Orange is the new black. Or in this case, Second Base is the new Left Field.
With the Left Field hole filled by Cameron Maybin, the Angels have some other spots to look at for 2017 and beyond. Aside from pitching, the next big (and maybe last) offensive hole to fill is the growing abscess at second base. While the Angels ranked last place for offensive output (choose your stat) from left field in 2016, they didn't fare much better at second base with a .620 OPS (13th in the AL), and 0.5 WAR (14th place in the AL). Johnny Giavotella had a decent year there in 2015, but in 2016 he lost his job and the revolving door started turning. Who do the Angels look at in 2017 to fix that?
Free Agent Market
Not super likely. Neil Walker is probably the only guy of value here and the Mets are extending a 17 million dollar qualifying offer to him. Even if he turned it down, it's unlikely the Angels would offer him a ton of money. Chase Utley? I'd rather have a root canal. Gordon Beckham? That ship sailed. Daniel Descalso? His OPS was likley inflated by the Denver air. Kelly Johnson, Stephen Drew, or Sean Rodriguez? They all had a year better than their career norms and for the most part none of them are worth the risk. I don't see a second baseman coming out of this pool.
Despite having the worst farm system in baseball, Billy Eppler managed to snag Cameron Maybin for not much in return. Perhaps he can work his magic again here? I don't think this is likely though. If Eppler has any secret trade chips on the table, he may save them for pitching. If he did trade for a second baseman - who would you want?
Current Depth Chart
The current depth chart at second base looks like this:
- Cliff Pennington
- Kaleb Cowart
- Gregorio Petit
Many have talked about the possibility of moving Yunel Escobar to second base. Besides the fact that we would then need a third baseman, Billy Eppler has gone on record saying Escobar doesn't want to play there. Not to mention, we don't know if they will extend an offer to Escobar - though we should find out soon.
Jefry Marte? Unlikely. He seems to be the bench guy that will play LF, 3B, 1B, occasionally DH, etc. Not yet sure if there is a full time spot for him, though he has certainly earned it. Personally I'd like to see Escobar flipped for some pitching talent and then Marte could land at third base.
The Angels have a few options here, but probably none that are very ready for 2017. Sherman Johnson got called up to AAA early last year and hit just .226 in the hitter friendly Pacific Coast League. He stole 16 bases and drew enough walks to notch a .332 OBP though. He may be in the mix in spring training, but is probably a long shot to start at second for the Halos next year.
David Fletcher is a SS playing in the AFL right now but his highest level so far has been 20 games he played in AA last year. He's got future potential assuming they move him to second base (since SS is locked in through 2020). He probably gets a spring training invite, but we can't count on him being an option until at least 2018 and he should start back in AA for the Bay Bears in 2017.
The Short/Long Term
The Angels are super limited on what they can do in 2017 and I'm excited to see what kind of magic Eppler can do here. He has a team of experts scouring the waiver wires, trade targets, etc., and I'm just one chick with a love of baseball, so perhaps he has someone on his mind that isn't even on this list.
Moving into 2018 and even 2019, we have Sherman Johnson and possibly David Fletcher (unless he's seen as a future Simmons replacement) depending on how they continue to develop so it's possible that Eppler just looks for a 1-2 year fix here.
How about your thoughts? How do you fix the Angels second base problem if you are the GM? What do you think happens to Pennington, Petit, and Cowart in 2017?