Consistency at the shortstop position is one area that continues to plague teams around Major League Baseball with how high the top-end players are and how much space there is between the superstars and the average performers.
But the Los Angeles Angels continue to try and plug the hole with mid-tier options, and at Spring Training they’re giving Gio Urshela a shot with some early reps.
The club has relied on defensive-first options for the better part of a decade in the form of David Fletcher and Andrelton Simmons prior to him. With a position as premier as a shortstop, a solid glove matters, and when the options that have elite hitting profiles aren’t available, saving runs is the next best step.
The route the Angels have taken isn’t a bad choice, but a new avenue of limiting runs in the form of elite pitching is a window that is slowly opening up with their promising young starting staff. A shift in philosophy by allowing Urshela and possibly Brandon Drury to get time at shortstop would be one way they could see an uptick in run production at the spot.
According to Sam Blum of The Athletic, the Angels have begun steps in that direction:
Expect to see Gio Urshela get a decent look at shortstop this spring. Phil Nevin said Urshela slimmed down over the offseason, recognizing there was an opportunity to play at short.
Urshela has 43 MLB appearances at short over his 7 years since first getting called up.
— Sam Blum (@SamBlum3) February 28, 2023
Urshela’s main position over the course of his seven-year career has been third base, with 4350.1 innings at the hot corner between stops with Cleveland, Toronto Blue Jays, New York Yankees, and the Minnesota Twins. With Anthony Rendon locked in and Jared Walsh seemingly on a solid recovery path, Urshela’s 288 career innings at short come into play.
He’s not an elite defensive option up the middle, he’s just average, carrying -3 defensive runs saved at shortstop in his career with -1 outs above average. There’s enough to justify him receiving at least some looks during the 2023 regular season when the time calls for him to spell Fletcher or take over if need be.
In 2021 he logged 200 innings as the captain of the infield, his most in one season which also graded out as an average defensive option.
Aside from Gio Urshela, what’s the future for the Angels at shortstop
Fortunately for the Angels, general manager Perry Minasian and his front office staff addressed the glaring need for a long-term shortstop solution via the 2022 MLB Draft after the selection of Zach Neto in the first round.
The young prospect excelled in Double-A with the Rocket City Trash Pandas this past season, hinting that when Neto is ready he’ll be promoted to Triple-A or even MLB with the Angels without hesitation.
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