2017 Minor League Coaching Staffs Announced

Pedrique. (Aimee Dilger/Times Leader)
Pedrique. (Aimee Dilger/Times Leader)

Over the last several weeks, the Yankees have announced the coaching staffs for their various minor league affiliates. Minor league coaches are the unsung heroes of any organization. These are the folks who work directly with the top prospects, and right now the Yankees sure do have an awful lot of top prospects. Here’s a quick rundown of minor league coaching staffs for the upcoming season.

Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders

Manager: Al Pedrique
Pitching Coach: Tommy Phelps
Hitting Coach: P.J. Pilittere
Defensive Coach: Doug Davis
Athletic Trainer: Darren London
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Brad Hyde

Pedrique is returning to the RailRiders after being named International League Manager of the Year last season. Scranton won the division title, the IL championship, and the Triple-A Championship Game. The RailRiders went 91-52 last year, becoming the first IL team to win 90+ games since 2002. Pedrique has climbed the managerial ladder from Low-A Charleston (2013) to High-A Tampa (2014) to Double-A Trenton (2015) to Triple-A Scranton (2016-17). He served as Astros bench coach from 2010-11 and was briefly the Diamondbacks interim manager in 2004.

Pilittere is a new addition to the Triple-A staff. He was the Double-A hitting coach the last two years after holding the same role with Tampa (2014) and Charleston (2013). I’m sure many longtime RAB readers remember Pilittere from his stint in the organization as a player. This is already his sixth year in the system as a coach. Crazy. He was always considered a future coach during his playing career because of his leadership skills. Pilittere will be in charge of Clint Frazier‘s development this summer.

Also new to the staff is Davis, who is not to be confused with former big league lefty Doug Davis. This is a different Doug Davis. This Doug Davis was the Blue Jays minor league catching coordinator from 2010-16. He’s been coaching or managing in the minors since 1995, and spent the 2003-04 seasons as the Marlins bench coach. Slater, London, and Hyde are all holdovers from last year.

Double-A Trenton Thunder

Manager: Bobby Mitchell
Pitching Coach: Jose Rosado
Hitting Coach: Tom Slater
Bullpen Coach: JD Closser
Defensive Coach: Lino Diaz
Athletic Trainer: Jimmy Downam
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Anthony Velasquez

This will be Mitchell’s second season in the organization and second as manager of the Thunder. Trenton went 87-55 last season before losing the Eastern League Championship Series. Mitchell has big league coaching experience with several teams as an outfield and baserunning coach, and prior to joining the Yankees, he managed in the Cubs and Angels systems. Rosado (third year) and Closser (second year) are also returning to Trenton.

It’s worth noting Rosado’s work hasn’t received enough attention. Prior to joining Trenton, he spent four years as pitching coach in the rookie Gulf Coast League, and in recent years he’s had a big hand in getting pitchers like Jordan Montgomery, Chance Adams, Dietrich Enns, Ronald Herrera, and Daniel Camarena to take their games to another level. Rosado himself was a good young pitcher who made two All-Star Games with the Royals before his 25th birthday. (A major shoulder injury ended his career at 25.)

Slater replaces Pilittere after spending the last two seasons as hitting coach with High-A Tampa. This will be his ninth season in the organization. He’s held all sorts of coaching and managerial positions over the years. Slater will be the guy overseeing Gleyber Torres and Miguel Andujar this year, among others. Diaz is being promoted from the rookie Gulf Coast League while both Downam and Velasquez were with Low-A Charleston from 2014-16.

High-A Tampa Yankees

Manager: Jay Bell
Pitching Coach: Tim Norton
Hitting Coach: Eric Duncan
Defensive Coach: Raul Dominguez
Catching Coach: Michel Hernandez
Athletic Trainer: Michael Becker
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Jacob Dunning

Welcome to the Yankees, Jay Bell. The former two-time All-Star joins the organization after spending the last 12 years or so holding all sorts of jobs, including big league bench coach (Diamondbacks from 2005-06, Reds from 2014-15), big league hitting coach (Pirates in 2013), and special advisor (D’Backs from 2007-09). Perhaps Jorge Mateo will one day have an out-of-nowhere 38-homer season like Bell after having him as a manager.

Norton is back with Tampa for the second straight season. This will be his fifth season coaching in the organization after injuries sabotaged his promising playing career. Duncan, New York’s first round pick in 2003, joins the Tampa staff from Staten Island. This is his first full season coaching gig and third season coaching with the Yankees. Last year it was reported farm system head Gary Denbo wanted Duncan to coach full-time, but he wasn’t willing to commit to it yet. Apparently now he is.

Over the last few years Hernandez has emerged as the Yankees minor league catching guru. Last year he worked with Luis Torrens in Charleston, and the year before he was with Gary Sanchez in Trenton. The Yankees don’t have a notable catching prospect ticketed for Tampa, though I suppose Torrens could wind up there if (when?) the Padres return him as a Rule 5 Draft pick. Dominguez is coming up from the rookie Gulf Coast League and is one of the longest tenured instructors in the organization. He’s been around since 2006. Becker is entering his fourth year with Tampa while Dunning is coming up from Staten Island.

Low-A Charleston RiverDogs

Manager: Patrick Osborn
Pitching Coach: Justin Pope
Hitting Coach: Ken Joyce
Defensive Coach: Jose Javier
Catching Coach: Hector Rabago
Athletic Trainer: Michael Sole
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Jeff Dolan

By all accounts Osborn is a rising managerial star in the farm system, which is kinda funny because he’s being moved down from Tampa to Charleston this year. He’s going to have a fun roster. Blake Rutherford, Dermis Garcia, Estevan Florial, Isiah Gilliam, Leonardo Molina, and Hoy Jun Park could all be with the RiverDogs in 2017. It’s not a coincidence the Yankees chose Osborn to work with those prospects. Osborn joined the organization in 2014 after spending several years managing the independent Southern Maryland Blue Crabs.

Joyce is a new addition to the organization. This will be his 21st season coaching in the minors, so he’s been around. Joyce spent the last five years with the Giants. Prior to that he was with the Marlins and Blue Jays. Pope, yet another former Yankees minor leaguer turned coach, returns for a second season as Charleston’s pitching coach. Rabago was a 2009 draft pick by the Yankees and is already in his fourth season as a coach. He’s joining Charleston after spending the last two seasons with rookie Pulaski. Javier, Sole, and Dolan are all new hires.

Short Season Staten Island Yankees

Manager: Julio Mosquera
Pitching Coach: Travis Phelps
Hitting Coach: Kevin Mahoney
Defensive Coach: Teuris Olivares

This will be Mosquera’s third season as a manager and 12th as an instructor with the Yankees. He spent the last two years in the rookie Gulf Coast League, and prior to that, he was the club’s longtime catching coordinator. Mosquera worked with every catching prospect from Frankie Cervelli to Jesus Montero to John Ryan Murphy to Gary Sanchez over the years. Phelps is returning as pitching coach and Mahoney, a former organizational infielder, is moving up from Pulaski. This will be Olivares’ third season in this role.

Rookie Pulaski Yankees

Manager: Luis Dorante
Pitching Coach: Gerardo Casadiego
Hitting Coach: Scott Seabol
Athletic Trainer: Manny Ozoa
Strength & Conditioning Coach: Danny Russo

After spend the last three seasons managing the RiverDogs, Dorante will now lead all the young kids in Pulaski. This is his sixth season in the organization and fourth as a manager. Prior to joining the Yankees, Dorante was the Pirates big league bullpen coach from 2008-10. I know going from Charleston to Pulaski seems like a demotion, but minor league coaches don’t get demoted. They get replaced if they don’t do a good job. Dorante is most likely here because the Yankees want him working with specific players.

Both Casadiego and Seabol are new to Pulaski. Casadiego is making the jump up from the Dominican Summer League, where he was a pitching coach last summer. This is Seabol’s first coaching job. He’s a rookie. You might remember him from that one game he played with the 2001 Yankees. Fun Fact: At the time of his MLB debut, Seabol was the lowest drafted player ever to reach the big leagues*. The Yankees drafted him in the 88th round (!) of the 1996 draft. He was the 1,718th player chosen. Wild. Ozoa is returning to Pulaski and Russo spent last season with Staten Island.

* The lowest drafted player ever to reach the show? That would be Travis Phelps, Staten Island’s pitching coach. Phelps was an 89th round pick in 1996, taken 1,721st overall by the Devil Rays. Three picks after Seabol. Phelps made his MLB debut eleven days after Seabol. The 1996 draft went 100 rounds, though every team other than the Yankees and expansion Devil Rays dropped out by the 84th round. Tampa Bay dropped out after the 97th round, yet the Yankees kept going. Don’t ask me why.

Gulf Coast League Yankees East & West

Managers: Luis Sojo and Nick Ortiz

It is damn near impossible to find information about GCL coaching staffs, but those are the managers this year, according to George King (subs. req’d). Ortiz played a very long time (1991-2012) and all over the world without ever reaching the big leagues. He had been working as a scout with the Yankees, and is now getting into managing.

You know Sojo. He’s had on and off coaching stints in the farm system over the years, including managing High-A Tampa (2006-09, 2011-12) and serving as third base coach with Triple-A Scranton (2014). Sojo was an assistant field coordinator with the big league Yankees in 2015, whatever that means. Also, he managed Double-A Norwich in 2002 before coming out of retirement in 2003 to play with the Yankees after hitting a home run at Old Timers’ Day. Yup.

Miscellaneous

One name you may notice is missing: Tony Franklin. Franklin has spent the last ten seasons managing Trenton (2007-14) and Pulaski (2015-16), and according to Jed Weisberger, he will now be in Tampa full-time as the organization’s position player rehab coach. He’ll work with everyone from rookie ball kids to big leaguers. If a position player is rehabbing in Tampa, Franklin will oversee him.

Also moving into a new role is Greg Colbrunn, who sandwiched two stints as Charleston’s hitting coach (2007-12, 2016) around a three-year stretch as the Red Sox’s big league hitting coach (2013-15). Colbrunn suffered a brain hemorrhage in 2014 and left the Red Sox a year later to be closer to his family, who live in Charleston full-time. The Yankees announced Colbrunn will now be a roving hitting instructor, so he’ll travel from affiliate to affiliate to work with all the top prospects in the system.

Sorting out the projected 2017 Triple-A Scranton roster

Home of the RailRiders. (EwingCole.com)
Home of the RailRiders. (EwingCole.com)

Over the last few seasons the Yankees and every other team in baseball have begun to use their Triple-A affiliate as an extension of their big league roster. They not only send relievers up and down whenever a fresh arm is needed, they’ll also shuttle platoon players in and out based on upcoming pitching matchups. Clubs look for every advantage possible, and these days that means having MLB and Triple-A roster flexibility.

The Yankees have built an exceptional farm system with many high-caliber prospects ticketed for Triple-A. They also have several big league roster openings with young players slated to compete in Spring Training. The refreshing emphasis on youth means projecting the 2017 Triple-A Scranton roster is damn near impossible, but that won’t stop me from trying. I do this every winter and I ain’t stoppin’ now.

Now that the non-roster invitees have been announced, let’s try to figure out what the RailRiders’ roster will look like on Opening Day. After all, these players are depth players for the Yankees, and inevitably we’re going to see many of them in MLB at some point. The top prospects get all the attention, understandably, but don’t sleep on the Chris Parmelees and Anthony Swarzaks of the world either. Those guys have a way of finding themselves in the Bronx.

Let’s begin by looking at position player candidates for the Triple-A Scranton roster. An asterisk (*) denotes the player is on the 40-man roster, which, in this situation, is kind of a big deal.

Catchers Infielders Outfielders Utility
Kyle Higashioka* Greg Bird* Aaron Judge* Tyler Austin*
Wilkin Castillo Ronald Torreyes* Mason Williams* Rob Refsnyder*
Francisco Diaz Ji-Man Choi Jake Cave Tyler Wade
Kellin Deglan Cito Culver Dustin Fowler
Mike Ford Clint Frazier
Pete Kozma
Donovan Solano
Ruben Tejada

I have 20 position players in the table and these days Triple-A rosters run 25 players deep. As recent as 2011, Triple-A and Double-A teams fielded only 24-man rosters. For real. It is not at all uncommon for Triple-A clubs to carry eight-man bullpens, especially early in the season when pitchers are still getting in the swing of things and also having their workloads monitored. We need to pare that list of 20 players down to 13 or even 12.

Catchers: Barring injury, the Yankees are set with Gary Sanchez and Austin Romine behind the plate at the big league level. Romine did an okay job as the full-time backup last year, and while I wouldn’t completely rule out Higashioka winning the job in camp, it would surprise me. Remember, Romine is out of minor league options, which means if he’s not the backup catcher, he’s out of the organization. (Even if he clears waivers, he’d likely elect free agency and look for a big league opportunity elsewhere.)

The odds are strongly in favor of Romine backing up Sanchez with Higashioka biding his time as the third string catcher in Triple-A. The real question is who will back up Higashioka? Castillo seems like the safe bet considering he’s a 32-year-old journeyman with (a little) big league experience and a ton of Triple-A experience. Diaz has two games of Triple-A experience and that’s it. Deglan has barely played above Single-A. Those two figure to be the Double-A Trenton catching tandem with Higashioka and Castillo in Scranton. That’s two of our 12 position player roster spots.

Infielders: Austin, Bird, and Refsnyder are essentially competing for two big league roster spots: the first base job and a bench job. Everyone wants Bird to win the first base job, including the Yankees themselves. But, if he needs more time to shake off the rust following shoulder surgery, a return trip to Scranton could very well be in the cards. Either way, one of these three players figures to start the season with the RailRiders while the other two are with the Yankees. My guess is Refsnyder winds up in Triple-A, but who knows. Three of our 12 Triple-A roster spots are now taken.

Back to Triple-A for Mr. Refsnyder? (Presswire)
Refsnyder. (Presswire)

Solano, Tejada, and Torreyes will all compete for the big league reserve infielder’s job in Spring Training, or at least appear to compete for the job. Maybe even Kozma too. Torreyes not only filled the role admirably last season, he’s also on the 40-man roster and the other three are not. That’s one heck of a tiebreaker. Torreyes can be sent to Triple-A, he has options remaining, it’s just hard to think he could lose the bench job in Spring Training. Lil’ Ronnie in the show with the other three in Scranton seems to be the most likely outcome here. That’s six Triple-A roster spots accounted for now.

Choi has big league time and while I suppose it’s not completely impossible he wins the big league first base job should Bird need more time in Triple-A, I’d bet against it. The big league service time all but ensures Choi will start the season in Scranton, not Double-A Trenton. That figures to spell bad news for Ford, who has played only 42 career games at the Double-A level. Hard to think the Yankees would send two pure first basemen to Scranton. Choi is position player number seven.

Before we found out the Yankees re-signed Kozma, the final Triple-A infield spot came down to Culver or Ford. Now neither of them figures to get a Triple-A roster spot. They’ll likely have to go back to Double-A to begin the season. Either that, or the RailRiders will carry a six-man bullpen, and there’s no chance of that happening.

Outfield: In a roundabout way, Judge and Williams are competing for one big league roster spot. Judge will be given every opportunity to win the starting right field job, but if the Yankees determine he’s not ready for it, he could wind up back in Triple-A. In that case, Aaron Hicks would presumably take over in right field and Williams would get the fourth outfielder’s job. I suppose it could go to Refsnyder or Austin, but I think the Yankees would want an actual outfielder on the bench. There’s the eighth position player. (Hicks, by the way, is out of options and can’t be sent to Triple-A.)

Frazier is a Triple-A lock because he reached the level last season and is a priority guy as a top prospect. The Yankees aren’t going to send him to Double-A to clear a roster spot because Culver has tenure in the organization or anything like that. Fowler is another high-end prospect who had a successful season at Double-A in 2016, so an assignment to Triple-A is the natural order of things. Cave is a Triple-A veteran and the logical candidate for the fourth outfield spot. Frazier, Fowler, and Cave are position players nine, ten, and eleven.

Utility: I listed Austin and Refsnyder as utility players only because they can play the infield and outfield. They were already covered in the infield section. Wade, who is primarily an infielder but started working out in the outfield in the Arizona Fall League, had a solid Double-A season a year ago, so, like Fowler, an assignment to Triple-A makes sense. Wade is out 12th and final Triple-A position player.

Let’s quickly recap everything we just went through:

  • Catchers (2): Higashioka and Castillo
  • Infielders (4): Choi, Kozma, Solano, and Tejada
  • Outfielders (4): Cave, Fowler, Frazier, and either Judge or Williams
  • Utility (2): Wade, and one of Bird, Austin, or Refsnyder

That’s a dozen position players right there, and I suppose if the RailRiders open the season with a normal seven-man bullpen, either Culver or Ford would make the team as the 13th position player. Probably Culver. I still expect an eight-man bullpen, at least initially.

The perfect world scenario for the Yankees is Bird and Judge winning the first base and right field jobs, respectively, and Austin beating out Refsnyder for a bench spot. So, assuming that happens, here are the projected Triple-A position players, with a batting order written out because why not?

1. SS Tyler Wade
2. CF Dustin Fowler
3. LF Clint Frazier
4. DH Rob Refsnyder
5. C Kyle Higashioka
6. 3B Donovan Solano
7. 1B Ji-Man Choi
8. 2B Ruben Tejada
9. RF Mason Williams

Bench: C Wilkin Castillo, IF Pete Kozma, OF Jake Cave

The batting order is just for fun. Don’t take it to heart. Remember, players are going move around. Refsnyder won’t always DH. Wade will undoubtedly see some time in the outfield. Frazier and Williams will probably see time in all three outfield spots. Heck, Solano and Tejada will probably roam around the infield too. These things are very fluid. That, however, is the projected Triple-A Scranton group of position players based on everything we know at the moment. Now let’s get to the pitchers.

Starters Righty Relievers Lefty Relievers
Luis Cessa* Johnny Barbato* Richard Bleier*
Dietrich Enns* Gio Gallegos* Chasen Shreve*
Chad Green* Ben Heller* Joe Mantiply
Ronald Herrera* Jonathan Holder* Jason Gurka
Bryan Mitchell* J.P. Feyereisen Evan Rutckyj
Luis Severino* Mark Montgomery
Chance Adams Matt Wotherspoon
Daniel Camarena
Kyle Haynes
Brady Lail
Jordan Montgomery

Lots of pitchers. Lots and lots of pitchers. There are 23 of ’em in the table, and if that sounds like a lot, consider the RailRiders used 37 different pitchers last season, including 22 different starters. They used 45 pitchers and 24 different starters in 2015. So yeah, 23 pitches in the table seems like a lot, but it’s maybe half as many as Scranton will need to get through the season. Before you know it they’ll be signing Phil Coke out of an independent league again. That’s baseball, yo.

Rotation: At the moment, the Yankees have to two open big league rotation spots, which Brian Cashman & Co. insist will go to two young pitchers. Cashman has specifically singled out Cessa, Green, Mitchell, and Severino as the candidates for those jobs. (Adam Warren too, but I don’t think he’ll actually open the season in the rotation unless all hell breaks loose in camp.) My money is on Severino and Cessa getting the rotation spots. We’ll see.

In theory, the Yankees would send the two losers of the rotation competition to Triple-A, where they would bide their time until they need another starter in the Bronx. Sounds simple enough. That’s not necessarily how it will work though. In 2014 the Yankees held a three-way competition for the long reliever job — not even a rotation spot, the long reliever spot — between Warren, David Phelps, and Vidal Nuno. The Yankees ended up carrying all three on the Opening Day roster because they were the best men for the job.

Who’s to say that, if Cessa and Severino were to win the two rotation spots, that Green and Mitchell wouldn’t be in the bullpen? That really complicates things and is why I included guys like Haynes and Lail in this exercise. More than a few of those 40-man roster Triple-A rotation candidates could wind up in the big league bullpen, creating a need for starters in Scranton. Geez, that’s a mouthful.

Severino. (Danna Stevens/Times Tribune)
Severino. (Danna Stevens/Times Tribune)

Anyway, this is what I think will happen: two of the Cessa/Green/Mitchell/Severino quartet get big league rotation spots and a third winds up in the bullpen as the long man. The fourth goes to Scranton as the de facto sixth starter. That means, based our table, we’re left with seven candidates for the four remaining Triple-A rotation spots: Adams, Camarena, Enns, Haynes, Herrera, Lail, and Montgomery.

Two of the four spots are easy. They’ll go to Adams and Montgomery, two of the better pitching prospects in the organization, both of whom are ready for Triple-A. (Montgomery thrived there in his brief stint last year.) Enns and Herrera are on the 40-man roster, which could give them a leg up for the final two Triple-A rotation spots. I do wonder whether the Yankees will move Enns to the bullpen since that’s likely his ultimate destination.

For now, I’m guessing Enns remains a starter, meaning Scranton’s five-man rotation to start the season will be, in whatever order, Adams, Enns, Herrera, Montgomery, and one of Cessa, Green Mitchell, or Severino. That leaves Camarena, Haynes, and Lail out in the cold. The projected Double-A rotation is pretty stacked (Ian Clarkin, Josh Rogers, Justus Sheffield, etc.) so it’s not as simple as bumping them down a level. Hmmm.

Bullpen: Right now, the Yankees have five big league bullpen spots accounted for: Aroldis Chapman, Dellin Betances, Tyler Clippard, Tommy Layne, and Warren. Layne is out of options, so if he doesn’t make the big league bullpen, he’s probably out of the organization. No Triple-A for him. I assumed in the previous section one of the four young starters winds up in the bullpen, which means six of seven big league bullpen spots are accounted for in this little exercise.

I have 12 relievers in the table plus Camarena, Haynes, and Lail to consider, so that’s 15 pitchers total. One of those 15 is going to get the final big league bullpen spot, so it’s really 14 pitchers for eight Triple-A bullpen spots. In all likelihood one of the 40-man roster guys will get that last bullpen job with the Yankees. It doesn’t really matter which one, specifically. My money is on Bleier because the Yankees really seem to like him, but ultimately the name doesn’t matter.

Why doesn’t it matter? Because there are six 40-man relievers in that table, and whichever ones don’t get that final MLB bullpen spot will wind up in Triple-A, no questions asked. None of ’em are going to Double-A. That’s five Triple-A bullpen spots accounted for already, which leaves us nine pitchers for the final two or three bullpen spots (depending whether they carry a seven or eight-man bullpen): Camarena, Feyereisen, Gurka, Haynes, Lail, Mantiply, Montgomery, Rutckyj, and Wotherspoon.

The Yankees signed Gurka as a minor league free agent earlier this offseason and he has some big league bullpen time with the Rockies, so I think he gets a Triple-A bullpen spot. Cashman talked up Mantiply at the town hall two weeks ago and he has a tiny little bit of big league time too, so I think he gets a Triple-A bullpen spot as well. If the RailRiders employ an eight-man bullpen — and to be clear, the Yankees make that decision, not the RailRiders — I think it would be Feyereisen. Just a hunch. Camarena, Haynes, Lail, Montgomery, Rutckyj, and Wotherspoon end up in Double-A for the time being. (One or two might even get released.)

Alright, so after all of that, my projected 13-man Triple-A Scranton pitching staff shakes out like this:

  • Rotation (5): Adams, Enns, Herrera, Montgomery, and one of Cessa, Green, Mitchell, or Severino.
  • Bullpen (8): Feyereisen, Gurka, Mantiply, and five of Barbato, Bleier, Gallegos, Heller, Holder, or Shreve.

After going through all of that, I must point out the odds are strongly in favor of this post being a complete waste of time. Guys are going to get hurt in Spring Training, released before the end of camp, whatever. These things change and they change a lot. Trying to project the Triple-A Opening Day roster in late January is a fool’s errand, so I guess that makes me a fool.

I still think it can be instructive to go through this exercise each year, even though it’s prone to blowing up in my face. It’s good to get an idea of how the Triple-A roster will shake out, see where the Yankees have depth, and who the call-up candidates are at any given moment. I have a tendency to forget about Herrera, personally. Laying this all out is a good reminder that hey, he’s probably going to be in the Scranton rotation. So even though this is all very subject to change, I think we get a good grasp of what the Triple-A roster may look like come April.

DotF: Solak’s first pro homer helps Staten Island to a win

Here are the day’s notes:

  • RHP Chance Adams was included in the Helium Watch section of this week’s Prospect Hot Sheet. Interestingly enough, the write-up says his changeup is more advanced than his slider, which is pretty much the exact opposite of everything I’ve read since he was drafted last year. Weird.
  • RHP Jordan Foley was promoted to Double-A Trenton and LHP Nestor Cortes has been promoted to High-A Tampa, according to Josh Norris. They’ve both had very nice years. Foley, the team’s fifth round pick two years ago, is a full-time reliever now.
  • Reggie Jackson is joining the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders ownership group, reports Shane Hennigan. He’ll be part of the ownership group and serve as a special advisor to the club. So that’s two celebrity owners in the system. Bill Murray owns part the Charleston RiverDogs.
  • Here’s a good story on the Pulaski franchise by Benjamin Hill. Two years ago the ballpark was run down and attendance was terrible, which led to the Mariners ending their affiliation. A new owner came in, renovated the park, hooked up with the Yankees, and now the franchise is the crown jewel of the Appalachian League.

Triple-A Scranton (6-5 win over Durham in ten innings)

  • CF Mason Williams: 3-5, 2 R, 1 RBI, 1 K, 1 SB — 18-for-44 (.409) in his last eleven games
  • LF Ben Gamel: 1-4, 1 R, 1 RBI, 2 BB, 2 SB — walk-off single
  • C Gary Sanchez: 0-3, 1 RBI, 2 BB — picked a runner off second with a snap throw
  • 1B Ike Davis: 1-4, 1 RBI, 1 BB, 1 K
  • DH Tyler Austin: 1-4, 1 BB, 3 K
  • RHP Brady Lail: 4.2 IP, 5 H, 1 R, 1 ER, 3 BB, 3 K, 1 WP, 5/2 GB/FB — 43 of 70 pitches were strikes (61%)
  • LHP Phil Coke: 1 IP, 4 H, 4 R, 4 ER, 1 BB, 1 K, 2/0 GB/FB — 17 of 29 pitches were strikes (58%)
  • RHP Gio Gallegos: 2.1 IP, 0 H, 0 R, 0 ER, 1 BB, 2 K, 1 WP, 1 Balk, 0/3 GB/FB — 30 of 44 pitches were strikes (68%) … 71/13 K/BB in 55.1 innings
  • RHP Nick Goody: 1 IP, zeroes, 2 K, 0/1 GB/FB — seven of 13 pitches were strikes (54%)

[Read more…]

2016 Minor League Coaching Staffs Announced

Pedrique. (Martin Griff/Times of Trenton)
Pedrique. (Martin Griff/Times of Trenton)

With Spring Training inching closer and closer, the Yankees have announced the field staffs for their various minor league affiliates. Minor league coaches are important! They’re the ones working most closely with the team’s prospects on a day-to-day basis. Here are the 2016 coaching staffs.

Triple-A Scranton

Manager: Al Pedrique
Hitting Coach: Tom Wilson
Pitching Coach: Tommy Phelps
Bullpen Coach: Jason Brown
Trainer: Darren London
Strength Coordinator: Brad Hyde
Video Coordinator: Tyler DeClerck

Almost the entire Triple-A coaching staff is new. Longtime manager Dave Miley was let go earlier this offseason, hitting coach Marcus Thames was promoted to the big league assistant hitting coach job, and pitching coach Scott Aldred was moved into a roving pitching coordinator role to replace the departed Gil Patterson.

Pedrique has climbed the ladder the last few seasons, going from High-A manager in 2014 to Double-A manager in 2015 to Triple-A manager in 2016. Phelps was the pitching coach at High-A last season after serving as the Double-A pitching coach from 2009-14. Wilson, the former MLB catcher, is moving into a coaching role after spending the last few seasons in the organization as a scout. Hyde was actually with the big league team last year as the assistant strength and conditioning director. He gets the head job in Triple-A.

Double-A Trenton

Manager: Bobby Mitchell
Hitting Coach: P.J. Pilittere
Pitching Coach: Jose Rosado
Defense Coach: Justin Tordi
Bullpen Coach: J.D. Closser
Trainer: Lee Meyer

Mitchell replaces Pedrique and is a new hire. He has big league coaching experience — he previously worked as an outfield and base-running coach with the Braves, Angels, Red Sox, Padres, and Expos — and has spent the last few years managing in Angels and Cubs minor league systems. Mitchell played 202 MLB games as an outfielder with the Dodgers and Twins from 1980-83.

Pilittere and Rosado return as hitting and pitching coach, respectively. Pilittere has long been an organizational favorite, dating back to his playing days as a catcher. Tordi moves down a level after serving as a defense coach with the RailRiders last year. Closser, the former big league catcher, moves up a level. He was the defense coach with High-A Tampa last summer.

High-A Tampa

Manager: Patrick Osborne
Hitting Coach: Tom Slater
Pitching Coach: Tim Norton
Defense Coach: Anthony Pacheco
Trainer: Michael Becker
Strength Coordinator: Jose Siara

It appears Osborne is a rising managerial star in the system. He joined the organization back in 2014 after managing in independent leagues, and he’s since climbed the managerial ranks from the Rookie Gulf Coast League (2014) to Short Season Staten Island (2015) to High-A Tampa (2016.) Norton, the former bullpen prospect, was the Low-A Charleston pitching coach last year. Slater rejoins the organization after holding various hitting coach/instructor positions from 2012-14. Pacheco has been promoted after working in the GCL last year.

Low-A Charleston

Manager: Luis Dorante
Hitting Coach: Greg Colbrunn
Pitching Coach: Justin Pope
Defense Coach: Travis Chapman
Catching Coach: Michel Hernandez
Trainer: Jimmy Downam
Strength Coordinator: Anthony Velazquez
Video Coordinator: Cody Cockrum

This will be Dorante’s third season as RiverDogs manager. Pope has been promoted after spending last year with the new Rookie Pulaski affiliate. Colbrunn returns to the RiverDogs — he was with the club from 2007-12 as their hitting coach and manager — after spending the 2013-15 seasons with the Red Sox. He was their big league hitting coach from 2013-14 and held another job in the organization in 2015. Colbrunn suffered a brain hemorrhage late in 2014 and stepped down as hitting coach so he could be closer to his family in Charleston, where he lives year round.

Hernandez seems to be the organization’s minor league catching guru. He signed with the Yankees as a player in 1998 after defecting from Cuba, and he appeared in five games with the 2003 Yankees before moving on to other organizations. Hernandez has been a coaching coordinator in the system for years and last season the club named him Double-A Trenton defense coach specifically to work with Gary Sanchez. Hernandez’s assignment to the RiverDogs may indicate the now healthy Luis Torrens will spend next season with Low-A Charleston.

Short Season Staten Island

Manager: Dave Bialas
Hitting Coach: Eric Duncan
Defense Coach: Teuris Oliveras

The SI Yanks didn’t announce their entire coaching staff, just those three names. Bialas managed High-A Tampa last season, so he and Osborne switched jobs. Duncan, the Yankees first round pick back in 2003, will be in his second season as Baby Bombers hitting coach. Farm system head Gary Denbo told Brendan Kuty he hopes Duncan will join the organization in a full-time capacity at some point. Right now he wants to stick with the short season leagues. Oliveras, like Duncan, is returning in the same role.

Rookie Pulaski

Manager: Tony Franklin
Hitting Coach: Edwar Gonzalez
Pitching Coach: Butch Henry
Defense Coach: Hector Rabago
Trainer: Josh DiLoreto
Strength Coordinator: Danny Russo
Video Coordinator: Nick Avanzato

Everyone on the staff was with Pulaski last season except Henry, who was the pitching coach with Short Season Staten Island. Longtime DotF readers will recognize Gonzalez and Rabago from their playing days in the system. Franklin, who managed Double-A Trenton from 2007-14, was moved down to Pulaski last year because Denbo wanted him working with the organization’s youngest prospects. During the first half of the season Franklin is something of a roving coach who travels to the different affiliates to work with players. He then joins Pulaski when the season starts in June.

Rookie Gulf Coast League Yankees

Up-to-date information on GCL coaching staffs is always tough to find — last year’s coaching staffs are still listed on MiLB.com — though Josh Norris did mention former big leaguer Armando Galarraga has joined the organization and will serve as pitching coach with one of the two GCL affiliates. You remember him from the botched perfect game. Galarraga retired as a player last year and was at the Winter Meetings looking for a coaching job in December, and apparently the Yankees hired him. He’s never been in the organization as a player to anything, so he must have impressed during the interview. Cool.

Manager Dave Miley will not return to Triple-A Scranton in 2016

(Times Leader)
(Times Leader)

Longtime manager Dave Miley will not return to Triple-A Scranton next season, according to multiple reports. “Dave was great for the Yankees and did a lot of great stuff,” said Brian Cashman to George King. “Obviously, Gary (Denbo) is running (the farm system now) and is trying to put people in places. With new people changes occur with new regimes.”

Miley, 53, has managed New York’s top minor league club since 2006, when they were still affiliated with the Columbus Clippers. He remained with the organization when the Yankees left Columbus for Scranton in 2007. Miley played in the minors from 1980-87 without reaching MLB. He coached in the Reds’ farm system from 1988-2002 before serving as their big league manager from 2003-05.

The Scranton/Wilkes-Barre franchise has been around since 1989 and Miley is the all-time leader in wins (714). He led them to their only International League championship in 2008 as well as five division titles (2007-10, 2015). Miley was in charge when Triple-A Scranton spent the entire 2012 season on the road due to extensive renovations at PNC Field, and he’s managed every one of the Yankees’ recent top prospects, including Phil Hughes, Brett Gardner, David Robertson, Dellin Betances, Jesus Montero, and Luis Severino. It’s a long list.

It’s unclear who will replace Miley and it’s too early for that anyway. Minor league coaching staffs usually aren’t announced until December or January. Denbo replaced Mark Newman last year and rearranged the coaching staffs extensively. Some coaches were moved around — longtime Double-A Trenton manager Tony Franklin was moved to the new Rookie Pulaski affiliate, for example — and some were replaced with outside hires. Miley was one of the very few who remained in place.

Sorting out the projected 2015 Triple-A Scranton roster

Sanchez will be the top prospect in Triple-A in 2015. (Presswire)
Sanchez will be the top prospect in Triple-A in 2015. (Presswire)

As we’ve seen firsthand the last few seasons, these days it takes way more than 25 players to get through a 162-game season. It usually takes more than the 40 guys on the 40-man roster as well. Players get hurt and/or underperform, and reinforcements are needed. The Yankees used a franchise record 58 different players last season and over the last five seasons they’ve averaged 50 players per year.

Needless to say, the Triple-A affiliate is very important. Many clubs use it as a taxi squad for their extra players, calling up fresh arms for the bullpen as needed or an extra right-handed bat if they’re slated to see a lot of lefty starters that week. Stuff like that. Triple-A is a place to stash spare players, the important depth pieces each team needs throughout the season.

So, with that in mind, let’s look at the projected Triple-A Scranton roster for the upcoming season. Keep in mind that it is only the middle of January and a lot can and will change between now and Opening Day. This is just a snapshot in time. Let’s get to it.

Position Players

Catchers Infielders Outfielders Utility
Gary Sanchez* Kyle Roller Eury Perez* Jose Pirela*
Austin Romine* Nick Noonan Tyler Austin* Adonis Garcia
Juan Graterol Rob Refsnyder Ramon Flores* Jonathan Galvez
Francisco Arcia Cole Figueroa Taylor Dugas Ali Castillo
Rob Segedin Ben Gamel

Players on the 40-man roster are denoted with an asterisk. Aside from putting the 40-man guys at the top, there’s no particular reason why the players are listed in that order, so don’t read anything into it.

Sanchez, who seems to be a little underrated at the moment, will serve as the RailRiders’ regular catcher after spending a year and a half in Double-A. Romine is the most obvious candidate to back Sanchez up, though he is out of minor league options, so sending him down will require a trip through waivers. I suppose Romine could back up Brian McCann with John Ryan Murphy in Triple-A, but that seems highly unlikely. If Romine does get lost on waivers, Arcia and minor league free agent pickup Graterol are the backup candidates. I’d bet on Arcia backing up Sanchez in that case with Graterol either in Double-A or on the phantom DL.

Refsnyder. (Scranton Times-Tribune)
Refsnyder. (Scranton Times-Tribune)

The first of two locks on the infield is Refsnyder, who will play second and probably bat third if he doesn’t slip onto the big league roster somehow. That would require an injury in Spring Training, most likely. Roller at first base is the other lock and he’ll probably bat cleanup behind Refnsyder. He mashed last summer. Segedin spent some time in Triple-A last year and it didn’t go well (2 wRC+!), though he’ll likely get another shot this year and play his usual third base. Noonan and Figueroa were signed as minor league free agents and are candidates to play short.

The outfield is a little crowded, though I expect Perez to be designated for assignment to clear a 40-man spot for Stephen Drew. (No, the Drew signing still isn’t official. They’re taking their time with that one.) Assuming Perez goes, Dugas and Garcia will share center field duty like they did at times in 2014. Flores and Austin are natural fits in left and right field, respectively, and Pirela will probably wind up playing a different position everyday, like he did last season. He’ll be the rover. That’s assuming he doesn’t win a big league bench job somehow.

That brings us to 12 position players assuming Perez loses his roster spot to Drew. The 13th position player spot will go to one of Gamel, Castillo, or Galvez, and I think Galvez is the obvious choice, mostly because he’s spent the last two years in Triple-A. Gamel (80 wRC+) and Castillo (81 wRC+) weren’t particularly good with Double-A Trenton in 2014. Galvez was another minor league free agent signing and his 101 wRC+ at Triple-A the last two years suggests he will be there again in 2015. He might even start at third over Segedin.

Alright, so after all of that, the position player portion of the RailRiders roster figures to look something like this:

C Sanchez
1B Roller
2B Refsnyder
SS Noonan or Figueroa
3B Segedin
LF Flores
CF Dugas or Garcia
RF Austin
DH Pirela

Bench: Romine/Graterol/Arcia, Noonan or Figueroa, Dugas or Garcia, Galvez

If you want to play around with the batting order, I’d go with Pirela at leadoff, then Flores, Refsnyder, Roller, Sanchez, Austin, Segedin, Dugas or Garcia, then Noonan or Figueroa in the ninth spot. More importantly, Pirela is likely to be the first player called up whenever help is needed simply because he’s already on the 40-man and can play almost anywhere. Not well, mind you, but he can do it. Versatility works in his favor.

Austin, Sanchez, and Flores are all on the 40-man and I think all three will make their MLB debuts this season, even if it’s nothing more than a September call-up. Flores played 63 games around an ankle injury in Triple-A last summer and will probably get the call before Austin if an outfielder is needed. Sanchez isn’t ready to catch in MLB so an awful lot would have to go wrong for him to get called up at midseason. Someone like Noonan or Figueroa could get a random call-up at some point if necessary. We’ll see. For the most part, this is the crop of position players I expect to head to Scranton at the end of Spring Training.

Pitchers

Starters RH Relievers LH Relievers
Jose DePaula* Jose Ramirez* Chasen Shreve*
Bryan Mitchell* Branden Pinder* Jacob Lindgren
Chase Whitley* Danny Burawa* Tyler Webb
Zach Nuding Chris Martin* James Pazos
Matt Tracy Mark Montgomery Fred Lewis
Caleb Cotham Diego Moreno
Joel De La Cruz

Update: I totally forgot about RHP Nick Rumbelow, who ended last season in Triple-A. He’ll be in the bullpen mix this year as well. My bad.

Again, don’t read anything into the order of the players in the table. I just listed them as they came to mind. Also, I’m not actually sure if De La Cruz is with the organization any more. He re-signed with the Yankees as a minor league free agent last offseason and I don’t know if he did so again this year.

Anyway, the Triple-A rotation is very much up in the air depending on the needs of the big league team. If the Yankees need to dip into this group of players before Opening Day, Mitchell would presumably get the first shot at the rotation. Whitley made some starts last season and was actually pretty good for a while, but the wheels eventually came off and I don’t think anyone’s looking forward to seeing him in the rotation again anytime soon. I do think he’ll start for the RailRiders just to stay stretched out as an emergency option though.

DePaula’s interesting. The Yankees liked him enough to give him a Major League contract and a 40-man roster spot a few weeks ago, though he’s thrown only 131 innings over the last three years due to injury (51.1 in 2014). He’s a starter and an easy call for the Triple-A rotation. Nuding, Tracy, Cotham and De La Cruz all spent part of last season with the RailRiders and I think I’d put them in that order on a depth chart. Meaning if everyone in the MLB rotation stays healthy, I think the Triple-A rotation would include Mitchell, DePaula, Whitley, Nuding, and Tracy with Cotham and De La Cruz stuck back in Double-A. Assuming De La Cruz is still in the system, of course.

One rotation candidate who is not listed is top pitching prospect Luis Severino, who the Yankees have clearly put on the fast track. I don’t think Severino will start the year with Triple-A Scranton — he made six starts with Trenton at the end of last season — because right now it appears the RailRiders have enough bodies for the rotation. More than enough, really. Plus he’s an actual prospect, not just someone to soak up innings. A few more starts in Double-A won’t be the end of the world. Severino will be up in Triple-A before you know it.

The bullpen is where it really gets a little tight. The Yankees have one open spot in the big league bullpen right now and that spot will go to one of those eleven guys listed in the table above. I fully expect a) there to be a Spring Training competition for that last bullpen spot, and b) that last spot to be a revolving door all year. It always is. Whoever wins the roster spot in camp doesn’t automatically get to keep it all year either. If that player isn’t doing the job, the Yankees will be quick to make a change because they have plenty of options.

Lewis and Moreno have Triple-A time but are non-prospects and low priority players, so they’ll be on the short end of the roster stick come decision time. They could start the year in Double-A or be flat out released if there’s no room. Montgomery, who isn’t much of a prospect anymore because he lost a ton of velocity following his 2013 shoulder injury, was demoted from Triple-A to Double-A last year. I think he’ll get another shot at Triple-A this year. Pazos had a 1.50 ERA (2.78 FIP) in 42 innings from Trenton last season and could wind up back there because of the numbers crunch.

Ramirez. (Presswire)
Ramirez. (Presswire)

Assuming Lewis, Moreno, and Pazos don’t make the RailRiders roster — and the extra starters (Cotham and De La Cruz) are sent to Double-A instead of the bullpen — we’re down to eight relievers for eight roster spots — the last spot in MLB and seven in Triple-A. Who gets that MLB spot will be determined in camp and I honestly think it’ll go to whoever looks the best during Grapefruit League play. If it’s Ramirez, it’s Ramirez. If it’s Shreve, it’s Shreve. If Martin surprises and wins the last bullpen spot, great. I think that race is wide open.

So, based on all of that, I think the Triple-A rotation will be Mitchell, DePaula, Whitley, Nuding, and Tracy with an eight-man bullpen pool of Shreve, Lindgren, Webb, Ramirez, Pinder, Burawa, Martin, and Montgomery. One of those eight gets to start the year in the show as the last reliever and 25th man on the roster. Guessing which pitcher will be the first to get called up is a fool’s errand. That depends on rest and availability as much as it does performance. The 40-man guys are always a safe bet to get the call first.

It goes without saying this all subject to change. We’re still five weeks from the start of the Spring Training, meaning there is plenty of time for trades and DFAs and injuries and all sorts of other stuff before the start of the regular season. This is just a best guess based on the personnel available right now. The Yankees have built up quite a bit of depth this winter, particularly pitching depth, and that carries over into the minors. Guys like Cotham, Lewis, and Pazos would have been locks for Triple-A in part years, but now it appears they’ll have to return to Double-A until there’s an injury. One way or another, expect to see many of these guys in the Bronx this summer.

Triple-A Scranton, Double-A Trenton announce coaching staffs

Thames is movin' on up. (Times of Trenton)
Thames is movin’ on up. (Times of Trenton)

The Yankees have yet to hire a new hitting coach and first base coach, but they have finalized the coaching staffs for their top two minor league affiliates. They were officially announced a few days ago. There was quite a bit a turnover — which isn’t uncommon at the minor league level —  and some of it appears to have long-term big league implications. Here are the new staffs:

Triple-A Scranton

Manager: Dave Miley
Hitting Coach: Marcus Thames
Pitching Coach: Scott Aldred
Defensive Coach: Justin Tordi
Trainers: Darren London (head trainer) and Lee Tressell (strength and conditioning)

Miley, Aldred, and London are all returning. Miley has been managing New York’s top farm team since 2006, when they were still affiliated with the Columbus Clippers. Aldred was considered for the big league pitching coach job a few years ago before Larry Rothschild was hired. Tordi was the first base and bench coach with Low-A Charleston last summer.

The most notable name here is Thames, who was said to be a candidate for the big league hitting coach job earlier this offseason. In fact, at one point it was erroneously reported he would take over as the team’s assistant hitting coach, but obviously that isn’t the case. Thames was the hitting coach for High-A Tampa in 2013 and Double-A Trenton in 2014, so he’s moving up another level. He has a lot of supporters in the organization and it appears the team is grooming him for an MLB coaching job in the future, perhaps as soon as 2016. Maybe that whole assistant hitting coach report thing was a year early.

Double-A Trenton

Manager: Al Pedrique
Hitting Coach: P.J. Pilittere
Pitching Coach: Jose Rosado
Defensive Coach: Michel Hernandez
Trainers: Lee Meyer (head trainer) and Orlando Crance (strength and conditioning)

Hernandez, Meyer and Crance are all returning to the team. Rosado is joining the Thunder after spending the last four seasons as a pitching coach with one of the team’s two rookie level Gulf Coast League affiliates.

Pilittere, who longtime RAB readers will remember as a player from Down on the Farm, was High-A Tampa’s hitting coach last year, Low-A Charleston’s hitting the coach the year before that, and the Rookie GCL Yanks hitting coach the year before that. The scouting report on him as a player always said he was smart guy with top notch makeup, which made him a good coaching candidate down the line. Like Thames, Pilittere seems to be a faster riser up the coaching ranks.

Pedrique is replacing longtime Thunder skipper Tony Franklin, who had been managing the team since 2007. Pedrique has some big league managerial and coaching experience — he spent 83 games as interim manager of the awful Diamondbacks in 2004 — and has been with the organization since 2013. He managed Low-A Charleston in 2013 and High-A Tampa in 2014.

Franklin, meanwhile, will manage the Pulaski Yankees in 2015, the organization’s new rookie ball affiliate, according to George King (subs. req’d). King notes that under new player development head Gary Denbo, the Yankees want to put veteran managers at the lower levels of the minors to work with their youngest prospects. I like the idea. I have no idea if it’ll make any real difference, but I like it.