ANAHEIM -- It's almost 2019, and the Angels are ready to move on from an '18 season that saw them in contention early, then crumble due to injuries within the starting rotation.
The Angels know how important it is to add pitching is to their roster this offseason. They're close to being set on the position-player side, outside of finding a veteran catcher, but there are still plenty of questions about the club going into 2019, which brings us to this week's Inbox.
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How much playing time do you see Jose Pujols getting? Any chance the Angels buy him out?
-- Mike, Upland, Calif.
The Angels are still working out how much playing time will go to the combination of first basemen Pujols and Justin Bour as well as Shohei Ohtani, who will be limited to designated hitter after his Tommy John surgery. Manager Brad Ausmus said at the Winter Meetings that he doesn't believe Ohtani will be ready for the start of the 2019 season, which means Pujols and Bour can split duties at first and DH early in the year.
But once Ohtani returns, he figures to get the bulk of the time at DH, which means Pujols and Bour would share duties at first. It's too early to say if it'll be a true platoon, but the left-handed-hitting Bour figures to see more playing time against right-handers, which could limit Pujols to seeing mostly lefties. Pujols, though, has actually hit right-handers better the past two years, so it'll be interesting to see how it plays out. As for a buyout, Pujols' contract is guaranteed through the 2021 season, so he'll get another shot to prove he's healthy after left knee surgery.
What do you make of the Angels' struggles to find a true/long-term third baseman over the past decade, and will it be rectified anytime soon?
-- Jeremy, Ventura, Calif.
It's an interesting question, as I helped cover the Angels from 2008-10 and remember the transition at third base from Chone Figgins to Brandon Wood, who had incredible Minor League numbers but never panned out. Outside of a few years from Alberto Callaspo from '10-13, it's mostly been a revolving door at the position for the Angels.
The Angels don't have any third basemen among their Top 30 prospects, per MLB Pipeline, but Zack Cozart remains under contract for the next two seasons and could play third, depending on how the rest of the infield competition goes between David Fletcher, Thomas La Stella and Taylor Ward. Of course, Orange County native Nolan Arenado is set to be a free agent after next season and he'd be a major addition to the club, but it's much too early to speculate if that's a possibility at this point. He'd be an ideal solution at third, but he's going to generate a ton of interest and the Rockies will also try to extend his contract.
When do you see Jo Adell getting call up to the big league club?
-- Zack H.
Jo Adell is one of the fastest-rising prospects in the Majors and a player I heard a lot about -- even when I was covering the Twins. Adell, the No. 15 overall prospect per MLB Pipeline, reached Double-A Mobile last year as a 19-year-old, and he hit .290/.355/.543 with 20 homers, 32 doubles and 15 stolen bases in 99 games across three levels.
Adell is likely to start at Double-A again in 2019, as he didn't have as strong of numbers there, batting .238/.324/.429 with two homers and six doubles in 17 games. But once you're at the Double-A level, you're on the Major League radar, so there remains at least a chance he could make his debut in '19. It would be aggressive, but if he performs like he did last year, it could happen.
Who do you think will be the closer next season?
-- Chris W.
It's hard to say at this point, as general manager Billy Eppler said at the Winter Meetings that he believes the club already has three to four relievers who could be the closer. But the Angels could also find a reliever with closing experience in free agency.
As for the in-house closers, the Angels really liked what they saw from Ty Buttrey down the stretch, while Eppler also pointed out that Hansel Robles and Justin Anderson finished strong. He said Cam Bedrosian has shown flashes and has some closing experience, while the club also believes that newly acquired reliever Luis Garcia should be able to bounce back because of his elite stuff. So there are some interesting names in that mix, including Keynan Middleton, who will be returning from Tommy John surgery and has been referred to as a possible closer of the future.