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OC Register: Angels 2021 spring training position preview: infielders

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Angels pitchers and catchers are scheduled to have their first workout of spring training on Feb. 17. As we count down to the opening of camp, we’re doing a breakdown of the different position groups on their roster. Today, a look at the outfielders. Previously: catchers, outfielders.

2020 RECAP

The Angels got expected or better production out of most of their infielders, making this one of the few bright spots for the team. In his first season with the Angels after signing a $245 million deal, third baseman Anthony Rendon lived up to the billing with a .915 OPS and nine home runs, despite a slow start. David Fletcher played second base and filled in at shortstop when Andrelton Simmons was hurt, hitting .319 with an .801 OPS and actually sneaking on to the bottom of one voter’s MVP ballot. Simmons hit .297 in half a season, but didn’t provide much else with the bat and was admittedly below his otherworldly performance in the field. He suggested the ankle injury played a role. At first base, Albert Pujols’ only highlight was passing Willie Mays on the career home run list, but his OPS fell to a career-low .665. The good news was Jared Walsh had a scintillating September to provide hope that Pujols’ replacement has arrived. Walsh had a .971 OPS and nine homers in just 99 at-bats.


Rendon will be back at third and the combination of Pujols and Walsh will handle first, but the middle is slightly different. Simmons left as a free agent, inking a one-year deal with the Minnesota Twins and then admitting why 2020 was so difficult for him. The Angels replaced him by acquiring José Iglesias in a trade with the Baltimore Orioles. Iglesias certainly isn’t Simmons on defense, but he is still considered above average. He’s also coming off an uncharacteristically good season at the plate, with a .956 OPS. Fletcher would have been a candidate to be the everyday shortstop had the Angels not brought in a new one, so instead he’ll be the everyday second baseman. The Angels believe Fletcher is a capable shortstop, but a Gold Glove-caliber second baseman. Perhaps the biggest question facing the 2021 Angels among the infielders is what will happen between Pujols and Walsh at first. Pujols, 41, is certainly going to see his playing time decrease in the final year of his contract, but it remains to be seen how much. If Walsh produces even close to what he did in the shortened 2020 season, it will be hard to keep him out of the everyday lineup.


Luis Rengifo and Franklin Barreto will go into spring training as the most likely candidates to open the season as the utility infielder. Both players showed promise before reaching the major leagues, but neither has done much with their opportunities so far. Barreto is out of options. Matt Thaiss broke into the big leagues in 2019, but now that he’s been passed by Walsh, it’s going to be difficult for him to crack the big leagues.


The Angels have some infield depth, so if they are going to still try to upgrade the pitching staff, this could be where they find some surplus value to trade. The Angels could afford to part with Rengifo, Barreto, Thaiss or Taylor Ward (an outfielder who has played infield) in the right trade. The Angels also have several shortstops among their top prospects (Jeremiah Jackson, Kyren Paris, Arol Vera), so one of them could be a piece for a significant trade.

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