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Angels' outfield trio among MLB's best

Trout, Upton, Calhoun provide offensive production, steady defense
MLB.com @mi_guardado

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster.

This is the fifth installment of a multi-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. Today we'll examine the outfielders.

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster.

This is the fifth installment of a multi-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. Today we'll examine the outfielders.

Around the Horn: C | 2B | 3B | SS

ANAHEIM -- In November, the Angels initiated the offseason by locking up Justin Upton on a five-year, $106 million deal, adding an extra year to the slugger's contract to keep him away from free agency.

Upton, who landed in Anaheim after the rebuilding Tigers traded him to the Angels on Aug. 31, is expected to provide long-term stability in left field and team up with Mike Trout and Kole Calhoun to form one of the most talented outfield trios in the Majors.

The group is headlined by Trout, the 26-year-old star center fielder who is widely regarded as the best player in baseball. Despite missing more than six weeks due to a torn thumb ligament last season, Trout still put together one of his best offensive campaigns, slashing .306/.442/.629 with 33 home runs, 72 RBIs and 22 stolen bases over 114 games. He also led the Majors with a career-high 1.071 OPS and tied for third with a 6.9 WAR, according to FanGraphs.

Were it not for his first career stint on the disabled list, Trout likely would have been a favorite to win his third career American League MVP Award. Instead, he finished fourth, breaking his streak of five consecutive top-two finishes on the ballot.

Video: SEA@LAA: Trout nabs Haniger at home on 94.8-mph throw

The retention of Upton will give the Angels another big bat to pair with Trout in the middle of their order. Upton, 30, enjoyed a career season in 2017, batting .273/.361/.540 with 35 homers and 109 RBIs in 152 games between the Tigers and Angels while also emerging as a Gold Glove finalist in left field.

The Angels acquired Upton to bolster their playoff push over the final month of the season, and though they ultimately couldn't catch the Twins in the AL Wild Card race, Upton pretty much performed as expected, posting an .887 OPS and slugging seven home runs over 27 games with his new team.

A full season of Upton's production, plus the additions of infielders Zack Cozart and Ian Kinsler, is one of the reasons the Angels believe they'll be able to improve their offense, which ranked last in the AL in slugging percentage (.397) last year.

Rounding out the Angels' outfield is Calhoun, who has long been an underrated player but showed a slight offensive dip in 2017. After signing a three-year, $26 million extension last January, the 30-year-old left-handed hitter batted .244/.333/.392 with 19 home runs and 71 RBIs over 155 games for the Angels last season. Prior to 2017, Calhoun slashed .266/.328/.438 over parts of five seasons in the Majors.

"I think if you looked at some numbers, it wasn't as down as you think," manager Mike Scioscia said during the Winter Meetings. "I'm talking about internal numbers. But he definitely came back and said he felt great. He was running well. So all the markers were to say he was over that surgery he had in the offseason a couple years ago. But I don't think his season was that out of balance to question whether he was one hundred percent or was he healthy."

Video: Must C Catch: Calhoun dives to make amazing grab

Calhoun, a Gold Glove Award winner in 2015, remains an above-average defender in right field and was once again a finalist for the fielding award last year, though he lost out to the Red Sox's Mookie Betts.

Given the strength of their starters, the Angels figure to deploy their reserve outfielders somewhat sparingly, barring any injuries. Eric Young Jr., who re-signed with the Angels on a Minor League deal earlier this month, is the most prominent backup option within the organization, though prospect Michael Hermosillo and Rymer Liriano, another Minor League signee, are also in the mix for the bench job.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels, Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout, Justin Upton