It’s no secret that the Angels’ biggest offseason hole outside of pitching is second base. With the departure of Ian Kinsler in the middle of last season, second base became sort of a revolving door of future talent for the Angels. Two minor league call-ups David Fletcher and Kaleb Cowart saw reps at the position through the end of the year, leaving questions as to who will be the rock at the position in the coming season. With the return of Zack Cozart at third, both players should be free to play the position on a consistent basis, so who will Angels new manager Brad Ausmus choose to start on Opening Day? Based on production, here is a ranking of all the Angels options.
If the Angels were going to stick with home-grown talent at the position this year, Fletcher is the way to go. Defensively, he was very impressive for a first year player, including plays like this one. Ignoring the flash, objectively, the numbers reflect his defensive value. He turned 33 double plays in 43 games at second base in 2018, and sported a near perfect .994 fielding percentage at the position as well, tallying five defensive runs saved over average. He’s the best offensive option as well, as he slashed .275/.316/.363 with a .678 OPS in 307 plate appearances, accumulating a WAR of 2.0 in that time. The case for Fletcher is clear, and most Angels fans would agree that based on what they saw from Fletcher, they would love to see him play a major role in an already solid infield in 2019.
Jed Lowrie, via Free Agency
Revealing of what I thought of Kaleb Cowart, surely, but more on that in a second. This year’s second baseman free-agent class is a strong one, with a couple of marquee names available at this point in the offseason. The option best for the Angels here, in my opinion, is Jed Lowrie. Lowrie provides the defensive capability to keep up with star middle infielder Andrelton Simmons, having turned 73 double plays last year at second base, on top of a .993 fielding percentage. What makes Lowrie the ideal option for the Angels, though, is his offensive production. His 99 RBIs and 23 home runs leads the second baseman free agent class, and the Angels could really use an offensive boost like that to place in the middle of their lineup. This would be the move I expect the Angels to make if Ausmus gets gun-shy about Fletcher and opts to give him more time to develop in the minors.
Cowart has had his chances with the Angels, and to be honest, his receiving call-ups year after year is puzzling. In four years playing sporadically with the Angels, Cowart has accumulated a slash line of .177/.241/.293, with last season being his worst offensively with the Halos. Add to that an offensive WAR of -1.1, and it’s clear to see that Cowart is a liability more than an asset when it comes to the lineup. Defensively, he doesn’t add much more to his value, sporting a -1 defensive runs saved above average in 14 starts at second base in 2018. David Fletcher took over the position from him, to be sure, but count on Cowart to remain an emergency option at the position, a sort of last resort for the Angels, as he has been in years past.
Based on the pro-prospects attitude and comments manager Brad Ausmus has put forth in both his introductory press conference and in interviews since, I feel confident predicting that David Fletcher will start at second base for the Angels come Opening Day, but a solid free-agent pickup could shake things up.
Source Reference: Baseball Reference Photo: Rick Scuteri-USA TODAY Sports