The boys are back home and ready to welcome World Series favorites the Chicago Cubs to the Big A to kick off the season. We know what the pitching staff will look like and the starting line-up appears to be set. All that is left is the bench, with some positional battles still to be determined during these final three exhibition games.
Veteran catcher Geovany Soto will see regular playing time behind Carlos Perez. Soto has had a nice spring for himself, batting .313/.452/.656 with three long balls to his credit. He is known as a solid receiver, with catching metrics rating him as roughly average across the board in all facets of receiving. Scioscia tends to play both his backstops regularly, so expect the 33 year-old Soto to be more platoon than bench piece.
Cliff Pennington was given a two-year deal to stabilize the utility infielder role after last season's Taylor Featherston experiment did not exactly work out as hoped. The 31 year-old is reliable with the glove all over the diamond and will more than likely make most of his money subbing in late in the in game for Johnny Giavotella. He has never been much with the bat but joined the Angels' hit parade this spring, batting .377/.411/.472 across 57 plate appearances. He has been near-league average with the bat as recently as 2014 and has always had a decent eye at the plate, so hopefully he won't be an automatic out on the days he finds himself with a bat in his hands.
Craig Gentry has been mostly mocked around these parts as the lesser-half of a pitiful left field platoon, but with Daniel Nava taking the job and running with it, Gentry will be more optimally utilized as the club's fourth outfielder. Another Angel having a great spring at the plate, Gentry will be looking to put last year's lost season in Oakland firmly behind him. He plays all three outfield slots well and should be Sciascia's go-to pinch runner late in games.
The battle for the final spot
With infield, outfield and catcher covered by three guys, the Angels have the option to be creative in how they utilize their final roster spot. First baseman/corner outfielder Ji-Man Choi will get a lot of consideration due to his status as a Rule 5 guy. Despite an underwhelming spring, the Angels may elect to keep him on board rather than have to offer him back to the Orioles or pass him through the waiver wire. The lefty-swinging Choi showed off his bread and butter by taking 10 walks in 71 plate appearances this spring while flashing some nice leather at first. His ability to get on base and bat from the left side, as well as playing multiple positions, would make him a nice compliment to the rest of the bench.
Jefry Marte was acquired from Detroit to add depth to the Angels' third base situation and can also fill in at first. The righty-swinging Marte put together a nice spring with a .932 OPS, following up his breakout AAA season. Still only 24 years-old, expect Marte to be among the first call-ups if he doesn't make the cut out of spring.
Rafael Ortega is showing he was worth the major league contract Billy Eppler gave him, with blazing speed and a canon right arm in the outfield. He has been no slouch with the bat in his hands, plugging along this spring at .333/.385/.511. The presence of Gentry makes him a long shot to make the club out of spring, but he will be worth watching in Salt Lake this year, as he should get the first call if an outfielder goes down.
Infielder Rey Navarro has shown himself to be a very capable defender around the diamond and makes good contact at the plate. If not for the presence of veteran infielder Pennington, he would likely be a lock to make this roster. Expect him to be stashed in AAA.