By Ryan Falla, AngelsWin.com Columnist
There is no more difficult job in baseball than heading the Angels organization as the General Manager. Short on staff necessary to encompass the responsibilities of an entire organization, Perry Minasian tirelessly carries the responsibilities of success on his shoulders as he guides the Angels through a disastrous season, the few bright spots in this Shakespearean tragedy coming through the effectiveness of Minasian’s drafting strategies and ability to spot elevated talent in young ballplayers. We’ve spent an entire season harping on the various failures of ownership, the shortcomings on the behalf of medical and training, and the general failure of player performance, and rightfully so. Many of these failures can be attributed to a neglected, decaying organizational infrastructure that does little promote player excellency, yet despite these internal failures that existed long before Perry Minasian our GM has gone above and beyond to bring in young athletes with the grit and gumption to rise above these mediocrities and create within themselves a bright future for Angel fans.
“There's common traits you look for, abilities are obviously one of them. There's got to be a little bit of actual self-motivation to get the most out of your ability. Internal makeup and what makes you tick, we talk about all the time. We want players that wake up thinking about it, go to bed, thinking about it, obsess about it. We have a great group here of talented young players that have come from all different places and are different ages. When you watch this particular club play [Inland Empire 66ers] the effort levels are outstanding. That's something we've talked about and implemented. We created an expectation that to play here there has to be that type of effort.”
Key word: self-motivation. From a fan perspective it seems as if the Angels have been populated with athletes lacking motivation, without naming names you can easily recount certain veteran players that bring this effect to mind. On the other hand, however, we've witnessed the excellence of future stars such as Logan O’Hoppe/Zach Neto/Ben Joyce/Nolan Schanuel etc., all by way of Perry Minasian. Going beyond what we've seen at the Majors, seeping all the way down to the Minor League Levels, is a brand new system for success implemented piece by piece through the wunderkind of Minasian’s carefully crafted youth-movement. Perry brings a wealth of experience to the ballclub, himself having come from celebrated systems whose successes were built almost entirely on the quality of youth nurtured in the lowest levels of those organizations. This is not just some throwaway experiment by a GM grasping at straws, this is a level headed, deliberate process enacted by an experienced auteur whose executive habits have been molded by winning organizations.
“Building a young core is really, really important. That's something we've talked about and harped on since I've walked in the door. I've been a part of some pretty good organizations. I was in Texas; we had Teixeira, Blaylock, Young and Kinsler. Being in Atlanta with Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr., Ozzie Albies, Max Fried, I can go on and on. That’s something we're trying to establish here. We've had some significant breakthroughs this season that we're excited about. It's the makeup of each guy, they've committed to being as good as they can be. They have high expectations, they enjoy winning, they hate losing, which is really, really important.”
It is not enough to just love winning, you have to hate losing. Sometimes it doesn't feel as all of the Angels big league crop hates losing enough to make a difference. You can look into the Angels dugout after games to see who truly hates these losing ways, and I can tell you right now it isn't as many of them as it should be. Coincidentally enough, the few players on this team that speak out against the losing culture that has permeated this club happen to be the young Minasian acquisitions. The success of the Low A Inland Empire 66ers on the 2023 season speaks for itself, what was before a bottom of the barrel MiLB team has just recently come into form as a perennial playoff contender. That may not mean much to those who would dismiss this as “minor league baseball”, but the fact is winning organizations are built from the bottom up, not the top down. There is nothing more important to developing a winning culture than to instill it in the lower prospect classes as they rise through the organization together, the key word being together. A core that learns how to win together and carries that all the way to the Majors will breed big league success. With the work Perry has done crafting an incredibly talented prospect core you can be positive the Angels will cultivate a winning culture at the big league level soon, current free agent signings be damned. All it requires is a little more patience, though it appears as if owner Arte Moreno, and a select few Angel fans, are dangerously short on this ever important virtue.
“Not every player is the same. There's certain guys that can handle certain things and there's certain guys that need a little more time. Nelson [Rada] was somebody we just felt like was up for the challenge being one of the younger players in this league. We felt like mentally he was able to handle it and physically, he was gifted enough to play here and compete day in and day out. He's gone beyond our expectations this season and put together a pretty good year”
Perhaps the show at the big league level is as ugly as it gets, but the very core foundations of this organization are evolving into a form that is better than it has ever been. What was once before an organization that whiffed on draft after draft and carried virtually no presence on the international market is now loaded with talent procured through both avenues. International signings such as Nelson Rada and Denzer Guzman look to offer the future Angels a Braves-esque core with the two young prospects (18 and 19 respectively) capable of carrying playoff caliber clubs off the quality of their expansive athletic talent. Reinforcements are coming from every faucet of possibility in which a GM could derive reinforcements from, and to suggest the Angels should move on from Perry would be to suggest cutting off the greatest talent stream the Angels have seen since their World Series days. Trout and Ohtani may be the greatest talents the Angels, and all of baseball by extension, have ever seen, but they on their own cannot equal the quality of an entire talent stream spanning the whole diamond.
“There's just certain injuries you can't prevent. Whatever it may be, call it luck, whatever, but there are some that maybe you can and those are the ones that we really take a look at to study. The injuries this year have given a lot of opportunity to players that maybe would have not have that opportunity to come out and play, I think that will show up in the years to come with their development. Maybe I've never seen a team go through what we've gone through from an injury sample, but I've seen teams with injuries and you try to do the best you can to learn from it. Try to establish where we are as far as how do we keep our players on the field.”
Judging Perry entirely based on the failures of veteran athletes such as Tyler Anderson or Hunter Renfroe is a disservice to the work he’s done building this club from the ground up. Of course this is not to dismiss the shortcomings of current free agent signings or veteran trades, but to overlook the damage Arte’s neglectful attitude has done to the success bearing pillars holding up the big league club is a disservice to the work Perry has done in reversing Artes failures as an owner. Winning culture is not built on the free agency market, it is cultivated internally, and I don’t need to remind Angel fans the immense breath of fresh air that Zach Neto and Logan O’Hoppe have brought to the growing culture of this club. They are only the first of many winning attitudes coming to reinforce the Angels, and while we may be a season or two away from fully seeing the rewards of Perry's hard work to boot him now before his plan enters fruition would truly set this franchise back. Many have harped on the point that not trading Ohtani has set this club back a decade, and while there may be a nugget of truth in that statement the biggest blow to this clubs future chance at success would be booting the one man who has successfully implemented the process of singlehandedly reversing the Angels losing culture. A single player can be replaced, no matter how good they are, if you give attention to the talent across the entire diamond, something that Perry Minasian excels at. What has gone wrong this season has been far out of Perry's hands; whether it's by underperforming athletes toiling under a less than stellar coaching staff or ownership forcing trades to deplete the farm system, and what has gone right this season can be solely accredited to his efforts as a General Manager. It has been a long and tiring season, and fans are bound to lash out at whatever source they feel may ail their injuries, but to point a finger at the one man who has single handedly constructed a new path towards success for the Angels is to play in Arte Moreno's inability to accept responsibility for his failures. The last thing we as fans need to do is feed in Moreno's belief that the problem exists outside of himself.
Here is the full interview transcript of the interview with Perry Minasian.
A lot of it depends on where the player is, right? How old they are, what level of competition they played against and all those things. I think there's common traits that you look for, abilities is obviously one of them. You need to have a certain level of ability to play here and compete on a daily basis. There's got to be a little bit of actual self-motivation to get the most out of your ability.
So just like the internal makeup and what makes you tick, we talk about that all the time. We want players that wake up thinking about it, go to bed thinking about it, obsess about it, and make it as important to them as it is to us. We have a great group here of talented young players that have come from all different places and are different ages, but when you watch this particular club play the effort levels are outstanding. That's something we've talked about and implemented and created an expectation, that, to play here there has to be that type of effort.
Yeah, absolutely. You know, it's really interesting because Angel fans have had a tough time with GMs that don't really draft young talent that can break through the majors. But you really have an eye for that with your drafting strategies.
I'm curious, how are you able to tell that a player is closer to the major league level than not?
A lot of it comes down to what's inside, right? There's depending on where you're picking and it's understanding what that player can handle mentally more so than physically. There's a lot of gifted players, especially in this past draft, when you look at the first five players taken, seven players taken, really all the way through the first round, a lot of talented players that have a chance to have significant ceilings and help their clubs. But the thing for us, it goes back to makeup and the mentality, we're looking for baseball players that play a winning brand of baseball that are really intelligent. Everybody makes mistakes, right? So we want the guys that, they make the mistake, they learn from it and move on, they don't let it fester and you don't continue to see the same mistake over and over.
So I think that's a really huge attribute we look for day in and day out, our scouting staff has done an outstanding job; Tim McIlvaine, Matt Swanson, Derek Watson on the pro side, you know. You're only as good as your people to a certain extent. Internationally, Brian Parker and what his staff has done, when you look at a Nelson Rada and Joel Hurtado, who is pitching today, there's some exciting players here that that have bright futures.
Yeah, exactly. I know you mentioned Nelson Rada and you also got Denzer Guzman, they come in really young and you know, it's one thing to draft a guy like Nolan Shanuel who's 21 and advanced, but how are you able to see the advancedness in a seventeen-year-old?
It's certain people, not everybody is the same right? Not every player is the same. There's certain guys that can handle certain things and there's certain guys that need a little more time. Nelson was somebody we just felt was up for the challenge, being one of the younger players in this league, and we felt mentally he was able to handle it and physically he was gifted enough to play here and compete day in and day out. He's gone beyond our expectations this season and put together a pretty good year.
Just a couple more quick questions. So the Angels this year have been bringing up a lot of players really young and they've been hitting the mark. you got Zach Neto, Shanuel and Ben Joyce. So how are you able to tell when a player is able to make that jump from the minors to the majors?
That's probably the most difficult thing to decide, most times than not the player will tell you, whether it's a certain series over the course of the year or a certain event or a certain conversation that they're ready for the challenge, and sometimes it doesn't always work, right?
You bring somebody up, they don't necessarily perform great, you go back down and then the second chance they get they take off. So that's really, really important to identify and you know, for us building a young core is really, really important and that's something we've talked about and harped on since I've walked in the door. I've been a part of some pretty good organizations. I was in Texas; we had Mark [Teixeira], Hank Blaylock, Michael Young, and Ian Kinsler, a really good group of young players. Being in Atlanta; Austin Riley, Ronald Acuna Jr, Ozzie Albies, Max Fried, I can go on and on. We had some really good players in Toronto too. Something we're trying to establish here and we've had some significant breakthroughs this season we're excited about. I think the most exciting thing about our young group of players is, obviously there's a certain level of talent that people get a chance to see but it's the makeup of each guy, they've committed to being as good as they can be. They have high expectations, they enjoy winning, the hate losing, which is really, really important.
So how as a GM how do you overcome the roster difficulties that you've been having with the Angels? Tons of injuries that are super hard to get through. But what is on your plate when it comes to getting through something like that?
Yeah, being in this game as long as I have, one of the advantages of that is having a lot of different experiences. maybe I've never seen a team go through what we've gone through from an injury standpoint, but I've seen teams with injuries and you try to do the best you can to learn from it and try and establish where we are as far as how do we keep our players on the field. There’s just certain injuries you can't prevent. But there are some that maybe you can and those are the ones that we really take a look at to study. But the injuries we've had this year have given a lot of opportunity to players that maybe would not have had that opportunity to come out and play. I think will show up in the years to come with their development.
That was the Angels GM. I appreciate your time. Thank you.