The Angels will be without Luis Valbuena for an estimated 4-6 weeks after the first baseman suffered a Grade 1 strain in his right hamstring, the club announced. Valbuena suffered the injury yesterday, forcing him to leave a Spring Training game.
Valbuena was signed to a two-year, $15MM contract in January and slated to get the bulk of playing time at first base for the Halos. C.J. Cron will handle first base in Valbuena’s absence, with Jefry Marte in line to pick up some at-bats against right-handed pitching. Albert Pujols underwent foot surgery in December and will only be limited to DH duty in the near future — fears that Pujols could miss the start of the season have seemingly been allayed, since Pujols has been playing regularly since March 10 and hitting very well.
[Updated Angels depth chart at Roster Resource]
While a Grade 1 is the least-serious type of hamstring strain, the injury is still quite troubling given that Valbuena underwent surgery on this same hamstring last August while still a member of the Astros. It’s worth noting that Valbuena originally hit the DL with that injury in late July and missed almost a month before having to undergo his season-ending surgery, so it’s clear that the Angels will be quite cautious in order to prevent more lingering issues. The Angels don’t really have anywhere else to put Valbuena besides first base since Pujols looks to be locked into the DH role.
Valbuena, 31, has hit .243/.334/.442 with 54 homers in 1382 PA for the Cubs and Astros since the start of the 2014 season, including a .260/.357/.459 slash line and 16 big flies over 342 PA for Houston in 2016. Valbuena has hit right-handed pitching much better than southpaws over that stretch, so Cron would’ve likely been in line anyway for a good chunk of playing time when the Angels faced a left-handed starter. There was some trade buzz around Cron earlier this winter in the wake of Valbuena’s signing, though if Valbuena’s hamstring will be an ongoing issue, there seems virtually no chance Cron will be moved.