Joe Maddon recently revealed that Justin Upton has spent some time working out at first base so far this spring with the LA Angels. He had received some practice time at first last year as well, but it was expected for that to be the case so that he'd have an easier time finishing the season healthy.
He never got plugged in there, however, before the team decided to shut his season down. He was never healthy enough to continue playing after his injury last season anyway. It wasn't clear that these first base practice reps would be the norm moving forward.
Maddon clearly has a strategy for this, though, as Orange County Register's Jeff Fletcher's tweet points out. And it does make sense. The Halos are likely to platoon Upton into the outfield this year with he and Jo Adell splitting reps in left field. They don't need Upton in left with Adell there, so he can fill in at short in order to get his bat against left-handed pitching instead of Walsh's bat against left-handed pitching.
Justin Upton is very good for the LA Angels when it comes to hitting left-handed pitching.
Even in a 2021 year marred by injuries for LA Angels' big money outfielder Justin Upton, he still hit well vs. lefties. He got on 35.5% of the time against left handers in 2021, while slugging .483. That's an OPS of .838 in 53 games. Walsh, on the other hand, really struggled against lefties.
Even in an All-Star 2021 campaign for Walsh, he hit to a terrible .170/.208/.357 (.565 OPS) line against southpaws in 95 games. He had just 10 of his 29 home runs, just 30 of his 98 RBIs, and just 13 of his 70 runs in 2021 off of left-handed pitchers. This is a first base platoon worth doing, as it really helps the Halos get the most out of the $28 million they are paying Upton for 2022.
He'll be put in the most favorable situations possible. Besides, now that Upton's healthy, he may hit well regardless of who's pitching to him. After all, before he got injured last year on June 22nd, he was having a good season. Hitting .247/.336/.480 (.816 OPS) with 14 home runs and 102 runs scored in the first 63 games of the season, he looked like the Upton of old. Now that he's healthy again, he's a sleeper in a contract year where he's already working to improve his position versatility.