Of the new additions to the Los Angeles Angels coaching staff, manager Phil Nevin and first-year hitting coach Marcus Thames have a friendship built from years spent together with the New York Yankees.
The cohesiveness between the two and the makings of a potent offense will be invaluable to the club as they head into a pivotal 2023 season.
Thames is a 10-year veteran in Major League Baseball, spending time with the Detroit Tigers, Yankees, L.A. Dodgers, and Texas Rangers. He was never an overwhelming force in the box, but as he transitioned into the role he has today, his philosophy of understanding each player’s strengths and ensuring their knowledge of the strike zone is what he preached.
He advanced through the Yankees Minor League coaching ranks, eventually landing a job with the big club as their hitting coach prior to the 2018 season. Ironically, Nevin was brought on to their staff at the same time, sparking their friendship, via Sam Blum of The Athletic:
I was with Phil for four years in New York. And Phil, he was the third-base coach. But he also did a lot of stuff there. But he was always in the room during hitters’ meetings, and he would come down to the cages and see how I talked with the players, and my interactions with the players. I think that he really like what I did and how I went about things. I think that’s what he was looking for in Anaheim with the hitters that we have. My philosophy, the way I communicate with players. Just trying to simplify things for them, so they can go out and compete. Phil and I, we had a really good relationship. We sat on the plane next to each other the whole four years there. Phil played the game for a long time, he knows the game. He’s really passionate. That’s what I really like about him. That’s why I’m happy to be in the hitting room for him.
The Angels have a pressing need to perform when the regular season gets underway, which will require a feel for the pulse of the team that is needed to maintain a championship-level of play to compete in a division with the defending World Series champions.
Thames has a difficult job ahead with how to manage a handful of the top sluggers in all of baseball with Shohei Ohtani, Mike Trout, Anthony Rendon, Taylor Ward and the newly acquired Hunter Renfroe, but he is ready for the challenge:
I’m excited. Once the season with the Marlins was over, Donnie (Mattingly, the former manager) resigned, and he told the coaching staff that we could start talking to other teams, other clubs. I didn’t know where to start at first. I reached out to Phil to see if he knew anybody in the industry that was looking for somebody in the hitting department. He was like, ‘Oh, I think we might be.’ I think that’s when they wanted to go in a different direction in their hitting department. He was like, ‘Let me reach out to the GM.’ Then I ended up having a conversation with the front office, and I had a couple interviews. Everything worked itself out. And now I’m going to be in that hitting room with the Angels.
The Angels finished the season with the fourth-worst offense in the American League per wRC+, and if their pitching can hold up its end of the bargain, Thames will have to get the offense in gear to ensure there won’t be another season-long lul.
How the Angels outfield shakes out with Hunter Renfroe
Following the Angels trade that landed them Renfroe, it signaled a mini shakeup for the outfield and how Ward fits into the equation going forward into 2023.
Ward was wildly productive for the first part of the regular season and was one of the premier bats in all of Major League Baseball. His breakout was an incredible breath of fresh air for the Angels, giving their lineup protection for Mike Trout and Shohei Ohtani.
Renfroe adds more power to an already potent batting order, slashing .255/.315/.492 with 29 home runs, 23 doubles, and 72 RBI across 125 games last season. With him presumably taking over the right-field slot, Ward is free to move to left field and finally provide the Angels with a stable outfield.