After two years of replenishing and developing the Angels' stock of young pitchers, General Manager Bill Stoneman might soon have to drain that pool. Top pitching prospects are the most prized commodity in baseball, and Stoneman might well have to trade several of his for the Angels to win this season.
The Angels have long believed that Scott Spiezio would be most effective off the bench, playing a variety of positions. With Shawn Wooten expected to be sidelined two to four months after thumb surgery, Spiezio is expected to get most of the playing time at first base, weakening a bench otherwise lacking in power. The projected triple-A lineup is short on power too, with only two players who hit more than 11 home runs at any level last season.
If Spiezio plays well, and Wooten returns relatively soon, the Angels might do nothing. But Baseball America ranks the Angels' first-base personnel as the worst in the league, and the Angels now have the young pitching to trade for the proven first baseman that could make the difference in a pennant race.
"The more depth you have with power arms and high-ceiling pitchers, the more you raise the interest of other scouts and other organizations," Angel Scouting Director Donny Rowland said. "Once you have that depth, you're a club people come to.
"We have plenty of arms to offer if we need a position player."
The Angels believe left-hander Joe Torres and right-handers Chris Bootcheck, Bobby Jenks, John Lackey, Francisco Rodriguez, Johan Santana and Matt Wise all could develop into legitimate major league starters. They also consider right-handers Brendan Donnelly, Bart Miadich and Scot Shields as qualified for major league relief roles.
Two or three of those pitchers could net the Angels a proven first baseman for years to come; one or two could bring a veteran hitter eligible for free agency at the end of the season. Stoneman declined to discuss the chances of his making such a trade to boost the Angels' offense.
"We'll judge that in May and June and July," he said.
With Spiezio suspended for the first five games of the season for his aggression during spring training brawls with the San Diego Padres, Benji Gil started Sunday's season opener at first base.
"I'm happy with Spiezio when he is allowed to participate," Stoneman said. "I'm not happy when he's not allowed to participate. But we're still a pretty strong club."
Does Stoneman consider first base a weak spot on an otherwise strong club?
"I wouldn't judge it that way," he said. "Nobody questions the way Spiezio plays defensively. He's a better hitter left-handed than right-handed, but he's all right. He fits this club fine."
(11-10, 3.57 ERA in '01)
(17-5, 4.39 ERA in '01)
Edison Field, 7
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Update--Appier, gratefully accepted from the Mets for Mo Vaughn, makes his debut for the Angels. Sabathia won 17 games last season, most of any Cleveland rookie left-hander in 53 years. The 6-foot-7 Sabathia, sometimes wild with his 95-mph fastball, threw more pitches per batter than any AL pitcher last year.