For the LA Angels, it has been quite some time since Albert Pujols displayed the ability to be an everyday contributor. So now, what will the 39-year old’s role be heading into the 2019 season?
Another LA Angels season, another season ended early because of injury for Albert Pujols. That is what 2018 was for the three-time National League MVP. However, after an offseason of rehab and conditioning, Pujols and the Angels are hoping for more contributions in 2019.
However, those contributions will come in a different way than season’s past. Under former manager Mike Scioscia, Pujols was plugged in as an everyday starter, regardless of production. It seemed as if every season, despite falling numbers, there would be a reason for him to be in the lineup from Scioscia. Whether right or wrong, it will be different under Brad Ausmus in 2019.
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Ausmus is focused on winning with the Angels, and will not have any form of favoritism. In interviews and press conferences over the winter, Ausmus and general manager Billy Eppler were both persistent in stating that Pujols’ production will dictate how often he is in the lineup this season.
With the signing of first baseman/designated hitter Justin Bour, an opportunity for a platoon arises. Bour is one of the best power hitters in baseball when facing right-handed pitching, and the left-handed hitter will almost certainly handle first base anytime that matchup presents itself.
This creates a natural lefty-righty platoon for Bour and Pujols. However, both will likely be used at the start of the season. Shohei Ohtani is going to be the everyday designated hitter once he is healthy, but reports say he will not be ready for Opening Day. While it is not clear whether Pujols or Bour will play first (Pujols showed he was still capable when healthy last year), the idea is for both of them to be in the starting lineup come Opening Day.
After that, Pujols will likely see a career-low in the usage category. However, at this stage of his career, Pujols may put up better numbers in a reserve/platoon type of role. He has shown he is not able to stay healthy as an everyday player in the past, and the Angels are finally going to make the change they should have years ago.