Los Angeles Angels Position Group Outlook: Middle Infield

Aug 19, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (2) fields a ball during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 19, 2016; Anaheim, CA, USA; Los Angeles Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons (2) fields a ball during the eighth inning against the New York Yankees at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports /
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The Los Angeles Angels are nearing Spring Training. With the roster coming into shape, it’s time to evaluate the team by position group.

This is the second of a five-part series where I will evaluate the 25-man roster and top prospects of the Los Angeles Angels. This one is all about the middle infielders and catchers.

Starters

Second Base- Danny Espinosa, S/R

Shortstop Andrelton Simmons, R/R

Catcher- Carlos Perez

Middle infield is going to be a strength for the Angels in 2017. They have the best defensive player in baseball with Andrelton Simmons. Newly acquired Danny Espinosa is slotted to start opposite Simmons, and he brings a much needed switch-hitting bat to the lineup. Carlos Perez brings a solid arm and valuable experience with the Angels starting rotation.

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Simmons is entering his second season as a Halo, and he has been better than advertised. Despite a wrist surgery that benched him for some time, 2016 was undoubtedly Simmons’ best season in the MLB. Along with his dazzling highlights, Simmons turned in his best season at the plate in his career. He hit a respectable .281 with 44 RBI’s and a career-high 10 stolen bases. Simmons changed his step when swinging from a huge step to a small check step. This quickened his swing and allowed him to put the ball in play more. Simmons, 27, is entering his prime and is perhaps the player to watch on the Angels this season.

Simmons’ double play partner this year will be more than one player, but eight-year veteran Danny Espinosa will be the most reoccurring face. Espinosa, 29, has been a Washington National his entire career. His average has never been above .247 for a season, but he brings a necessity the Angels did not have last year with his switch-hitting ability. Espinosa will join Kole Calhoun as the only regular left-handed bats in the Angels lineup this season.

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The catcher position is a murky one for the Angels. Right now, Carlos Perez is my bet to be the starting pitch-caller. He brings a solid arm, great reflexes, and most importantly, experience with the Angels starting rotation. The rotation is very iffy this season, but having a familiar face like Perez behind the plate will prove to be extremely valuable. As long as Perez continues to have his pitchers’ trust and hit the ball hard when batting, he will continue seeing playing time.

The Bench

Cliff Pennington, SS/2B, S/R

Martin Maldonado, C, R/R

Though the Angels only have two bench players for these positions, each has upside. Maldonado could very well end up be the Opening Day starter at catcher if he has a strong spring. If he can improve on his .212 career batting average, there is not much stopping him from beating out Perez. He has more power than Perez, and as he gets more accustomed to the Angels system and their pitchers.

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Cliff Pennington will be going into his second season as a Halo. At 32 years old, Pennington is nothing more than a defensive specialist at this point in his career. He saw extended playing time last season due to Johnny Giovatella’s struggles and his switch-hitting ability. However, with another guy who can hit from both sides of the plate in front of him on the depth chart now, Pennington will be used almost exclusively as a late game defensive option for the Angels. That is a strategy Mike Scioscia uses often, Pennington will see more than a few at-bats.

Next: Angels top infield prospects