Early on in the 2023 regular season, Los Angeles Angels general manager Perry Minasian has taken a different approach to his roster construction. One consistent area has been centered around roster flexibility while keeping the best group on the big league roster, which included the recent Triple-A demotion of infielder David Fletcher.
Fletcher was optioned to join the Salt Lake Bees for the first time in his Major League Baseball career since his initial call-up in June of 2018. From Fletcher’s rookie season and the years following, he became a mainstay in the Angels lineup, known for his solid defense and ability to provide pesky contact-based at-bats.
His 2020 season saw him post a .319/.376/.425 slash including a wRC+ of 121. It was just his third year in MLB and he had improved offensively in each season, so the Angels rewarded him with a five-year, $26 million extension prior to the 2021 season.
But the magic wore off, and his past two seasons have been marred by down performance with a few injuries. After getting off to a slow start in 2023, Minasian made the decision to option Fletcher, citing a few reasons other than his performance, via Jeff Fletcher of the O.C. Register:
General Manager Perry Minasian, who joined the team in New York, said the move was made simply to give them “roster flexibility. It opens up a 40-man spot.”
The Angels in turn called up Zach Neto, their No. 2 prospect, expecting him to take over at shortstop after tearing it up at Double-A to open the season. Neto’s spot on the roster doesn’t spell the end for Fletcher, Minasian noted, and the club will have more of a plan as the season progresses:
“We still believe in David Fletcher,” Minasian said. “We know him being here and not getting every day at-bats, I don’t think it’s necessarily the best thing for him. So he’ll go play and I expect him to be back and help this team sooner than later.”
They’re correct in their analysis as Fletcher will benefit from playing every day, and given the state of the Angels’ offense, the upside Neto provides was too clear of an opportunity to pass up. For a player that has to rely on many things going right to have positive results, manager Phil Nevin explained Fletcher’s value to the team can and will be expected back in MLB:
“He’s a big part of what we’ve done and I think we’re gonna do in the future,” Nevin said. “He’s been a great Angel. Just gotta get out there and play, get back to what Fletch was.
“I realize that comes with consistent at-bats, and I told him that. Part of that’s on me. He didn’t play a lot. I’m the one who makes the lineup out and decides those things. I feel like I put the best guys out there at that moment, and I feel he can easily get back in the mix, without a doubt. He just needs some time playing.”
Fletcher logged just two hits in 16 plate appearances this season, and the Angels noticed he just wasn’t looking right. With multiple options including Neto, Gio Urshela, Brandon Drury, Luis Rengifo and Jake Lamb, there’s adequate depth on the roster.
Zach Neto ‘forced’ Angels’ hand to promote him, and option David Fletcher
After being selected by the Angels out of Campbell University with the 13th overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft and quickly rose through the system. He hit a stellar .444/.559/.815 with three home runs and 10 RBI in seven games with Double-A Rocket City before his promotion.
Nevin noted that the 22-year-old’s incredible start to the season was a clear indicator that the club had faith in calling him up to MLB before their matchup against the Boston Red Sox on April 15.
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