Among the infielders in camp with the Angels, it is safe to say only one man truly has a starting spot locked down: Andrelton Simmons. However, outside of the all-world shortstop, the infield could shake out in a myriad of combinations that will affect both positioning and roster spots.
First base will be occupied by a combination of Justin Bour and Albert Pujols. Bour signed a one year major league deal over the off season and Albert hopes to rebound after yet another set of winter surgeries. Lurking in the not too distant future is former first round pick Matt Thaiss and his revamped swing which is paying dividends so far in Spring Training.
Two guys whose roster spots seem safe are Zack Cozart and Tommy La Stella. The former has a $13 million per year contract and the latter was a trade acquisition from the Cubs who can cover all infield positions but shortstop. If he is fully recovered from shoulder surgery, Cozart figures to start at either second or third while providing emergency coverage at shortstop.
That is five roster spots spent on the infield but the team will likely need to squeeze in one more. Who might that be?
David Fletcher — Fletcher played in 80 games last year and showed a great glove at both second and third. He played shortstop in college and can provide coverage there. However, by both OPS+ and wRC+ he was about 10% below average with the bat and he had the one of the lowest exit velocities in all of MLB. On the strength of his defense and versatility, David can be a 2+ WAR player, as he was last year.
If David makes the cut, he could start at second or third and move Cozart to the other base with La Stella as the sub. This would likely be an incredible defensive infield in any formation but would lack a little offensively as both Cozart or Fletcher are below average bats.
Taylor Ward — Ward made a position switch from catcher to third base and took off offensively last year, earning an MLB promotion on the strength of a .349/.446/.531 slash line across two minor league levels. He started off slowly at the MLB level but finished with a great week and two home runs in the final series.
The Angels lineup is pretty top heavy as constructed, so if Ward can provide an average-to-plus bat, that’s his ticket to The Show. If Ward makes the cut, Eppler is playing for offensive upside and this definitely puts Cozart at second base and sends Fletcher to AAA.
Luis Rengifo — Another versatile player, Rengifo has played primarily at shortstop in the minors but has plenty of experience at both second and third. He was one of the best performing prospects in all of baseball last year racking up 227 total bases in 127 games on the strength of a .399 OBP.
Rengifo has a similar profile player to Fletcher in that he can line up on either side of Simmons. His offensive numbers in the minors are pretty similar to Fletcher’s, but his profile has really risen in the last year and he could have more offensive ability in him. He’s the only switch hitter on this list, which could be of help in his quest to make the team.
He’ll likely need to significantly outplay Fletcher to get the nod and send David heading to Salt Lake.
The good news here is that the Angels have versatility and options. The best case scenario is that a player or two can step up and separate himself from the pack and seize a starting job. From this vantage point, barring injury, it appears that three men are fighting for one job with the formation of the Angels starting infield hanging in the balance.
Who do you think earns it?
Who earns the last infield roster spot?
This poll is closed