I suspect the Angels' starting catcher next season will be someone who is not currently in the organization, unless Francisco Arcia continues to drive in runs at a record-setting pace. The club's depth at the position has been significantly winnowed this year, not only because of the Martin Maldonado trade,
I suspect the Angels' starting catcher next season will be someone who is not currently in the organization, unless Francisco Arcia continues to drive in runs at a record-setting pace. The club's depth at the position has been significantly winnowed this year, not only because of the Martin Maldonado trade, but also because of the departures of Carlos Perez and Juan Graterol.
Rene Rivera is expected to return from knee surgery in August, but he will be a free agent at the end of the year. Matt Thaiss and Taylor Ward, two of the Angels' top prospects, both caught in college, but they've since been converted to infielders, so there are currently no catchers on MLB Pipeline's list of the club's Top 30 Prospects.
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It's a deficiency that will have to be addressed this offseason, though Jose Briceno and Arcia will get extended looks for now. The Angels could pursue a reunion with Maldonado, whom they clearly value as a defender, but he will be 32 years old and is a below-average hitter. Yasmani Grandal, Jonathan Lucroy and Wilson Ramos will be among the other catchers available on the free-agent market, though I'm sure the Angels will also explore trading for a younger, controllable backstop.
Manager Mike Scioscia recently said Ward has impressed the organization, particularly with the offensive strides he's made since transitioning from catcher to third base, so he's certainly on the Angels' radar.
"Taylor, from the offensive side, has really blossomed," Scioscia said. "I think the third-base switch is great for him, just from his athleticism, his ability to let his bat really start to grow. … We're naturally excited about his future."
I think the Angels would like to see a little more progress from Ward defensively, but he'll have to be added to the 40-man roster this fall to be shielded from the Rule 5 Draft, so it seems likely that he'll be called up at some point this season.
I understand the concern among fans over the staggering amount of injuries the Angels have had in recent years, but I really don't think the training staff is the underlying problem. After the 2016 season, the team expanded its training staff and implemented a new routine in an attempt to curb pitching injuries, so it's definitely tried to be proactive when it comes to injury prevention.
As general manager Billy Eppler recently said, the team is always collecting subjective and objective data from players, and he's found no correlation between the various injuries that have afflicted the Angels. It should also be noted that some injured pitchers, including Blake Wood, Shohei Ohtani and Alex Meyer, came to the Angels with pre-existing conditions.
While it may feel like the Angels are the only team that has been crushed by injuries, they're not. Just look around the league. It's a problem everywhere.
With a starting outfield of Michael Trout, Kole Calhoun and Justin Upton, the Angels don't have a ton of playing time to give to their fourth outfielder. Eric Young could draw some starts, but I think he'll primarily be used off the bench as a pinch-runner and late-inning defensive replacement.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.