NASHVILLE – In late October, coming off a season that produced 101 wins, an American League East championship and a top-rated farm that produced the No. 1 prospect in the sport for the third straight year, the Orioles made several promotions in their scouting and player development departments.
Matt Blood was promoted from director of player development to vice president of player development and domestic scouting. Joining Blood to help head up player development now will be Anthony Villa, 29, who has been with the Orioles since the 2020 season. He is Blood's replacement as director of player development. Villa was first an O's minor league hitting coach, then a minor league hitting coordinator for the lower levels of the farm and last year he was hitting coordinator for the entire system.
His promotion was first reported here on MASNSports.com.
A 19th-round draft pick of the White Sox in 2016, Villa played in the minors for three seasons. He's been a fast riser in the O's organization. Now he'll have even a larger role in player development.
“First of all, Anthony and I have been working closely on running this player development system for a while," said Blood. "He’s one of the leaders of our hitting department, but he also has great energy just toward the well being of players and their development. He has always had great ideas and thoughts on how we can do better by our players.
“So I will be overseeing scouting and player development, and my capacity to dive deep into the everyday world of player development will be lessened and he’ll take on more of that. But we have such a great group that it will be the whole group that makes it work, and I can move into some scouting roles because they are so capable and we have such good relationships across the organization."
Now he will be more heavily involved in draft prep and the selection of players. And the Mike Elias regime has scored pretty big with all of its top draft picks since 2019 in Adley Rutschman, Heston Kjerstad, Colton Cowser, Jackson Holliday and Enrique Bradfield Jr.
The top nine players on MLBPipeline.com's top 30 O's prospects list show eight draft picks and one international signing.
“I’m excited to get back into the scouting world, where I started," Blood said. "The player acquisition realm is very fascinating to me. Just helping us to continue on the success that we’ve had in scouting while improving even more so the integration between the two departments (scouting and player development). It was already good and this is only going to make it better. That is just a healthy thing for the organization and the players inside it."
The Orioles, and other teams, have had success building draft models. They are tools used to better evaluate players and try to predict future performance. They remain significant for the Orioles in the draft.
“Models are a big part of everything we do in the organization. That is one of our competitive advantages. We have them and we are also very skilled at understanding them and using them properly,” said Blood.
“When it comes to decision making, you are really only as good as the information that you have. I think that, with our system, we have very good information and then we have good decision makers that know how to use it."
Blood said he has not been hearing from any O's prospects wondering if their names come in trade talks. It's a delicate line for any organization when trading from its farm system. They are talking about potentially moving players they really like and have worked hard with to develop their games.
“I think it’s (rumors and speculation about trades) just part of the landscape and universe of being in this industry," he said. "I have a lot of faith in our pro scouting department that, if we do make a trade, it will be beneficial for the org. The players, we are all humans and there can be uncertainty there. But we’d like to keep everybody and be able to also acquire players, but it’s not realistic. We love our players."