The Los Angeles Angels made a bevy of changes at the coaching level after an abysmal 2022 season, adding a new hitting coach in Marcus Thames, and resigning Phil Nevin as the active manager, but they also brought in an outside voice from the ever-popular, Driveline Baseball.
The Angels made the decision to bring in the former director of pitching at Driveline, Bill Hezel, and instill him as the new assistant pitching coach. The 36-year-old left one of the top baseball development programs to join the Major League ranks and now he’s penned as a key cog in pushing pitchers in L.A. to new heights.
Early on he’s said to be earning the respect of the coaching staff and players alike, both of which Nevin touched on, via Sam Blum of The Athletic:
“He’s been incredible. He really has,” Nevin said. “The difference he’s made, first off with the throwing programs — everybody came in and they’ve followed it all winter. The guys that were on it are stronger.
“You can see that people flock to him. He was a leader (at Driveline) and he’s done that here.”
Angels pitchers from established big leaguers to prospects at various levels have shown bits of improvement during Spring Training, and it’s probably safe to assume Hezel’s analytical approach has had an early influence.
He comes from a place of full transparency of a pitcher’s metrics and what they do the best, and now he’s certainly bringing those same qualities to the Angels staff:
“Coming from the Astros, they were able to translate everything they had to the players. And I see a lot of that in Bill,” said Angels starter Patrick Sandoval, who worked with Hezel at Driveline. “It’s good. The guys are going to get a lot better here.”
Players who have been able to extend their careers, even revive them, have accepted and implemented the good that advanced data has to offer. Hezel preaches that he wants to be a part of the solution and the Angels are listening with all ears:
“You hear a lot about players that don’t want to access this data, or they don’t want to hear some of these things,” Hezel said. “Or too much of it is information overload. And there probably is some truth to that.
“But if a player feels like you’re invested in their success, as much as they are their own success, then it just really makes the communication a lot easier.”
As Spring Training winds down and rosters begin to thin out, arms are sent back to the Minor Leagues and those sticking with the club will have and should continue to benefit from Hezel and his pillars of success.
Angels starter Sam Bachman showing early promise after a run of injuries
Included in the list of young starting pitchers who figure to help the Angels rotation in the immediate future is Sam Bachman, a young power arm who early on in his big league career has dealt with multiple injuries.
But after a positive offseason, the 23-year-old is prepared to take another step forward.
Drafted in the first round of the 2019 Major League Baseball Draft out of Miami (OH), Bachman joined the Angels for big league Spring Training, tossing a flawless inning in his debut on Feb. 26.
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