The LA Angels can't afford to sleep on Michael Stefanic anymore

Los Angeles Angels Photo Day; Michael Stefanic
Los Angeles Angels Photo Day; Michael Stefanic / Chris Bernacchi/GettyImages
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Michael Stefanic
Mar 25, 2022; Scottsdale, Arizona, USA; Arizona Diamondbacks Christian Walker reaches third base; Michael Stefanic / Rob Schumacher/The Republic / USA TODAY

All of this begs the question, why haven't the LA Angels called up Michael Stefanic yet?

It goes without saying that Stefanic is the best contact hitter in the Angels’ farm system and is the most major league ready of all their prospects who haven’t been called up yet. Heck, he already deserved a callup last year and has done nothing to change that belief.

So what’s the hold up?

The LA Angels current logjam of middle infielders is blocking Michael Stefanic.

It used to be that the LA Angels felt his defense was suspect, but as discussed in my last piece about Michael Stefanic, he took a massive leap forward in 2021 to shore up many issues he had and has become at least an average second baseman with a 4.24 RF/9 (2021 average in the majors was 4.04). He’s also put in a lot of work to improve at shortstop (4.40 RF/9 vs. 3.81 major league average) and even third base (2.67 RF/9 vs. 2.73) in order improve his defensive versatility, thus increasing his odds of finding playing time with the team.

This defensive improvement came in spite of the fact that Stefanic was dealing with Achilles tendonitis last year which had a noticeable impact on his overall range and speed.

Now, it seems that the primary cause for Stefanic’s delayed promotion is the abundance of infielders on the Angels roster.

First off, the simple act of promoting Stefanic presents a problem for the Angels because he’s not on the 40-man roster, meaning someone will have to be DFA’d or traded in order to make space for him. The Angels currently need all the pitchers they can get so it might be hard to lose someone from that group, and the current infielders on the active roster all bring too much value to lose right now too.

In all likelihood, the Angels will probably have to move on from either Luis Rengifo or Jose Rojas in order to add Stefanic to the 40-man roster. The thing is, both are about equal with him in Triple-A right now and at least have some major league experience, making this decision not as easy as it seems.

Regardless, once that hurdle is out of the way, the question then becomes who Stefanic will replace in the majors. As it stands, Matt Duffy, Jack Mayfield and Andrew Velazquez have done a solid job from the bench.

Duffy is a guaranteed lock as the all-around best and most experienced of the three. As for Mayfield, he may be the weakest fielder of the bunch, but has by far the most power and is raking at the plate right now (.923 OPS). Conversely, Velazquez is the best defender of this group (already 4 DRS), but is easily the worst hitter (.405 OPS).

Stefanic undoubtedly comes with much greater upside than any of these players and could settle in quickly if and when he finally gets a chance.

Velazquez will likely be back in the minors in the next week or so, while Mayfield may find himself there in the future should his bat regress to its usual state. Should that happen, it may very well be Stefanic’s best shot at finally getting called up.

If he can come anywhere close to replicating his minor league stats in the majors, Stefanic might just become one of the league's top bench players.