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For the Angels, Brightest Halos Roam Outfield

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By Peter Karl/Special to LAist

This 2011 baseball season in Anahem, Christopher Lloyd and his famous flock of guardian baseball angels may just be able to take the year off, at least in the outfield.

And if you don’t get that movie reference, well then I can rightfully question the validity of you’re baseball fandom.

Seventeen years after the film Angels In The Outfield exposed the secret of the then California Angels divine defensive assistance, the season has finally come where the Angels have a good enough outfield to relieve the loyal spirits of their duties.

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With Torii Hunter, Vernon Wells, and touted 24 year-old rookie Peter Bourjos roaming the outfield in Anaheim, there will be no need to summon “Al” (Lloyd’s character in the historic film) and his angels.

"This is one of the best outfields I've seen," said Angel’s pitching ace Jered Weaver, "Me being a fly-ball pitcher, it's going to be fun to watch."

Some baseball aficionados are going so far as saying this could be one of the best defensive outfields ever.

After losing out to the Boston Red Sox in the Carl Crawford sweepstakes, the Angels splurged on Toronto’s athletic and offensively solid center fielder in Vernon Wells (31 HR, .273 BA, 88 RBI in 2010). Wells, a 3-time Gold Glove Winner, will play left field, while Hunter, a 9-time GG winner, will move to right to make room for Peter Bourjos.

A lot rides on Bourjos’ ability to step it up at the plate. His defensive skills are dumbfounding, but offensively, his .204 average in 2010 won’t cut it in the bigs. If Bourjos doesn’t show improvement early, it won’t be long before manager Mike Scioscia gives baseball’s No. 1 prospect, Mike Trout his share of looks. Trout, who is scouted as a five-tool player, has garnered comparisons to Mickey Mantle. Yeah, I raised an eyebrow too, and I have big eyebrows. But it’s exciting nonetheless.

If the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim are to make a return to the top of the AL West after a disappointing third place finish last season, they will need more than just bright performances from their promising outfield.

Offensively, the Angels have a number of questions marks. Last year, they averaged a dismal 4.2 runs a game and a .248 team BA. This season, the Halos need a few things to happen to assure an offensive turnaround:

  • Kendrys Morales must stay healthy. The Angels were 24-27 after Kendry Morales broke his ankle last May after stomping on the plate celebrating a walk-off grand slam. He’s the core of the offense. He will hit .300. He will have 100 RBI’s. He is the broth of the soup.
  • Bobby Abreu needs to adjust to the DH role with ease. He’s older, he sucks at fielding, but he can still rake. There can be no, “Oh this is weird, I have to sit in the dugout most of the game” transition.
  • Maicer Izturis must fill half the void left by Chone Figgins’ departure. In 2009, he hit .300. Last year he hit .250. Somewhere in the middle will do.
  • On the mound, the Angels look a force. Jered Weaver (led AL in strikeouts with 233), Ervin Santana (team high 17 wins last year), and Dan Haren (2.34 ERA after being traded from Arizona), are as quality a top three as you’ll find in the West. Cliff Lee is out of Texas, thankfully; Seattle has a one-man rotation in Felix Hernandez; Oakland’s staff is nasty, but very young with no offensive support.

    The aforementioned guardian ‘angels in the outfield’ may need to focus their efforts around one player on Anaheim’s pitching staff. And that’s Scott Kazmir. He’s about as in need of an ‘angel’ as Tony Danza’s character Mel Clark was in Angels in the Outfield. After losing any grasp for the art of pitching in 2010, Kazmir, a former ace in Tampa Bay, has reportedly changed his conditioning routine and re-engineered his pitching style. If the right cherub guides him, then the Angels pitching will easily push them back to the playoffs this year.

    Moreover, the Angels have the legendary Mike Scioscia calling the shots. When he has the talent to work with, Scioscia always delivers a managerial masterclass. In 2011, he’ll need no help from a boy flapping his arms in the stands to tell him who he needs to play.