Anthony Rendon Sidelined; Angels to Step Up

Anthony Rendon

Rendon Sidelined; Angels to Step Up

With Anthony Rendon sidelined due to an oblique injury, the Los Angeles Angels will look to others on the roster to step up and contribute. Five players look to capitalize on the opportunity for more playing time in the series opener against the Oakland Athletics.

David Fletcher, Tommy La Stella, and Albert Pujols will be regulars in the Angels lineup, but the absence of Rendon will give them more playing time. Meanwhile, youngsters Matt Thaiss, Taylor Ward, and Jared Walsh could make it into the lineup more consistently should Anthony Rendon’s injury lengthen. The addition of these three players to the thirty-man roster highlights Manager Joe Maddon’s preference in picking versatile and athletic players to the roster.

Angels Regulars

David Fletcher

Fletcher will be one of primary infielders this season. However, his superior athleticism enables him to play all over the field (infield and outfield). Fletcher is comfortable at third base and was third overall on the team last year in assists. Further, he posted the highest UZR rating at 5.2 while playing third base.

At the plate, Fletcher excelled last season. He posted a 3.4 WAR with a 9.8% strikeout rate. In addition to his low strikeout rates, Fletcher makes contact on nearly 92.1 percent of his swings with an ISO of .126 contributing to his high number of doubles. His ability to get key hits will serve the lineup well.

Tommy La Stella

Similar to Fletcher, La Stella will see action across the field this season. He saw a significant amount of play at first base during spring and summer training games. However, he posted a 1.2 UZR while playing third and will be a viable option for Maddon.

In 2019, La Stella earned his first All Star spot (although a mid-season injury prevented him from playing in the game). He hit 16 HR’s and 44 RBI’s earning a 2.0 WAR. His offensive prowess will continue to keep him in the starting lineup throughout the season.

Albert Pujols

La Stella saw a lot of time at first base during summer training. Also, Walsh and Thaiss both can play first base as well. The amount of first base depth gives Maddon a lot of options to limit Pujols. The 40-year first baseman fails to break the negative WAR threshold and has not been a significant offensive contributor since the 2015 season. However, with Fletcher and La Stella covering for Rendon, the Angels will need Pujols’s reliability at the position. Of course, there is always the hope that Pujols can give enough quality bats to contribute to the team’s success.

Youngsters

Matt Thaiss

Thaiss saw plenty of playing time during Spring and Summer training at both first and third base. He improved his numbers last year in AAA hitting for a .867 OPS. Receiving a call-up to the Angels last season, Thaiss played in 53 games with 164 AB’s. The Angles will look to Thaiss to continue his growth after hitting eight HR’s and posting a .714 OPS in 2019.

Taylor Ward

Ward offers plenty of flexibility for Maddon in the lineup as well. He plays catcher, third base, and left field. Joining the Angels’ minor league pipeline in 2015, Ward received call-ups in 2018 and 2019. While he failed to make a significant contribution in his nearly 200 plate appearances in two years, his positional versatility should give him the opportunity to grow at the plate in 2020.

Jared Walsh

Walsh gives the Angel’s another two-way player besides Shohei Ohtani. As a reliever, first baseman and outfielder, he should see significantly more playing time with Rendon’s absence. As Maddon revolves players to third base, Walsh stands to see playing time at both first base and in the outfield. Further, his batting performance in AAA offers the Angels a compelling case for inclusion into the lineup. He posted a 1.109 OPS with 36 homers and a 161 wRC+ in AAA during the 2019 season.

Bottom Line

As the season progresses, Maddon will use his creativity to ensure both Fletcher and La Stella make the lineup. All three Fletcher, La Stella, and Pujols will need to produce offensively to prevent the team from falling behind early in the division. While General Manager Billy Eppler receives credit for rebuilding the Angels minor league system, with Anthony Rendon sidelined, other Angel players will need to step up. Thaiss, Ward, and Walsh have an opportunity to show their growth and future potential in the majors.

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