MLB.com Angels beat writer Alden Gonzalez participated in a live Web chat with fans on Thursday. During the chat he answered many questions, including how the Angels stack up against the division-rival Rangers, how Mark Trumbo will fit in the lineup and whether Vernon Wells will bounce back.
Alden Gonzalez: What's up, everyone? Thanks for taking part in our first chat of the year. I'm here to answer any questions, so fire away.
PrinceFish: If [Mike] Trout out-hits Wells in Spring Training, do you think he will be the starting left fielder, or will they try to justify Wells' contract?
Alden Gonzalez: Vernon Wells' 2011 struggles aside, I think the sample size has to be bigger than just Spring Training for Trout to win the job as the starting left fielder. That's a very expensive three-year commitment they have with Wells, so they will -- and have to -- give him every chance to bounce back.
Japense: Alden, welcome to the Angels family. What are realistic expectations for Mark Trumbo this year -- games played at third base, first base and designated hitter -- and can he put up similar numbers to last year? Thanks.
Alden Gonzalez: Mike Scioscia threw out the number 100-120 when talking about the number of games in which he gets Mark Trumbo in the lineup. Soon, he'll start taking reps in right field, too. I can see him getting playing time at all three spots -- third base, right field, DH -- and the occasional game at first base if [Albert] Pujols needs to rest.
Japense: What is the health status of Peter Bourjos? If he was injured after the season, why didn't he just have the surgery so he came in to camp healthy? It seems now if the issue worsens, he'll be down for a couple months.
Alden Gonzalez: Peter Bourjos is fine. The reason he didn't have the surgery was because he didn't really need to to be healthy for 2012. He just sees it as something he should eventually get taken care of, but he's had hip problems for the last four or five years and they've never really affected his game -- as long as he treats it the way he should throughout.
Japense: Why are so many teams fascinated with bringing 20- or 21-year-old prospects up so quickly? I feel like a guy like Mike Trout needs a full season at 20 years old in Triple-A. What do you think?
Alden Gonzalez: I agree with you, especially given the roster situation the Angels now have. There's very little need for Trout to open up the season in the big leagues right now. Can Trout help him out down the stretch? Absolutely. But there's no room for him, and no need to rush him.
Japense: With Jean Segura working his way up to the bigs barring injuries, do the Angels resign [Erick] Aybar?
Alden Gonzalez: Perhaps I'm in the minority on this one, but I really don't think the presence of Jean Segura has impacted the Erick Aybar negotiations as much as some may think. First off, Segura hasn't played at the high levels of the Minor Leagues yet (he hasn't been healthy enough to), so it's tough to bank on him translating into a solid Major League shortstop. Second, shortstop is still a position he's trying to get used to. Some say he translates better into a second baseman, actually.
Japense: What is Alberto Callaspo's role this season? I can't help but think his days are numbered with Macier Izturis capable of roaming the infield.
Alden Gonzalez: That's a really tough question to answer. It all hinges on how well Mark Trumbo takes to third base. It'll be very interesting there, because if Trumbo is at least a part-time option at third base, then you have Izturis and Callaspo, who are both very similar. Actually, Izturis may be even more valuable because he has more experience as a shortstop, and can be a more versatile backup infielder.
2510Angels: Do you think we should be worried about [Kendrys] Morales' ankle? Since it was getting better last year then a major setback happened? Should we be worried about it again? Or is it really better?
Alden Gonzalez: All signs are positive thus far, and he's on a far better track than he was last year. But, yes, that is of major concern. The dynamic of this lineup changes drastically if he can be a force at the cleanup spot behind Albert. Next week will be interesting, when he starts running the bases in preparation for getting into games.
cathy2299: Do you think the Angels will carry three catchers on the roster to start the season?
Alden Gonzalez: I do not. If Hank Conger isn't an option to platoon with Chris Iannetta, he should be in the Minors getting regular playing time. Just my opinion.
2510Angels: Will having Pujols in the lineup create a ripple effect in the lineup? If so, who will benefit the most?
Alden Gonzalez: It most certainly will, and the person who will benefit most is that No. 2 hitter, which will get much better pitches to hit with Albert Pujols waiting on deck. But it'll be big for everyone in the order. Suddenly, Vernon Wells and Torii Hunter don't have as much pressure on themselves, and Trumbo and Morales get more chances with guys on base.
kndamico92: With the additions of [C.J.] Wilson and Pujols, how many games do you believe the Angels will win this season?
Alden Gonzalez: Baseball Prospectus has them at 88 wins. I never get into that stuff. It's senseless to try and predict win totals. Nobody really has a clue.
2510Angels: What are the chances that we trade a player like Callaspo or Izturis or both for more relief pitching?
Alden Gonzalez: Can't see them dealing both, but one of them could bring back some relief pitching. I know the A's have been thrown around for Callaspo now that Scott Sizemore is out. But the Angels are holding off until they get a feel for Trumbo.
mainmanmainman: What prospects do you watch? What's a good Spring Training story so far?
Alden Gonzalez: Three guys i'm really interested in seeing in games: Conger, Garrett Richards (I can see him spending some time in the rotation this year, even if not at the start), and Jean Segura (who believes his hamstring problems are behind him).
juniorangels: Welcome, Alden. Can [Pujols] really play all 162 games like he said?
Alden Gonzalez: He could if healthy. The designated hitter can be an important tool for that in order to get him off his feet some days. I think he would've played in 162 in a few other years in St. Louis if he had that luxury. Scioscia has already said he'll use him there on occasion.
2510Angels: Will Chris Iannetta really replace [Jeff] Mathis with great defense? We know offense, yes, but what about the D?
Alden Gonzalez: What I've heard about Iannetta defensively is that he's really good at blocking balls and his arm strength got better last year in Coors. Is it great? Not sure. The biggest challenge for him is learning this new staff. He's a really bright guy; a pitching guru. That's his concern.
anthony90: In your opinion, is Trumbo at third base on Opening Day?
Alden Gonzalez: Let's see, Jered Weaver on the hill for the Angels, I'd say yes. Could see him in there with flyball pitchers.
cathy2299: A lot has been said about Iannetta's on-base percentage, but he hit eighth (in front of the pitcher) in the NL. Is there statistical data backing a reason to be optimistic that he will carry his weight with the bat?
Alden Gonzalez: Many will tell you hitting eighth in front of the pitcher in the National League is the most difficult spot in the lineup to be in. I'd be a little more worried about his home-road splits.
2510Angels: Angels vs Texas: Who really has the advantage?
Alden Gonzalez: Angels have it in the rotation, Rangers have it in offense. Bullpen? Depends on [Jordan] Walden. Rangers are taking major risks in their pitching staff -- lot of money to a Japanese player who's never pitched here [Yu Darvish], [Neftali] Feliz moving out of closer, Joe Nathan now their closer shortly after Tommy John surgery ... should be interesting.
Japense: What are realistic expectations for Vernon Wells this year? We all know his contract is the definition of awful, but the Angels still have to deal with him. If the Angels move him down to six or seven in the lineup will this help his numbers?
Alden Gonzalez: Can his numbers be any worse? He was last in batting average and on-base percentage last year. Yes, that means worse than anybody who qualified. Moving down in the order, having a second year in this ballpark and working with Cubs hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo this offseason (the man is a genius, I hear) should only help.
HUTCH61: Opening Day lineup?
Alden Gonzalez: Guess: Aybar shortstop, [Howie] Kendrick second base, Pujols first base, Hunter right field, Trumbo third base, Wells left field, Morales DH (give him time to get acclimated before moving him up), Iannetta catcher, Bourjos center field.
suz1259: How is Kendrys doing with his running cuts in the outfield? Looking forward to seeing him healthy again and batting behind The Machine!
Alden Gonzalez: He's doing great so far. He's been really excited by not having any next-day soreness or swelling, which is what halted his rehab last year. Scioscia told us yesterday he ran in a straight line pain-free just one time last spring, then it all went downhill. He's done plenty more so far.
juniorangels: Can Bobby Abreu be effective coming off the bench?
Alden Gonzalez: Had a good talk with an Angels exec about this the other day, who made a good point. He said Abreu is actually the type of hitter who would translate perfectly to coming off the bench, because he works the count and gets a feel for the at-bat. Those guys are better at sitting down for long periods of time and hitting, as opposed to the free-swingers.
2510Angels: Pujols is here. Now do we think he REALLY will have better years than he did back East? I know you don't like that stuff, but are chances better based on park diameters and the stadiums he will be playing at??
Alden Gonzalez: I don't think you should expect BETTER years. I don't think that would be possible. I do think Busch Stadium was a tougher place to hit at than Angel Stadium, and I think the occasional start at DH will help keep him fresh. Will he be worth $28, $29, $30 million by the end of that contract? No. The Angels' hope is that he gives them a lot of great years and is sustainable towards the back end.
2510Angels: Hunter as the talking team captain, Pujols as the quiet teacher. Will the kindness and the skill of these two players join together? Have you seen any of that during Spring Training?
Alden Gonzalez: Not sure about that, but Pujols doesn't seem to have a hard time getting along with guys. He sits next to Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Vernon Wells in the clubhouse, and they've all been real friendly.
cathy2299: I have heard conflicting reports, was it [Joe] Blanton that would've come over from the Phillies or [A.J.] Burnett from the Yankees in the nixed Abreu swap? Curious because of all the reports that the payroll is absolutely maxed out.
Alden Gonzalez: A.J. Burnett would've come over from the Yankees for Bobby Abreu. It's true what you say about the payroll, but the Angels wouldn't have paid Burnett anything until the final year of his contract, in 2013. They would've kept the same payroll for 2012, just instead of Abreu with Burnett. Then basically replace the Abreu expense with the Burnett expense in 2013.
2510Angels: Pujols said "he will take players under his wing." Have you seen a Trumbo or Morales study him? Or anybody?
Alden Gonzalez: Not yet. A little early. But they will. Everyone's eager to see what he does; what his routine is.
13w4rd: Best guess at how many at-bats they will find for Trumbo assuming nobody gets traded?
Alden Gonzalez: 350-400 would be my guess. And that's all that is.
gt742501: Will Bobby Abreu be traded before the deadline?
Alden Gonzalez: Before the non-waiver Trade Deadline? If I had to bet, I'd say yes.
mainmanmainman: Jerome Williams. Your thoughts on the guy?
Alden Gonzalez: He's very interesting. Came on strong last year, but I'm not sure how he'll do in a full Major League season. Not sure it's realistic to count on him for 30 starts. The fifth spot is his to lose, though. He's earned that.
Alden Gonzalez: OK, guys, we've got 10 more minutes, so get your questions in.
2510Angels: It's not a straight question but be honest. How many rings within the next 10 years?
Alden Gonzalez: They'll hope for one and go from there. It's so hard to predict these things. Every year, we see teams load up in the offseason, we pencil them into the World Series and then another team comes out of nowhere. That's the beauty of baseball. Remember that Phillies-Red Sox 2011 World Series everyone expected?
2510Angels: Can you see Weaver keeping his "ace" name going? How about [Dan] Haren and C.J.? Will they also be a domino effect?
Alden Gonzalez: Weaver is as legit an ace as they come, and I don't see why that would stop.
mainmanmainman: What AL West player should be a surprise for 2012?
Alden Gonzalez: I can tell you I'm really interested in seeing what Jesus Montero can do in a full season. That's a tough ballpark to hit in in Seattle, though.
juniorangels: Does Albert show off his power in the cage and does he draw a big crowd when it his his turn?
Alden Gonzalez: It's great to see him take batting practice on the field because you can tell he just always has a plan. He's not looking to hit moonshots (like Trumbo often does), he's just smoking line drives everywhere. Two guys I love watching take BP most: Pujols and Miguel Cabrera.
2510Angels: Angels season 2012. All in all will it be better than the last two years?
Alden Gonzalez: It needs to be. That's why they spent all that money -- to make it back to the playoffs.
kndamico92: Objectively speaking, do the Angels now have the slight edge over the Rangers to retake the AL West crown?
Alden Gonzalez: I'm not so sure. I can tell you this -- the Angels have the edge in the most important aspect to winning baseball: starting pitching. How far that takes them, and how that translates, we don't know. The Rangers are great at developing starting pitching. They made [Alexi] Ogando and C.J. into legit starters, and the year after they lost Cliff Lee, their rotation got BETTER without any big additions.
2510Angels: People say it will take Pujols time to adjust and he will start slow. But he's considered the greatest hitter of our generation. I mean, don't the pitchers have to adjust to him too?
Alden Gonzalez: That whole adjusting to the American League thing has been a little overblown, to be honest. 'Hitters hit,' many a salty hitting coach will tell you.
jalexande: What is the chance that the Angels' best case scenario comes true: Kendrys at DH, Trumbo at third, and the outfield producing. And if this happens, what to do with Abreu? Callaspo?
Alden Gonzalez: I don't think it's that simple. I think this lineup will be constantly changing throughout the season. I think Morales (DH) and Pujols (first base) will be entrenched at their spots, but Trumbo will bounce around.
pujols2012: Hello, Alden. Welcome to the A team. Is Trumbo looking like he can handle third base? I'm still trying to figure out how Abreu gets 400 at-bats if Trumbo and Morales are healthy. Is he being kept as insurance policy for Trumbo/Morales?
Alden Gonzalez: I'm having a hard time figuring that out, too, but Scioscia is confident he can. He's being kept because it's tough to move him -- though they do see value with his lefty bat and on-base skills.
Alden Gonzalez: OK, I'll take two more, all.
2510Angels: Pujols, Trumbo, Morales, Hunter, Wells: Which player do you think will perform like everyone expects?
Alden Gonzalez: Easy, Pujols. I have a hunch Wells will bounce back a little, but it's very easy to be optimistic this time of year. It'll be interesting to see how bouncing around and getting used to different positions affects a young guy like Trumbo offensively. It has happened with others.
mainmanmainman: Abreu batting in the eighth spot? Will he accept it?
Alden Gonzalez: At this point, he can't be choosy, so he must. Honestly, I don't think he cares where he hits in the lineup. His gripe is getting regular playing time. What will his mood be if he isn't playing three, four, five times a week? That may be interesting.
Alden Gonzalez: You guys were great. Thanks a bunch for taking part in this chat. I look forward to doing it again real soon.
This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.