Posted on June 16, 2019, by Bryan Zarpentine

Los Angeles Angels Justin Upton
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The Los Angeles Angels have spent most of the 2019 season just trying to stay afloat. However, the Halos appear ready to welcome back two important pieces who could help save their season. Manager Brad Ausmus announced Sunday that outfielder Justin Upton will be activated on Monday and make his season debut when the Angels begin a series with the Blue Jays. Ausmus also indicated that shortstop Andrelton Simmons could be less than a week away from returning as well.

Upton has spent the entire season on the Injured List while recovering from a turf toe injury. Outside of Mike Trout, he’s arguably the team’s most important offensive player. Needless to say, his absence has contributed to the Angels being two games under .500. But after two and a half months on the shelf and a few minor league rehab games, Upton is ready to begin his 2019 campaign.

“It’ll be good to have him back,” Ausmus said of Upton on Sunday. “Obviously, he’s been an offensive performer for a long time. It’s a big bat to add to our lineup.”

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The Angels have actually gotten some surprising production from Upton’s replacements. Brian Goodwin has been solid, hitting .289 with an OPS of .774. Cesar Puello has also come out of nowhere since getting called up at the end of May, hitting .390 with three home runs and three doubles in just 41 at-bats. Those two have certainly made it a little easier for the Halos to survive Upton’s absence.

However, neither brings to the table what the Angels expect to get from Upton. The 31-year-old veteran has hit at least 30 home runs in each of the past three seasons. He will immediately add depth to the Los Angeles lineup behind Trout and Shohei Ohtani. While Goodwin and Puello have viable understudies, the Angels are in the bottom third of the majors in terms of production from left field.

“It’s great to get him back,” Goodwin said of Upton’s impending return. “He’s somebody that’s a prime piece in the organization. Getting him back, we’ll be close to getting this thing turned around.”

While the Angels were expecting Upton to return sometime in June, Simmons possibly returning this week is a surprise. The Gold Glove shortstop has been on the IL since May 21 with a Grade 3 ankle sprain. He was initially expected to miss eight to 12 weeks of action. But less than a month after his injury, Simmons is close to a rehab assignment and could be back with the Angels by next weekend.

In addition to being an elite defensive shortstop, Simmons is an important offensive contributor for the Angels. While his power is somewhat limited, Simmons was hitting .298 with an OPS of .738 at the time of his injury. He also spent the early part of the season hitting either 3rd or 4th in the L.A. lineup. With Upton coming back, Simmons will hit further down in the order, giving the Angels far more depth than they had earlier in the season.

Obviously, the Angels have a lot of work to do to become a serious playoff contender. However, they are just two games under .500 and 3.5 games out of a Wild Card spot. Considering they’ve been without Upton all season and Simmons for nearly a month, things could be worse. To be fair, they still have plenty of flaws and obstacles to overcome. However, getting Upton and Simmons back over the next week will help immensely and could become a turning point for their season.

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