Speculation will continue to swirl about the Angels being in the market for a veteran first baseman thanks to Kendry Morales’ broken ankle, but for now Mike Scioscia is giving career-long catcher Mike Napoli a shot to grab hold of the position:
Mike’s going to get a lot of looks at first. We have some depth at the catching position which is going to let us use his versatility at first and contribute offensively. We’ll probably mix in some other guys, but we’ll try to keep his bat in the lineup.
Napoli hadn’t played a single inning at first base in the majors prior to Morales’ injury, but Jeff Mathis coming off the disabled list yesterday frees him up to move out from behind the plate.
Napoli admitted that moving to first base “felt a little strange” initially, but he’s by far the Angels’ best option offensively and did play there some in the minors. In fact, this could be Napoli’s best chance at everyday playing time, as Scioscia has often gone with Mathis’ glove over his bat when choosing his starting catcher.
Napoli has a lifetime .848 OPS, which is above average for big-league first basemen, and he’s averaged 30 homers per 500 at-bats for his career. Assuming he can be somewhat passable defensively, Napoli is very capable of giving the Angels the same type of production they’d get from a midseason pickup like Paul Konerko.
Veteran utilityman Reid Brignac is in camp with the Astros on a minor league deal. The 31-year-old is close to being done as a major leaguer as he owns a career .219/.264/.309 triple-slash line across parts of nine seasons. In an effort to prolong his big league career, Brignac is now attempting to become a switch-hitter, MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart reports.
I’m going to try it out this year. It was something that I just thought long and hard about and I was like, ‘OK, I’m going to try and see how it goes.’ I used to switch-hit when I was younger off and on, nothing consistent. I could always handle the bat right-handed. I play golf right-handed, so I do a lot of things that way that feel natural.
I just want to get to the point where I’m trying to stay in games, not get pinch-hit for, not starting games because a lefty is starting. … That could help me stay in the games longer. I’m trying to add a new element. I play multiple positions and now if I can switch hit and be consistent at it, then that can only help me.
As Brignac mentions, he’s also verstile. He’s a shortstop by trade, but has also logged plenty of innings at second base and third base, and has occasionally played corner outfield.
There aren’t any examples — at least that I can think of — where players began switch-hitting late in their careers and actually succeeding in the major leagues. As the saying goes, you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. But here’s hoping Brignac bucks the trend.
Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons fell off the map a bit last year due to a combination of the Angels’ mediocrity, Simmons’ lack of offense, and a month-plus of missed action due to a torn ligament in his left thumb.
Simmons is still as good and as smart as ever on defense. That was on full display Monday when the Angels hosted the Padres for an afternoon spring exhibition.
With a runner on first base and nobody out in the top of the second inning, Carlos Asuaje grounded a 2-0 J.C. Ramirez fastball to right field. The runner, Hunter Renfroe, advanced to third base. Meanwhile, Asuaje wandered a little too far off the first base bag. Simmons cut off the throw to first base, spun around and fired to Luis Valbuena at first base. Valbuena swiped the tag on Asuaje for the first out of the inning.