Los Angeles Angels Welcome Newfound Infield Depthby B.J. Martin July 16, 2020 0 comments
It’s been a while since the Angels have been in a position of depth across their infield but the 2020 squad looks to have as much depth as they have had in the infield since the days of Kendrys Morales, Howie Kendrick, Chone Figgins, and Erick Aybar roughly 10 years ago.
The shortened season to assist a veteran first baseman, the impending free agency for a top shortstop, and the platoon battle at second base could all be recipes for success for 2020 Angels infielders.
Albert Pujols is clearly no longer the MVP player of his 20s in his age-40 season. However, the shortened 60-game season should work to the aging veteran’s advantage. While many have been disappointed with Pujols tenure in Anaheim, The Machine has still averaged 26 doubles, 26 home runs, and 93 runs batted in across his eight seasons with the Angels. Pujols is still eager to fulfill his desire to lead them to a World Series and really seems interested in reaching the 700-home run plateau as he currently sits at 656 for his career.
Angels 2016 first-round draft pick Matt Thaiss debuted with the Angels last season by splitting time between first and third base and should do the same in 2020. He’ll provide Pujols the ability to be the club’s designated hitter on days Shohei Ohtani is pitching or resting prior to pitching starts. Thaiss’s left-handed bat should continue to see power improve as he becomes more acclimated to major league pitching in 2020.
Tommy La Stella was a relatively ignored acquisition by the Angels from the Chicago Cubs prior to the 2019 season. That quickly changed as the 2019 season opened and La Stella became a key offensive cog in the Angels’ lineup. The 30-year-old utility infielder came into the season with 10 career home runs across five major league seasons with the Atlanta Braves and Chicago Cubs. La Stella would hit .295 with 16 home runs and 44 runs batted in during his 80 games prior to being named to his first All-Star team. However, La Stella broke his leg at the plate in Texas in the first week of July and missed playing in the All-Star game and much of the rest of the season.
David Fletcher had the second-highest WAR among Angels position players in 2020 while playing primarily at third base for the Angels. The Angels’ leadoff hitter has played his native middle infield positions as well as the outfield last season and will likely split time across those positions this year to give players days off while getting his bat in the lineup. Second base is the position Fletcher will most likely spend most of his time playing at as he could find himself starting against left-handed pitchers in favor of La Stella. Like Chone Figgins in the early 2000s, Fletcher will spend a few years bouncing around the field to stay in the lineup but eventually find his future full-time position in the middle infield.
Andrelton Simmons has been simply phenomenal since being acquired by the Angels from the Atlanta Braves prior to the 2016 season. The Gold Glove shortstop will be a free agent following the season and therefore has a lot riding on his performance this season. Simmons has expressed interest in remaining with the Angels but will join Marcus Semien and Didi Gregorius as the top three shortstops in the upcoming free agent market.
Simmons has suffered freak injuries in recent seasons which opened the door in 2019 for rookie infielder Luis Rengifo to get substantial playing time at the position. The 23-year-old Rengifo plays both middle infield positions well and reminds many Angels fans of Simmons’ shortstop predecessor, Erick Aybar, with his style of play. Time will tell if Rengifo is ultimately a starter or utility player at the MLB level but the versatility of David Fletcher and him enables to Angels to put an MLB-ready shortstop into the game in the event Simmons is unavailable.
Anthony Rendon landed in Anaheim this of-season after striking a deal with Arte Moreno and the Angels, securing his place at the hot corner for the team through 2026. Rendon finished third in National League MVP voting last season after hitting .319 with 34 home runs, a league-leading 44 doubles, and 126 RBI for the World Series champion Washington Nationals. Rendon’s arrival in the Angels’ lineup provides additional protection for Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani and provides the team with their first All-Star-caliber third baseman since Chone Figgins.
Thaiss, Fletcher, La Stella, Taylor Ward and Rengifo also provide the Halos with additional depth at the third base position in the event Rendon needs rest or a day at designated hitter. The Angels have additional intriguing infielders in Arismendy Alcantara, Elliot Soto, and Jahmai Jones in camp that could always play unexpected roles for the Angels in 2020.
Angels This Week
The Angels claimed pitcher Jacob Rhame off waivers from the New York Mets last week. The 27-year-old right-handed reliever has appeared in 44 games at the MLB level for the Mets between 2017 and 2019. Rhame spent the majority of last season at Triple-A but will be considered for middle relief depth in the Angels’ bullpen this year.
The Angels added pitchers Adrian De Horta, Adam Seminaris, and Garrett Stallings to the club’s 60-man roster, capping the pool at 60 players. Seminaris was the Angels’ fifth-round selection in last month’s MLB Draft out of Long Beach State and will be training with the Angels’ satellite club at the familiar Long Beach State’s Blair Field this summer. Stallings was the Angels’ fifth-round selection a year prior to Seminaris in the 2019 draft when selected out of the University of Tennessee. Both Seminaris and Stallings provide the Angels’ farm system with advanced arms that, like Michael Roth in 2013, could see accelerated rise to the Angels when needed.
Matt Thaiss and Patrick Sandoval arrived at Angels camp earlier this week after delays for various reasons. The Angels still await starting pitcher Julio Teheran’s arrival but expect him in camp at some point this week.