ANAHEIM -- After a productive offseason, the Angels are poised to enter Spring Training with a significantly improved roster, one they hope will lead them into the postseason for the first time since 2014.Barring injuries, the Angels seem mostly set on the positional side, but they'll likely have tough decisions
ANAHEIM -- After a productive offseason, the Angels are poised to enter Spring Training with a significantly improved roster, one they hope will lead them into the postseason for the first time since 2014.
Barring injuries, the Angels seem mostly set on the positional side, but they'll likely have tough decisions to make regarding the composition of their starting rotation and bullpen. The competition will officially begin on Tuesday, when pitchers and catchers are set to report to Tempe, Ariz., for the start of Spring Training.
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Plenty could change between now and Opening Day, but here's an early guess at who might crack the Angels' 25-man roster this year.
Catcher (2):Martin Maldonado, Rene Rivera
The Angels are set behind the plate, with Maldonado reprising his role as the club's starting catcher and Rivera serving as his backup after signing a one-year, $2.8 million contract this offseason. They should be a formidable defensive tandem, as Maldonado captured his first Gold Glove Award last year and Rivera is known for his strong throwing arm.
First base (3):Luis Valbuena, Jose Pujols, C.J. Cron
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Valbuena and Pujols are projected to garner most of the starts, with Pujols and Shohei Ohtani splitting time at the designated hitter spot. That arrangement limits the playing time for Cron, who would likely only start against left-handed pitchers on days when Pujols is serving as the DH.
Second base (1):Ian Kinsler
The Angels struggled to get consistent production out of their second basemen last year, prompting them to search for potential upgrades this offseason. After canvassing the market, they decided to swing a trade with the Tigers for Kinsler, who is coming off a down season but has long been one of the better second basemen in the league.
Third base (1):Zack Cozart
A longtime shortstop, Cozart is expected to shift to third base for the first time in his career after agreeing to a three-year, $38 million deal with the Angels this offseason. Cozart's versatility will be invaluable for the Angels, as he is also expected to serve as the club's backup middle infielder.
Shortstop (1):Andrelton Simmons
The Angels have an all-world defender in Simmons, who will enter his third season as the club's starting shortstop. Cozart will also be available to play short when Simmons needs a day off, a luxury few teams currently enjoy.
Outfield (4):Michael Trout, Justin Upton, Kole Calhoun, Eric Young
The Angels' outfield will be among the most talented units in baseball, with Trout in center, Upton in left and Calhoun in right. Young, who re-signed with the club on a Minor League deal, appears to be the frontrunner for the fourth outfield job, though Rymer Liriano and prospect Michael Hermosillo could also push for the spot.
Starting pitching (6):Garrett Richards, Ohtani, Tyler Skaggs, Andrew Heaney, Matthew Shoemaker, JC Ramirez
The Angels are leaning toward using a six-man rotation in 2018 to help ease Ohtani's transition to the Majors, so an additional starting job could be up for grabs this spring. Richards, Ohtani, Skaggs, Heaney and Shoemaker seem like safe bets to make the Opening Day rotation if healthy, but Ramirez, Nick Tropeano and Parker Bridwell all figure to be in the mix for the final spot.
Bullpen (7):Richard Parker, Jim Johnson, Cam Bedrosian, Keynan Middleton, Jose Alvarez, Blake Wood, Noe Ramirez
Parker handled most of the save situations down the stretch last season, so he'll likely get the opportunity to pitch the ninth again this year. Johnson, who was acquired from the Braves in November, Bedrosian and Middleton could also factor into the closing mix and figure to be used in high-leverage situations. Alvarez is the lone left-handed reliever on the Angels' 40-man roster, but non-roster invitee Ian Krol could emerge as another lefty option for the club. Wood and Ramirez impressed in their short stints with the Angels last season, but they will have to prove themselves again this spring and fend off competition from Rule 5 Draft pick Luke Bard, Dayan Diaz, Felix Pena and Eduardo Paredes.
Maria Guardado covers the Angels for MLB.com. Follow her on Twitter and Facebook.