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Simmons a sure thing at short; Cozart insurance

Angels have defensive wizard who broke out offensively in '17, plus another great shortstop at third
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 fourth 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' situations behind the plate, at second base and at third base. Today we'll examine shortstop.

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 fourth 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' situations behind the plate, at second base and at third base. Today we'll examine shortstop.

ANAHEIM -- Andrelton Simmons has long been one of the best defensive shortstops in baseball, but he distinguished himself even further in 2017 by putting together his best offensive season to date.

Simmons, 28, batted .278 with a career-high .752 OPS and hit 14 home runs for the Angels last season, his most since belting 17 for the Braves in 2013. Prior to '17, Simmons had hit .261 with a .671 OPS over five seasons.

Video: HOU@LAA: Simmons belts a go-ahead three-run home run

Simmons' strides at the plate, coupled with his outstanding defense, made him one of the most valuable players in the Majors last season, leading to his eighth-place finish in voting for the American League MVP Award. Now a major piece of the Angels' young core, Simmons will return for his third season as the club's everyday shortstop and look to build on his breakout campaign at the plate.

Simmons' calling card will always be his all-world defense, however. After leading the Majors with 32 Defensive Runs Saved in 2017, according to FanGraphs, Simmons captured his third career Gold Glove Award, and first with the Angels. He'll continue to form the backbone of the infield, which promises to be even stronger defensively in 2018 due to the additions of second baseman Ian Kinsler and Zack Cozart, who will shift from shortstop to third base.

Video: Kinsler discusses new double-play combo with Simmons

Simmons started a team-high 158 games last season, but when he needs a day off, the Angels will have a ready-made backup in Cozart. In Simmons and Cozart, the Angels have two of the top fielding shortstops in the Majors, as they rank first (144) and third (44), respectively, in Defensive Runs Saved at that position since 2013.

Video: Rogers on the Angels being the most improved team

Behind Simmons and Cozart on the shortstop depth chart is Nolan Fontana, who reached the Majors last season and went 1-for-20 with one home run in 12 games with the Angels.

Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com.

Los Angeles Angels, Zack Cozart, Andrelton Simmons