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  • Writer's pictureSteve Potter

12/16/22 : Some Minor League Coaching Changes

Updated: Dec 18, 2022

Matt Gelb of the Athletic posted an article this morning which details some new hirings and a restructure of the Phillies minor league hitting approach in player development.  I recommend that you all read it if you have a subscription - if not then perhaps signing up for a subscription would be wise. I had known of most of the changes before Matt’s article but as is my personal policy I don’t disclose those things until either the team does or a professional writer issues an article.

In essence the hitting side of the player development strategy will align to the pitching structure - with a twist. Major league hitting coach Kevin Long has significant input into the philosophy of the player development hitting standards that will be taught and protected.  On the pitching side Brian Kaplan ( Director of Pitching Development/Assistant Major League Pitching Coach ) oversees the organization’s pitching development philosophy with Major League Pitching Coach Caleb Cotham having input akin to how Long does with hitting.

So - drum roll 🤓👏 - the new Minor League Director of Hitting is Luke Murton - he comes to the Phillies from the San Diego Padres where he’s been a Baseball Operations Advisor and Scouting Cross Checker since October of 2018.  Prior to that he was a scout with the San Francisco Giants from 2015 to 2018 and a minor league coach with the Boston Red Sox before that.  He’s owned and operated a hitting instruction business since 2009.  Luke played collegiate baseball at Georgia Tech University - was the Yankees 19th round draft selection in the 2009 draft - played five seasons in the Yankees system as a first baseman and hit 25 home runs for AA level Trenton on 2012.  He was released by the Yankees in 2013 and played two more seasons in the Red Sox system before turning to coaching.

Here’s the twist - Luke will also do amateur scouting for the Phillies and will report to both Player Development Director Preston Mattingly and Amateur Scouting Director Brian Barber with the concept of the dual duties being to better align scouting with player development.

Two new titles have been created - Upper-Level Hitting Coordinator/Development Analyst & Lower-Level Hitting Coordinator/Development Analyst with the Upper level job focusing on AAA, AA and High A and the lower level focus being on Low A and the Complex.  Two internal promotions were made to fill the roles.

Upper-Level Hitting Coordinator/Development Analyst - Kevin Mahala - was Phillies player information assistant from 2020 to 2021 - became the Offensive Development Analyst in November of 2021.  Played in the Pirates organization from 2016 to 2018 after playing collegiate baseball at West Virginia.

Lower-Level Hitting Coordinator/Development Analyst - Jake Elmore - served as hitting coach for the Clearwater Threshers in 2022 and as the Phillies designated coach for the Arizona Fall League.  Jake was drafted by the Diamondbacks in the 34th round of the 2008 draft and played 217 games in the major leagues from 2012 to 2019 with the D’Backs, Astros, Reds, Rays, Brewers and Pirates.  He concluded his playing career last year as a member of the Lehigh Valley Iron Pigs when he was released on August 24th.

Another new position was created for the Dominican Academy - the responsibility will be to oversee the hitting program there.  Edwar Gonzalez joins the organization in the new role - he was the Major League Assistant Hitting Coach for the Marlins last season and prior to that served as Miami’s Minor League Hitting Coordinator for two seasons. “Prior to joining the Marlins, he spent nine seasons with the New York Yankees organization including three seasons as a Hitting Coach for the Yankees Minor League affiliates.  Gonzalez played in 770 career Minor League games from 2002-10 with the Yankees organization, combining to bat .257 with 156 doubles, 65 HRs and 368 RBI. He attended Seminole State College in Oklahoma.” - Excerpt from Miami Marlins 2022 Media Guide.

The hitting coaches at each of the minor league affiliates are as follows :

Lehigh Valley Hitting Coach - Joe Thurston - returns for his second season with the Iron Pigs - previously served as hitting coach for the 2021 Peoria Javelinas in the Arizona Fall League.  He was hired by the Seattle Mariners as their major league first base and outfield coach as a fill in for Perry Hill ( out with Covid ) prior to the 2020 season.  In 2021 he was the hitting coach for AA Arkansas for the Mariners.  Thurston began his coaching career when he joined the Red Sox organization at the AA level in 2015.  He was then a coach in independent league baseball for Billings in 2016 and moved to the Mariners organization as a coach in 2017-2018 with Modesto and in Everett for 2019.   He played parts of seven seasons in the major leagues ( 184 games ) with the Dodgers, Phillies, Marlins, Cardinals and Red Sox and 13 seasons ( 1,496 games ) in the minor leagues primarily as a second baseman.

Reading Hitting Coach - Tyler Henson - returns for 5th year at Reading - became a coach with the Phillies in 2017 at Williamsport, with Lakewood in 2018, and began in Clearwater in 2019 before moving up to Reading.  Played ten seasons of minor league baseball as an infielder with the Orioles, Dodgers and Phillies organizations.

Jersey Shore Hitting Coach - TBD

Clearwater Hitting Coach - Chris Heinz - begins his 6th year with the Phillies.  He’s served the last two years as the Minor League assistant hitting coordinator - was on the Threshers and FCL staff prior to that.  Played in the Twins organization from 2003 to 2007 and coached for them in the minors in 2009 before joining the University of South Florida as an assistant coach in 2010 where he served for five seasons.

FCL Hitting Coaches  :

Rafael Delima - a long time Phillies coach who is well received by the players and staff alike - became manager of the VSL Phillies when the club was formed in 2005; he had already been coordinating the Venezuelan academy for several years. Came stateside to coach for Williamsport ( 2012 ), the GCL Phillies ( 2013-2019, and the Jersey Shore Blue Claws in 2021 - was the FCL Hitting Coach last season.

Zac Jones - served last year as a hitting coach at the Dominican Academy - coached the FCL Phillies in 2021.  Played with the Diamondbacks organization as a Catcher in 2018 before turning his attention to coaching.  Went to Trinity Christian College in Illinois.

Jason Ochart has left the organization and is now the Director of Hitting Development and Program Design with the Boston Red Sox.  Last season’s hitting coach with the Jersey Shore Blue Claws Ari Adut has also left the organization and has a role with another major league organization - not officially announced yet so I won’t do so here.

There are changes on the Pitching side as well - Matt mentioned that Mark Lowy has been promoted to a new role - Upper-Level Pitching Coordinator/Development Analyst -  he is a graduate of Gettysburg College - in his second year with the Phillies, was titled Pitching Development Analyst previously.  He served as Associate Pitching Coordinator for Cressy Sports Performance for two and half years, before that as a Strength and Conditioning Coach for 16 months. Director of Sports Performance at Gains Sports Performance from 2018 to 2019.

There’s a new role entitled Lower-Level Pitching Coordinator/Development Analyst that’s also been filled internally.  I believe all of the pitching coaches that finished the 2022 season are returning albeit there’s some shuffling in regards to which affiliate they are assigned to.  There has also been at least one new hiring which I am aware of - again it’s my personal policy to wait till the team announces names or a professional writer does before I present an article - stay tuned 🤓.

Happy Day, Happy Baseball ⚾️

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