Mike Trout took over as the Angels’ primary center fielder in 2012 and was a stalwart there until last year, when a calf injury limited him to just 36 games. It seems the time has come where the team is thinking about when to move the 30-year-old into a corner outfield role. Manager Joe Maddon told reporters, including Jeff Fletcher of the Orange County Register, that the team has talked about the possibility of slotting Brandon Marsh in center field instead.
Center field is generally considered a more physically demanding position to play, relative to the corners, making the move a worthwhile consideration. If the toll of playing defense were reduced for Trout, it would increase his odds of staying healthy and in the lineup. Trout has already been considered one of the best hitters in baseball for a decade now, if not the very best. There’s no sign of that slowing down on a rate basis. Before his season was cut short last year, he was hitting .333/.466/.624, producing an incredible wRC+ of 190, a couple ticks above his career high of 188.
In terms of his work in center, there are possible signs of decline. DRS and UZR both gave him negative marks in each of the past three seasons. Statcast’s OAA is a bit more favorable, giving him -2 in 2019 but +1 in 2020 and 2021. Marsh just made his MLB debut last year and has only played 70 games, so small sample caveats apply here, but his numbers were -3 DRS, +0.9 UZR and +2 OAA. Perhaps the switch would give the club the double advantage of keeping Trout healthy and finding out if Marsh can provide quality center field defense over a larger sample.
Elsewhere on the diamond, Maddon says that the shortstop position is going to be an open battle between Andrew Velazquez, Tyler Wade, Luis Rengifo and David Fletcher, but that Velazquez is the favorite right now. (Twitter link from Sam Blum of The Athletic.) The 27-year-old Velazquez only has 96 games of MLB experience thus far in his career, producing a tepid batting line of .184/.249/.276. He fared much better in Triple-A last year, but a team with designs on competing would surely want a more proven option. However, even though Spring Training is gearing up, there’s much offseason business still ongoing due to the lockout, meaning there’s still time for the club to make an addition to their middle infield group.
As for Maddon himself, he’s entering the final guaranteed year of his contract. Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times relays that Maddon says he has not been approached about an extension, though he would love to sign one. Although this is the last guaranteed year on the deal, Bob Nightengale of USA Today reports that the club actually has a $4M option for Maddon’s services in 2023, which comes with a $1M buyout. That means the urgency to get an extension done might not actually be so high for the club.
Moving on to Maddon’s staff, it was reported in January that former bench coach Mike Gallego would be sticking around in some capacity, though his role was undefined. Now Blum relays that Gallego’s title will be Major League field coordinator. The club still hasn’t announced a first base coach, though it’s unclear if that’s related to the Adam Eaton situation. It was reported in January that Eaton was considering retiring and taking a coaching position with the Angels, though he was still a member of the MLBPA and unable to discuss the opportunity during the lockout.