I find it funny that teams think big ticket free agent signings and large payrolls are conducive to success (and yes, I’m aware of the irony that I root for the Red Sox, one of the biggest spenders out there).
But as you’ll certainly recall, it was those very free agent signings that sent the Sox spiraling towards 69 wins in 2012, and over the last two years the Los Angeles Angels haven’t done much with one of the game’s largest payrolls.
Enter Kole Calhoun, a low profile hustler who grinds out at-bats and does enough of the right things to have a noticeably positive impact for his team. Players like Calhoun don’t usually cash in when they hit free agency, and they don’t usually become franchise cornerstones, but when the season is over you have a hard time imagining their team succeeding quite as much without them.
And by the way, that last paragraph can also be read as fantasy team and not just the Angels.
With 20/20 potential, good plate discipline, and a hopeful starting role in lineup that finished 7th in runs in a down year, Calhoun will probably provide fantasy owners with a great ROI in 2014.
Why Calhoun Might Break Out
- Averaged 17.3 HR/500 PA in professional career (majors & minors)
- ISO of .210+ at every stop shows consistent power (.179 in 222 PA with LAA)
- SB totals of 20, 13, and 12 in last three seasons
- Career 11.6 BB%, 16.9 K%
- Career .393 OBP, including .347 with LAA in ’13
- Since start of ’12 Calhoun’s minor league LD% has been well above league averages
- .312/.380/.511 against LHP in minor league career as a left-handed batter
Why Calhoun Might NOT Break Out
- With Mike Trout and Josh Hamilton entrenched in the LAA outfield, there’s only one spot for Calhoun, J.B. Shuck, and Peter Bourjos
- Calhoun’s defense is average at best, so he’ll need to produce with his bat to stick
- Calhoun played in the PCL in ’12 and ’13, known for inflating offensive numbers
- Adding onto PCL concerns, Angel Stadium is a pitcher’s park, so the transition might be tough
What Scouts Say
A standout while at Arizona State, Angel outfielder Kole Calhoun is a raw but toolsy prospect with quality on-base ability and a capable glove in the field. While he doesn’t the size or power usually associated with a corner outfielder, he’s got enough else in the toolbox to get to the big leagues regardless. The .298/.369/.507 he slashed in AAA Salt Lake (PCL) last season might not look eye-popping, but for a player who skipped AA altogether, it’s pretty darn good.
Fun (Possibly Relevant?) Fact
Calhoun attended Arizona State, the alma mater of another unheralded, scrappy hitter who works counts and has turned himself into a fantasy stalwart: Dustin Pedroia.
2014 Fantasy Outlook
A semi-aggressive projection of 70 R, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 10 SB, and a .285 BA over 500 PA would have landed Calhoun 73rd among all batters in 2013…
With Shuck and Bourjos potentially stealing at-bats, playing time will be Calhoun’s biggest obstacle in 2014. That said, Bourjos has been on the trading block for awhile now, and Calhoun’s success with the Angels in 2013 should assuage any concerns that the team doesn’t have an internal replacement.
As for Shuck, defensive metrics suggest he’s a poor fielder, probably worse than Calhoun, despite that amazing catch he had. Also, I haven’t watched enough Angels games to know, but I’ve read that Mike Scioscia routinely takes Shuck out the game in the late innings for a defensive replacement. Offensively, Shuck has almost zero power to speak of, though he does grind out at-bats like Calhoun.
In the end, I think Calhoun winds up receiving the lion’s share of LA’s left field at-bats in 2014. Assuming this is the case (say, 450-500 PA) we can bank on something in the vicinity of 15 HR and 8-12 SB with a .280+ BA that could threaten to head north of .300. His run and RBI totals will depend on lineup slot, but Calhoun’s minor league profile shows he’s equally adept at contributing in both areas — 264 R and 263 RBI in 1,578 PA (or 84 apiece per 500 PA).
I doubt Calhoun will crack the top 250 in terms of draft stock next season, but if the Angels move Bourjos in the offseason we could see a good amount of buzz surrounding Calhoun’s fantasy prospects and his stock might rise. Still, I think he has the tools to be a top 150 player. A semi-aggressive projection of 70 R, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 10 SB, and a .285 BA over 500 PA would have landed Calhoun 73rd among all batters in 2013 using Baseball Professor’s new rankings formula!