The LA Angels made huge additions this offseason, and the corner infield positions may be the most impacted. The Angels are set up for success from these spots though, but could see flops from them as well.
The biggest move of the offseason was the Angels signing of Shohei Ohtani. That in and of itself made the Angels winners this offseason, but they also upgraded at third base with the signing of Zack Cozart.
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Cozart will be making the move to third base rather than shortstop where he has spent his entire career. He was borderline elite at shortstop, and should be one of the best vacuums in the league at third base for the Halos. If Cozart can put up the same numbers from a year ago, then he will take the Angels offense to an entire new level. While Ohtani undoubtedly was the biggest franchise-changing move since Mike Trout‘s debut, Cozart may be the most impactful new Halo in 2018.
Ohtani will be getting at-bats this season and, bold prediction, he will lead all pitchers in home runs. The Angels are likely shifting to a six-man rotation for this season, meaning Ohtani will routinely be getting 3-4 games at the plate every week. However, general manager Billy Eppler and manager Mike Scioscia has been adamant that Ohtani will not be playing the field. Instead, he will be adapting to major league baseball lifestyle as a pitcher and hitter. Instead of learning a new position to that, Ohtani will instead be serving as a designated hitter.
The Ohtani experiment will be one of the biggest storylines this season. While everyone seems confident in his ability to succeed on the mound, experts are split on him in the batter’s box. He undoubtedly has the potential to be a high-level hitter, but we have seen Japanese hitters struggle in their switch to the MLB. Spring Training will give fans an idea of how his adjustment is coming along.
With Ohtani taking up at-bats as the DH, Albert Pujols will be playing more games at first base. After playing only 34 games at first the past few seasons, Pujols is looking for a bounceback year. Pujols has used the healthy offseason to his advantage, as he has reportedly been dropping weight and getting in better shape. He is hoping to make his duty at first base this season easier, and recent photos show a pre-Anaheim Pujols.
The main backup is likely going to be Luis Valbuena, who can play both first and third base. He struggled in the first half of the season as he recovered from injury, but exploded for 16 home runs and 42 RBI’s after the All Star break. He needs to improve on his .199 season average (.213 post All Star break), but the Halos could do worse with their backup.
While Pujols looks to bounce back, Ohtani looks to break out, and Cozart looks to not regress, there could be many outcomes for the corner infielders and DH for the Halos. However, all signs point to success from all three, but they will also all see adversity throughout the 2018 season.