Globe iconLogin iconRecap iconSearch iconTickets icon

news

MLB News

Halos hope to feature Pujols more at 1B

MLB.com @mi_guardado

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster. This is the sixth installment of a multi-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. We've already looked at the Angels' catchers, third basemen, shortstops, second basemen and outfielders. Today we'll examine the first basemen.

ANAHEIM -- Among the more intriguing storylines to follow at Angels camp this spring will be how the club decides to manage its logjam at first base.

With the start of Spring Training drawing closer, anticipation is building for the 2018 season. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to Tempe, Ariz., by Feb. 13, so it's time to break down the Angels' roster. This is the sixth installment of a multi-part Around the Horn series taking a position-by-position look at the projected starters and backups heading into the season. We've already looked at the Angels' catchers, third basemen, shortstops, second basemen and outfielders. Today we'll examine the first basemen.

ANAHEIM -- Among the more intriguing storylines to follow at Angels camp this spring will be how the club decides to manage its logjam at first base.

The Angels are currently projected to use some combination of C.J. Cron, Luis Valbuena and Albert Pujols, who is expected to play more first base in 2018 to free up at-bats for Japanese two-way star Shohei Ohtani at designated hitter.

But the Angels might not have spots for all three players on their Opening Day roster, especially since they appear to be leaning toward a six-man starting rotation, which would limit them to a three-man bench and create a greater need for flexibility among their position players.

• Richards open to potential six-man rotation

Last season, Valbuena and Cron handled the bulk of first-base duties for the Angels, whose .709 OPS at the position was tied with the Mariners for last in the Majors.

Valbuena hit .199 after signing a two-year, $15 million deal with the Angels in January 2017, though he also posted a .727 OPS and crushed 22 home runs over 117 games. The 32-year-old veteran infielder is one of the few left-handed bats on the club's roster and can play first or third base, so he should garner a fair amount of playing time in 2018.

Video: SEA@LAA: Cron plates Pujols with a single to left

Cron, 28, is coming off an up-and-down season that included two demotions to Triple-A Salt Lake, though he enjoyed an offensive resurgence in the second half of the season that came with regular playing time. He finished the season slashing .248/.305/.437 with 16 home runs over 100 games. As a right-handed hitter who can only play first base, Cron is a potential trade candidate, though the Angels could also keep him to retain their depth and guard against injuries.

Video: Eppler discusses handling an aging Pujols

Pujols started just six games at first base in 2017, but the Angels hope he'll be able to play the field more often this season. Past offseason surgeries have impeded Pujols' ability to train ahead of Spring Training, but the 38-year-old slugger did not require any procedures this winter, allowing him to focus on improving his conditioning and nutrition. The Angels believe a normal offseason could help revitalize Pujols, who hit 23 home runs with 101 RBIs in 2017 but also registered career lows in batting average (.241) and OPS (.672).

"He's going to come back with a vengeance," Angels manager Mike Scioscia said at the end of last season.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels, C.J. Cron, Albert Pujols, Luis Valbuena