With the Los Angeles Angels slated to start their season on Friday in Oakland, we have the first official taxi squad for the Halos in the age of COVID-19.
When the Los Angeles Angels kick-off their 2020 season with a trip to the Oakland Athletics, they’ll have a few more people than the already expanded 30-man roster traveling with them. They’ll also have a taxi squad in tow.
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Major League Baseball was forced to implement a number of new rules for the shortened 2020 season. As we’ve already seen, the lack of a minor league season has forced teams to only carry a 60-man player pool, split between two locations, in order to have an active pool of players to pull from.
While the solves the problem of having players game-ready, especially without minor league baseball. That helps when a team needs to accommodate an injury, as the Angels have been known to do from time to time. However, what do you do when the team is on the road?
With the league wanting to limit travel, as well as wanting to control the potential exposure for its players, MLB has also instituted the use of taxi squads. A taxi squad is comprised of three players, one of which has to be a catcher. These players will travel with the team and will be drawn on only in the case of an injury. These players must be part of the 60-man player pool, but do not count toward the 30-man roster until they are pulled into active duty.
With the Angels spending their first four days on the road, the team needed to name its initial taxi squad. As relayed by Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic, the Angels will carry Luke Bard, Elliott Soto, and Anthony Bemboom on their taxi squad.
Let’s take a look at each of the three taxi squad members:
Angels Taxi Squad – Luke Bard, RHP
Luke Bard is no stranger to the Angels faithful. A former rule-5 pick from the Twins, he made his MLB debut with the team in 2018, appearing in eight games and posting a 5.40 ERA over 11.2 innings of work. The Angels returned him to Minnesota in April of that year, but after he was granted free agency, the team re-signed him.
He would return to the majors in 2019, appearing in 32 games (including three starts). Over 49.0 innings, Bard posted a 4.78 ERA, a 4.81 FIP, and a 7.3 K/9.
He’ll serve as bullpen depth on the taxi squad.
Angels Taxi Squad – Elliot Soto, INF
Elliot Soto is an interesting addition to the taxi squad. Inked to a minor league contract over the winter, Soto has bounced around three other organizations before landing with the Angels. He has yet to appear in a major league game.
Not known for his power, Soto carries a lifetime .259/.336/.337 batting line over 10 minor league seasons. However, he has positional versatility, with the ability to anywhere in the infield.
Soto’s inclusion on the taxi squad feels tepid at best. One would have to think that this spot will be reserved for Luis Rengifo when he comes off the disabled list and is ready to play.
Angels Taxi Squad – Anthony Bemboom, C
As mentioned above, the taxi squad rules require that teams carry an extra catcher. As we saw with the Atlanta Braves, injuries or COVID can decimate a roster quickly, so the extra catcher is a must on road trips.
With the Angels, they already carry an emergency catcher in Taylor Ward. However, to satisfy the rules here, they will also carry Anthony Bemboom. Aside from an awesome name, Bemboom brings with him some veteran ability behind the plate, even if his major league track record is limited.
Originally drafted by the Angels in the 22nd round of the 2012 draft, Bemboom was himself taken from the team in the Rule 5 Draft by the Rockies in 2016. Since then, he’s also been with the Rays, where he made his MLB debut last season. The Angels purchased his contract in July 2019 to bring him home.
Over the course of just 25 games, he owns a lifetime .130/.145/.204 batting line at the game’s highest level. His minor league hitting line is a bit better, at .239/.312/.355/
This group will be the Angels first take on the taxi squad and will travel with the team to Oakland Friday through Monday. As always, it could be in flux after that and change from road trip to road trip, depending on usage and need.