Los Angeles Angels manager Joe Maddon is using Spring Training to figure out the team’s starting middle infield when the regular season begins on April 7. Rather than paying big money to one of the top shortstops on the market, the Halos opted for a collection of mid-tier options to pick between.
At Spring Training, the Angels have six players legitimately fighting for a starting middle infield spot and a utility spot on the roster. One of those players is David Fletcher, who is all but guaranteed to be a starter on Opening Day. His offense sputtered in 2021, but he was a Gold Glove finalist at second base.
It’s unclear whether Fletcher will be the Angels’ second baseman or shortstop, but there is no doubt that he’ll be on the field.
As for the other open starter role and utility roles, Maddon has five players to pick between. Luis Rengifo, Matt Duffy, Tyler Wade, Andrew Velazquez, and Jack Mayfield all bring positives and negatives to the table. But it seems as though Maddon will be happy with any outcome, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“Whatever we decide upon, there’s gonna be a lot of depth there,” Maddon said. “It’s very competent players. Whether it’s at short or at second base, the ability to get to baseballs, turn double plays, high intellect. I just like the way it’s shaping up. … I like what we have a lot, not a little bit.”
One thing Maddon likes specifically about this group of middle infield options is a willing to play wherever they’re told, or a lack of ego, as Maddon puts it.
“Talk to Fletch, ‘What do you think of this?” Maddon said. “He says, ‘I don’t care. Just tell me where to go.’ Ask Wade the same question and he has the same answer. Ask Velazquez and he has the same answer. Ask Rengifo. There is no ego. No ‘I’ve got to play here’ or ‘I’ve got to play there.’ They are good anywhere.”
Through four Spring Training games, the Angels have deployed a different combination of middle infielders each and every outing. For now, it’s just experimenting, but as the regular season nears, they’ll be tasked with finding the combination that works best for their defense and their offense.
Offensively, their best bet is rolling with Duffy, who has been relatively consistent throughout his Major League career. Wade, who is out of options, could serve as an excellent utility man with blazing speed off the bench.
Mayfield and Rengifo both showed in 2021 that they can competently play multiple positions, and if the latter takes the offensive leap the team expects from him, it might be a runaway victory for a starting role.
Maddon stated that even he doesn’t know who will be the starters when the season begins — outside of Fletcher — but he does feel good about his options no matter which way he goes.
Perry Minasian looking to add pitching
Now that the Angels have solidified a strong bullpen, general manager Perry Minasian may be turning his attention to the starting rotation. While he made no promises, he did say that he was always looking to improve.
At the moment, the Angels have no clarity on their sixth starter, so a big move to acquire a pitcher would help with the organizational depth being built.