-- Jerry B., Chino Hills, Calif.
Servais was one of Texas' driving forces behind the scenes for six years. He comes highly recommended from insiders for his overall knowledge -- with special expertise in catching -- and for his ability to communicate. I was covering the American League Division Series between the Rangers and Rays when Nelson Cruz talked about how Servais had helped him on his path to success by smoothing out some flaws in his swing. I'd take that as a positive sign moving forward for Angels fans. Fresh perspectives should always be welcomed.
What is the Angels' outfield going to look like next year? Mike Trout looked good last season. Is he ready to be an everyday guy? And if so, where would he play?
-- Bryan T., Lake Elsinore, Calif.
Barring debilitating injuries, you'll see basically the same alignment with Vernon Wells in left, Peter Bourjos in center and Torii Hunter in right. It's a great trio defensively, and it should be highly productive offensively as well. I anticipate big comeback seasons from Wells and also from Bobby Abreu, who will be the fourth outfielder and designated hitter. Abreu's DH opportunities figure to be determined by how ready Kendrys Morales is to assume that role. Trout could use a half season at Triple-A Salt Lake. A baseball sage once told me that every player benefits mentally from dominating in Triple-A before moving on to the Majors. There is no need to rush Trout, who will be a great player in time. If there's a need for another outfielder on the bench, Jeremy Moore would be my choice -- great speed, excellent defense and a left-handed bat.
How important is it for the Angels to add a left-handed starting pitcher this offseason? For the past two years (since Joe Saunders departed and Scott Kazmir fell flat), the Angels have been running out five righties. Does a lefty actually matter to a rotation?
-- Matthew C., Hacienda Heights, Calif.
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It's not essential, but I've always felt a southpaw brings balance, a different look. I'd be thrilled to see C.J. Wilson or Mark Buehrle show up on the Angels' doorstep, but a quality righty such as Hiroki Kuroda also would be a solid addition. At the moment, with Texas as the AL West target, an all-righty rotation is not such a bad idea. The Rangers' lineup tilts heavily to the right side.
If Morales comes back, will we have seen the last of Abreu? With Trout an option and Morales as DH, what other options does he have? The Angels will have to eat his contract to get something for him in a trade.
-- Philip G., Granada Hills, Calif.
My recommendation is to wait and see how this plays out. Abreu, a deeply prideful man, was wounded by the way his 2011 season played out. I anticipate him coming to camp in prime shape, determined to show he's still a productive player. Yes, the cost ($9 million) is steep, but he is proven coverage in several areas (corner outfield, DH) and a clubhouse leader. He's the kind of hitter who should wear well since he doesn't have a long swing and his discipline will always be there. He still can steal bases, take the extra base and make all the plays in the field. No, he's not what he was three or five years ago, but he's still a guy who can help you win a championship.
Do you even think the Angels' farm system is stocked enough to make any trades? I prefer to hold on to top prospects and sign lower-level free agents rather than swinging a trade and parting with what few top prospects we have.
-- Eddie N., Cypress, Calif.
Trout's brilliance obscures everyone else, but I think there are some lower-level gems in the organization poised to emerge. I would not include Bourjos, Trout or Mark Trumbo in a deal for the big bat everyone craves -- or for a veteran star at third base such as the Nationals' Ryan Zimmerman, a frequently mentioned trade possibility who would cost an expensive package of players. Those three kids are the foundation for an exciting future. Parting with any of them would be a mistake.
Why don't fans see the talent that the Angels' farm system is producing and be patient with the great management in place? I'm tired of the team chasing the next great thing. If we could play Angels baseball, just play solid defense and get some timely hitting, we would have been the Wild Card winner or AL West champions. Don't we need to see those younger players given a chance and quit spending like the Yankees?
-- Matt M., Kennewick, Wash.
You're preaching to the choir, Matt. I love the young talent on the rise. I thought the defense was terrific until the final 10 games or so, but timely hitting absolutely was the demise of the 2011 Angels. There's no accounting for it. The talent was there, but the heart of the order did not produce as anticipated. Consistently productive seasons from Morales, Abreu, Wells and even Hunter, who rallied with a big second half, would make all the difference.
The difference in ERA when Mike Napoli or Jeff Mathis is catching is well documented. However, do you know the difference in Angels wins vs. losses during those same games? I think those stats are needed to better evaluate the difference between the players.
-- Rick R., Santa Ana, Calif.
Excellent question. In the four seasons (2007-2010) Napoli and Mathis shared the catching job for Angels teams that won three AL West titles and 94, 100 and 97 games in consecutive seasons, each man started exactly 282 games behind the plate. The Angels won 12 more times with Mathis catching -- 167 to 155. Mathis' winning percentage was .592, Napoli's .550. Mathis threw out 22.9 percent of basestealers, Napoli 22.5. As for all those skeptics who swear manager Mike Scioscia, favoring Mathis, let him catch the aces to pad his stats, kindly consider: Napoli caught Jered Weaver and John Lackey 126 times, while Mathis handled the two aces 109 times. There was no Mathis favoritism in that time by Scioscia or yours truly. It's convenient revisionist history.
I loved Morales before he got hurt, but now it seems like this is Dallas McPherson all over again. He was supposed to be the future, and now it's Dallas who?
-- Josh B., Seattle
The difference between Morales and McPherson is that Morales is a proven hitter of the highest order. McPherson never really arrived, largely because of injuries. A lot of skeptics don't think Morales can come back to his former production level, but this is a guy who endured 12 attempts to make it to the United States from Cuba on a boat before finally succeeding. He's one tough dude. Allowing him to DH for at least a half season should give him the confidence he needs before returning to the field, where injury risk is much higher. Morales was crushing balls in camp last spring. He just couldn't run. If the second surgery on his ankle did the job, the Angels have a second prominent Comeback Player of the Year Award candidate in Morales, along with Wells.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less