At last, I can talk about the incredible defense of Andrelton Simmons.
Oh, and there’s some other guys too.
The Angels 2017 season was, in the end, not quite enough. They had some excellent performances and some surprises, but their most lacking aspect might have been their infield. Last season’s roster has changed quite a bit, though. The Angels bolstered second and third base, bringing in veteran Ian Kinsler and breakout star Zack Cozart via the trade market and free agency. Those two replace a generally unproductive group consisting of Luis Valbuena, Yunel Escobar, Kaleb Cowart, and (*cringes*) Danny Espinosa. Now that they’ve upgraded two of their spots and dealt slugger C.J. Cron, they seem to have a much more productive and interesting group. Let’s take a look.
C – Martin Maldonado
The hardware doesn’t lie — Maldonado’s defense is incredible. The offense? That’s another story. ‘Maldy’ wasn’t horrible with the bat last year, but a .221 average and .279 OBP is far from impressive. On the positive side, he did hit 14 home runs, and has potential for improvement. Maldonado led the A.L. in innings caught last season, so having extra rest could help his later season fatigue. New addition Rene Rivera should lessen the blow of a 162 game season. Let’s get back to the defense, though. Maldonado is an incredible pitch framer, and led backstops in DRS last season (beating out names such as Salvador Perez, Tucker Barnhart and Yadier Molina). If nothing else, he should provide plus value on defense, which makes the lack of offense forgivable.
1B – Albert Pujols
With the addition of DH and pitcher Shohei Ohtani, we will see something rare in the last two years — Pujols at first. The veteran slugger has struggled with health recently, having several surgeries to offset foot issues. Now, he’ll be thrust back on the field to give the Japanese phenom Ohtani a chance to be a two-way player. The question now is how his body will hold up, and if his defense will negatively impact the club. On the positive side, he looks like he’s in much better shape. He showed up in Spring Training about 15 pounds lighter, and it shows. He looks more athletic and flexible than seasons past, so having him on the field is less concerning. The problems are hard to ignore though. He is 38 years old, and hasn’t played consistently at 1B in 2 years. The odds are stacked against him, but he hopefully will prevail.
2B – Ian Kinsler
Once a sure bet for an all star campaign year by year, Kinsler will enter 2018 hoping to prove himself. 2017 wasn’t kind to him, as his numbers dipped considerably. Defensively, he’s still a force to be reckoned with. Combined with the prowess of Andrelton Simmons, the Halos will roll in with even better run prevention. Offensively, Kinsler will hopefully return to form. At 36, they don’t need him to reinvent the wheel. However, if he can get on base in front of Trout, they’ll be golden.
SS – Andrelton Simmons
Time to talk defense. Andrelton Simmons is a wizard, as you probably already know. He amazed last season, reaching 32 — that’s right — 32 DRS. Smaller aspects of the game, such as cutoffs and defensive shifts, he nails. One of the more pleasant surprises last year, though, was his offense. He hit .278 with 14 home runs and 19 stolen bases, proving he isn’t just good for defense. He also has a knack for striking out minimally, which helps when Trout, Upton, and Pujols do that often. If Simmons can get on base even more, he can climb further up the ranks of shortstops.
3B – Zack Cozart
If Spring Training is any indication, this could be another great season for Cozart. The Halos locked up ‘Cozy’ on a three year, $38M deal, locking up their major additions. Cozart did exceedingly well in Cincinnati last year, hitting a career high 24 bombs and making the all star team. In 2018, he’ll be switching leagues, but the biggest adjustment will he where he plays. A long time shortstop, Cozart will shift over to third base. The transition has seemed smooth, but it’ll be interesting to see how it impacts his game. I’m personally excited to see what Zack can do, and to determine whether he is a one hit wonder or a breakout that is sustainable.
BACKUP INF – Luis Valbuena
This is a case of two Valbuena’s. Will we see the .200 average, long-swinging hitter, or the unspectacular but productive RBI hitter? Generally, 2018 should see the latter. Valbuena can be counted on for a low batting average and mediocre OBP, but if he can hit for power and rack up the runs batted in, that should be more than enough. As far as playing time, he could get about half of the games as starts, ranging from first base to DH to third base. His versatility should help on a team that has a lot of flexible pieces. Also, we can see more of those glorious bat flips.
Got any questions? Send them over @NoahLyons01 on twitter or @sixmanrotation on Instagram. Happy opening week of Angels baseball!
(Image via halosheaven.com)