the first-to-third mantra.
Vlad is Vlad: bad to the bone. If Figgins -- a .330 hitter in '07 despite two fractured fingers and a wrist that needed winter surgery -- stays healthy in the leadoff spot and Gary Matthews Jr. flourishes in the No. 2 hole the way he has this spring, Guerrero could approach 150 RBIs this season.
Little known fact: Hunter, with 28 homers, tied for the AL lead in 2007 among all outfielders. Right behind him, at 27, was Guerrero, in a down power year related to a succession of nagging injuries to hands, elbow and shoulder.
All that hand-wringing about a big bat to protect Vlad? Please. The big man is surrounded by weaponry. Anderson remains an RBI machine when he's sound -- 65 of them in the second half of 2007 -- and Hunter, Kotchman and Kendrick all are capable of landing in the 90-to-100 range.
Should anything happen to Anderson or the other outfielders, or to Kotchman, Rivera and Morales can step right in and bang with the best of them.
Funny how these things turn out. The questions about the Angels going into the season now revolve around the starting pitching, with John Lackey (strained triceps) and Kelvim Escobar (shoulder inflammation) opening the season on the disabled list.
And that brings us to Miguel Cabrera, the Tigers' new slugging third baseman.
When the Angels lost out on Cabrera over the winter, the assumption was that they'd blown a chance to add that missing element to their attack.
In reflection, it might have been the best thing that could have happened to them, with all due respect to Cabrera's tremendous offensive ability.
Ultimately, the Angels refused to include both Nick Adenhart and Ervin Santana in a package that included Kendrick and catcher Jeff Mathis.
Kendrick, limited to a little more than a half-season in 2007 by two finger fractures, is back this spring in the form that has had scouts sizing him up for future batting titles.
Mathis, having grown into the responsibility of the job, has the look of a guy who could be a quality receiver for a decade in Anaheim, sharing the duties with good buddy Mike Napoli.
And where would the Angels' starting pitching be now without Santana and Adenhart? They're young and gifted, and their time to shine might be now.
When he introduced Hunter to the media along with new starter Jon Garland over the winter, owner Arte Moreno acknowledged that he probably wouldn't have entered the bidding for the seven-time Gold Glove center fielder if the deal had been struck with the Marlins for Cabrera.
So here's today's question: Would you rather have Cabrera, or would you rather have Hunter, Kendrick, Mathis, Adenhart and Santana?
You'd have to be a huge Cabrera fan to cast your vote for him.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.