One of the more intriguing storylines of the LA Angels 2019 season was that of two-way player Jared Walsh.
While he’s no Shohei Ohtani, Walsh offers the LA Angels a diverse set of skills that could be a huge advantage for the team. He is not the same two-way player as Ohtani, as Walsh is primarily a first baseman/corner outfielder who can also pitch in relief. If he can perform to the best of his abilities, Walsh could be the ultimate chess piece for the Angels.
However, does Jared Walsh even deserve a roster spot in 2020?
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Last year, Walsh pitched five innings of low-leverage relief. He performed well enough on the mound, allowing only one run. However, he also walked six batters while striking out just five, a ratio that must improve going into the new year.
At the plate, Walsh was very underwhelming. Slashing .203/.276/.329 in 79 at-bats is not where you want a first baseman to be, but it was a small sample size. This is the same player who broke the Pacific Coast League record for home runs by a southpaw in a season.
It’s likely the one way Walsh’s numbers improve is if he can get regular at-bats in the MLB. However, with Albert Pujols entrenched at first base and the plethora of outfielders in the Angels system, that’s very unlikely. Matt Thaiss is likely to serve as the backup first baseman, as well.
The way Walsh makes this roster is by proving that he can be more than the last reliever in a bullpen, as he was last year. If Walsh shows an improvement in walking hitters in Spring Training, there’s a good chance for him to make it. Even if he is in a virtual tie with another reliever to make the roster, he has the advantage of his bat to bring that little extra value he may need to crack the 26-man roster on Opening Day.
While his 2019 season wasn’t one for the history books, Jared Walsh could still prove to be another chess piece for new manager Joe Maddon. If he can prove he’s gotten himself to a level where he can provide consistent production both on the mound and at the plate, Walsh and Ohtani could be the best two-way players in the world, and both reside in Anaheim for years to come.