A great treat of this weekend series between the Angels and Astros in Anaheim is the abundance of third base excellence for both teams. And surprisingly, I’m not talking about David Fletcher, who’s hitting .370/.438/.444 in the early going.
Anthony Rendon and Alex Bregman are two of the best third basemen in baseball, and both are signed to long-term deals, Bregman with Houston through 2024 and Rendon with the Halos through 2026.
By FanGraphs WAR, Bregman ranked second in the majors last season (8.5 WAR) with Rendon seventh (7.0). From 2017-19, Rendon ranks fourth in MLB (19.9), just ahead of Bregman in fifth (19.5). These are two excellent players who are set to battle in the American League West for years to come.
|LF||Brantley (L)||DH||Ohtani (L)|
|SS||Correa||1B||La Stella (L)|
|RF||Reddick (L)||2B||Rengifo (S)|
|DH||Tucker (L)||C||Castro (L)|
They met in last year’s World Series too, the highest-performing third base duo in the Fall Classic since Hall of Famers Mike Schmidt and George Brett faced off in 1980.
Bregman hit three homers and drove in eight during the World Series, but the Nationals won in seven games, thanks in large part to Rendon slugging .586 and driving in eight runs himself, including home runs in Games that 6 and 7.
Rendon missed the Angels’ opening series with a sore oblique, and his home run in Tuesday’s home opener was his only hit in the three-game series against Seattle, though he did walk five teams, which already leads the team on the season. He’s batting third in Friday’s series opener against Houston, the same spot in the lineup for all of the last series.
Bregman has struggled in the early going as well, just 4-for-23 (.174), including 0-for-11 since homering on Monday, though he has walked four times during that time.
Tommy La Stella gets the start at first base on Friday, after starting the first six games of the season at second base. It’s La Stella’s first career start at first base, where he has played four games and 5⅓ total defensive innings previously, including three games with the Angels in 2019.
“Tommy’s very versatile. I’ve seen him play third base, also second and now first,” manager Joe Maddon said on a conference call Friday. “I think this is something that really is based on our personnel, with injuries and everything else going on, trying to get guys opportunities. Sometimes you just have to be creative.”
La Stella at first means a second straight start at second base for switch-hitter Luis Rengifo, who was activated from the injured list Tuesday.
“It’s hard to keep that kid on the bench all the time when he’s ready to rock and roll,” Maddon said.
Michael Hermosillo fills in for Mike Trout in center field in this one, batting ninth in his second start of the season.