By Jim Callis
February 28, 2006
With more middle infielders than they know what to do with, the Angels lessened the logjam with a trade on Tuesday. They sent second baseman Alberto Callaspo to the Diamondbacks for righthander Jason Bulger.
Callaspo is a quality player in his own right, but he was stuck behind big leaguers Adam Kennedy and Orlando Cabrera and Top 50 Prospects Brandon Wood, Howie Kendrick and Erick Aybar in Los Angeles’ pecking order. The Angels would have had a hard time giving Callaspo many at-bats in the majors or Triple-A this year with Kennedy and Kendrick the projected second-base starters on those clubs.
Callaspo, 22, signed out of Venezuela in 2001. The premier contract hitter in the minor leagues, he has led the minors in most plate appearances per strikeout in each of the last two seasons, including a 20.4 mark in 2005. He hit .304/.345/.422 with 11 homers, 80 RBIs and 11 steals (albeit in 24 tries) between Double-A Arkansas and Triple-A Salt Lake last year. Though he’s a switch-hitter who has little trouble hitting for average, he’ll need to add more power, on-base and/or basestealing capability to be an effective offensive player in the majors. He has spent most of his minor league career at second base in deference to Aybar, but Callaspo has the range and arm strength to handle shortstop, where he spent most of 2004. In December, Arizona acquired Orlando Hudson to start at second base, but Callaspo could make the big league club as a middle-infield backup. He’s a career .315/.362/.424 hitter with 24 homers, 294 RBIs and 73 steals in 544 minor league games.
Bulger, 27, was a 2001 first-round pick out of Valdosta State (Ga.), where he was primarily an infielder for the first three years of his college career. Two of his brothers pitched professionally last year, Brian in independent ball and Kevin in the Royals system. Jason struggled as a starter in his first two pro seasons and had Tommy John surgery in 2003, but has moved quickly as a reliever since returning. He made his major league debut in late 2005, going 1-0, 5.40 in nine games. He spent most of the year at Triple-A Tucson, going 3-6, 3.54 with four saves in 56 outings. He had a 55-27 K-BB ratio in 56 innings, while opponents hit .244 with three homers against him. Buldger throws hard, sitting at 93-96 mph and reaching 98 with his sinker. His curveball shows signs of being a good second pitch, but he needs to refine his command and resist the temptation to throw harder when he gets in jams. He has a career 10-21, 4.28 record with 23 saves in 127 minor league games.