One player's injury could well be another player's opportunity. That could be the case with Mark Trumbo, the huge first base prospect who is patiently waiting his turn with the Angels.
When Kendry Morales broke his ankle while celebrating a home run at home plate, many thought the club would turn to Trumbo to fill the power void at first base. That was not the case. Instead, the Angels used Mike Napoli (now with Texas) and Robb Quinlan (now with Philadelphia) to fill the void. All Trumbo did last season was hit 36 homers to tie for the minor league home-run lead with the Royals' Mike Moustakas. He batted .301 with 122 RBI at Triple-A Salt Lake City in the Pacific Coast League.
The Angels signed Trumbo out of Villa Park High School in Orange County, California with their 18th round selection (No. 533 overall) in 2004. Trumbo was headed for USC as a power pitcher with the ability to throw his fastball in the mid-90s. Instead, the Angels offered him a $1.425 million dollar signing bonus to bring him to their farm system. As I've stated many times in my prospect articles, follow the salaries or signing bonuses to determine what players will be given opportunities in a given organization. In the case of the Angels, they have money invested in Trumbo. Now it's time to reap the rewards of the investment.
Trumbo could find himself playing first base or serving as the designated hitter for the Angels on Opening Day. When asked about the health and status of Morales for the season opener, the answer seems to depend upon who is fielding the question. There are some within the Angels' organization who simply don't feel Morales will be able to run well enough or use his lower body to hit without changing his mechanics. Others are convinced Morales will be ready for the opening bell. As of this writing, it's still too early to tell which side is correct. But if I were a betting man, I'd say that if he does see the Opening Day roster, Morales will be limited in his playing time and what he will able to do. Why risk further injury playing him when the team has a perfectly able first-base candidate ready to play? And hit, no less.
I am suggesting that fantasy owners prepare for the distinct possibility that Trumbo will be in the Opening Day lineup. Somewhere. Trumbo is 6-foot-4 and 210 pounds of solid baseball player.
At just 25 years old, Trumbo may have the opportunity to be an impact hitter in the American League this coming season. It's no secret that power bats are scarce around baseball and adding a player with Trumbo's natural power potential is an exciting proposition. Especially since he isn't yet a household name. He has the ability to provide the Angels with double- digit homers as well as a healthy number of RBI. Granted, first base is a position with a fair number of home-run hitters, but there is no escaping the fact that Trumbo might be available to you in a late-round or for a very low price at auction.
Trumbo is a very quiet hitter at the plate. Unlike power hitters with lots of bat movement prior to the pitch (think Gary Sheffield,) Trumbo waits patiently for the pitch and keeps his head and hands very still. He uses a short stride, if he strides at all. Hitting from a spread stance, his power is generated from a combination of good hip movement and strong hands and wrists. Those are excellent mechanical traits for solid hitters.
Trumbo had difficulty being selective with pitches early in his career. He was more of a free swinger in the past than he is today. His patience has resulted in increased walks and better overall contact. While he still strikes out (126 times in 533 plate appearances at Salt Lake last season) Trumbo doesn't go down swinging as much as many other young power hitters. He is working on putting the ball in play and using his strong arms and legs to generate the power.
Trumbo is in a similar position regarding his playing status as the Rangers' Chris Davis. Both are big power hitting first basemen with a desire to get a good, long look at the major league level. Davis has the ability to play third base, which is not an option for Trumbo. But in both cases, the team really won't know what type of power hitter they have unless Trumbo and Davis get an extended period of time to play.
And that brings me to Trumbo's defensive ability. I've tried to find fault with Trumbo's approach at first base, but in the games I have seen he looks like an average defender. He may not have the range and hands of Mark Teixeira, but he has the ability to make plays and not give away runs with mechanical errors. His arm is well above average as one might expect from a former pitcher. I really don't think Trumbo would be any greater a defensive liability than Morales, who has improved every year.
I was surprised when the Angels parted ways with Mike Napoli. Napoli, for all his shortcomings behind the plate had some pop in his bat. Without Morales in the lineup, the Angels are not a team with an abundance of power or a team with the ability to win games with a well-timed three-run homer. They will have to work hard to score runs. Inserting Trumbo in the lineup if Morales is not able to play makes perfect sense. And with Napoli and Quinlan gone, Trumbo might also be the team's best option at first base.
Even if Morales is able to play Opening Day, keeping Trumbo on the roster as the backup first baseman and occasional DH seems very logical. While Howie Kendrick can probably play first, Trumbo certainly brings more power to that traditional corner-infield power source position. And moving Kendrick to first then moves Maicer Izturis to second and Alberto Callaspo to third. But again, the power gets slighted.
I think Trumbo can be drafted with confidence. While he may not be a 500 at-bat player, he may get enough quality at-bats and provide enough power for fantasy owners to reap the benefits of a low round-draft choice or a low-cost auction acquisition. It just makes sense to me, but I'm not running the Angels. That job belongs to Mike Scioscia.