While the thrill of postseason baseball continues to keep fans occupied through this Halloween season, the Angels organization has been quietly making moves, and we have to admit — not all of them make sense.
Here’s a breakdown of what’s happening in Angels coaching right now:
Behind the Plate
Let’s start with the talent behind the plate. It was reported that catching coach José Molina will not return to the team in 2022, and with an extensive knowledge of both the Angels farm system and the major league organization, this move has us scratching our heads a little bit.
Molina first joined the Angels organization in 2015 as a minor league catching coach before later joining the major league team in 2019. Before becoming a member of the coaching staff, Molina made his mark with the Halos as a catcher and a member of the victorious 2002 World Series team.
With play being suspended in 2020 due to the coronavirus pandemic, Molina’s coaching style was best represented in the 2021 season where fans saw the strong performances of Angels catchers Max Stassi and Kurt Suzuki. Despite a rough season for the Halos, it’s no secret that both Stassi and Suzuki held their own behind the plate, often providing talented counterparts for the work of some of our best pitchers including Shohei Ohtani (3.18 ERA) and Raisel Iglesias (2.57 ERA).
Molina said in an article published in The Athletic that it was not his idea to leave the organization, and they made that decision for him.
On the bright side, maybe this move will open the door for new talent to inspire catchers in the seasons to come, but we have to admit that there’s something bittersweet about letting go of a coach that barely made it to the majors a couple years ago, especially given his attachment and experience with a team that is going to need all the excitement and support they can get going into an offseason of growth, major moves and change.
On the Third Base Line
Okay, we might be onto something here. Third base coach Brian Butterfield was let go earlier this month, according to MLB Network reporter, Jon Heyman. And after a lengthy season of skittish base running and fans yelling, “Just send the runner Butterfield!!!,” we think it’s safe to say that a change in this position might be the key to smarter offensive baseball, especially if we can sign the players to back it up.
Angels let go 3B coach Brian Butterfield. Butterfield, who previously coached for the Yankees, Diamondbacks, Red Sox, Blue Jays and Cubs, was an elite infield coach who helped Derek Jeter learn to play shortstop after starting out error-prone in minors.— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) October 18, 2021
This year, Butterfield was recognized by Derek Jeter for his part in helping him win several Gold Glove awards, but despite that recognition and his previous experience with the Arizona Diamondbacks, the Toronto Blue Jays and the Boston Red Sox, it was not enough for the Angels to keep him around for next season.
After following Joe Maddon from the Chicago Cubs to the Angels in 2020, Butterfield rounded out his fourth year by Maddon’s side in major league baseball, but we don’t see him retiring from MLB anytime soon. If his rich past in baseball is any indication, Butterfield will likely take flight to another team before the 2022 season begins.
And in Scouting
Scouting director Matt Swanson also reportedly lost his position this week. On Oct. 4, general manager Perry Minasian said that part of the focus for next season will fall on pitching, and if we look at Swanson’s record, he tried to fix the bullpen, but his attempts were too little, too late to save a struggling season on the mound.
Matt Swanson has lost his job as #Angels scouting director. He oversaw the last 5 drafts, starting with 2017 (Jo Adell). No word yet on his replacement.— Jeff Fletcher (@JeffFletcherOCR) October 20, 2021
And now there’s this news, so we think it’s safe to say that the Angels are looking for someone who can get the job done a little faster.
Swanson has been with the organization for over five years, and while he was responsible for the drafting of some of the best talent we saw last season including Jo Adell and current MLB top 100 prospect Reid Detmers, only nine players have made it to the 40-man roster from the 2017-2021 drafts.
Of course, that doesn’t fall solely on Swanson’s shoulders. Out of the top 30 MLB farm systems, the Angels organization ranked 24th, which means that Swanson often faced slim pickings in the bullpen department. Nine players was the best he could do with a system that needs more work.
Swanson tried to switch things up this year by drafting all pitchers, but the move didn’t prove quite as successful with the major league bullpen continuing to struggle without an impressive line of talent to draw from.
When it comes to this move, we think Angels fans have to do what we do best — hope that it all works out.
On the one hand, it seems like a move out of left field, especially since it looks like the real work that needs to be done remains rooted in the farm system, not in the scouting department. But on the other hand, we desperately need change, and this could be something that pushes us into a new age of drafting prospective Angels superstars.
Yes, we like the “glass half full’’ perspective here.
In other staffing news:
- Connor Hinchliffe was hired as a pitching analyst. He formerly worked at Driveline Baseball.
- Chris Carpenter, who formerly worked for the St. Louis Cardinals, will join the minor league organization as a mental skills coach for MiLB pitchers.