Angels weighing leadoff or power addition
Club seeking to bolster lineup ahead of Trade Deadline
ANAHEIM -- The Angels hitter who comes to bat most frequently, Johnny Giavotella, has a .261/.315/.349 slash line. The Angels hitter who gets the most chances with runners in scoring position, David Freese, is batting .240/.308/.409.
And that prompts perhaps the biggest question the Angels face with the non-waiver Trade Deadline fast-approaching: Do they get a speed guy who can bat first, or a power bat who can bat fifth?
Ten days away from the Deadline, it can still go either way. The Angels would like to address both spots, but will gladly settle for one in what has so far been a difficult buyers' market.
Freese (103 adjusted OPS) and Giavotella (92) have been right around league average. But the Angels would be more comfortable with Giavotella hitting in the bottom of their lineup and Freese batting a little lower than fifth, the spot that comes immediately after Mike Trout and Albert Pujols.
A red-hot, slap-hitting Erick Aybar has replaced Freese in that spot of late, but the Angels would prefer a more traditional power bat. And though the trade market remains scarce, there are some left-handed power bats available.
The Angels have been linked to a few of them, most notably Jay Bruce, Adam Lind, Josh Reddick and Andre Ethier. But they've also been linked to a burner in Ben Revere and a high on-base guy in Nick Markakis. And lately they've been monitoring the rehab of veteran second baseman Chase Utley, who's nursing inflammation in his right ankle but could return by the end of the month.
Utley is more appealing now that he probably won't reach 500 plate appearances, the trigger for $15 million vesting options in 2016, 2017 and 2018. But he's 36 years old with an unseemly .179/.257/.275 slash line this season. If the six-time All-Star turns it around, the Angels could use him as a left-handed option at second base and designated hitter. But they'd only consider him at minimal cost.
In all likelihood, Giavotella will continue to start at second base and hit in the leadoff spot.
"I feel comfortable batting first," said Giavotella, who has batted first in 18 consecutive games. "I think my game plays well in the leadoff spot. I get on base, I make contact, I handle the bat pretty well, so I think that fits in pretty well with the leadoff spot."
The numbers don't resemble that yet, though. Giavotella entered Tuesday's series opener against the Twins with a .216/.268/.314 slash line in 114 plate appearances while batting first this season. But his overall numbers are fine and his production in the clutch -- 20 hits in 46 at-bats in late-and-close situations -- has been crucial.
The Angels' hope is that it translates to the spot in front of their most productive hitters.
"He's in the process of trying to get some kind of track record," said Angels manager Mike Scioscia, who has followed Giavotella with Kole Calhoun, Trout and Pujols, respectively. "But he's got a good eye, short stroke, can get on base. We wouldn't hit him there if we didn't think he had the opportunity to be a tablesetter."