The Angels announced three new coaching hires for 2023, with Marcus Thames joining the team as the new hitting coach, Phil Plantier as assistant hitting coach, and Bill Hezel as assistant pitching coach. Hezel replaces Dom Chiti, while Thames and Plantier replace Jeremy Reed and John Mallee in their respective positions. Chiti, former hitting instructor Paul Sorrento, and former third base coach Mike Gallego will remain in the Angels organization but in different roles.
Fans may best remember Thames from his 10-year playing career, but he has been now been a Major League hitting coach for the last five seasons — with the Marlins in 2022, and with the Yankees from 2018-21. Thames also worked as an assistant hitting coach on New York’s staff for a season, and as a hitting coach at the minor league level.
Plantier is another addition from the Marlins organization, after a stint as a hitting coach with Triple-A Jacksonville. At the MLB level, Plantier was the Padres’ hitting coach from 2012-14, and he has a lengthy minor league career that includes coaching and managerial roles with the Marlins, Yankees, Padres, and Mariners.
Given how much the Marlins struggled at the plate in 2022, Thames and Plantier may not seem like natural choices to try and spark an Angels lineup that lacked both depth and production in 2022. Of course, Anaheim has plenty of talent on hand, and getting even a few more hitters on track will help immensely, given the consistent production provided by Shohei Ohtani and Mike Trout.
Thames, Plantier, and Angels manager Phil Nevin were all in the Yankees organization at the same time, with Nevin and Plantier also being former teammates during their playing days. Hezel is an entirely new face to the mix, and while he did some past consulting work for the Phillies, the Angels position represents Hezel’s first MLB coaching role. Hezel has worked as a coach at the collegiate level, and has spent the last two-plus years as the director at Driveline. Several former Driveline employees and instructors have been joining big league teams in the last few years, including Angels pitching coordinator Dylan Axelrod.
The rest of the Angels coaching staff will be returning in 2023, though the role of third base coach has yet to be filled. It isn’t known if the Angels will pursue another outside hire, or perhaps promote from within the organization.