With Simmons return soon, how does the middle infield shape up?

Updated: June 10, 2016

When Andrelton Simmons went down on May 8th, the initial diagnosis on his thumb was at least a 6-8 week recovery. Some even said he would be out more than 8 weeks, a possibly mid-July return, or even miss the whole season. Despite the fact that he has hit .219 with a .526 OPS, his once-in-a-generation defense makes him extremely valuable

Shortly after, the Angels acquired Brendan Ryan from the Washington Nationals to become the utility infielder while Cliff Pennington would take over the starting shortstop spot. However just days later on May 12th, Cliff Pennington suffered a hamstring injury. This gave Gregorio Petit the opportunity he had been waiting for years, a shot to prove he belongs in the majors.

Ryan and Petit split the time to begin, however Petit started most games and played at a high level. He very quickly became the starting shortstop, hitting well and providing great defense. Then his time seemed to be ending, as Cliff Pennington returned on May 28th, but he quickly re-injured his hamstring on May 31st, giving Petit more time to prove himself.

Since then, Petit has risen his play, as he’s hit .385 and had a streak of 4 straight multi-hit games (as of Thursday night). At the same time, Simmons is prepping a return for this weekend and Pennington can return in about a week. With Petit’s high play and Simmons’s value, it has risen the question of how should the middle infield look

Scenario 1: Ease Simmons back

Simmons has crushed his recovery time, as he would only need 5 weeks to recovery if he returns this weekend. Simmons is just 26 years old, so it makes sense he could come back quicker from injuries. However with the array of injuries the Angels have suffered, why risk re-injuring a key part in an elite defender’s hand? Granted this is a different situation, but we’ve seen the Angels be extremely cautious with Tyler Skaggs, so why not be careful with Simmons? This scenario makes sense because Petit has played well of late, so if he starts to cool down, then the decision to release Petit will be much easier and Pennington can become the utility infielder. However if Petit continues to play well, then there would be four highly capable infielders fighting for two spots

Scenario 2: Split the time evenly between all three (Simmons, Giavotella, and Petit)

We saw this when Pennington came back from injury, but never saw how it played out since Pennington got hurt again. Johnny Giavotella is in the midst of his own offensive slump right now and Simmons has a weak bat, so why not allow the better hitter right now to get at bats and play more games? However again with Pennington returning shortly after Simmons, this wouldn’t allow Petit to prove himself and could lead to an unfair release.

Scenario 3: Second base platoon

We also saw this earlier in the year, however it was between Pennington and Giavotella. Johnny G has played well this year after a break out 2015, but it is extremely tough to bench a player who has played well in Petit. Given Simmons is an elite player, he could come back being given his starting shortstop spot. This would then prompt an even platoon with Giavotella and Petit until one of them can pull away from the other. Possibly then if Petit’s play drops, then it’ll be an easy decision to release him

Scenario 4: Trade Andrelton Simmons

This would be huge. The Angels gave up a ton to get Simmons and with the worst farm in recent memory and a possible tanking situation playing out, why not at least listen to phone calls. What if Petit grows to be the next Johnny Giavotella, who just needed an extended crack at the majors to prove himself to be an everyday MLBer.

With everyday looking more and more like the Angels are going to be sellers at the trade deadline, Simmons is a very moveable pice. This however would take huge confidence in management that Petit is truly capable of being an everyday starter and can be the 2o17 Opening Day starter, which I highly doubt the Angels do. The Angels have to at least consider calls, since Simmons is locked up for 5 more years and the potential return could be ground-breaking.

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