You want lists? We’ll give you lists. Here they are, the 24 (give or take a surprise or two) most indispensable Angels. Beginning in reverse order they are . . .
24) Marcus Lawton, outfielder.
A former National Honor Society man, Lawton is bright enough to know his uniform will rarely need a rinse and spin cycle. After spending six seasons in the minors, it’s doubtful he’ll mind the time on a major league bench.
23) Dave Concepcion, utility man.
The Angels would like nothing better than for Concepcion to earn a place on the roster. He provides experience and all those other intangibles managers love to wax poetic about. Once a member of the Angels, look for Concepcion to become a close friend of Lawton’s.
22) Stewart Cliburn, relief pitcher.
It’s not that the Angels don’t need Cliburn--they do; it’s just that his 4.07 earned-run average in 1988, as well as those 11 homers he gave up in 40 appearances, tend to stick in your mind.
21) Sherman Corbett or Bob McClure, relief pitchers.
Ranked ahead of Mr. Cliburn simply because of genetics: They’re left-handed. One will go, one will stay. At the moment, the thinking is that youth (Corbett) will prevail.
20) Tony Armas, outfielder.
Armas earned himself some nice incentive money last season, what with his .272 average, 13 home runs and 49 runs batted in. But with Claudell Washington available (and at a handsome price, we might add), Armas will see fewer at-bats.
19) Greg Minton, relief pitcher.
Minton, 37, refuses to fade away--thank goodness. A goofball extraordinaire, Minton had one of his better seasons in 1988 (2.85 ERA, seven saves). But what to do with Willie Fraser, the former starter who now resides in the Angel bullpen? Minton now figures to make the move from co-stopper to set-up man for Bryan Harvey.
18) Dan Petry, starting pitcher.
After a 3-9 season, expectations are considerably lower for Petry as he begins his second year with the Angels. A sprained ankle ruined his 1988. This time, the Angels put him in the fourth spot in the rotation and hope for the best.
17) Mark McLemore, second baseman.
If he were to win the job outright, McLemore’s rating would jump through the dugout roof. He could give the Angels a legitimate leadoff threat. He could give the Angels added range at second base. He could give the Angels all sorts of options come time to fill out a lineup card. Of course, that’s what everyone said last year and look what happened.
For now, Ray is the starter and McLemore the question mark.
16) Bill Schroeder, catcher.
The Angels’ lone purchase at the winter meetings. With Bob Boone now in a Kansas City Royal uniform (unforgivable), Schroeder becomes the starter should Lance Parrish’s fickle back act up.
15) Willie Fraser, relief pitcher.
Won 12 games as a starter in 1988, but could prove more valuable in the bullpen, what with his knack of often overpowering hitters. Fraser does have this itsy-bitsy bad habit, though: He gives up lots of home runs (33 last season) and he walked almost as many batters as he struck out (86 strikeouts, 80 walks).
14) Chuck Finley, starting pitcher.
The lone left-handed starter. This guy lost 15 games last year and it didn’t seem to faze him. If we had to make one of those wild, knee-jerk predictions, we’d say his 9-15 record of a season ago will be reversed in 1989. After all, this will be only his second full year as a starter.
13) Bert Blyleven, starting pitcher.
Blyleven recorded another 200-plus inning season, which is great if you’re big on quantity and 10-17 seasons. What the Angels really need from him is a few more innings and a few less losses. If they don’t get it, this rotation could be in trouble.
12) Johnny Ray, second base.
The subject of many a trade rumor, Ray led the Angels in batting average, hits, doubles, triples and at-bats last year, which should count for something. He isn’t much of a fielder, but he can hit. A lot.
11) Claudell Washington, outfielder.
If Washington can duplicate his 1988 season--or come close--the Angels will have solved a glaring need, mainly an outfielder to go along with Devon White and Chili Davis. If Washington bombs, it’s going to be a long year.
10) Jack Howell, third baseman.
Someone needs to tell Howell to lighten up. So, Jack-- chillll . We know you’ve got a great arm. We know you can hit for power. We also know you can hit better than .254 and strike out fewer than 130 times. Relax.
9) Chili Davis, outfielder.
OK, so he’s not exactly Paul Blair in the outfield. What Davis gives you is 20-plus home runs, between 80-95 RBIs, more than 500 at-bats and a really neat nickname. Put it this way: Who would you rather have--Gary Pettis or Davis? We thought so.
8) Brian Downing, designated hitter.
The heart and soul of this team. Downing is the link to the past, one of the few guys who truly cares about where the Angels finish in the standings. If all goes as expected (meaning Ray stays), Downing is the probable leadoff man. He won’t steal much, if at all, but he had a great on-base percentage (.362). And how many leadoff guys do you know can hit 25 home runs, as Downing did in 1988.
7) Kirk McCaskill, starting pitcher.
An important season for McCaskill and the Angels. With him, the Angel starting rotation could surprise. Without him, forget it. The Angels desperately need a return to 1986, when McCaskill won 17 games, pitched more than 240 innings and, most important, stayed healthy.
6) Lance Parrish, catcher.
So confident are the Angels about Parrish that they let Boone take his Gold Glove and .295 batting average to Kansas City. If Parrish doesn’t improve dramatically on his 1988 season (.215, 15 homers, only 60 RBIs, 93 strikeouts and 12 passed balls), the Angels will never hear the end of the Boone fiasco and never see the light of fourth place in the AL West standings.
5) Devon White, outfielder.
The superstar waiting to happen. In a little more than two seasons’ time, White already has a Gold Glove, 36 homers and 141 RBIs. Now if he can just learn to strike out less and steal more. As for defense, White turns a mediocre outfield into an above-average one.
4) Mike Witt, starting pitcher.
Gives the Angels lots of innings, complete games and strikeouts. But check out his victory totals the past three years: 18, 16 and 13. Meanwhile, his losses have increased, from 10 in 1986, to 14, to 16, as has his ERA (from 2.84, to 4.01, to 4.15). Not good.
Still, Witt remains the cornerstone of the starting rotation. And while no one can question his tenacity, we find ourselves wondering if all those innings haven’t taken their toll.
3) Dick Schofield, shortstop.
Sure he only hit .239 last season, but did you see what he fielded? Try .983, which was good enough to lead all major league shortstops.
The guy almost never complains or misses a game. And if he learns what to do with a bat, that three-year, $3.3-million deal he just signed with the Angels will seem like a bargain.
2) Wally Joyner, first base.
Wally World wasn’t as much fun as previous years, what with the occasional funks and some of the quietest 85 RBIs ever recorded. But Joyner still can perform magic with that bat of his, usually to the tune of a near-.300 average, 23 homers and 100 RBIs. He also is a polished fielder. Simply put, Joyner is the single most important offensive player on the Angels. Stick him third in the lineup and watch him go.
And, ta-da ...
1) Bryan Harvey, relief pitcher.
Take away Harvey and you finish last. Simple as that.
Harvey is the Angel bullpen. He accounted for more than half the team’s saves. He recorded the lowest ERA among all Angel pitchers. He struck out three times as many batters as he walked. And all this as a rookie.
Harvey could save 30 games this year, maybe more if the Angel press releases are true.