Angels spring training 2020: DH position preview

In a dizzying offseason filled with an array of uncertainties, the designated hitter position remains no different for the Angels.

In a rehab year, Shohei Ohtani slashed .286/.343/.505 for a 123 wRC+ last year, taking up the bulk of DH plate appearances (106 games) and producing 1.8 fWAR. The Angels, coincidentally, combined for 0 fWAR outside of Ohtani at DH, ranking 9th in the American League in overall production there.

In 2020, it’s still primarily Ohtani at the slot, though more batter’s box appearances will be had by other non-Ohtani players this season.

  • Projected mainstay: Shohei Ohtani, mostly
  • Other options: Justin Upton, Tommy La Stella, Albert Pujols
  • Projected fWAR: 2.6 (5th)
Via FanGraphs

The Japanese-born superstar, Ohtani takes the cake in plate appearances to slug with 490 PA’s to a tune of an above-average 128 wRC+. Ohtani gets on base well and is able to both spray and drive the ball to the opposite field, with 31% of balls hit to right field and nearly 50% of balls having been hit hard. He’ll have to improve his ground-ball laden approach, as his launch angle of 6.8 degrees ranks the 23rd lowest among 320 players last season (min. 250 PA).

Ohtani’s presence in the lineup will come on days where he is not pitching (which he’s slated to do starting mid-May), penciled in 4-5 games a week. While Maddon will conceivably tinker with lineups, Ohtani is a more-than-capable leadoff hitter. With the speed to wreak havoc or at the very least, distract the opposing pitcher, Ohtani is a worthy batsmen to sport in the top-third of the order.

It’s highly conceivable that Justin Upton receives the remainder of time here. In a scenario where Tommy La Stella performs at an above-average clip at second base and David Fletcher/Brian Goodwin are both deserving of every day playing time, Upton might be the one to be booted to the bench in light of his defensive promiscuities. Upton had a whopping -13 defensive runs saved in ’19 before being sidelined from turf toe in just 63 games played. That’s impressive, just not in a good way. And lest we forget the coming of Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell, two projected well above-average outfielders who will both be knocking on the door of the majors in short order.

The future of the DH position depends on a lot of variables, but for now, it’s Shohei Ohtani’s time to slug. Everyone else can sit back and enjoy the Sho.

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2002heaven
Trusted Member
1 year ago

Yoshitomo Tsutsugo signed with the D-Rays on Dec 13…….3 months late and a buck short.
Already passed on Nick Castellanos too and BillArte is just ball & chained to Sunk Cost Disease with Justin Upton and Albert Pujols. Oh Yeah, still no pitching in sight either, it’s like looking out for dry land in the “Waterworld” movie and maybe we can give away Taylor Ward or Matt Thaiss to get another team to take Upton off our hands ( both former #1’s ).

Brent Maguire
Editor
Trusted Member
1 year ago

Great stuff per usual, Rahul! I wonder if Rendon may find himself DHing a bit too given the options who can handle 3B (La Stella, Fletcher, Rengifo).

amGae
1 year ago

Bust out the booze, It’s Sho-time!

GrandpaBaseball
Super Member
1 year ago

We need pitching l am aware, but Ohtani is seriously athletic and could learn to play LF, so if pitching does not work out this should be his place as opposed to full time DH. This guy can hit and run and throw and can learn to field. Trade Adell for Boyd would not be a bad trade as Boyd is a top of the order pitcher and still we get to keep Marsh for RF.

amGae
1 year ago

Agreed, Ohtani can be a jack of all trades, master of all

Tree
Member
1 year ago

In my Perfect Ohtani, he starts playoff games, in the regular season, he plays OF, and he’s the Closer.

matthiasstephan
Trusted Member
1 year ago

Why are we giving up on Ohtani as a starter? He was elite the last time he was in that role.

Charles Sutton
Editor
Trusted Member
1 year ago

Pujols will consider himself productive as long as he is getting some RBIs, which given the nature of the line up he is sure to do. I just hope he doesn’t kill too many rallies with GIDP.

admkir
Trusted Member
1 year ago

Not likely to see Upton as secondary DH as Pujols is still slated for those at bats unless they can find a way to get him to retire, good luck with that.

Tree
Member
1 year ago
Reply to  admkir

In this incarnation of the Angels, part of the Magic of Maddon, is the ability to see where Albert is At, and Act Accordingly, meaning, Pujols will get the at bats that serve the teams needs, but Albert wont be coddled. When the Bour and Ausmus dynamic came into being, suddenly Albert Pujols was more effective then the previous couple seasons, the reality of his role being taken away was right there, Albert responded in 2019. 2020 though… this team added Rendon, Castro, and Ohtani is now fully healthy. Albert is a 29 million dollar pinch hitter and 1st basemen, not a DH on this team.

matthiasstephan
Trusted Member
1 year ago
Reply to  Rahul Setty

Can you see Pujols playing 1B all of the time? If not, someone needs to play there (even if Pujols isn’t DHing). If not La Stella, then do we need to keep Thaiss/Walsh on the 25-man? Who else can play there?