Wash's potential Halos lineup includes shakeup at leadoff spot

February 23rd, 2024

TEMPE, Ariz. -- The Angels haven’t even played their first Cactus League game yet, but manager Ron Washington already has some ideas on how the batting order could look come Opening Day.

Washington initially pegged first baseman as his leadoff batter but said he now envisions him as the club’s No. 2 hitter because of the way he gets on base and handles the bat. Infielder or right fielder could serve as leadoff hitter, while Washington sees hitting third and batting cleanup.

“I want somebody who has some speed,” Washington said. “I don’t want Schanuel to get on the bag and then clog them. Now, if I have to come back and make him the leadoff hitter because that’s what he’s done, I’m not saying it can’t change. But I want him in the second hole because he can move the baseball around the field and the second hole is situational.”

Standing 6-foot-4 and 220 pounds with below-average speed, Schanuel wasn’t a prototypical leadoff hitter in his first taste of the Majors last season. But he did get on base plenty, reaching safely in all 29 games he played and posting a .402 on-base percentage in 132 plate appearances. He only hit one homer and three doubles, but the Angels believe the 22-year-old will grow into his power, especially if he’s taken out of the leadoff spot.

Rengifo has the speed to lead off and became a more patient hitter last season. He batted .264 in both 2022 and '23, but he drew just 17 walks with a .294 on-base percentage in '22 compared with 41 and a .339 OBP in '23. Rengifo was even better in the second half last year, slashing .318/.374/.587 in 50 games, and now the Angels are working on him bringing that consistency throughout the entire season.

“His swing is getting there,” Washington said. “We try to eliminate those highs and lows. We just want highs, and a low happens for about three or four or five at-bats, and then you’re high again. And that's what you call consistency.”

Moniak is coming off a strong year that saw him hit .280/.307/.495, but he drew only nine walks in 85 games. Unless he becomes a more patient hitter this year, he might not be the ideal candidate to lead off, but Washington loves Moniak’s bat-to-ball skills. And like Rengifo, Moniak possesses above-average running speed.

“He’s a professional hitter,” Washington said. “He can handle the bat. I know there was a thing where he was swinging and missing a lot. But the swinging and missing a lot was something mechanical. But he’s a professional hitter, man.”

Washington also said he’s fine with Rendon hitting fourth even if he doesn’t hit many homers because he believes Rendon knows how to drive in runs situationally. Rendon is a career .300 hitter with runners in scoring position, including hitting .263 with an .843 OPS in such situations last year.

“He can consistently get hits and drive in runs with runners on,” Washington said. “He's gonna drive in runs with doubles. That's just as good as hitting it out of the ballpark. You don't have to be in the fourth spot and be a home run hitter.”

After Rendon, Washington said he sees Taylor Ward as his fifth hitter, Brandon Drury sixth and Logan O’Hoppe seventh. Jo Adell, Aaron Hicks or Moniak would likely hit eighth, and is slated to be the club’s No. 9 hitter. Washington views Neto as a second leadoff hitter and said it’s a role that Neto is embracing.

“Neto told me he wants to hit ninth,” Washington said. “He loves restarting and turning the lineup over. He wants to be on the bag and score runs with the big guys at the plate. He said he wanted to hit ninth, and that kid had no hesitation. He knew exactly what he wanted to do.”

Washington said he doesn’t see the Angels changing lineups or batting orders often, as he wants to create some stability. But he also knows things can change over the course of a season and will adapt as necessary.

“I'm going to make sure nobody gets stale,” Washington said. “But because it's a lefty or a righty, I’m not going to be changing my lineup all the time. There will be some times when I have to do that, but it’s not going to be like if this guy is throwing, this guy has to play. We’ll feel it out.”