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Anthony Villa is the Orioles’ new director of player development. He succeeded Matt Blood, who’s now the team’s scouting director. Villa played three seasons in the Chicago White Sox organization as an outfielder and has been with the Orioles’ organization since 2019, serving as the team’s minor league hitting coordinator in 2023.
Question: How is this job different from being a coach?
Anthony Villa: “When you’re coaching, you’re very much with your group of guys, helping your team play games, practice, handle all the day-to-day within the realms of player development. When you’re coordinating, you are overseeing a very specific department, so in my circumstance, previously being the hitting coordinator, that was overseeing hitters, hitting coaches and helping make sure the hitting philosophy is being carried out and now as director of player development, I’m no longer overseeing one subsection. I’m going to be involved in supporting pitching and defense and fundamentals. It’s really just broadening my horizons and engaging with more of our staff members to make sure that I’m able to support more people.”
Q: Last year, you saw one of the great minor league teams in history in Norfolk. Do you think you can still have a dominating farm system with all the players who have been promoted?
A: “We had an amazing club in Norfolk last year, just a tremendous amount of talent that’s been added in the organization. We’d like to think we could continue to bring in really great people, really great players and continue this route of development to make sure the farm stays stocked.”
Q: You got to coach Jackson Holliday last year. How much coaching does he need?
A: “Jackson came in and did a lot of things really well. He’s an extremely polished player, especially for being a young high schooler, has the pedigree. As far as how we’re going to coach him, it might be a little different than some of the other players, but coaching is coaching and you’re looking to relate to the players and be able to be there for them whenever they’re needing information or needing to hear different opinions. Ultimately, we’re in the business of people, and it’s been a lot of fun to see the relationships that our coaches and players have built—with all of the players.”
Q: How much do you have to get up to speed on pitching?
A: “There will be a learning curve. There’s going to be a lot of relationship building with Chris Holt, Mitch Plassmeyer, Adam Schuck, Forrest Herrmann, Justin Ramsey, Dave Schmidt, Anderson Tavarez. These people who have such strong influences into the pitching department as well as our affiliate pitching coaches.
“Obviously, working on the hitting side of things, you’re having to gameplan against pitchers. You need to know the enemy, so to speak. I’m looking forward to being around the pitching department more and offering my support and really just learning from them and getting caught up to speed however I can best help.”
Q: Catcher Samuel Basallo moved all the way from Delmarva to Bowie. What stood out about him?
A: “Basallo was an incredible story this past year. We’ve really loved him from the time he joined the organization in the Dominican Summer League in 2021. He’s a tireless worker, just an absolute fanatic.
“Just how hard he trains, how quickly he learns. It’s amazing to see what he took away from the games, put into practice and then continue to progress and develop and make a really nice jump this season.”
Q: What does Colton Cowser have to do to become a quality major leaguer?
A: “That jump from Triple-A to the major leagues is incredibly challenging. I think baseball fans across the board see that with a lot of these young players that get called up. For Colton, continuing to get opportunities and being open-minded, learning as he’s done in the minor leagues, continuing to learn. We believe in Colton, just continuing to get those experiences is going to be really helpful for him. He’s still so low.”
Q: Who are some players who aren’t getting talked about who should be?
A: “I always love jumping to the Complex Leagues when I answer these questions. The affiliates get to play on MILB.TV and get a little bit more outside notoriety. It’s always fun to give the Complex League here some love here. I think two players … were Thomas Sosa and Braylin Tavera, two young Latin American outfielders that have really exciting skills.”
Q: Are there any pitchers who really stand out to you?
A: “Obviously you have your [Chayce] McDermotts and [Cade] Poviches, but really cool to always see Alex Pham do his thing. I think our pitching department has done a tremendous job of accumulating players that maybe drafted in lower rounds and maybe developing them into what would be considered upper-round talent.
“To see Justin Armbruester, not from a major college, pitch in the Triple-A national championship game. That’s fantastic to see. Alex Pham have the year that he had. It’s just really exciting stuff on the pitching front.”
Q: What’s the biggest lesson that you’ve learned in your years coaching in the organization that you could bring to this job?
A: “The big lesson that I’m learning and hoping to bring to this job is just the importance of the character skills, just getting in really good people, both staff and players and if the character skills are high then we work together to shape all things on the baseball front, but we feel really blessed to have really high-character coaches and really high-character players, just the way they conduct themselves and go about training hard. They’re growth-minded. They’re looking to learn and improve themselves, and that’s everything you want in a player looking to push to the major leagues.”
Q: You were in the White Sox organization as a player. How different is this organization from that one? How has this organization been able to build a dominating farm system?
A: “When I was in the White Sox organization, it was with a different lens. It was on the other side of the clubhouse as a player. I didn’t get to see much of the internal workings. Speaking on behalf of the Orioles, I think our front office does an amazing job in establishing clear and strong processes, whether that be scouting and drafting, how we utilize analytics, how we go about player development.
“We just have a really strong leadership from the front office. That’s a testament to Mike Elias, Sig Mejdal, Eve Rosenbaum, Matt Blood, Kent Qualls. These people that are heading up departments and expressing the message clearly. It makes it real easy for everyone that falls underneath them to go carry it out with enthusiasm.”
Call for questions: I’ll be answering Orioles questions next week. Please email yours to: [email protected].
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