Beyond Fletch, Halos' middle infield up in the air

March 24th, 2022

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels have yet to determine how their middle infield will look to open the season, but they’re not low on options to pair with the versatile David Fletcher, who can play second base or shortstop.

Fletcher’s positioning largely depends on who impresses this spring to claim a starting role. Angels manager Joe Maddon stated Fletcher will get plenty of work at short to prepare for either scenario.

"There's a good chance he'll play there a lot this season," Maddon said. "He's really comfortable anywhere. I think he's Gold Glove-caliber at shortstop, too."

Middle-infield choices beyond Fletcher include Matt Duffy, Andrew Velazquez, Tyler Wade, Luis Rengifo and Jack Mayfield. Brendon Davis, who is dealing with side soreness, could find himself in the mix later in the season, as well as Michael Stefanic, who isn’t on the 40-man roster, but opened eyes with a strong season offensively in the Minors last year and is having a solid spring.

Here’s a rundown of the club’s options to start next to Fletcher for Opening Day on April 7 against the Astros at Angel Stadium:

Matt Duffy
Duffy, 31, is the favorite to claim a role alongside Fletcher, and he would start at second base in such a scenario. He's coming off a solid year offensively with the Cubs, hitting .287/.357/.381 with five homers and 30 RBIs in 97 games. Duffy, who signed a one-year deal worth $1.5 million on March 16, played 56 games at third base, 21 at second base, five at shortstop, three in left field and two at first base in 2021. The hot corner is his best position defensively, but the Angels have Anthony Rendon firmly entrenched there and Duffy said he’s comfortable at second.

Andrew Velazquez
The Angels claimed the 27-year-old Velazquez off waivers from the Yankees on Nov. 5 and he's considered a strong defender at short, which would allow Fletcher to remain at second base. Velazquez, though, has yet to get it going offensively in the Majors, batting .184/.249/.276 in 96 games across four seasons. He slashed .224/.235/.358 with one homer, six RBIs and four stolen bases in 28 games with New York last year. If the Halos believe they have enough offense in their lineup, he would be the best option defensively.

Tyler Wade
Wade, 27, is the speedster of the group, as he stole 17 bases in 103 games with the Yankees last year and has already dropped down two bunt singles this spring to go along with two stolen bases. Wade, who was acquired in a trade with the Yanks on Nov. 22 for a player to be named later, batted .268/.354/.323 with five doubles and five RBIs with New York in 2021. He played 31 games at shortstop, 27 at third base, 19 at second base and 25 in the outfield. Wade is considered more of a utility player and a pinch-runner, but he is certainly in the mix and also out of Minor League options, so he's expected to make the club.

Luis Rengifo
Rengifo, 25, has the most upside of the candidates and he can handle shortstop, much like he did in September. He hit .201/.246/.310 with six homers and 18 RBIs in 54 games with the Angels last season. There's a chance he could be sent down to Triple-A Salt Lake for more seasoning and play his way into a starting job later in the season.

Jack Mayfield
Mayfield, 31, has the most power of the group, hitting .224/.282/.414 with 10 homers and 36 RBIs in 75 games with the Angels last year. He mostly filled in for the injured Rendon, playing 66 games at third base and 12 at shortstop. Mayfield has been seeing action at short this spring, though he is more likely to be used in a utility role this season. He also has a Minor League option, which gives the Halos some flexibility.