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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David Fletcher
Miami Marlins v Los Angeles Angels; David Fletcher / Ronald Martinez/GettyImages

But what about the small chance of finding Michael Stefanic a starting position at second base or even shortstop with the LA Angels this year?

Tyler Wade is currently the team’s everyday second baseman, while last year’s starter David Fletcher will continue at shortstop once he returns from the IL (hence why Velazquez will soon be sent back down).

A lot has to go right for Michael Stefanic to earn a starting position with the LA Angels over Wade or Fletcher.

From a defensive standpoint, Wade and Fletcher are simply way better fielders than Michael Stefanic. If the LA Angels want to prioritize defense up the middle, it’ll be really hard to justify starting Stefanic over these two.

Therefore, he’ll have to prove that the value he brings with his bat is enough to start him over his defensively superior counterparts. This means he’ll first need to prove as a bench player at the major league level that he deserves to be a starter more than Duffy, Mayfield or possibly even other available infielders on the trade market. If he can’t do this, then this entire argument is moot.

For the sake of argument, though, let's say Stefanic does manage to do this.

Starting with Wade, Stefanic has way more potential than him at the plate. Aside from his impressive Triple-A numbers back in 2017 which earned him his first cup of coffee with the Yankees, Wade was never a very impressive hitter in his minor league career, something that has translated to the majors as well. Posting a career triple slash of .216/.299/.308 across parts of six seasons, Wade's best year was 2021 when he owned an unremarkable .677 OPS and an 89 wRC+.

He also has a career strikeout rate of 25.4% and even less power than Stefanic with only six career major league home runs and a single-season high of seven in the minors. Should Wade’s defense slip or his bat go through a really bad and prolonged slump, Stefanic may have a chance at taking over at second.

As for Fletcher, he’s actually really similar to Stefanic since both are low-power, high-contact hitters. In a way, Fletcher simultaneously represents the best-and worst-case scenarios for Stefanic in the majors.

On one hand, he was great from 2019-2020, mostly putting up similar numbers each month and hitting .298/.356/.395 in that span. On the other hand, he struggled immensely to find any sort of consistency in 2018 and 2021.

Case in point, aside from his impressive stretch in June and July last year (.352/.377/.457) which included his 26-game hit streak, he was awful in the other four months of the season, topping out at a .264 BA in April while falling to as low as .131 in September. The end result was a .262 BA, .297 OBP and an abysmal 70 wRC+ in 2021.

Fletcher’s one saving grace in these times was that he always maintained a low strikeout rate, recording a 7.7% K rate in 2021 and 9.9% for his career.

Conversely, Stefanic has remained mostly consistent at the plate throughout each year of his career, and has steadily improved with each season. If he does make the active roster as a bench player first and manages to translate this consistency to the majors, he might have a shot at unseating Fletcher, but only if Fletcher is going through a prolonged slump at that time.

All of this is to say, a lot needs to go right for Stefanic to earn a starting role this year. Barring serious injuries to either Wade or Fletcher, he’ll likely have to settle for a bench role in 2022 before competing again next spring for a shot at a starting position.

Next. 2 LA Angels that don't belong on the roster and 1 that does. dark

That said, we’ll never know if any of this is even possible unless the Angels finally pull the trigger and give Stefanic some major league reps. While it seems inevitable to happen this season, let’s just hope it's sooner rather than later.