Abreu, Hunter, Morales up for Aaron Award
Halos have hard choice for top three sluggers on roster
CLEVELAND -- Identifying three candidates for the Hank Aaron Award from the Angels' loaded lineup is a challenge comparable to the one faced by manager Mike Scioscia in deciding which nine boppers to include in his lineup on a given day.
The Angels' choices, after long deliberation, are Bobby Abreu, Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales. What made this so difficult is the Angels' remarkable offensive depth, which has enabled the club to lead the Majors in runs scored and batting average while ranking among the leaders in slugging and on-base percentage.
The Hank Aaron Award, presented by Sharp, is awarded annually to the best overall offensive performer in each league, with each club having three nominees. This is the seventh consecutive year that fans have had a voice in selecting the award winners.
Fans can vote through Sept. 15 to determine the club nominee, and then voting will be held Sept. 16-30 to select the winner in each league. The winners will be announced during the World Series.
Last year's winners were Red Sox first baseman Kevin Youkilis and Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez. Originally introduced in 1999 to honor the 25th anniversary of Hank Aaron breaking Babe Ruth's all-time home run record, the Hank Aaron Award was the first major award to be introduced in 30 years.
Signed as a free agent in February, Abreu has had a dramatic impact on the Angels' entire offense, with his remarkably consistent production and his disciplined approach, which has filtered down through the ranks.
Abreu reached several career milestones this season. His 250th career homer brought him into a class with Willie Mays, Rickie Henderson, Joe Morgan, Barry Bonds and Craig Biggio as the only players in MLB history to collect at least 250 homers, 2,000 hits, 1,000 runs scored, 1,000 RBIs and 300 steals.
Abreu reached the 2,000-hit mark in Detroit in June and kept on banging away, claiming the American League Player of the Month Award for July. He batted .380 while driving in 28 runs in 26 games in July. He has stolen at least 20 bases for his 11th consecutive season, the longest streak in the Majors, while ranking among the AL leaders in RBIs, on-base percentage and hitting with runners in scoring position.
Hunter was in the midst of an MVP-caliber season when he was forced to the disabled list on July 10 with a right adductor strain in the groin area, costing him 28 games.
Hunter was leading the club in homers and RBIs when he departed, having been the primary force in the lineup for three months, and others -- including Abreu, Morales, Juan Rivera, Chone Figgins, Mike Napoli, Erick Aybar and Maicer Izturis -- flourished in his absence to keep the Angels' attack rolling.
Hunter returned from the DL with a bang in Baltimore, indicating he's ready to resume a pace that would leave him with career highs in average, slugging and on-base percentage while maintaining his Gold Glove profile in center field.
Under intense scrutiny as the man designated to replace the multiple talents of first baseman Mark Teixeira, who departed for the Yankees during the offseason, Morales has emerged as a formidable offensive force in the Teixeira mold: a switch-hitter with big-time power and a flair for the dramatic.
Morales is within range of the club's single-season record for homers by a first baseman: 34, shared by Mo Vaughn (2000) and Wally Joyner (1987).
Morales has been among the AL leaders in homers, RBIs, extra-base hits and slugging percentage, keeping his average in the .300 range while improving dramatically with the glove at first.
Lyle Spencer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.