Grading the LA Angels 2017 Season: Luis Valbuena

ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 01: Luis Valbuena
ANAHEIM, CA - OCTOBER 01: Luis Valbuena /

The LA Angels had been looking for a left-handed bat with some power and general manger Billy Eppler was able to find what he thought could be the answer in corner infielder Luis Valbuena who was signed for two years.

Before the 2017 season started the talk was about the role Luis Valbuena would play for the LA Angels during the season.  Angels manager Mike Scioscia went as far as saying Valbuena would be the starting first baseman.  I myself was very skeptical in naming a lifetime .228 hitter who had never played a full season as a starter, to be my starting first baseman. Beside that the Angels still had C.J. Cron and Jefry Marte on the roster who both had done an adequate job in 2016 for the Angels.

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The reason for this move was simple, the Angels wanted/needed a left-handed hitting power bat in their lineup and Valbuena, despite his low batting average seemed to fit that bill.  However, this plan would be delayed five weeks as Valbuena would find himself on the DL to start the season due to a right hamstring strain.

When Valbuena returned the first base position was in shambles as both Cron and Marte were batting around .200 and neither were showing any reason for Scioscia not to enact his plan to start Valbuena.  However, Valbuena faced the same struggles that his counterparts Cron and Marte did at the plate.  From May 2nd until the All-Star Break in mid-July Valbuena hit .183 with six homers and 24 RBIs, not quite what the Angels had hoped for from him.

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Just like Cron, Valbuena picked it up some after the All-Star Break hitting six homers and driving in 12 runs while hitting .237 in 11 games from after the break to the end of July.  Valbuena continued to hit for power even though his average never went above .212 as he finished the last two months with 11 homers and 32 RBIs which helped the Angels especially when Yunel Escobar was out for the last five weeks of the season. When Escobar went down Valbuena became the every day third baseman and the Angels started to pick it up during this stretch.

In the end it wasn’t enough to help the Angels clinch a wild-card spot.  Valbuena had his lowest batting average of his career as he finished with a .199 to go along with 22 homers and 65 RBIs.  Between Valbuena, Escobar, and Cron the Angels got plenty of power from 1B/3B.  The three combined for 45 homers to go with 152 RBIs.  However, only Escobar was able to hit over .250 (.274) which makes those numbers seem a little less.

So the question now becomes what do the Angels do going forward?  They can choose to leave Cron at first and fill-in Valbuena at third.  They can also try to platoon the two at first base or the other option is pursuing a big free agent at third or first base such as Mike Moustakas, Eric Hosmer, or Todd Frazier at either first or third base.  They can also try to re-sign Escobar at third base for a one or two-year deal, but that is probably one of their final options as Escobar will most likely leave via free agency.

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So what about Valbuena how successful was he for the Angels and I would answer mildly successful.  He was an above average defender at both first and third base.  He also did provide some decent power and drove in a decent amount of runs.  However, hitting just .199 will not cut it.  The Angels already have players like Albert Pujols and Martin Maldonado hitting under .250 and this year.

Next: C.J. Cron deserves one more chance to prove himself

Hopefully .2018 will be better for Valbuena wherever position he plays for the Angels.  Only time will tell.

Luis Valbuena’s Season Grade: C