The Angels are making a change at scouting director, as Jeff Fletcher of The Orange County Register reports that Matt Swanson has lost his job after five-plus years with the team. Swanson’s replacement has yet to be named.
Originally hired in August 2016 by former Angels GM Billy Eppler, Swanson was tasked with rebuilding a minor league pipeline that was almost completely bereft of premium talent. (In February 2016, Keith Law described the Angels’ collection of minor leaguers as “by far the worst system I’ve ever seen” in what was then Law’s eighth year of ranking the farm systems of all 30 teams.) While there may have been basically nowhere to go but up, the Angels did upgrade their prospect depth through five years of Swanson’s drafts, highlighted by such names as Jo Adell, and current MLB.com top-100 prospects Reid Detmers and Sam Bachman.
Overall, however, Los Angeles has to get much improvement from its farm system. Law’s preseason organization ranking from this year placed the Angels 23rd, and Baseball America’s midseason organizational ranking slotted them 25th (though Adell, Detmers, and Brandon Marsh all moving to the majors lowered the ranking). To date, the Angels have had nine players from the 2017-21 drafts appear on the big league roster, though that low number isn’t necessarily unusual considering how recent these drafts were, how long it usually takes even blue-chip prospects to hone their skills for the majors, and the pandemic’s impact on the last two minor league seasons.
Given all these factors, it is perhaps unfair to point the finger squarely at Swanson for the Angels’ lack of young impact players in recent years (and, the highly-touted Adell could certainly still blossom). It could be that general manager Perry Minasian wants his own hire in place as scouting director, or it might stem from an overall change in direction in how the organization has been drafting. As Law noted in his 2021 organizational rankings, “if we were just ranking systems by tools…the Angels would be in the top half, maybe the top 10. They love athletes, targeting them in the draft and on the international market, but developing those guys when their baseball skill level starts out low is a huge challenge for any organization.”
The 39-year-old Swanson is himself a former player, who pitched in the Pirates’ farm system from 2005-07 before joining the Cardinals as a scout and crosschecker for the Midwest region from 2008-16.