Scioscia leans toward keeping Trout second in lineup
Return to leadoff role unlikely with Pujols expected back at No. 3 spot for Angels
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Mike Trout is part slugger, part burner. He isn't the prototypical leadoff hitter and he doesn't necessarily meet the profile of a guy who would bat third, his combination of speed and power making him the type of hybrid player who's already good enough to be considered the game's best.
And that's probably why he'll hit in the middle again next season.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia didn't particularly lay out his lineup while addressing the media during the Winter Meetings on Wednesday, but he gave the impression that Albert Pujols would return to the No. 3 spot and Trout would once again bat second. A return to the top of the order, where Trout thrived as a rookie for all of 2012, is unlikely.
"It's always sexy to talk about that type of leadoff hitter," Scioscia said, "but I don't know if it's as functional for Mike or our team if you're not setting the table for him. So that's probably why it bodes better for him to hit at least two, and then see where it goes from there."
Scioscia often talks about the importance of "feeding" Trout with RBI opportunities, but as the skipper said Wednesday, "your on-base guys usually aren't [batting] eighth or ninth in the American League."
Scioscia wants to connect Trout with Pujols, but it doesn't look like that would mean Trout takes over for Pujols in the No. 3 spot -- even with Josh Hamilton coming off a career-worst season and Mark Trumbo no longer with the club.
Hamilton probably enters the season as the cleanup hitter, with Howie Kendrick likely batting fifth -- although that could change if the Angels sign an everyday designated hitter -- and it looks like Kole Calhoun could initially be the option at the leadoff spot, though Scioscia wouldn't commit to that just yet.
"I think there's a lot of things we'll look at as we get into this," Scioscia said.
Last year, Trout produced everywhere. He posted a .325/.398/.519 slash line in 88 plate appearances from the leadoff spot, batted .329/.420/.595 in 405 plate appearances batting second and then hit .308/.466/.497 in 223 plate appearances in the No. 3 spot, all of which came after Pujols went down with a partial tear of his plantar fascia in his left foot in late July.
By hitting one or two spots lower in the lineup, Trout had 82 additional chances with runners on base compared to the prior season, increasing his RBI total from 83 to 97.
"For Mike Trout," Scioscia said, "if you look at what his potential is and what is the potential of the team, he has the capability of scoring 100-plus runs and driving in 100-plus runs for the season if we set the table well enough for him."
Some additional notes from Scioscia's 30-minute session with reporters:
• Major League Baseball's Playing Rules Committee voted to eliminate home-plate collisions between runners and catchers, and Scioscia, an ex-catcher known for his ability to block the plate, is all for it.
"I think everyone is in agreement that the mindless collisions at home plate, where a catcher is being targeted by a runner, that needs to be addressed -- and I know that will be addressed," Scioscia said. "I think that it's easy to say a runner has to slide. But on the other side of the coin, it's going to be difficult to contain a runner telling him what he has to do and let the catcher have carte blanche to be able to block the plate aggressively. And there will have to be some parameters around the catcher."
• Scioscia said Pujols' left foot will be "a non-issue" next season, but added that the Angels will be "proactive" with the number of days he serves as a designated hitter and will put him there on a "preventative basis."
"We're a better team when he can play first base and bring that defensive component to our team," Scioscia added. "We'll look at that first and just try to manage the health issue of how he feels on a daily basis."
• Asked what kind of role C.J. Cron, the No. 2-ranked prospect in the Angels' system, can play on the team, Scioscia said: "I think C.J. is a guy that is working his way on to our depth chart. As far as breaking Spring Training and making our team, that might be a bit of a stretch. But I think we're very comfortable with the fact that at some point next year, if he makes the same improvement that he made this year in the Fall League … he will be in our depth chart, no doubt."