One of the biggest holes the Los Angeles Angels had to address this offseason was their middle infield. David Fletcher was a Gold Glove finalist at second base, but had his worst year as a pro at the plate. Meanwhile, the Halos did not have a shortstop and had no plans to spend big to find one.
Instead, Joe Maddon and the Angels put together a very clear plan. They acquired several shortstops, second basemen, and utility players and are watching them battle in out in Spring Training. Tyler Wade, Andrew Velazquez, Matt Duffy, Luis Rengifo, and Jack Mayfield join Fletcher as part of that competition.
At this point, Fletcher is — unsurprisingly — proving himself to be the best option in the field and at the plate. In fact, he has been so strong defensively, that Maddon wants to use him as both a shortstop and a second baseman, sometimes even switching between batters, according to Jeff Fletcher of The O.C. Register:
“We’ve talked about it,” Maddon said of using Fletcher that way. “He’s aware of it. I don’t want you to think we’re going to go nuts with it, but it’s something we’re considering depending on who is out there at the time.”
While doing this might make it difficult for Fletcher to win any awards for his defense — due to a lack of positional stability — it may be of great help to the Halos defense. At second base, Fletcher routinely made eye-popping plays, building a strong rapport with first baseman Jared Walsh.
By flipping him between second base and shortstop based on the batter, Maddon can ensure Fletcher is always the most likely middle infielder to make the play. As for the other middle infield spot, there are some leading candidates.
Tyler Wade and Matt Duffy are currently the leading candidates to play up the middle with Fletcher, in some alignment.
Seeing Wade and Duffy take command of this competition is no surprise. Wade’s speed and versatility make him an incredible utility option for the Halos, while Duffy is easily the most consistent hitter of the bunch. Rengifo likely has a higher ceiling, but the Angels may not want to take that risk to start the season.
Fletcher, Wade, and Duffy has been the most likely trio to man the middle infield since Day 1 of Spring Training. Now, the Angels can truly get to work figuring out the specific alignments for the three, while still continuing the competition in case Rengifo, Mayfield, or Velazquez come with surprises.
Either way, it appears Fletcher’s name will be said plenty during Angels’ defensive half-innings.
Shohei Ohtani Opening Day starter
When the Angels face the Houston Astros on Opening Day — April 7 — Shohei Ohtani will be on the mound. The Angels two-way star was named the team’s Opening Day starter, and could bat leadoff thanks to the new rule allowing pitchers to stay in the game as a designated hitter after being removed from the mound.