Positional Battles to Watch

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.

Dexter Fowler

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:

Juan Lagares

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 Schebler

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.

Jon Jay

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.

Taylor Ward

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.

Jo Adell

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.

Brandon Marsh

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 Barreto

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.

Prediction

It is really down to 4

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

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.

Jared Walsh

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.

Jose Rojas

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.

Prediction

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.

Bench Infielder

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.

Luis Rengifo

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.

Franklin Barreto

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.

Jack Mayfield

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.

Kean Wong

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.

Taylor Ward

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.

Matt Thaiss

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.

Jose Rojas

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.

Prediction

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.

Bullpen

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.

Jamie Barria

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 Claudio

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 Faria

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 Guerra

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.

Mike Mayers

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.

Dillon Peters

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.

Patrick Sandoval

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.

Jose Suarez

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.

Aaron Slegers

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.

Prediction

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.

32 Comments
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jco
Trusted Member
jco
3 years ago

There are 40 man roster considerations too since it is currently full. In order to open up any spot for the non-roster guys, we either need someone to go on the 60man IL, a DFA, or try to sneak them through waivers. Ward and Fowler are on the 40 man (If Fowler were to not make it, he would be DFA’d and a spot would open up), but Schebler and Lagares are not. Walsh is on the 40 man, but Rojas is not. On the pitching side, everyone is on the 40 man except for Detmers and Faria. There are a few places where a spot could open up: Fowler (if he’s cut, but I don’t think that would happen this early), Luke Bard, Rivera (if he’s sent back), Mayfield maybe, Thaiss maybe.

jco
Trusted Member
jco
3 years ago
Reply to  jco

They sent Rivera back, so they opened up one slot.

Cowboy26
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  jco

I suspect the Angels will move Luke Bard to the 60 day IL to open up another spot. It looks like you forgot about Jose Quesadilla. I think hes still on the 40 man although I’m not sure why

h27kim
Trusted Member
3 years ago

Four bench spots, including backup catcher? That’s a tough one. (Esp assuming that we won’t let go of Fowler to open the season). I wonder how realistic it might be to start with Ward as the primary back up catcher….

matthiasstephan
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  h27kim

Um, over Stassi and Suzuki – I would say a little less than zero.

Cowboy26
Legend
3 years ago

How about this: We Trade Matt Thaiss, 23 million dollars and Grandpa (Grandpa Pujols not Grandpa Baseball-we love that guy) To the giants for no one. Then we add Taylor (not Blake) Ward to the roster as our RH Platoon first baseman and utility everything.

matthiasstephan
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Cowboy26

So so many solutions for the ‘Pujols’ problem that live in the realm of fantasy. We aren’t trading Pujols. He will play out his contract.

And honestly, Pujols is playing ok right now, and Walsh had almost as many PA as Albert last year (so, they aren’t just indiscriminatingly plugging in the vet).

Sure, Ward should get a shot. But let’s be realistic, please.

Cowboy26
Legend
3 years ago

Wow nothing like being a party pooper. I did not know we added Realism police here. That will sure cut down on the content.

Since we’re on this kick . here’s a reality for you: Over the last 10 years whenever Grandpa has had a great spring he’s sucked during the regular season. So you can hope ( I think thats still legal here) that he has somehow found the ever elusive fountain of youth in his final season, but It ain’t happening. He will end an entire decade of his baseball career as the pathetic shell of a former incredible player.

matthiasstephan
Super Member
3 years ago
Reply to  Cowboy26

I understand the idea that Pujols isn’t worth his contract. I just don’t see that he is going to be traded (and there are so many suggestions that we do so). Seems like a waste of time – when we could actually be discussing possible position battles, and scenarios about how much time Walsh should get, or if Rojas gets a shot at some of those reps based on his great Spring and years of AAA hitting.

Cowboy26
Legend
3 years ago

Ok butcomment image

Last edited 3 years ago by Cowboy26
h27kim
Trusted Member
3 years ago

Yeah. I got stupid and couldn’t count. If, as things currently seem, Stassi is likely to start on the 25 man roster instead of IL, Ward is at best #3 C. All the more reason to dump Fowler…

GrandpaBaseball
Legend
3 years ago

Last season (All of 60 games) I said that Sandoval would have a big season, well that maybe this season. This years BP is a crap shoot in who stays and who goes. Maybe we should have signed our FA that left.

GrandpaBaseball
Legend
3 years ago

John Henry you are good as this was a lot of info to take in. Someone of Rojas, Ward, Walsh, or Reny or Largares or Schebler has to go down it would seem, tough calls at the end of the week. Imho I would just flat out cut loose Barreto after he comes off the IL. Detmers and Rodriguez should be sent down and start with the veterans’ and at the end of April make adjustments as necessary. Great write up and to Mr. Maddon good luck in making the right choices, glad it’s not me having that gig.

Angels2020Champs
Legend
3 years ago

When are roster cuts? I’m interested to see the Rays and some other teams scraps

Last edited 3 years ago by Angels2020Champs
Charles Sutton
Editor
Super Member
3 years ago

They are already happening a bit. Big changes are likely to come by the weekend. Next week there are the 2 freeway games with the Dodgers and then the season starts.

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago

Hard for Rojas to do any more than he already has. I was kind of surprised when he didn’t get called up in 2019. I know the org wanted to get a look at Thaiss, but Rojas was out performing him. That said, Walsh gets first crack at first and Rengifo is the utility guy.

Fowler starts in right and it is a coin flip between Legares and Schebler for the fourth outfield spot. I like the glove of Legares and the lefty power of Schebler. Ward has an option and that hurts him here.

Bullpen: Iglesias, Mayers, Caludio, Guerra, Buttrey are locks. I’m going Sandoval and Faria with the possibility of an outside arm joining the group. Philly and TB are going to cut somebody we could use.

Last edited 3 years ago by Jeff Joiner
GrandpaBaseball
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

Appears that Thaiss is done, waste of another #1. But he still has a shot at returning.

Cowboy26
Legend
3 years ago

Can we trade him & Fowler to the Giants for Salary Relief?

red floyd
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  Cowboy26

Depends. Can Salary Relief pitch?

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago

Waste of a kick or failure of player development?

Thaiss was drafted because he had a very projectable bat. First thing the Angels did was change his swing.

Take a look at Jam Jones this spring. He’s taking like it’s the AFL. The only time he’s hasn’t raked in recent years was during his 4 swing changes the Angels pushed on him.

Cowboy26
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  Jeff Joiner

Unfortunately Jam Jones ain’t been doing too much Jammin’ this spring. He’s now hitting .150/.261/.350 for the Baby Bards. So I guess the evil Angel Minor League Warlords are still controlling his hitting abilities from afar.

Jeff Joiner
Editor
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  Cowboy26

Ha ha. The Athletic showed him hitting .429 and still an Angel. I should’ve realized that was his small sample from last year.

2002heaven
Super Member
3 years ago

Disagree with 2002heaven at your own peril and be wrong 90 days later.
Mike Mayers is already looking like, well like Mike Mayers and not Trevor Hoffman or Mariano Rivera. Our BP is looking like the 1940 Maginot Line again ( Hansel Robles & Ty Buttrey going into 2020……ask Gitcho what that means pertaining to false security ).
2 : a defensive barrier or strategy that inspires a false sense of security. Maginot Line.
Merriam Webster Dictionary

FungoAle
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  2002heaven

I’m agreeing with the 2002heaven proclamation here. To me it is about removing uncertainty when putting together the team. Who knows if Mayers will perform close to last year, there is no track record. I hope so but I would not roll into next year based on hope. Buttrey, great guy, but nobody here would disagree that we cannot get consecutive shutdown appearances from him. And these are the 7th and 8th inning guys? Then we have a bunch of multi-inning guys to come in and bailout a starter but they are not backend of the bullpen arms.  André Maginot is right.

Really despise being negative but the BP is a chronic weak spot. After Perry hit a stand-up triple with the Iglesias acquisition never hit the ball past the pitchers mound with the rest of his backend bullpen arm plan. I really had expected better after we went cheap on starters (Cobb and Quintana).What if Rasiel goes down or is unavailable? We were under the luxury tax and had the resources to acquire a couple of veterans w/track record.

Cowboy26
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  2002heaven

I guess I’ll take my chances…

steelgolf
Super Member
3 years ago

Fowler is going to get the nod as starting right fielder because it is the most Angels thing to do. put the washed up “veteran clubhouse presence” out in the field to flail around on defense and bat sub-Mendoza. trAdition.

Cowboy26
Legend
3 years ago

My irrefutable predictions ( just like my stock tips) : Rengifo has looked really good this spring and with his position versatility he’s a lock to make the OD roster.

The Only way Rojas or Ward (neither can play SS) makes this team is if Grandpa’s HBP BooBoo from yesterday lands him on the IL to start the season.

Despite Schebler having the most upside (career wise he hits lefties pretty well) He’ll be starting the season at San Manuel Stadium and short of a phantom injury, Dexter Fowler is the leader in the clubhouse with Lagares as the backup.

The bullpen is another matter. Iglesius, Mayers, Buttrey, Claudio, Guerra are locks. Assuming Barria gets a fourth life and Pena & Slegers start the year off on the IL, I would think Sandoval, CRod & Mr. X round out the Bullpen. The mystery Mr X will be from outside the organization and may involve a trade of J.A.R back to Astros (Steve Chisek anyone?) or to a tanker team that has space to keep him on the roster for the year (Still not sure why PTP wasted this 40 man roster spot). Some teams also have full talented 40 man rosters ( such as Rays) that will need to make some tough decisions next week including decisions regrading NRI’s with opt out provisions, so stay tuned this final chapter has not been written yet.

Angels2020Champs
Legend
3 years ago
Reply to  Cowboy26

Dropping knowledge like this has me intrigued about those stock tips!

Cowboy26
Legend
3 years ago

Sorry I forgot my FINRA warning & disclaimer:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F4qzPbcFiA

Angels2020Champs
Legend
3 years ago

Thaiss and Suarez are optioned already. Nice having info on them anyway. Rengifo probably gets it although I like Ward. Lagares should get OF spot but Fowler is in. Hoping that changes in the next week.

Last edited 3 years ago by Angels2020Champs
red floyd
Legend
3 years ago

“… and is a good neighbor”

comment image

Fansince1971
Legend
3 years ago

Barretto is on his way to the DL. Probably between Rojas and Ward for now.

Fowler has been so foul this Spring that it will take his relationship with Maddon to save him. I also hope for Lagares and Schebler.

Last edited 3 years ago by Fansince1971