The LA Angels have been plagued by injuries in each of the last four seasons and 2019 has been no different. However, many of those players are now back or close.
When Spring Training started LA Angels manager Brad Ausmus was looking at a line-up that featured Andrelton Simmons, Mike Trout, Shohei Ohtani, Zack Cozart, and Justin Upton. However, as fate would have it Upton and Ohtani started the season on the Injured List and just as the Angels got Ohtani back Simmons went down with an ankle injury.
What has been nice for the Angels is that this has allowed the team develop some depth as multiple minor leaguers and career reserve players have had a chance to show what they can do with favorable results. When Upton went down the Angels traded for Brian Goodwin who has done an outstanding job holding down left field for Upton hitting .287 with six homers and driving in 23 runs with a .349 OBP.
Cesar Puello was also called up at the end of May and has been equally amazing hitting .455 with three homers and 11 RBIs with a .550 OBP and a .818 SLG %. Puello and Goodwin have created a strong platoon in left field.
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With Cozart and Simmons injured that has given increased playing time to David Fletcher, Tommy La Stella, and Luis Rengifo. La Stella has taken full advantage hitting .303 with 15 homers and 39 RBIs and is leading AL second basemen in All-Star voting. He already has career highs in homers and RBIs.
Fletcher has also had a strong season playing second, third, short, and outfield. Fletcher is hitting .308 with four homers and 23 RBIs with a .363 OBP. Fletcher has been out the past four games with shoulder soreness, but has been outstanding in the lead-off spot until then.
Luis Rengifo, who was acquired last season from Tampa for C.J. Cron and has bolted from Single-A all the way to Anaheim in a year. While Rengifo’s batting average is not great (.226) , his fielding has been superb. Rengifo has one homer with 10 RBIs. Wilfredo Tovar has also been recalled recently and has done a good job at shortstop defensively.
With all of these players stepping up it creates a dilemma when Justin Upton and Andrelton Simmons return soon. Both Upton and Simmons are close to returning to the Angels in the upcoming weeks so what does that mean to the players who have been filling in so admirably.
If Mike Scioscia was still around his standard answer would be, “We will cross that bridge when we come to it.” Not sure if Ausmus has that cliché in his repertoire just yet, but I’m sure he and the Angels coaching staff are already hard at work to figure out the potential options.
If Fletcher is able to return to the line-up shortly then the most likely players to be sent down are Rengifo and Tovar, leaving Simmons, La Stella, and Fletcher along with Simmons in the infield. However, the Angels will probably not keep five outfielders which means either Goodwin or Puello could be sent packing.
An interesting note is that Puello has been seen take grounders at first base in the last week. That could keep Puello in the majors as it would increase his versatility. However, with that being the case would the Angels keep Justin Bour up in the majors as a left-handed option at first base.
We could speculate about these decisions until the cows come home, but only Ausmus and the Angels coaching staff along general manager Billy Eppler know the final answer.
According to OC Register Angels beat writer Jeff Fletcher Simmons and Upton are very close to coming back.
The answer will also depend on who has minor league options left. We will just have to wait and see how things play out when Upton returns which should be sometime on this 11-game road tip. Simmons may not be far behind as Brad Ausmus says he expects to see Simmons before the end of June which would be way ahead of schedule.
Simmons was originally said to be out 8 to 12 weeks with a grade 2 left ankle sprain. If he returns by the end of next week it would only be four weeks.
Whatever happens too much depth is a good problem to have.
Stay tuned to Halo Hangout for any new updates on Simmons or Upton.