LA Angels: Who stays and who goes when Justin Upton returns next year?

Justin Upton, LA Angels. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports
Justin Upton, LA Angels. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports /

While we’re almost positive Justin Upton will miss the rest of the season, it’s time to start looking ahead to what our outfield will look like next year for the LA Angels.

The issue is, it’s very complicated. The only outfielder who we can 100% pencil into a starting spot is going to be Mike Trout, of course. And he’ll be back healthy next year.

Trout may have to play right field, but our franchise player will of course be out there somewhere. As for who the next two players to start in our outfield will be, it depends on whether Jo Adell and Brandon Marsh will both be up next year for us.

Justin Upton will certainly receive significant playing time for the LA Angels next year.

The issue is, will Justin Upton start every game for the LA Angels next year? While Maddon has said that he’s not quite sure what he wants to do with Adell and Marsh next year, they have no doubt flashed in their early tastes of the big leagues. Adell is currently injured, but he should be fine for next year (although he probably won’t return this year).

The issue for Upton is that we haven’t seen him produce at a consistent level since 2018. While I blame this year on injuries (as even Maddon admitted that he was carrying this team for a month before his back injury hit), the reality is that he doesn’t enter next year with a lot of momentum. Maddon is going to have to decide on whether having three full-time outfielders (including Upton) would be worth it over having a three-man rotation between Upton, Marsh, and Adell for the remaining two outfield spots.

I would advise Maddon to bring up both Marsh and Adell, and I’d then trust his judgment on deciding whether he wants to have a platoon for the corner outfield spots or wants to have three full-time starters.

As for the depth, it depends on who the Halos are going to bring back next year, even if they bring up both Marsh and Adell. That would only be four outfielders on the team, so they’d have a couple other spots open.

Maddon would have another decision to make. He would have Taylor Ward back from injury, but he’d have to decide if he’d want to re-sign Juan Lagares.

I assume they wouldn’t want to re-sign Dexter Fowler, but if they bring back Lagares the outfield would likely look something like this:

LF: Justin Upton

CF: Mike Trout

RF: Brandon Marsh

BN: Jo Adell

BN: Juan Lagares

BN: Taylor Ward

They could, however, keep Jose Rojas up, who has played in 52 games this year (as of September 22nd). I probably wouldn’t, however, as I think these other bench options are certainly better than where Rojas is at right now. Upton coming back unfortunately means somebody has to lose their roster spot.

Of course, the Angels could opt to have Phil Gosselin or Luis Rengifo play in the outfield, but those moves would likely not impact Upton’s playing time.

Upton has practiced at first base this year, but with All-Star Jared Walsh out there, he doesn’t appear to have much of a strong future over there. He can’t DH either because the Halos already have the best DH in baseball.

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When Upton comes back, he’ll be playing quite a bit. It just depends on how much playing time Maddon wants to give to the young guys, and/or what offseason moves Perry Minasian chooses to make.