Behind superstar center fielder Mike Trout, the Los Angeles Angels outfield is in a somewhat uncertain state. Justin Upton is a seasoned veteran, but his bat and availability have seen a serious downturn over the past couple seasons. Brandon Marsh and Jo Adell have serious potential, but may be too young for a consistent role. Even Taylor Ward figures to be in consideration.
The most likely outcome of this logjam is that Upton, Marsh, and Adell make the roster. But from there, it becomes even more unclear. Would Marsh and Adell play every day while Upton platoons between left field and first base? Or has Upton earned a starting spot, leaving Adell and Marsh to platoon in the final outfield spot?
“The next step is to be considered an everyday major league player,” manager Joe Maddon said. “They’re both going to be that with good health.”
“That’s the discussion, something we’ll have to look at going through the whole thing,” Maddon said. “These are young, really good baseball players. For a guy who’s older, who’s been around longer, [a platoon role] becomes more palatable.
“But for right now, I’m not saying we’re going to do that or not. It’s more difficult for me to wrap my mind around, because I would never want to inhibit the development of a young player.”
If Marsh and Adell are both performing to their highest current potential, it makes plenty of sense to have them be the starters while Upton backs up all three, as well as Jared Walsh at first base. However, as is the case with all young players, consistency is key.
Both Marsh — entering his age-24 season — and Adell — entering his age-23 season — have had stretches of really strong Major League play during the early phases of their career. Adell had an .867 OPS in the final 17 games of 2021 while Marsh almost reached a .300 batting average during the last 46 games of the season.
With the protection of Trout, Anthony Rendon, Walsh, and Shohei Ohtani, Marsh and Adell would almost never have to face the pressure of batting in the top-4 spots, something that could absolutely boost their development.
For Marsh, the key to both his and Adell’s success is simply not trying to do too much.
“We just have to keep it simple, don’t try to be a Superman,” Marsh said. “We have a phenomenal lineup, top to bottom, and depth, guys who are going to make the big plays, so stick to yourself, play your role and do you.”
“We have guys in here who can really make things happen at a big-time level,” Adell said. “We have dude’s dudes on this team, so hopefully I can make something shake and be in the mix here.”
Going into the 2022 season, the Angels have the potential to be home to two bright young stars next to an already dominant heart of the order. Hopefully, that plan can actually come to fruition when games get underway in early April.
David Fletcher could play both middle infield spots
The Angels also have some decisions to make with their middle infield. Namely, who is going to win their six-man competition and where will David Fletcher play the majority of his innings.
Well, if Maddon has his way, Fletcher may constantly switch between second base and shortstop, sometimes in the same inning.