NASHVILLE -- Among the many wonders of the Los Angeles Angels'
Superman Mike Trout last season was his sublime work in center field, where he a) led the majors in stealing home runs, and b) oh, right: he also looked excellent according to the "data". And considering his ridiculous youth and how (relatively) little baseball he played before joining the pro ranks, Trout actually figures to somehow become a better center fielder.
Which is why it's sort of surprising that the Angels are turning Mike Trout into a left fielder.
The Angels' reasoning?
Wednesday afternoon at the Winter Meetings, manager Mike Scioscia explained that, as well as Trout can play center field, Peter Bourjos can play better.
"Mike has the tools to play at an incredible level in center field," Scioscia said. "But Peter had a little more time in the minor leagues to work on some things, and is maybe a little more polished. Peter's very polished on stopping first to third, and he has incredible range."
And you know what? He does! Scouts have been raving about Bourjos's range since Clint Eastwood was just a bird-dog scout working for gas money. Plus, his fielding metrics are off the freaking charts. Yes, ever better than Trout's. There are, in fact, good reasons to think that Bourjos is the better center fielder. He does have even more range than Trout -- stolen homers notwithstanding -- and he does throw better than Trout.
In fact, it's his throwing that really argues for playing Bourjos in center field. As it happens, range is nearly as valuable in left field as right field. But a good throwing arm is more valuable in center than right. So while yes, it does seem odd to stick the next
Superman Willie Mays in left field when he's 21, it's probably going to save the Angels a few runs.
But just a few. Which is why, in this humble scribe's opinion, it makes sense only if there's no negative impact on Trout's development. Then again, perhaps the Angels just don't believe that Mike Trout's future lies in center field. Maybe they believe, as I sort of believe, that as Trout matures he'll add some brawn, and will lose some range which, combined with his relatively weak arm, will still make him a fine left fielder.