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Five Take-Aways From Los Angeles Angels GM Perry Minasian’s 2024 Chalk-Talk


Chuck

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By David Saltzer, AngelsWin.com Senior Writer 

First and foremost, since we are opening the season in Baltimore, if you are reading this article, please take a moment to think upon all those who died on the Francis Scott Key Bridge. Thank you.

Tuesday, before the Angels-Dodgers last game of Spring Training, Angels GM Perry Minasian met with season ticketholders for his annual “Chalk-Talk”. The event was moderated by Trent Rush, who did a great job, and asked most of the questions, although some fan questions were allowed. Perry spoke for about 45 minutes to the crowd and addressed the offseason and Spring Training.

My cousin Ken and I attended and sat behind my good friend John and his friend Steve. Throughout and after the event, food was served, so, the 4 of us spent some time after the talk discussing what we had heard and any observations that we had. 

When listening to a GM speak, one has to learn to read a bit between the lines to allow the narrative to unfold. It’s like trying to translate what a really skilled politician is saying: There is a definite art to it, which is part of what makes a GM’s job challenging and a reporter’s job even more challenging.

Here are my 5 Take-Aways from the 2024 Chalk Talk.

 

Take-Away #1: The Baseball People are Back In Charge

 For Angels fans who remember the Bill Stoneman years, you will be happy to know that Perry is following the same basic plan—except he identified it as the “Braves plan”. Really, it is the smartest and best use of team funds long-term. It isn’t “Money-Ball”. It’s about drafting well, developing waves of talent to provide depth, bringing in key parts that you may need, and finding success together. That’s what the best run organizations do, and that means the baseball people are back in charge. 

If this is the plan, and the baseball people are back in charge, then that is good news for Angels fans, as long as we stick with it for 3-5 years. Don’t read this wrong: sticking with it does not mean that we won’t be contenders in less than 3-5 years. I will repeat: sticking with it [the plan] does not mean that we won’t be contenders in less than 3-5 years.  

Instead, if we stick with the plan for 3-5 years, we will find tremendous success from it, just as the Angels did from 2002-2014 and the Braves and other teams have done since.

Drafting and scouting well, and significantly improving our international presence, especially in Latin America, is a lot more effective and affordable way to develop a winning team than constantly chasing Free Agents. The same production from a 2nd or 3rd year player costs a fraction of what the same production from a Free Agent would cost.

This was great news in my opinion, as previously, some of my main concerns about the organization have been about the lack of presence internationally, the lack of player scouting, and the lack of player development. We have needed to boost all of that to get back to where we were 20 years ago.

Unfortunately, this immediately led to Take-Way #2. 

 

Take-Away #2: 2024 Is a Transitional Year

As many fans have realized, 2024 is a year for overhauling the team on the fly.

But, that does NOT mean that we won’t be competitive. Let me repeat: That does NOT mean that we won’t be competitive. And it is NOT a bad thing. But, I cannot deny that it is a transitional year.

Instead, what that means is that 2024 is a year to take stock of what we have in the organization, develop our future nucleus, and to see what holes we need to fill and how we can fill them. With the baseball people back in charge, they need to know answers about players and need to do a deep organizational analysis in order to transition into a championship team.

Think of the “Big Board” in the War Room. Every organization has one, with the depth chart and the future timetable of development at each position. Players like Rada and Dana are quickly pushing their way up the timetables to join the current wave in the Majors. 

All spring long we heard about Cole Fontenelle, a 3B, and how he impressed. Look at Perry’s and Washington’s actions, giving him at bats late in Spring Training, long after other players at higher levels in the Minors had been reassigned. That showed us that the Angels were really assessing him to see if he could be and when he could be in our future, and how best to develop him. If he can make it in the next 2 years, we will have essentially flipped the entire roster, except for 2nd base, where at worst, we have Rengifo. 

This spring, Perry’s and Washington’s actions spoke so loudly, that we fans didn’t need to hear what they were saying (adapting one of Perry’s favorite quotes that he mentioned). At some point, the Angels had to do this, and this year is the year.

While many fans wanted to sign Bellinger or Snell, signing either would have taken play time and development from our future. We won’t know how our young core really can do until we see it. Rada and Dana are doing things at 18 and 20 that almost no high school senior or juco player could do. Both could be ready by 2025.

Would anyone really want to stunt our future’s development, while losing draft picks, all so that we could “win the offseason” and hurt our future?

If Rada, Dana, Fontenelle, and others produce like many expect them to, we will get Bellinger’s and Snell’s production at a fraction of their cost. Those cost savings could allow us to get that final Free Agent who can take us deep into the postseason.

As Jeff Fletcher has pointed out many times on AngelsWin.com, the best run teams only sign key free agents when they are one or two pieces away. This year, we aren’t that close, but we will still be competitive as we assess what we have. But we won’t know what is possible unless we let the kids play and take inventory. We have to transition. 

That leads to Take-Away #3. 

 

Take-Away #3: Ron Washington Should Be the Right Manager For Us

This is yet another good thing for Angels fans. I do believe that Ron Washington may be the right manager in the right place for the right organization in need.

Over the years, one of my other main concerns about the Angels, especially with all of the managerial and front office changes, has been the lack of a team identity. What is Angels baseball? Who is our clubhouse leader? Who is on field leader?

In the past, all those questions were easy to answer, lately, they have not. If I were on the interviewing panel for the manager or GM, I would ask each candidate those questions along with many more.

Under Scioscia, Angels baseball had a brand and style. From the time a player was drafted until the time he made it in the Major Leagues, the expectations for what the team wanted and developed were clear. As fans, we could identify it. And then, it changed. And it got lost. And forgotten. At the same time, so did winning.

Some of that can be pegged to changes in the game, especially in analytics and training/coaching. More can be blamed on the several GMs that we hired and their different styles. And finally, yes, some of that, and ultimately all of that, is on the owner.

But, that’s the past, and I’m looking forward to the future, both now and long-term.

So far, it appears that Washington has earned the players’ respect, through his efforts on the field to how he teaches. I know I would respect a manager at his age hitting ground balls to me early in the morning.

But what really separates him as the right coach for THIS team, a young team, is that he allows the players to make mistakes, then teaches him how to do it correctly the next time, and then holds them accountable for doing so. That is true teaching and providing real support. For a young team, that is how we can mold the players into champions. 

Most people do better when supported in such a way as Washington has been doing so far. We saw it throughout Spring Training: Players were allowed to run the bases more freely, even if thrown out, to see if that would be an option for them during the season. Aggressive baserunning and stealing bases has been rediscovered, but it also led to some teachable moments.

It will be interesting to see how he continues now that the season is starting and how he holds players accountable for playing his style of baseball.

That leads to Take-Away #4. 

 

Take-Away #4: Player Development Will Be Emphasized in 2024

If the baseball people are back in charge, then playing time will change. Players will be allowed to make mistakes, but they need to learn from them. Younger players will not have to worry about carrying a team, like McPherson, or rushed to the Majors, like Adell. And when they get there, they won’t feel the pressure to hit for the moon every time, or strike out every batter, without considering it a failure. While failure won’t be encouraged, it will be used as a teachable event and won’t always be punished.  

I do believe Washington has a brand and style of what Angels baseball should be and will be. That brand and style will be uniform throughout our entire organization, which is why he had all the Minor League coaches out in Spring Training. 

Washington’s style will be different than Scioscia’s. As fans, it will take us time to truly identify Washington’ brand of Angels Baseball  (mostly because the majority of this team was put together by others, he will have to implement his identity with the players he has). But, the younger players will learn it quickly. Head out to one of our Minor League affiliates, like Inland Empire, and you will see much more of it. Next year and the year after, the team should be better at it.

With our developing core of Adell, Moniak, Neto, O’Hoppe, and Schanuel, Washington’s emphasis on the fundamentals will help go a long way to molding our future. If they learn the fundamentals, and can execute them throughout an entire season, then they can do it on the next level in the Majors—the postseason.

Over the course of the year, the younger players should earn more of the playing time over the veterans. We should see better fundamental defense and a stronger offense. As the defense improves and plays more fundamental baseball, we should see the pitching improve and trust the defense to make outs. We will win more games. Think about how the 2014 Royals developed and went on a run. Or the Braves. Or the Angels in the early 2000s.

Perry talked about teaching the players to win each pitch, each count, and each at bat. For example, pitching efficiently, and using the defense, rather than pitching deep counts by going for strikeouts, using the whole team to get outs and trusting the defense to make the plays. Doing that allows the starters to go deeper into games and helps prevent overuse of the bullpen. Over the past few years, we had gotten away from that, and as fans, saw the results.

In the past, when we had waves of talent in development, when we had an injury, we had a player in line that we could tap into who was better than replacement level. We didn’t suffer tremendous drops in production with an injury between  2004-2014, typically, because we had those waves of talent. 

Because the baseball people were back in charge, we developed more internal depth. That allowed us to spend money more efficiently on Free Agents to fill in the holes that we needed with plenty of depth rather than trying to fill holes around what we had and leaving a lot of depth needed.

This is why we are seeing Bachman, Soriano, and Wantz getting stretched out into starters. We know that they can get Major League outs for an inning or two.  We believe that they have the stuff to do so for more innings in games, so having them as starters ready to come up makes them far more valuable to us. No rotation will make it entirely through a season unscathed these days.

That leads me to my final Take-Away. 

 

Take-Away #5: Angels Baseball in 2024 Will Be Better and More Exciting

Fundamental baseball is fun baseball. Runs should score more often, and not always on solo homeruns. Great defense is always worth the price of admission. Solid pitching that keeps games close means we will be watching into the latter innings, and partially explains the emphasis on building up the bullpen. As Perry talked about, and many of us noted last year, we were great in the first half of the games when we scored a lot of runs, and lost most a lot in the second half when we were shut down and gave up a lot of runs. .

Look, like most, I was disappointed in this offseason. Not because of who we did or didn’t sign, but because of the mixed messages that we got as fans from the team.

Early on, we were told that Perry could spend to build a contender (within reason). This was the same message as told to fans for the past several years. And it looked like were going to do more as he built up the bullpen. It seemed like the team could replace Ohtani’s production with Free Agents. 

And then we were told that the plan all along was to cut the budget this year. That didn’t make sense if we were planning to spend on Ohtani, who alone would cost more. And, if we were going to spend on Ohtani, then why wouldn’t we spend on other available free agents to replace the loss of pitching and hitting?

As a fan. I will admit: Losing Ohtani hurt. But, even I would never agree to the contract that Ohtani signed. That could be a franchising killing contract for all but a very few owners. The risk was too great. I wish him well with the Dodgers (even against the Angels as long as we win the game) but there is absolutely NO WAY that Arte should have matched that deal. 

Personally, I think that the national media is a bit biased against the Angels for a variety of reasons (whether for lack of knowledge about the organization or for  other reasons). This team has been underrated, mostly because of losing Ohtani, and people forgetting how injured we’ve been over the past few years.

This team can be and should be over 500 if the team stays healthy. And we have more depth than we’ve had in the past, at most positions, so we should be better than advertised. I’m not being optimistic, I’m being realistic. I’m excited and hopeful, and very interested to see how this year plays out. If done correctly, we’re not that far off from Washington leading us on extended postseason runs.

In the past, we had to have everything go right in order to have a shot at the postseason. And, we did so without much depth in a challenging division. We haven’t had the entire tear down teams to beat up like teams in other divisions had, and we’ve had to contend with many championship teams. 

That’s why it’s so important for us to get back to developing waves of talent, as we did in the mid-2000s, so that we can win more games than expected.

Our future infield and outfield is mostly set outside of 2nd and 3rd base—with Fontenelle being one possible answer at 3B (let’s hope he does well this year). As for our pitching, we have one of youngest rotations (subtracting Anderson removes several years off the average of our starters).

In terms of depth, I will admit, we are a bit weak on the middle infield and 3rd base. But, for other parts of the team, we have a potential surplus of outfielders and are developing pitching depth, especially for starters. Joyce and others will soon be in the bullpen, so we have parts to trade, and make better long-term decisions as we see how the kids develop.

While our organization has been ranked as one of the worst overall in baseball, that hasn’t stopped us in the past from making some very shrewd trades, such as for O’Hoppe and Moniak. And, at the deadline, I believe that we will be active. But, the emphasis will be more on long-term acquisitions, rather than short term panic moves. Believe it or not, Arte does want to win. Unlike in the past, though, when we’ve been in win-now modes, the baseball people are back in charge and will make better decisions for long-term moves.

I expect a lot of games this season that are much closer in score this year and fewer shutouts than we’ve seen over the past few years. That should lead to fewer multi-game losing streaks. And that is a lot more fun for a whole season!

Think about the Angels-Dodgers game we saw after the Chalk Talk. Objectively, as a baseball fan, which would you rather see your team do: Have good pitching, play fundamental baseball, score 4 runs without in a variety of ways, or see your team have good pitching, play sloppy defense, score 3 runs on solo shots, and lose the game?

I know which kind of game I’d rather see my team play. And I will see you at the ballpark or posting on AngelsWin.com this season.

Play Ball!

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