1. SS – Erick Aybar

Most of you probably thought that Mike Trout would be in this spot based on his incredible performance in 2012.  There is one problem with putting him at the leadoff spot…he’s too good.  While Mike Trout had 83 RBI’s last year, his 27 doubles, 8 triples, and 30 home runs represent some additional runs left on the table. 

Meanwhile, Aybar has matured as a hitter.  His batting average has slowly increased over the last few years.  While he needs to improve in both the walks and strikeouts, he should be able to take another step forward if he stays patient.  When hitting left-handed, he must focus on laying off the inside breaking balls on strikeout pitches.  While he gets caught stealing a bit, he seems to require a lot of visual attention from pitchers when on first base.  

  1. LF - Mike Trout

There isn’t enough that can be said about Mike Trout’s abilities.  For that reason, I believe that Sciocsia will move him down in the order to create a longer murder’s row.  Trout’s compact swing is key to his ongoing development and progress.  As his mental hitting ability improves, his compact swing will allow him to keep the bat in the hitting zone longer and make better contact.  If Erick Aybar is on base more due to a better batting average, he’ll be crossing the plate a lot more.  I’m also in favor of putting either speed like Aybar or Trout in the #2 spot because they’ll cut down on double plays, giving Albert Pujos more chances to hit in extended innings. 

  1. 1B - Albert Pujols

Albert Pujos will eventually go down as one of the game’s purest hitters of all time.  The lineup he’ll have around him this year will allow him to settle in with less pressure than in 2012.  He had a good year in 2012, but the media expectations were way too high.  In 2013, he’ll get back to his old self and hopefully shake his early season slump earlier than usual.   The trade spotlight and removal from his family really impacted Albert last year.  Many reporters jumped on the “over-the-hill” bandwagon early, but they’ll eat their words this coming year.  If he keeps his swing back early in the season, he’ll keep from pulling everything to the left and hitting in to double plays. 

  1. RF - Josh Hamilton

The pickup of Josh Hamilton in the offseason by the Angels was one of the most surprising adds of the last few years, maybe even more surprising than Albert coming to L.A.  Nobody thought there would still be enough money around to land this fish.  Josh can be one of the most feared hitters in all of MLB.  There were times during his home run streaks where managers were treating him like Barry Bonds.  “Do we walk in a run or let him take a swing at a grand slam?”  Texas was full of power hitters, so now Josh will need to adjust to a team that puts guys on, runs the bases, and manufactures runs.  Hopefully, Jim Eppard can help him cut down on the strikeouts.  He’s got a long swing, which can be difficult to change.  If the Angels can help keep him from going hot and cold, Josh Hamilton will greatly increase their average run production. 

  1. DH - Mark Trumbo

With Kendris Morales gone, Trumbo will be the DH most of the time, matchups allowing.  Mark was one of MLB’s greatest wonders to watch during the first half of the year.  He hit balls harder and farther than anyone in baseball.  When he wasn’t guessing, he was crushing.  Unfortunately, his second half was abysmal.  From my fan point of view, Trumbo seemed to lose confidence after the All-Star break.  It will be interesting to see if the Mark who can hit for average or the Mark that guesses on pitch types shows up for 2013.  Either way, pitchers that have to face both Hamilton and Trumbo in the same inning will be sweating bullets. 

  1. 3B - Alberto Callaspo

I’ll be honest, I was a basher of Alberto Callaspo over the last few years.  However, I have to give in and admit that he is a definite value player.  He can hit from both sides of the plate, is a gem defensively, and surprises with power, average and stolen bases when you least expect it.  Until we know more about how Howie Kendrick’s offseason surgery affects his play, Alberto is the better choice at the 6 spot.

  1. 2B - Howie Kendrick

How was one of my favorite players to watch over the last few years, but he had a drop off in 2013.  He has a lot of pitching matchup problems that forced Scioscia to bench him.  He is one of the better hitters in the game when he stays back and shoots the ball to the opposite field, but he has a tendency to get in to streaks where he either rolls everything over to the third baseman or misses breaking pitches by a foot.  Howie is the biggest wild card of the lineup this year. 

  1. C - Chris Iannetta

After sitting through the torture of having to watch Jeff Mathis hit, it was very refreshing to see Chris Iannetta at the plate.  While he doesn’t put up huge numbers, he started a lot of sparks at the end of the lineup.  He is not intimidated and is a great leader.  I have higher expectations from Chris this year. 

  1. CF - Peter Bourjos

Peter is cult fan favorite in L.A. because of his blazing speed.  While Mike Trout is probably just as fast, there is something about Peter’s running style that makes a streak across the field.  He is potentially the best centerfielder in baseball, but doesn’t get much recognition for it.  What he brings to the team from a speed standpoint is almost irreplaceable.  A Josh Hamilton long double is a Speedy Petey inside-the-parker.  Peter has some pop, but will have to continue to work on the strikeouts.  He seems to be fooled on pitches a lot.  When he does make contact though, he’s pretty solid.  I am going to be excited when the later innings have the speed trio of Peter, Aybar, and Trout up to bat.  It’s going to be a bunt and stolen bases extravaganza.