Examining the LA Angels bench

SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 11: Jefry Marte
SEATTLE, WA - AUGUST 11: Jefry Marte /

The Angels have finally announced their Opening Day Roster, and after weeks of fans and sports-personalities discussing their favored options we’ve come to the end of a discussion and the beginning of a new one. How will the LA Angel backup players find personal success, and ultimately bring team success to the Angels?

The Opening Day Roster finalized for the LA Angels has been finalized, and for the most part the roster is about what was expected. Chris Young (OF), Rene Rivera (C), Jefry Marte (1B) and Luis Valbuena (1B/3B) round out the Opening Day Roster, and we’ve actually grown accustomed to a couple of these players over the last couple of seasons as Angels.

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Luis Valbuena played his first year in an Angels uniform in 2017, and despite his strangely off-beat numbers (.199 BA) he’s had personal success and brought team success. Last year, in tandem with C.J Cron, Luis Valbuena played backup to 1B and 3B, as he will this year.

Valbuena led the league in hits that went for extra base hits with over 65% of his hits going extra. Despite his .199 BA he holds  .432 SLG% alongside his 65 RBI’s and 22 HR’s. On top of that he is 7th in fielding percentage among active third basemen with a .965 fielding percentage. Even more intriguing are his stats in High Leverage situations, a statistic quantified within the nuances of a game.

Any situation that increases the win probability add to the Leverage Index, measured from a scale of 1-10, low leverage situations falling below 1. In 85 PA within a High Leverage situation, Valbuena performed to a .279/.367/.588 slash line. Luis Valbuena is every definition of a “gamer”, his abilities only increasing in the face of pressure. Adding to that, his Adam Dunn-esque hitting, this feast-or-famine style, is very viable coming from a backup position.

It may not seem like much, but when you look deeply at his stats you’ll realize every time he hits the ball he scorches it. Positioning Valbuena as a bottom of the order hitter, a cleanup guy for the cleanup guys, can bring great success to this team.

Rene Rivera had one of the hottest springs out of most Angels. Overall, he ended the spring with a .297/.316/.622 stat line alongside 3 HR’s in 27 AB’s. This is a bit of a reach over his 2017 stat line of .252/.305/.431, but you can assume he’ll find a middle ground between the two. His High Leverage abilities also add confidence to his abilities, hitting .324/.375/.514 in HL situations.

There’s one thing that does need to be said about Rivera; when he’s comfortable he get’s really comfortable. Rivera grew up watching Cubs games with his grandfather, and on his waiver claim by the Cubs he fit in almost immediately. In 50 PA with the Cubs, twenty games in total, Rivera clubbed a .341/.408/.591 stat line with 12 RBI’s, which was already more than half of what he had with the Mets in 187 PA’s at 23 RBI’s.

Rivera only did 1/3rd of what he did with his short time on the Cubs than he did in 54 games with the Mets. Now we have him scorching it up with the Angels, albeit in a short sample size during Spring Training, though if he can translate his confidence and offense outputs into the regular season we may see a Rene Rivera who’s just as comfortable as he was with the Cubs, perhaps even more.

Chris Young ranks highly as a defender; among active CF’ers Chris Young ranks Top Ten in Games Played as CF’er (950 G’s), and on top of that he ranks 7th in Putouts from CF (2,315). In general OF positions played Chris Young ranks 11th among active players with 1,288 games played and 9th in putouts with 2,839 Putouts.

That’s the kind of reliability the Angels need to back up the Angels premier OF’ers in Trout, Upton, and Calhoun.

Unfortunately, Young has suffered a calf strain and may be unavailable to start the season. Not the best news, especially when he’s supposed to be your go-to backup guy, but given the minor grade of his injury it shouldn’t be something that affects him all season.

Last, but not least, and most surprising, is Jefry Marte. At the age of 26 he’s played through three season with the Angels, two of them (2015, 2017) being mediocre and one (2016) showing flashes of excellence. What really makes this a curious case is his 2018 Spring Training performance, hitting for a wild .316/.391/.474 in 38 AB’s.

So which Marte are we getting, 2017 Marte who hit .173/.269/.307, or the 2016 Marte who pulled in a .252/.310/.483 and 15 HR’s in 258 AB’s. Given that Marte spent his 2016 covering for an ailing Pujols it makes sense the Angels would want to bring him on again for another go around given his last outing as Pujols’ go-to back up man.

At this point Marte is the biggest question mark coming into the season regarding the Angels roster backups. He has the potential to be a big time contributor and end up filling the shoes C.J Cron left, but he also has the potential to require the Angels brass to come up with another solution in quick manner.

Next: Halos vs. A's Series Preview

All in all, the Angels are loaded with backing talent, some of that potential they bring already realized and some potential needing to be realized. If guys like Chris Young, Jefry Marte, Luis Valbuena, and Rene Rivera can fully realize their potential so to will that realized potential leak into the rest of the team.

And what other potentials could this Angels team realize, aside from being 2018 World Champs?