Angels undecided on where Albert Pujols will bat in lineup

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Albert Pujols had 7,433 plate appearances for the Cardinals and 82.6 percent of those came as a No. 3 hitter, but the Angels aren’t certain yet where he’ll bat in their lineup.

Mike Scioscia told Alden Gonzalez of MLB.com that he’s leaning toward keeping Pujols in the No. 3 spot, in part because it guarantees he’ll bat in the first inning of every game and in part because he’ll get more plate appearances than he would batting cleanup.

Under what circumstances would he bat Pujols fourth?

If there’s issues with our [No. 9 hitter] not being productive, our 1 and 2 guys struggling a bit, there’s definitely a look that we’re going to have that might put [high on-base guys] 1-2-3 with Albert hitting fourth. That’s a possibility. It’s not our preference. But you have to consider it.

Various batting order analysis has shown that you want a hitter like Pujols batting third instead of fourth, and in fact based on statistical analysis alone there’s a strong argument for the best hitter on a team batting second. It all depends on the rest of the lineup options, of course, but sticking with Pujols as a No. 3 hitter makes the most sense, presumably with Erick Aybar and Bobby Abreu in front of him.

Report: Astros, Michael Brantley agree to two-year, $32 million contract

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Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reports that the Astros and outfielder Michael Brantley are closing in on an agreement for a two-year contract in the $32 million range.

Brantley, 31, played a mostly full season last year for the first time since 2015. He hit .309/.364/.468 with 17 home runs, 76 RBI, 89 runs scored, and 12 stolen bases in 631 plate appearances. He made the AL All-Star squad for the third time in his career.

Brantley’s health, though, is why he had to settle for a two-year deal as opposed to a longer contract for a player of his caliber. He will take over in left field. In the event Brantley succumbs to injury woes, the Astros have top prospect Kyle Tucker waiting in the wings.

Update: According to Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports, who also reports that the deal is in place, the Astros plan to rotate Brantley between left field, first base, and DH. That opens up some more playing time for Tucker.