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Angels’ opening day lineup taking shape

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Thursday morning links!

MLB: Spring Training-Seattle Mariners at Los Angeles Angels Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports

We are still three weeks from games that count, but it doesn’t seem hard to envision what the Angels’ lineup might look like on opening day.

Monday’s exhibition featured what looked like the potential starting nine, though tweaked slightly when Tommy La Stella was scratched with back stiffness, replaced atop the batting order and at second base by Luis Rengifo. But the meat of it had an increasingly familiar look.

Mike Trout batted second in all 133 starts last year, so his batting second isn’t really news. But a heart of the order that has Trout, Anthony Rendon, and Shohei Ohtani two through four is as enticing as it gets. Last year Trout and Ohtani started in the same game 79 times, and the Angels scored 5.06 runs per game. In the other 83 games, they averaged 4.45 runs. And now they have Rendon, too.

The quintet of those three plus Albert Pujols and Justin Upton has batted 2-6 now four times, also on Feb. 25, Feb. 27 and March 1. Upton batted ahead of Pujols the first two times, with Pujols batting fifth the last two.

Andrelton Simmons has been at shortstop in all of these “full lineup” games, batting either seventh or eight, with Jason Castro catching and Brian Goodwin in right field in three of the four games. If I were a betting person, this sure looks like nearly a complete opening day lineup, with either La Stella or David Fletcher likely at second base, depending on the pitcher.

Links

Trout was hit by two pitches against Seattle on Tuesday, which led to one of the better team-issued statements you’ll see:

Jeff Fletcher at the Orange County Register wrote about the reunion of reliever Hansel Robles and Angels pitching coach Mickey Callaway.

The Angels stole 65 bases in 2019, ninth in the AL and below league average. Joe Maddon on Wednesday preached the importance of aggression on the bases, per Bill Shaikin of the LA Times:

“Of course you don’t want to make outs on the bases , but there are times you have to be assertive in order to get other things that you want,” Maddon said. “When you’ve got a pitcher coming into the stretch, his concentration is now split. Advantage, hitter. Disadvantage, pitcher.”

Jo Adell was ranked the 10th-best prospect in baseball by Kiley McDaniel at ESPN, with one major concern: his strikeout rate. Tenth is Adell’s lowest ranking on the national prospect lists, coming in second at both Baseball America and The Athletic, No. 3 at Baseball America, fourth at FanGraphs, and No. 6 at MLB Pipeline.

Other Angels in McDaniel’s top 100 prospects are Brandon Marsh at No. 27 and Jordyn Adams at No. 76.

If you’re trying to project the Angels’ opening day 26-man roster, you might want to exclude right-hander Felix Pena for now.

Joe Posnanski’s top 100 baseball players series at The Athletic has landed on Albert Pujols, of whom he wrote, “To see him work out in the batting cage was to see Ali work over the heavy bag. Every move, every swing, every step had purpose.”