Howie Kendrick and Vernon Wells are eligible to come off the DL very soon, with Howie's return scheduled for this Saturday. This poses a problem for the Angels however, with the signing of Russell Branyan what happens to the other spot currently occupied by an unlucky Angel? Who is going to be riding the pine for the forseeable future?
Branyan's arrival on this roster means more shakeups for this team. Oh joy!
This poses the question, who will lose the most playing time? There are too many players on this team that are underperforming and shouldn't be allowed to clog up the lineup with their presencce. Yes I am talking about Jeff Mathis, unfortunately he does not factor into this. Why? Well, regardless of whatever happens when Howie Kendrick and Vernon Wells come back he is still going to be finding consistent playing time. It is going to be one of the good players on this team losing time, which pains me to say. But who exactly is it going to be???
Who's going to lose their job?
Is it Mark Trumbo? No, it can't possibly be Mark Trumbo. Who is going to replace him? Howie Kendrick has seen a lot of time at first in the past couple seasons, so it is feasible that Trumbo could lose some playing time in order to keep both of the Wonder Twins on the field at the same time. Then again, Scioscia isn't going to want to fix something that ain't broke. Trumbo leads all AL rookies in a multitide of catergories, which include HR's, XBH, RBI's, Runs Scored etc. Sure he wont want to take playing time away from someone who has done so much for this ball club, no one else stepped up to replace the production the Angels lose with Kendrys, except Howie. Izzy and Callaspo are doing great too, but they don't have the same power that Mark has, which is something you won't want to keep away from a power starved lineup. Kendrick is starting to form some power of his own, which means that these two are staying in the lineup for good.
So we've concluded that Mark Trumbo's power is too precious of a commodity to keep out of the lineup. Who else is in the hotseat to lose playing time?
Could it be Russell Branyan? He has gotten a decent amount of starts at 1st and DH since he's been here, but he hasn't done much with the team. His power is non-exsistent, he's hit nothing but singles (I use that plural very loosely) since he's been with this team. Russell Branyan isn't a starter, he excels coming off the bench, lefty power of the bench is his bread and butter. It's a foregone conclusion that Branyan is going to be losing playing time, seeing as how he has been pretty much useless so far.
When Branyan is platooning, it will most likely be with Trumbo at 1st with a DH start once every blue moon. Once again, I use the word platoon very loosely, as Scioscia isn't going to let an over the hill vet steal playing time for Trumbo. You want your ROtY candidate getting as much playing time as possible, especially when he steadily improving as the season continues. His new leg kick seems to be working wonders, he's power the ball out of the park and muscling tough pitches into base hits. Why would you want to take his production out of the lineup 3 or so days a week just to replace it with a less skilled performer? Branyan's only to get get courtesy starts every now and then, his main role will be coming off the bench.
So now what happens with Izturis and Callaspo? Once Wells and Kendrick come back there is going to be one less spot in the infield for one of them. Both of them put up better offensive numbers than a majority of the starters, so both of their bats need to stay in the lineup. One of them is going to be delegated to a platoon spot at DH with Abreu, but which one is it going to be? They're both very good infielders, neither has any "killer" flaws with their defense. The best case scenario would be Izturis platooning with Abreu at DH, Izturis getting a slight edge in playing time over Abreu. Why Izturis, you ask?
DH'ing him is going to take a lot of strain off of his fragile body. His troubles staying off of the DL are well documented, with Izturis starting a career low 61 games. Keeping him off the field as long as possible is going to greatly reduce the risk of injury on Izturis' glass frame. Keeping him healthy and in the lineup all season is going to be the key component of a successful playoff run this season for the Angels. Offensively he is the most versatile hitter in this lineup with his ability to hit in literally every spot in the batting order successfully. Yes, even cleanup! Last year Izturis batted 4th against the Detroit Tigers on August 8th and came up with 2 hits in 4 trips, 1 of those hits being a triple. That kind of ability cannot be replaced by just anyone, especially not Bobby Abreu.
So the odd men out of this lineup are Abreu and Branyan, not really a surprise to many I'm sure. Chances are Abreu to going to be the odd man out for the next year or so, all depending on whether or not his option vests (which it will). Branyan is going to slowly slide onto the bench until his name isn't on a starting lineup every 3rd or so day. The real issue with Branyan is his performance so far, which has been non-existent. If his bat fails to rear it's head around the corner any time soon then there is a very good chance he'll cut once again. He might start to produce just to save himself from any further embarassment this season.
Hopefully all goes well during the transition and it is relatively painless, I can't handle any more of Scioscias ugly lineups like he threw up against KC this week. This is the kind of vacation Wells needed to clear his head of all the funk that's been jammed in there since his arrival in Anaheim. A rejuvenated Wells and a still-hot Howie Kendrick is exactly what this team needs to shoot past Texas in the standings for good. I don't want to put too much stock into speculation though, we all had to learn that lesson the hard way with Carl Crawford and the return of Kendrys Morales. This team, and especially this fanbase, will not be able to handle another slap in the face from chance. That's why it is important that Scioscia handles this with the utmost care and grace, another month of mediocre baseball and this teams chances of competing in the AL West will be slim at best.
I'm thinking they will say au revoir to the smurfiest of the Smurf Squad, Alexi Amarista. Howie coming back means they have a viable outfield option (that can hit) who is also accomplished at second base. I'm guessing they will give Branyan an extended look in the hope that his power will show up so no one will miss the power-free zone that is Bobby Abreu, whom they could then drop at a later date before that God-awful option vests. I know, wishful thinking on my part. I'll be sitting in the back yard tonight, waiting for that first star to appear, "Star light, star bright..."