After a long winter of hibernation, MLB baseball is back with spring training games starting this week. While some teams are still figuring out their starting rotation or lineup, the Angels are in a good position. Most of their starting lineup and rotation seem to be set. That doesn’t mean there won’t be competition in Angels camp however.
While the starters seem to be set, the Angels have a few open spots on their 25-man roster. From a left-handed specialist out of the bullpen to their fourth outfielder, the Angels bench is open for competition.
Left Handed Relievers
Mike Scioscia seemed to hate the idea of having too many left-handed relievers. Since 2016, the only left-handed reliever on his Opening Day roster was Jose Alvarez. With new manager Brad Ausmus, and Jose Alvarez traded this offseason, there may be room for a new left-handed specialist.
Williams Jerez is the only candidate who was on the roster last year. As a part of the Ian Kinsler trade, Jerez got limited play at the end of the season. His first MLB experience was inconsistent to say the least. The 26-year-old impressed with his strikeout ability but struggled keeping runners off the bases. This led to a good 9.0 K/9, but a terrible 10.2 H/9.
The former second round pick has a long way to go before becoming a polished product. Ausmus may be inclined to give Jerez a chance as the left-handed specialist for developmental purposes. Whether he’s on the roster Opening Day or not, Williams Jerez could be a consistent force in the Angels’ bullpen.
The player getting the most buzz for the left-handed specialist spot is Dan Jennings. The former Marlin is coming off a solid season in Milwaukee. As a part of the dynamic Brewers bullpen, Jennings did his best work against left handed batters. Across 33.1 innings against left handed batters, Jennings gave up a .220 AVG with a 1.27 ERA.
Across the whole season, Jennings had one bad month, a 6.23 ERA in June, that inflated his ERA. Taking out the 13 innings in June, Jennings would have a 1.92 ERA. Along with this, Jennings was better down the strethc with a second half ERA of 2.65. This level of production for a winning team and one for the best bullpens last season shows why Jennings is a strong candidate for the Opening Day roster.
The Angels have not had a positive WAR out of the catcher position since 2014. That year, Chris Iannetta and Hank Conger were behind the plate in Anaheim. Iannetta is a backup in Colorado and Conger is out of the MLB all together. So, you could say it’s been a while since the Angels had production at catcher. But, their offseason moves could trend the position in the right direction.
Last season, the Angels began the season with Martin Maldonado and Rene Rivera as their catchers. Both were eventually traded, leading to 25-year-old Jose Briceno getting his chance to prove himself to the Angels. He produced close to his overall minor league numbers of .241/.291/.374 with not a lot of home run power.
Despite his obvious struggles offensively, Briceno impressed with his defensive ability. His 40% caught stealing percentage puts him at the same career rate as Yadier Molina. While that percentage may not last his entire career, it shows the kind of ability Briceno can bring defensively. For Briceno to steal the starting catcher spot, he needs to show his developing offensive to compliment his defense.
This offseason has been a quiet one, but the Angels have used the silence to sign Jonathan Lucroy to a one-year deal. The former All-Star is coming off of one of his worst seasons defensively and offensively. Before 2018, Lucroy hadn’t hit below a .260 AVG, .700 OPS, or 5 HR since his rookie season. Age seems to be catching up to the 32-year-old catcher as he had his worst year in terms of WAR as well, with -0.7.
While never a good defender, Lucroy saw his worst defensive year last season with a -11 DRS. The one positive for Lucroy was that he threw out the most baserunners in the MLB with 31. This was because he also gave up the most stolen bases with a whopping 72 stolen bases against him. Lucroy may be a player on the decline, but his veteran leadership and hopeful bounce back can elevate the Angels catcher position
This offseason, the Angels focused on adding versatility and quality to their bench. Trading for Tommy La Stella and signing Justin Bour have added quality offense to the bench. However, there is one spot still open for competition on the bench as the Angels need an extra outfielder
Michael Hermosillo got his chance to shine in his major league debut last season. As the season wore on, Hermosillo’s production dipped as he finished the season with a .608 OPS. Despite struggling offensively, the 23-year-old outfielder has proven he can hit. Across 423 total minor league games, Hermosillo hit .268/.366/.397 with 30 HR and 177 RBI. This translates to a 162-game average of 12 home runs and 68 RBI.
🚨 1st @MLB homer 🚨
Michael Hermosillo went deep to left for his first career homer. Hermosillo is the @Angels No. 12 prospect: https://t.co/ysW3AyIqrd pic.twitter.com/UmSb8R1256
— MLB Pipeline (@MLBPipeline) September 25, 2018
While Hermosillo may never be a starter, he could be a young and productive bench player for the Angels. His splits indicate he could be a great platoon against left handed pitchers with an .261 AVG. Hermosillo is young and has a bright future ahead of him that could begin as the Angels extra outfielder.
Another candidate for the final bench spot is a familiar face. Peter Bourjos spent four seasons with the Angels before being traded to the Phillies. In an Angel uniform he hit .251/.306/.398 with 41 stolen bases. Bourjos is known for his speed and defense, making him a perfect bench option. While the 31-year-old has been trending down offensively since leaving the Angels, his veteran presence and experience can be enough to sneak onto the Opening Day roster.
Who remembers this great play by the newest #Angels signee Peter Bourjos?
Despite only playing in 136 games the past two seasons, Bourjos has kept his impressive defense. In those two seasons, he has 8 DRS while playing all three outfield spots. For context, Mike Trout has 12 career DRS. Though his offense may never show up, Bourjos is a strong candidate for the final bench spot with his elite defense.
Jarrett Parker is the only player mentioned who did not play in the MLB last season. The former Giant did not play professional baseball at all in 2018. Despite that, Parker is a strong candidate for the final bench spot for his offensive upside. His rookie season was short but memorable. Across 21 games, Parker hit .347/.407/.755 with 6 HR and 14 RBI.
His next two seasons are more where Parker averages out at, with a .242/.326/.405 slash line. The 30-year-old left handed hitter can hit against both right handed and left-handed pitchers with only .004 points separating his average against them. While not the best defender, Parker would add another quality left handed bat to the bench.
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