The Los Angeles Angels clearly do not envision Chone Figgins as the third baseman of the future as they tried to acquire Miguel Cabrera from the Florida Marlins over this past offseason. With their attempts rebuffed, the reigning American League West champs once again plan to go with speed and defense at third.

Over the past few seasons in Anaheim, the Angels have used the 5′8″ Figgins at center field, second base, designated hitter, and third base. No matter where he plays, Figgins has remained the catalyst for the Angels offense.

However, Figgins missed the first month of the 2007 season with fractures in the tips of the first two fingers on his throwing hand. “Figgy” struggled mightily when he returned in May, but once June came, he became one of the best table setters in all of baseball.

“Our offense took off when Chone got healthy, when he started getting on base and opening things up for us,” said Angels manager Mike Scioscia.

Figgins was indeed the key to the Halos' offense, leading the Majors in on-base percentage (.415) from the leadoff spot last season, while hitting a career-best .330, sixth in the American League.

Despite a career year, a left wrist injury sustained on August 21, requiring surgery after the season, hampered Figgins down the stretch and during the three-game sweep by Boston in the AL Divisional Series.

“It was hard to keep both hands on the bat,” Figgins admitted when the season was over. “You leave it all on the field; that’s all you can do. Boston just beat us. You can give thousands of reasons why they won, but it doesn’t really matter. We have a good team. We didn’t have our guys on the field. That’s not an excuse; it’s a fact. It happened. You don’t have your guys on the field, it’s hard to beat a team like Boston.”

He might never be known for his defense, but Figgins still covers ground and is able to make many tough plays. His substandard .943 fielding percentage in 2007 was largely due in part to the lingering issues with his throwing hand. Now healthy, expect to see improvement in Figgy’s defense.

Backing up Figgins at third is the versatile Robb Quinlan. The Angels are hoping the versatile Quinlan recaptures his 2006 form, where he had a .491 slugging percentage and .321 batting average. A productive Quinlan could allow Figgins to take a few more days off in order to remain healthy come playoff time.

Overall Grade: A-. When healthy, Figgins has become one of the best leadoff men in all of baseball. His defense has also been improving steadily each season.

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