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OC Register: 2020 Angels breakdown for every position

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The Angels’ rotation is the team’s biggest question mark. The Angels are hoping they can get solid production out of the group, but it is filled with pitchers who have had recent issues of injury or inconsistent performance. The only one of the group who has a consistently strong major league track record is Julio Teheran, and it’s still unclear when he’ll be able to pitch. He missed time in camp for undisclosed reasons. Certainly, the pitcher with the most potential to become their No. 1 is Shohei Ohtani, who posted a 3.31 ERA in 10 starts as a rookie but has missed most of the last two years on the mound because of Tommy John surgery. Opening Day starter Andrew Heaney is still looking to return to the way he pitched for most of 2018, before a slow finish. Dylan Bundy has never pitched up to the level of his super prospect potential, but he is still just 27 so the Angels hope he can still have a breakthrough. Griffin Canning showed flashes of being a frontline starter during his rookie year. Matt Andriese has bounced between starting and relieving in his brief career, and he appears set to round out the rotation, at least until Teheran can start. The Angels will also use a sixth starter at times, with Jaime Barria, Felix Peña, Patrick Sandoval, Jose Suarez and Dillon Peters all in the mix for those opportunities. The latter three all missed at least part of camp, for undisclosed reasons.


Potentially, the Angels could have a dominant late-game trio, with Hansel Robles, Ty Buttrey and Keynan Middleton. Each of the three has had at least a brief stint as a closer in the majors. Robles had a breakthrough in 2019 once he began throwing his changeup, finishing with a 2.48 ERA and 23 saves. Buttrey posted a 3.98 ERA despite a rough second half. Middleton, who missed almost all of last season rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, has a career 3.23 ERA, and he has developed a changeup that could push him to the next level. Cam Bedrosian unlocked the key to maintain a consistent slider last year, resulting in the best full season of his career. Left-hander Ryan Buchter brings a career 2.86 ERA to the Angels after spending much of his career as a lefty specialist. The new rule mandating pitchers face at least three hitters will make it more difficult for the Angels to isolate Buchter against lefties. Noé Ramirez has been effective as a multi-inning reliever with high strikeout rate. Jacob Barnes, who had been with the Milwaukee Brewers, and Mike Mayers, who had been with the St. Louis Cardinals, both impressed Manager Joe Maddon when he managed the Chicago Cubs.


Third baseman Anthony Rendon is still waiting to play his first game with the Angels after signing a seven-year, $245-million deal in December. One of baseball’s best all-around players, Rendon will anchor the infield and the lineup. He and shortstop Andrelton Simmons will form arguably the best defensive left side of the infield in the majors. Simmons is looking to bounce back after an injury-marred 2019, just in time for the final two months of his contract. The other side of the infield figures to be something of a revolving door. Tommy La Stella will get most of the action at second base and Albert Pujols will play most of the time at first. Against left-handed pitchers, expect David Fletcher to start at second. Fletcher will still get plenty of action against right-handers, but at other positions. At first, Matt Thaiss or Jered Walsh or maybe even La Stella will get some action when Pujols is at DH or on the bench.


Center fielder Mike Trout and left fielder Justin Upton are locked in to their positions. Trout is, of course, the best player in the majors, coming off his third MVP season. Although he said before camp he was unsure about playing amid the coronavirus, so far he’s set to be active. He still is likely to miss at least a few days when he and his wife welcome a baby in August. Upton is trying to rebound from a season lost to injury. The Angels certainly would hope to see him return to his status as a productive middle-of-the-order hitter. In right field, there are a numerous options. Brian Goodwin, who had a breakthrough season in 2019, seems to be the first choice. But expect Fletcher to get some opportunities in right as the Angels try to wedge him into the lineup wherever they can. And Jo Adell, one of the top prospects in baseball, figures to be their right fielder of the future, which could start at any time. If he’s not there on Opening Night, he’ll be a phone call away throughout the short season.


In Jason Castro and Max Stassi, the Angels have two of the better pitch-framers in baseball. The team is banking on that skill paying dividends for a pitching staff that has numerous question marks. Castro hits left-handed and Stassi hits right-handed, so they could form a straight platoon. Castro is the better hitter. Stassi has retooled his swing after hitting .136 last year, and he hit the ball well during intrasquad games this month.


At least one of these three — Fletcher, La Stella or Goodwin — will be on the bench each day, giving the Angels an accomplished player to pinch hit. They also figure to have Michael Hermosillo available to pinch-run. When Pujols is starting, either Matt Thaiss or Jared Walsh will be available off the bench.


Many Angels fans have been waiting years for Maddon to come back to manage the team, and it finally happened when they signed him to a three-year deal in October. Maddon figures to have the Angels playing an aggressive style. The 60-game season will put a premium on strategic decisions, from bullpen usage to situational baseball. Maddon will also be tested to keep the Angels in the right place mentally during a unique season.

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