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OC Register: Joe Maddon sees a potential spot for Jose Rojas on the Angels roster


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TEMPE, Ariz. — Jose Rojas continues to make a push toward his first appearance on a big league roster.

Manager Joe Maddon, who had played Rojas at second base in four of the previous five games in which he’d appeared, said Wednesday morning that it would be viable for Rojas to make the Angels roster as the only backup middle infielder.

While teams normally carry a utility player who can cover both spots up the middle — like Luis Rengifo or Franklin Barreto — Maddon said they could have starting second baseman David Fletcher be the backup shortstop while Rojas serves as the backup second baseman.

In order for Rojas to fill that role, they’d need to be comfortable enough that he could play second for two or three days in a row if either Fletcher or shortstop José Iglesias had some nagging injury that would keep him off the field for two or three days, but not be serious enough for a roster move.

“I’m getting pretty comfortable,” Maddon said. “Real comfortable actually.”

Earlier this spring Maddon had compared Rojas to players like Daniel Murphy and Mike Moustakas, who got wedged in at second base to get their bats in the lineup.

“There’s other comps for what he’s doing, even at second base right now, for guys that have been very successful left-handed hitters in the big leagues,” Maddon said. “The fact that he’s Jose ‘Cookie’ Rojas prevents people from getting into it. But if you cast aside any kind of of bias you have, based on how he got here, and just look at it with pure intentions, he’s done really well.”

Rojas, a 28-year-old former 36th-round pick, has been cast as someone who could hit in the minors, but couldn’t play defense well enough to get a shot in the majors. But he’s 9 for 28 (.321) with two homers in spring training, and his defense has been good enough, Maddon said.

“What’s there not to like?” Maddon said. “I don’t know what there’s not to like about this guy.”

There are still hurdles for Rojas. He’s not on the 40-man roster, so the Angels would need to create a spot for him.

Also, even if he does make the roster, there may be not much playing time for him, barring injuries. Fletcher, Iglesias and third baseman Anthony Rendon don’t figure to get many off days. The Angels already have Jared Walsh and Albert Pujols at first. Left fielder Justin Upton has also been one of the Angels’ best hitters in the spring.

OPTIONS FOR BARRIA, PETERS

Jaime Barria and Dillon Peters were given fourth option years by a ruling of an arbiter, which will provide the Angels more flexibility as they determine the final spots on their pitching staff.

The players were among a handful who were the subject of a grievance over the way the MLB option rules are interpreted. Players can typically be optioned in three separate years, regardless of how many times they are optioned within those years. However if a player has used up his three option years before he’s been active for five full seasons, in the majors or minors, he can be optioned for a fourth year.

A “full season” is defined as 90 days on an active roster, but the entire 2020 season lasted less than 90 days, so the issue was whether that counted.

The arbiter ruled that any player who had at least 34 days in the big leagues in 2020, which pro-rates to 90 days, was considered to have a full  year, and the other players in the grievance weren’t. Barria was on the Angels roster for 29 days in 2020.

What it all means is now the Angels can option Barria, which would allow them to keep him stretched out as a starter instead of having him as a long reliever. They still may prefer to keep him in the bullpen, however, because of Felix Peña’s injury to start the season.

In Peters’ case, it is less relevant because he was removed from the 40-man roster over the winter. The Angels only would need an option for Peters if they add him to the 40-man roster and then want to send him down.

EXTRA ARM?

The Angels reportedly signed veteran right-hander AJ Ramos to a minor league deal, although Maddon said on Wednesday morning he didn’t believe the deal was done yet.

Ramos, 34, pitched in just three games with the Colorado Rockies and did not pitch in the majors in 2019 after undergoing shoulder surgery. Ramos has a career 3.08 ERA in parts of eight big league seasons.

His best years were with the Miami Marlins, from 2012-17, including an All-Star selection in 2016. He had a 2.78 ERA in 377 games with the Marlins.

NOTES

Maddon said he’s “leaning” toward having Mike Trout bat third to start the season. The Angels have bounced Trout between second and third throughout his career. He hit third at the end of last season, after Walsh got hot and settled into the No. 2 spot. …

Left-hander Jose Quijada, who arrived in camp on Tuesday after visa issues delayed his travel from Venezuela, said he only needs about 10 days to two weeks to be ready, because of the work he was doing before he arrived. He also said he’s lost 30 pounds this winter. …

Pujols was back in the Angels’ lineup on Wednesday after suffering a bruised arm when he was hit by a pitch on Monday.

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I think the biggest development for the Angels would be if Jose Rojas actually turned into the type of bat that Maddon thinks he can. Maddon throwing out Moustakas and Murphy comps kind of threw me for a loop. If Rojas could be like a Tommy La Stella replacement on the roster, that'd be an amazing development for the Angels.

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Part of me wonders if, despite his strong play, Lagares still doesn’t make the cut. If you put Ward and Rojas as the last two bench spots, you’ve got a ton of versatility between the two. 

Then the only real issue is who becomes the backup CF...Fowler? Fletcher?

The 8 man bullpen might not last but the first couple weeks anyways. 

Edited by totdprods
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53 minutes ago, totdprods said:

Part of me wonders if, despite his strong play, Lagares still doesn’t make the cut. If you put Ward and Rojas as the last two bench spots, you’ve got a ton of versatility between the two. 

Then the only real issue is who becomes the backup CF...Fowler? Fletcher?

The 8 man bullpen might not last but the first couple weeks anyways. 

I've wondered about this, but the fact that they haven't played Ward or Fletcher in CF so far leads me to believe they're going with Lagares.

If Ward had a good shot at being the sole backup outfielder, wouldn't they want to get him some reps in CF during ST games? Or do so with Fletcher if he was gonna be a backup there?

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Also, I wonder if we anointed Lagares the 4th OF job too soon. He's definitely the best defensive option, but Schebler has looked good and he can play CF, so he might be a dark horse. And then, of course, there's Ward, who's already referenced above.

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2 hours ago, Trendon said:

Also, I wonder if we anointed Lagares the 4th OF job too soon. He's definitely the best defensive option, but Schebler has looked good and he can play CF, so he might be a dark horse. And then, of course, there's Ward, who's already referenced above.

I think Lagares will make it.  He had a strong winter showing and has looked good in ST.  Even if he ends up not really hitting, he's strong defensively in CF, which certainly does matter.

I do like Schebler and he has shown well.  In truth, I'd rather just DFA Fowler and start Schebler in RF, as I think he's better both offensively and defensively.  Then Ward could make the roster, too, since Schebler can backup CF.

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7 minutes ago, Warfarin said:

I think Lagares will make it.  He had a strong winter showing and has looked good in ST.  Even if he ends up not really hitting, he's strong defensively in CF, which certainly does matter.

I do like Schebler and he has shown well.  In truth, I'd rather just DFA Fowler and start Schebler in RF, as I think he's better both offensively and defensively.  Then Ward could make the roster, too, since Schebler can backup CF.

I'm not a fan of Fowler at this stage in his career--but Schebler is not even a decent defender. 

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1 hour ago, Warfarin said:

Well, given he looks like a lock to make the team now, you might have the opportunity to lose your shit!

Well Pujols has no business seeing the field now with Rojas on the team but I doubt that's how he ends up used. 

We'll see if he is right about Rojas but he was disastrously wrong about Adell, Thaiss, and Ward last year. I'm not sure people will agree that this team needed to sacrifice defense to sneak a little more offense on the team.

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1 hour ago, jsnpritchett said:

I'm not a fan of Fowler at this stage in his career--but Schebler is not even a decent defender. 

Admittedly I am not too familiar with Schebler's defense.  I know it's not that great, but I did see he played some CF in recent seasons, so I assumed he wasn't awful.  But I guess Fowler has played CF fairly recently too, and, well, yeah.

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I am a little confused by these moves but I think a lot of this comes down to utilizing options. Rengifo should be up. But let him play SS every day in AAA to see what level he is at short. You have 6 weeks to see if Rojas can hang before Barreto comes back. If not move on. Smart to get a longer look at guys without options first then move on if they aren’t major leaguers. Ward will go down and get work at C and possibly all 3 OF spots. 

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5 hours ago, ThisismineScios said:

I am a little confused by these moves but I think a lot of this comes down to utilizing options. Rengifo should be up. But let him play SS every day in AAA to see what level he is at short. You have 6 weeks to see if Rojas can hang before Barreto comes back. If not move on. Smart to get a longer look at guys without options first then move on if they aren’t major leaguers. Ward will go down and get work at C and possibly all 3 OF spots. 

It's possible that they feel Rengifo needs further refinement and consistent playing time, which is why he's being optioned.  Rojas has potential, but he'll be making the club as a backup infielder, which means his playing time will be lighter on the whole.  Still, it's noteworthy that Rojas, who could have just been sent to the alternate site / AAA without issue, has effectively won that final infield spot.

As mentioned, there's a chance Ward ends up winning that final OF spot.  It just depends, I suppose, on how much better Maddon/Minasian feels that Ward's bat is over Lagares' defense.  Lagares obviously can play great defense and appears to be hitting better than he previously did, but Maddon has extolled the virtues of Ward rather consistently.  I do agree that Ward would perhaps be better off getting more reps to expand his defensive repertoire (at C, as you mentioned), while Lagares is probably more ideally suited to be on our bench given he could be someone we see play a lot in the late innings of games for defensive purposes (in RF for Fowler or LF for Upton), as well as playing an occasional game in CF to give Trout the day off.

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8 hours ago, Warfarin said:

It's possible that they feel Rengifo needs further refinement and consistent playing time, which is why he's being optioned.  Rojas has potential, but he'll be making the club as a backup infielder, which means his playing time will be lighter on the whole.  Still, it's noteworthy that Rojas, who could have just been sent to the alternate site / AAA without issue, has effectively won that final infield spot.

As mentioned, there's a chance Ward ends up winning that final OF spot.  It just depends, I suppose, on how much better Maddon/Minasian feels that Ward's bat is over Lagares' defense.  Lagares obviously can play great defense and appears to be hitting better than he previously did, but Maddon has extolled the virtues of Ward rather consistently.  I do agree that Ward would perhaps be better off getting more reps to expand his defensive repertoire (at C, as you mentioned), while Lagares is probably more ideally suited to be on our bench given he could be someone we see play a lot in the late innings of games for defensive purposes (in RF for Fowler or LF for Upton), as well as playing an occasional game in CF to give Trout the day off.

I'd like it to be Ward, but nobody else can play CF. I think it will have to be Lagares for now. And Maddon loves to have a defensive late-game sub, and I think Lagares fits that bill. 

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I imagine that the Angels are considering Rengifo as the starting shortstop next year so will want him to get as much regular playing time as possible. He'll be up at some point this year, but it is more important now that he gets regular playing time.

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Does anyone want to know the craziest thing I just found out? Earlier this spring, we had Franklin Barreto and Jose Rojas battling for the utility infielder spot (and Rengifo as well).

But what's Barreto's full name? It's Franklin Jose Barreto Rojas. We literally had a Jose Rojas vs. Jose Rojas spring training battle, and we didn't even know it.

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