Los Angeles Angels first baseman Jared Walsh was absolutely dominant against right-handed pitching in his All-Star 2021 campaign. In 393 plate appearances against righties, Walsh batted .333 with a .994 OPS, hitting 19 home runs, batting in 68 runs, and compiling a ridiculous 172 OPS+.
However, he was a completely different player against left-handed pitching. He batted just .170 with a .565 OPS and a 51 OPS+. The only saving grace was hitting 10 home runs in 192 plate appearances against lefties, suggesting a drop-off in contact, not power.
His splits between right-handers and left-handers is so drastic, that it has left Joe Maddon and the Angels with a big decision. Do they leave Walsh — an All-Star and Gold Glove finalist — in the lineup every day, simply hoping that significant improvement comes against lefties?
Or do they platoon Walsh with another first base option who can reliably hit against southpaws? For Walsh, the hope is that his offseason training regimen will allow him to stay in the lineup full time, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“Just getting comfortable seeing the ball, making sure both eyes are on the ball,” Walsh said. “Just a few slight mechanical things, because I was really successful against righties. I don’t think I’m that far off against lefties. Just clean up some things. Stay through the ball a little longer and I think the results would be much better really.”
Maddon is still weighing many different outcomes, including letting Walsh stay in the lineup to improve against lefties, in part due to the dominant lineup the Angels will have around him in those games.
“If you look at the other guys that will be on this team that’ll hit right-handed, who have hit lefties very well, it might be difficult to walk away from that regardless,” Maddon said.
If the Halos do decide to go with a platoon split, they have a couple intriguing options. The first is Justin Upton, who has been spending some time at first base during Spring Training. Even in a down year, Upton was still strong against left-handed pitching in 2021.
Upton being able to get some games in at first base opens up a world of possibilities for the Angels. It would allow them to give equal playing time to both Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell, who could be the starters while Upton switches between the outfield and first base depending on the matchup.
The Angels could also go with utility infielder Matt Duffy or utility outfielder Taylor Ward, both of whom have shown potential at the position and have hit with relative consistency against lefties.
David Fletcher could play both middle infield spots
While all options are still on the table, Maddon is envisioning a world in which David Fletcher plays both shortstop and second base, switching throughout games as the matchup dictates. Fletcher was a Gold Glove finalist at second base in 2021, and is the best pure defender of any of the players currently in the middle infield conversation.