Predicting Angels' 2021 Opening Day roster

March 31st, 2021

ANAHEIM -- Opening Day is almost here for the Angels, who host the White Sox in their regular-season opener on Thursday with right-handers Dylan Bundy and Lucas Giolito tabbed to start.

The club had a few surprises this spring, including Anaheim native José Rojas making the club as an extra infielder, non-roster invitee Juan Lagares winning the fourth outfielder role and top prospect Chris Rodriguez earning a spot in the bullpen. Additionally, the Angels signed relievers Tony Watson and Steve Cishek to one-year deals just three days before Opening Day.

The Halos still have to clear some room on the 40-man roster for Lagares and Rojas, but it’ll be a formality. Here’s what the roster will likely be for the regular-season opener:

Catcher (2): ,
Stassi was surprisingly solid in 2020, but he underwent left hip surgery after the season ended. He's proved he’s healthy for the start of the season with a solid spring. The Angels added Suzuki on a one-year deal to add to their catching depth, with Anthony Bemboom also remaining on the 40-man roster.

First base (1):
Walsh had a breakout rookie year keyed by a strong September, finishing with a .293/.324/.646 batting line with nine homers and 26 RBIs in 32 games. He's expected to be the club's primary first baseman, but he has to prove his numbers weren’t a fluke. He struggled offensively this spring, but manager Joe Maddon said Walsh is still the club’s primary first baseman. Albert Pujols, though, could start on Opening Day.

Second base (1):
Fletcher takes over as the everyday second baseman after moving around a bit last season, including stints at both third base and shortstop because of injuries to Anthony Rendon and Andrelton Simmons. Fletcher is a prototypical leadoff hitter and one of the better defenders on the team.

Third base (1):
Rendon remains entrenched at third base after signing a seven-year deal before last season. He’s generally regarded as the best all-around third baseman in the Majors.

Shortstop (1):
Iglesias takes over for Simmons and also provides strong defense at shortstop. He’s coming off an impressive year offensively with the Orioles, but he’ll have to prove he can do it over a full season in 2021. Iglesias carried it over with a solid spring and made several highlight reel defensive plays.

Outfield (4): , , ,
Trout, Upton and Fowler will start in center, left and right field, respectively, while Lagares won the fourth outfielder job. Lagares played well this spring and the former National League Gold Glove Award winner is a true center fielder who can play all three outfield positions. He won the job over Taylor Ward and fellow non-roster invitees Jon Jay and Scott Schebler.

Utility (1): José Rojas
Rojas surprisingly won the job with another strong showing offensively this spring. The 28-year-old Anaheim native is a former 36th-round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, but he has hit at every level, and will now get his chance to prove it in the Majors. Franklin Barreto could’ve claimed the role, but he was placed on the injured list with a right elbow strain. Luis Rengifo, Jack Mayfield, and non-roster invitees Phil Gosselin and Kean Wong were sent to the Minors.

Designated hitter (1):
Pujols, who is in the last year of his 10-year contract, will also play some first base, but he is likely to see most of his time at DH -- at least when Shohei Ohtani is not in the lineup. Pujols could serve as a platoon at first, batting against left-handers to give the left-handed-hitting Walsh a break. Pujols had a great spring offensively, and if he carries it over, he could see more playing time.

Two-way (pitcher/DH, 1):
Ohtani is returning to two-way status in 2021 and is healthy after an elbow/forearm injury that limited him to just two starts on the mound. The Angels plan to be aggressive with him, starting him on the mound as part of their six-man rotation and using him as a DH. Ohtani was the star of camp, reaching 102 mph on the mound and hitting multiple homers over the batter’s eye in center field. He even was in the lineup on the same day as his start twice this spring, which is something he could do in the regular season.

Starting pitchers (5): , , , ,
The Angels are going with a six-man rotation that includes Ohtani, while Bundy gets Opening Day honors. Bundy was the club’s ace in 2020. Heaney stayed healthy and was solid, while Canning is emerging as a dependable starter. Cobb and Quintana also made strong first impressions with their new team this spring.

Relievers (8): , , , , , , ,
Iglesias, Mayers, Claudio and Guerra were locks, while Ty Buttrey was surprisingly optioned. Slegers looked headed to the injured list with back spasms, but he recovered just in time for Opening Day. Rodriguez, ranked as the Angels' No. 4 prospect by MLB Pipeline, surprisingly made the team, considering he’s never pitched above Class A Advanced. And at the last minute, the club signed both Watson and Cishek to one-year deals worth $1 million each.