5 observations from Angels spring camp

March 18th, 2021

The Angels are exactly two weeks away from Opening Day, as they host the White Sox on April 1 with right-hander Dylan Bundy slated to start opposite fellow right-hander Lucas Giolito.

It’s been an intriguing Angels camp with plenty of optimism, especially surrounding two-way star and the rotation. The roster is also starting to round into shape, but there are still competitions for the utility role, the fourth outfielder role and in the bullpen.

Here’s a look at five observations from Angels camp and what it could mean for the club during the regular season:

1. Ohtani is back
After dealing with injuries in 2018 and ’19, Ohtani never quite returned to his form from '18, when he immediately became a two-way sensation and won American League Rookie of the Year honors. But Ohtani is now healthy and has perhaps been the most impressive player in baseball this spring.

He’s been incredible at the plate, hitting .600 (12-for-20) with a team-leading four homers, including two over the batter’s eye at Tempe Diablo Stadium. And on the mound, he’s reached as high as 100 mph and has struck out nine batters in four innings. His ERA is a bit inflated from a few inherited runners scoring, but his splitter looks unhittable and his fastball command is much better than last year.

Ohtani is the club’s X-factor, as there’s nobody else in baseball who can impact the game the way he can both at the plate and on the mound. Angels manager Joe Maddon has also noticed a much more confident Ohtani, which will only serve him well after a forgettable ’19 season that saw him scuffle in his return from Tommy John surgery and a left knee operation.

2. Cobb and Quintana looking sharp
Of course, it’s only Spring Training, so it’s hard to get too excited, but the club’s new additions in right-hander and lefty have both fared well this spring. They join a six-man rotation that already includes Dylan Bundy, Andrew Heaney, Griffin Canning and Ohtani.

Cobb has posted a 2.35 ERA in 7 2/3 innings, but more importantly, he’s showing better mechanics and improved velocity from last season with the Orioles. Cobb credited a visit to Driveline in Seattle for helping him get his delivery back on track, especially with his lower half. If Cobb can maintain those mechanics and that velocity, he could be due for a bounce-back year.

Quintana’s biggest issue is he was limited to only 10 innings in '20 due to a cut on his finger and left lat inflammation, but he’s shown good command this spring to go along with his normal velocity. He’s yet to allow a run in 9 2/3 innings pitched this spring.

3. Peña’s injury opens door for another in the bullpen
was a lock to make the bullpen until he was diagnosed with a right hamstring strain that will keep him out of action for two to four weeks and cause him to miss Opening Day. Closer Raisel Iglesias, Ty Buttrey, Mike Mayers, Alex Claudio and Junior Guerra are currently locks, essentially giving the Angels three open spots in their bullpen.

will make the club if he remains out of options but could be stretched out in the Minors, if he’s given an extra year. The Angels are still waiting on the ruling. is likely to claim one of those spots but will need to get more work in after experiencing back spasms. could also be added to the 40-man roster as a long reliever. And lefty Patrick Sandoval remains in the mix with others such as Jesse Chavez. Rule 5 reliever Jose Alberto Rivera isn’t likely to see enough action to make the club and is likely to be placed on waivers at the end of spring.

The club also could go outside the organization via free agency or a waiver claim before Opening Day as well, both Maddon and general manager Perry Minasian said Wednesday.

4. Barreto, Rengifo still battling for utility role
and are still competing for a super-utility role, and Barreto has a slight edge because of he is out of Minor League options and would have to be exposed to waivers if he doesn’t make the Opening Day roster. But both players are faring well, which will make the decision more difficult.

Barreto, a former top prospect with the A's, is hitting .368 (7-for-19) in 12 games this spring and homered on Wednesday night. Rengifo has debuted a new hitting stance, holding his hands up higher at the plate, and is hitting .316 (6-for-19) with a homer and six RBIs in 12 games.

5. Lagares the frontrunner for final outfield spot
Non-roster invitee has had a strong spring, entering Thursday hitting .455 (10-for-22), which gives him a leg up on Taylor Ward and fellow non-roster invitees Jon Jay and Scott Schebler. Lagares, a Gold Glove Award winner with the Mets in 2014, can play all three outfield spots, which also gives him an edge. It’s not set in stone but Lagares is looking more and more like he’ll be added to the 40-man and make the Opening Day roster.