The Angels enter 2021 with some uncertainty surrounding the final 26 man roster. There are locks, sure, but a few spots remain up for grabs with only days left until Opening Day. Here are some battles to watch over this final week.
With the split being 13 pitchers, 12 position players, and 1 Ohtani, there is not much room for the bench. Pujols is in, with a 4th OF and backup catcher that leaves 2 infielders left. At least one has to be able to play first base when Pujols can’t (or shouldn’t), and at least one has to be able to play shortstop when need be.
Starting RF and 4th OF
The Angels go into the season without a real starting right fielder. With no obvious big name signing, the battle is between a few trades and minor signings with some previous in house options as well. Here is how they stack up.
Fowler is the favorite, with his MLB contract and assets given up for him, it seems that it is his job to lose. Unfortunately, that may not be good enough, as he has had a terrible spring. His slash has been unbearable, at .136/.160/.318 in 22 at bats. His defense, which might have been his selling point, has taken a turn for this worse:
Dexter Fowler might be a problem in right field pic.twitter.com/yGBxcHXe9z— Brent Maguire (@bmags94) March 22, 2021
Lagares is known for his defense, as an actual Center fielder, he can catch the ball and has shown that off this spring. Playing all 3 outfield positions gives him an edge, as Mike Trout needs time off his feet. Signed on a minor league deal, the Angels got him cheap, as the 32 year old was last good in 2018. Still, he has hit excellent this spring, batting .379/.400/.448 in his 29 at bats.
Scott has power, and lots of it. The 30 year old hit 30 bombs in a season in 2017 but has only played in 31 games the last 2 seasons. He was arb eligible this year, which is why the Reds let him go. Angels picked him up on the cheap and he has delivered, hitting 3 home runs this spring, second most on the team, in 21 at bats he has hit .381/.417/.905.
Jay has unfortunately not done well at all. Not too surprising, as his time in the majors hasn’t been positive the last two years and he is 36 years old. He signed a minor league deal with the Angels and has hit poorly this spring, .078/.185/.304. Sure, small sample size and all, but he looks to already be out of the running.
Ward has been a utility man for a while now, and that may land him the job. He plays both corners well enough, as well as corner infield and catcher in a pinch. With how position agnostic Joe likes it, he still has a shot to make the team. His bat has been on fire as well, as he is batting .353/.478/.588 this spring with a home run.
Adell can still be the future, as the former top Angel prospect has shown he could be a star, in fact, his bat has been spectacular thus far, .263/.440/.632 with 2 bombs. Unfortunately, his glove is not up to par. At all. His play in the outfield makes Justin Upton look like a gold glover. So when people say he needs time in AAA for defense, well, it is true for him this time.
Marsh is the top Angels prospect now. Unfortunately, he has been hurt this spring and it shows. He has yet to take the field. Despite being hurt, he hit 2 triples and thus has a slash of .231/.286 /538. Unfortunately, he is the VCU of this battle, and has already been eliminated by management. He needs time in AAA anyway.
Franklin appeared in the outfield this spring, and I think I know why. With no options left, Maddon wants to see if he can be a utility player and is giving him a chance. He has taken off this spring, slashing .350/.409/.650. He has a chance with the infield as well, so if Maddon wants utility, he has options, unlike Franklin. Also, Franklin just got injured, so, never mind.
I want Lagares and Schebler, I really do, but I have a gut feeling one of them will be left out in the cold for Fowler. Right now, it is those three and Ward who are the real contenders for 2 spots, and depending on how this last week goes, it could be any of them.
First Base seemed to be locked down, but there is some uncertainty of late. It is a showdown between the incumbent Jared Walsh and the challenger Jose Rojas.
Favorite for one of the spots, Walsh has struggled this spring. He broke out last year during the COVID season, which gives him a leg up. But, with others playing well, it is not guaranteed. Expect him to win it, but there is an outside shot for someone else to nab the spot instead.
Rojas has been on fire. A non prospect, he has been praised all spring. Many prefer him over Walsh, and his positional flexibility makes him appealing. He can play 2B and 3B as well, which makes him a possibility next year if Arte doesn’t spend money on a shortstop as Fletcher can move over to SS.
Walsh will win, but Rojas may be called up later in the year in case of injury or if Walsh struggles when games count. He will be a major league player by 2022 at the latest.
The most competitive position on on the field, there are quite a few options. Since Fletcher can play short, they do not necessarily have to be able to play short, but it helps.
Rengifo has been a staple on the team for so long, it is hard to see him losing this, especially with how good of a spring he has. Unfortunately for him, semantics could be his downfall, as he actually has an option left. He could be sent down without fear of him being claimed by the Dodgers for some reason.
Maybe it was a new environment, maybe it was the competition, or something, but he has turned it around. .350/.409/.650 with a home run this spring. He is fighting for his MLB life. As he is being pushed hard by Maddon to make the team, even having time in the outfield, do not count him out… that is except he got injured right before publishing, which, eliminated him.
A player from Houston, he was claimed by the Braves before traded to the Angels for cash. He is on the 40 man, and thus far his performance has been meh. .250/.250/.333 is not impressive to say the least. He has brief MLB experience in Houston, but nothing great.
Wong has had quite a journey, as he has been let go and acquired by the Angels multiple times. His spring has been meh, and he may be granted free agency again. With competition this great, he has better luck elsewhere.
As noted above, Blake has been killing it this spring. If there was one more spot on the roster he would certainly make it, but unfortunately for him, he may be the victim of having an option as well. Despite his stellar bat that he acquired out of nowhere, his versatility makes him a Maddon favorite.
This is basically his last chance to not be a bust, and so far this spring, he has been a bust. While he has played more than one position, he hasn’t been that good at the plate, at all. .118/.211/.176 that is under a .400 OPS. Ow.
Rojas has a shot here too as he can play third and second. In a different year, where Joc Pederson trade happened and Franklin Barreto was not traded for, it may be his. But alas, it may be a bit until he makes his debut.
This feels very much like a Barreto win. That option on both Rengifo and Ward torpedo their chances. Unless they give up on Franklin and DFA him, he may be there on opening day, but who knows. Edit: forgot to edit this part, with Franklin out, Rengifo is the likely favorite unless they go with Rojas. 99% bet on Rengifo.
The Angels bullpen is a mess to say the least. Joe Maddon has said it will be 8 full. With Raisel Iglesias and Ty Buttrey guaranteed spots, the other 6 are anyone’s guess especially with Félix Peña injured.
Barria has an issue. He is out of options. Maybe. The 4th option is up in the air and it is why there is so much confusion on who gets the bullpen spots. Jamie has had a rough spring to say the least, but has talent and the team wants to keep him. If he has an option, he will be sent down, if not, he will be on the team as a long reliever.
Alex was signed on an MLB deal, so he should be in the clear to make the team. But it is a tough competition, and he only pitched 3 innings. It could mean they feel confident and he doesn’t need much game action, or they regret spending the million on him. Hard to tell.
Jake has been phenomenal and has the most innings by any Angels reliver this spring. He also was the only one who didn’t allow the A’s to score on Saturday, not even inherited runners, and is a good neighbor.
Junior was put on the 40 man which means that there is a good shot of him making the team. An ERA over 9 in 4 innings isn’t good, but small samples and such. This week will be vital for his chances.
Mayers has not had a good spring so far with an ERA over 11. Still, with experience on the team and good results last year, he has a better shot than some on this list, even if it has looked ugly out there.
Jose Alberto Rivera
Rivera finally made his spring debut after being a rule 5 selection. The former Astro prospect needs to make the team or he will end up going back to Houston. His one outing looked great but more information is needed.
Peters pitched Saturday and was one of the only two who didn’t give up any runs. Earned runs that is. His ERA is 3 but he has allowed inherited runners to score which is not good. Only 3 innings of work also isn’t a sign that he will make it.
Sandoval has been given the second most innings this spring and has a 3 ERA. This could mean they want him on the team to start the season, and that could happen only with him in the bullpen. He is one of the first backup guys for the rotation, so they may not risk it, but he could make it.
A pitching prospect turned pitching project, Saurez has potential still, and the team thinks so as well, seeing how much work they have given him. He may end up here in the bullpen as a long inning guy like Barria.
Slegers has been perfect so far, and as a former Ray who crushed Houston’s dreams, I like him a ton. He has had little work this spring, which concerns me, but I hope he makes it.
Reid Detmers and Chris Rodriguez
Joe Maddon has praised them both, saying they may make the team. The Angels top pitching prospects would be long relivers then out of the bullpen. If the Angels are desperate it makes sense, but I would rather them get ready to start in the rotation that they will need to do in 2022. Both showed promise this spring, so it is not out of nowhere.
This one is tough, and comes down to this final week. Maddon is open to anything at this point. I am guessing that Reid Detmers and C-Rod will make it and their MLB debuts. Slegers and Claudio will make it due to pay and experience vs Houston. J.A.R I think ends up being traded back to Houston as the rule 5 issue is too risky. Junior Guerra makes it due to pushing him. Lastly, I think Mayers makes the cut as Jamie Barria gets the 4th option.
What do you think? Who are you rooting for? Leave your comments down below.