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Fifth-year catcher Griffin Mazur and fifth-year third baseman Christian Molfetta signed free-agent contracts with the Los Angeles Angels on Sunday. Both players made major improvements in their season with the Michigan baseball team.

Mazur played his first four years of college baseball at UC Irvine, where he impressed behind the plate, posting a career .986 fielding percentage, but not at the plate, slashing just .238/.351/.286.  

Mazur was elected a team captain before the 2021 season. He spent the offseason improving his bat speed and becoming more selective at the plate, and his work paid off right away. He hit three homers and walked six times in the first two series of the 2021 season. He couldn’t maintain that level of production as opposing pitchers discovered his weakness against the breaking ball, but even when his numbers fell back to earth, his new floor was his old ceiling. Mazur slashed .247/.370/.411 with six homers and 33 RBI on the year.

On defense, he wound up with a .991 fielding percentage, only five passed balls and flawless handling of several relay throws to the plate. Mazur was named to the all-Big Ten second team at the end of the season.

Molfetta was a catcher at Stanford, where he platooned in 2018 and earned sole possession of the starting job in 2020. His defense (career .987 fielding percentage) was his best attribute. He showed significant progress at the plate in his pandemic-shortened senior year, when he hit .245/.339/.388 in 14 starts, but those numbers did little to boost his dismal career .209/.320/.324 slashline. 

In Ann Arbor, Molfetta had by far the best offensive season of his college career. He carried an average of .349 into mid-April, stayed above .300 until mid-May and finished the year with an excellent .277. His five homers and 29 RBI more than doubled his career totals of two and 12, respectively, with the Cardinal. 

As one of the team leaders in quality-at-bat percentage, Molfetta hit the ball hard all year, and what looked like a midseason slump was actually a case of unluckiness, according to Michigan coach Erik Bakich. 

Molfetta moved to third base and handled the position well, snaring hard-hit grounders and line drives and consistently making the long throw across the diamond. He finished with 12 errors and a .902 fielding percentage. 

By making incredible progress in their final season of college baseball, Mazur and Molfetta demonstrated a high level of coachability and the potential for further improvement despite their advanced age. 

The Angels’ signing of Mazur and Molfetta seems strange, as stars Max Stassi, Anthony Rendon and Shohei Ohtani occupy the catcher, third baseman and designated hitter spots, respectively. Mazur and Molfetta’s best hope of making a big-league club may be to work hard in the minor leagues and hope to be traded to a club in need of infielders.