A General Manager change, a superstar player still waiting to make the postseason, and some serious speculation is how to best describe the opening day roster predictions for the 2021 Los Angeles Angels.
We will look at catching and the infield to start with two other stories coming over the next few weeks looking at the Angels pitching and their outfield and positional depth.
2021 Los Angeles Angels: Suzuki Signs
On January 15, 2021, Kurt Suzuki signed a one-year, $1.5M contract with the Angels. He spent the previous two seasons with the Washington Nationals garnering a World Series ring in 2019. In 2019 he batted .264/.324/.486 with 17 home runs and 63 RBIs in 280 at-bats.
On the defensive side of the ball, Suzuki tied for the NL lead in stolen bases allowed, with 28. Max Stassi and Anthony Bemboom figure to be involved in the catching duties as well but with Suzuki signing it’s likely he will be behind the plate. Suzuki’s framing rate on Statcast also shows that he is a strong framer.
Stassi is a solid defensive backstop, shown by a 73rd percentile framing grade according to Baseball Savant. His 83 weighted runs created plus (wRC+) though is a concern though and we know that Suzuki has a proven bat.
Anthony Bemboom is the team’s third option but a 48 wRC+ and 44th percentile framer means that he falls down the depth chart with Suzuki and Stassi.
Infield an Interesting Position Study
The 2021 Los Angeles Angels infield has one of the best in the MLB at 3rd in Anthony Rendon, a new player in Jose Iglesias at shortstop, David Fletcher at second, and Jared Walsh at first.
Rendon was signed last offseason after a World Series win with the Washington Nationals in 2019 to a seven-year, $245 million contract. Injuries hampered his start in 2020 and he posted a .196 batting average through his first 17 games. He turned a corner after that going .286/.418/.497 with nine home runs and 38 RBI in 52 games. The .418 on-base percentage was a career-high.
Rendon and Trout provide a serious foundation for the Angels moving forward.
José Iglesias steps in at short after Andrelton Simmons left the team for the Minnesota Twins on a 10.5 million dollar one year deal. With stops in Detroit, Cinncinati, and Baltimore in the last three seasons, Iglesias has bounced around a bit but is a solid replacement for Simmons, who was loved by Angels fans.
Iglesias is 30 and will make $3.5 million in the final year of his contract for the 2021 season. In 2018 he played 125 games with a .269 BA, 5 HR 48 RBI .699 OPS. 2019 saw him play 146 games with a .288 BA, 11 HR, and 59 RBI to go with a .724 OPS. The shortened 2020 season saw him play 39 games with a .373 BA, 3 HR, 24 RBI’s and .956 OPS
David Fletcher should start at 2nd. Fletcher was drafted by the Angels in 2015 and promoted to the majors in 2018. He can play third and shortstop as well. With the COVID-19 shortened season and the half-season in 2018 and the full one in 2019, he does have a lifetime.346 On-Base percentage which is solid.
Jared Walsh is the team’s first baseman in 2021. While they have Albert Pujols playing both first and DH. Jared Walsh was the American League Rookie of the Month Award winners for September 2020. Walsh had a .337/.368/.744 slash line with nine home runs, and 26 RBIs, over 22 September games.
Walsh had 36 home runs in 2019, good for third in all of Triple AAA, but couldn’t replicate those numbers when he was called up. He struggled with a 40.2% strikeout rate before making changes to his stance and swing that served him well as the season progressed. He should provide the 2021 Los Angeles Angels with a solid option at first as the season unfolds.
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