Luis Valbuena Set to Begin Rehab Assignment.

Updated: April 23, 2017

When the Angels signed Luis Valbuena, they had designs to play him. A lot. Even after a torrid spring from C.J. Cron, the Angels appeared set to roll with Valbuena as their starting first baseman. Instead, Valbuena started the season on the DL after re-injuring his surgically repaired hamstring, and the Halos have yet to go with their preferred starting lineup. With Valbuena, the Angels have a solid defensive first baseman who’s also capable of playing shortstop or third base, as well as a lefty bat in a lineup without many. The Angels have never seemed keen on giving Cron a full-time shot at a starting gig, and he hasn’t exactly seized the job so far this season, with no home runs up to this point.

Now, Valbuena is set to begin a rehab assignment with Class A Advanced Inland Empire on Monday. He’s scheduled to play about five to seven games at multiple positions to be ready for what will probably be a full-time gig right away in Anaheim. Valbuena will instantly upgrade the infield defense, although Cron hasn’t been slouch there, and also add much-needed versatility to a Halos’ lineup that leans heavily to the right. Kole Calhoun, Cliff Pennington, Ben Revere, and Danny Espinosa are the only hitters that either hit from the left side or are switch hitters. Calhoun is the only real plus hitter in that group, so having another player capable of hitting the ball out of the park AND taking a walk, will be big for an offense that has been scuffling as of late. Valbuena is most likely going to step right in and be the starting first baseman.

Considering that Cron hasn’t hit a home run on top of his subpar .220/.259/.240 slash line, the real question is whether Cron can even stay on the major league roster over Jefry Marte. Marte hasn’t hit much better, with one home run to go along with a .179/.258/.321 slash line, but Marte has several things going for him over Cron. For one, Marte has defensive versatility. While he’s not particularly good defensively anywhere, he at least offers the option of being able to play in left field and third base, where Cron can only play at first. Marte has also been Mike Scioscia‘s go to option against lefties. If Cron doesn’t bat against lefties, when would he play? That seems the most obvious clue that Marte will hang on and Cron will get sent down. Either way, Valbuena should offer a much needed improvement in some key areas for this Halos’ team.

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