If you've been following the Angels at all lately, you can probably do the baseball math on your own, coupled with your extensive knowledge of how Mike Scioscia works, and come up with a relatively good picture of who is going to be starting for the Angels on Opening Day. You can bet your bottom dollar you'll see an outfield of Kole Calhoun, Mike Trout and Daniel Nava/Craig Gentry. You can also tell how the infield is going to pan out, with Yunel Escobar at 3B, Andrelton Simmons at SS, Johnny Giavotella at 2B and, most likely, C.J. Cron at 1B while Albert Pujols(hopefully) DHs. Put a starting pitcher out there and Carlos Perez behind the plate, and voila! You have the 2016 Angels, minus the bench and the bullpen.
As for those two departments(the bench and the bullpen), we even have a pretty good idea of who'll show up in relief, so right now the major unknown with this team is "who is going to be riding the position player bench?". Here's a quick look at how things are panning out right now, with a couple weeks to go til Opening Day.
This one is peculiar, because the Angels have gotten way more out of their LF backup invites than they'd probably hoped for, but that's a good thing. Todd Cunningham and Rafael Ortega are the two guys with the most legit shots at backing up the Angels' OF right now, and looking at their Spring numbers even further, it appears that both are going to turn Craig Gentry from a foregone conclusion to someone possibly on the starter bubble. Daniel Nava is a lock at this point, but you have Rafael Ortega with an .821 OPS in camp, Gentry with an .843 OPS and then, king of the OPS castle at this point, you have Todd Cunningham(.962 OPS, although he's had less ABs). Gentry has Cunningham breathing down his neck, as they're both righties, but Ortega is also intriguing as yet another bench lefty bat to plug in. If I had to call it, I'd say Todd Cunningham, as most people predicted, has a bench spot locked up at this point but this is one that's worth monitoring.
I'm sad to report that Ji-Man Choi has cooled off considerably, and as Stirrups pointed out in a HaloLinks post last week, his strikeout totals are ugly. A once-hot Spring has now settled into a rough going, day in and day out, with Ks galore. He was once thought to be a lock to make the Opening Day 25 man roster but now i'm not so sure. C.J. Cron is only doing marginally better in Spring Training, so it's not like they're full of options when it comes to first. Both Cron and Choi are good defensive replacements for old man Albert Pujols, but the Halos will desperately need some hitting out of either one of those guys, and right now Cron is looking like the safer bet. Maybe this is FINALLY the year for Cron breakout? I still believe they may put Choi on the roster, but if they do, it may just be in a Rule 5, Taylor Featherston kind of way...a means to hang on to him, not much more. I'm pulling for Choi, though, that's for sure.
The utility spot is the least interesting, because the Angels signed utility vet(and emergency pitcher) Cliff Pennington. Pennington is competent with the glove, and has had a good Spring at the plate. He'll be a good compliment to Johnny Giavotella in case he gets stuck in a rut here and there, and he'll be valuable in spelling Simmons and Escobar every now and then. The only other infield/utility competition would be from either Rey Navarro or Gregorio Petit. Both have looked OK in Spring Training, but they'll probably be better served as depth options for later in the season.
So, given what we know from the For Sure players, what conclusions can we draw from the I'm Not Sure players? I think come Opening Day, you'll see Pennington, Choi and Ortega. I was a lot more excited about the Choi bench spot a few weeks ago, but have sadly cooled on him and his whiffing ways. Pennington and Ortega on the bench? Eh...they're looking deeper than the 2015 team, I think, but that may be the best thing I can say about them before we see them in real, live MLB action.
So...bench battle...who ya got?