Mike Trout has made his season debut and Bryce Harper will soon make his big league debut. It is probably too much to handle at once, but we don’t have much choice. Let’s look at the decision making that went into both and whether or not they will be here to stay.
Trout hit leadoff today. The Angels as a team had a .195 average and .250 OBP out of their leadoff hitter up until this point. Mike Scioscia did not say that they were going to lock him into the leadoff spot, but he’s as good a candidate as any. Erick Aybar has been in a funk so far this season as the team’s primary leadoff guy, and the team didn’t feel comfortable with him as the leadoff guy the season before (he batted first in 55 out of 143 games). We don’t need to go into who has the better ceiling for OBP, but Aybar is pretty close to the floor as is. Among qualifying players last season, Aybar did not even rank in the top 100 in OBP. Peter Bourjos hasn’t delievered at the plate and the team hasn’t had him hitting leadoff anyway to this point. And of course Bobby Abreu, did serve as the leadoff guy for this team, but Trout’s arrival led to his departure.
Which leads into the other reason that Trout will probably be with the Angels to stay. For this team not to be in the pennant race in September would be the biggest disappointment of the 2012 baseball season (even greater than the Red Sox not making it). The team is feeling the pressure. That is why Bobby Abreu had to go and Mark Trumbo will become a regular. As great as Trout’s future can be, his value to the oranization changed when Albert Pujols signed his contract. He is still a huge part of what they will be trying to accomplish long term, but they need to win now. The present and future of the franchise is the star power of Albert Pujols. Despite the fact that he doesn’t have a home run, nobody in baseball is going to say this guy is finished. Having a player with Trout’s potential on base with Pujols up will put pitchers in harder positions to get outs and maybe give him a few more pitches.
In terms of Harper, the Nationals have less pressure in the standings, but felt pressure nonetheless to get offense. This move is certainly one that can be scrutinized a lot more than the decision the Angels made because Harper has not exactly torched the pitching in Triple-A. Without Ryan Zimmerman and Michael Morse, the team needed to get some offense in order to stay on top in the NL East. Zimmerman shouldn’t miss more than the 15 days, and the team also has a somewhat capable option (albeit with much less fanfare and potential) in Tyler Moore at Triple-A. The leash on Harper could be a little shorter if he does not have immediate success.