2.14.2013

Los Angeles 2013 Depth Chart: First-Base

 One of the reasons why the Los Angeles Angels were able to jettison Kendrys Morales to the Seattle Mariners was their depth at the first-base position. Not only do they have Albert Pujols expected to lock down the number 3 position until late into his 30s (before eventually becoming a full-time DH), but Mark Trumbo and Howie Kendrick have all logged significant time there.

Of course, the second reason why the Angels could trade Morales was that with the signing of Josh Hamilton the Angels could regularly put Mark Trumbo in the DH spot and solve their issues of trying to find Trumbo a fitting place on the field after he was usurped at first last off-season with the Pujols signing.

Still, there are questions at the first-base position. After a slow start last season, Albert Pujols (mostly) returned to form posting a .305/.354/.581 second-half and finishing the season with 50 doubles, 30 home runs and 105 RBI.

At some point, Albert Pujols will begin to decline. In fact, maybe he already has. Despite good numbers in his counting stats, he still posted his lowest WAR season according to Baseball Reference while also posting career lows in home runs, batting average, and on-base percentage. Offensively, Pujols is still potent and will likely continue to be in 2013. Will he continue a slow decline with the bat that he's exhibited the past two seasons, though?

Then there is the fan question. The Angels committed a truck-load of money to Pujols with the clear intention that he would play a big role in bringing the Angels their second championship. If the Angels fail to win a ring and Pujols continues to decline, things could get ugly with the fanbase.

Expect the Angels to try and slow any decline in Pujols by preserving his health throughout the season as best as possible. He'll get periodic days off and turns in the DH spot. On those days expect to see Trumbo at first.

Beyond the three players who can fill in at the first-base position on the 25-man squad, the Angels have Efren Navarro in Triple-A. Navarro is known for his defensive prowess but doesn't offer much with the wood. In the offensive-heavy PCL, Navarro has spent the last two years proving that he can hit doubles and that he has a good eye but even then, his numbers don't jump out for the PCL. Don't expect to see Navarro any time in 2013 unless the Angels find themselves with a serious case of the injury bug or go into September well out of the playoff race.

The last time the Angels had a first round pick was 2011 and they selected University of Utah first-base star C.J. Cron with the 17th pick. In their recent assessment of the Angels farm system, Jason Parks of Baseball Prospectus wrote that Cron has "plus-plus raw power" and has "good bat control" but that he's a "below-average athlete" and has holes in his hit tool.

If you read the entire profile of the Angels system (and I encourage that you do), the upcoming year will be a huge test for Cron who expects to the start the season in Double-A. As Parks repeatedly mentions, Double-A is something of a litmus test for prospects that separates the pretenders from the prospects. Fortunately, if he stumbles, he has time to adjust seeing how Albert Pujols isn't going anywhere soon.

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