The Orioles announced their minor league coaching and development staff for next season on Monday morning. It’s a list with a lot of familiar names on it for those who’ve been following the O’s minors, with more than half of the 2019 coaches returning, many of whom have tenures stretching back into the Dan Duquette years or even earlier.
This time a year ago, the Orioles had only just hired Mike Elias as the general manager. They did not get the opportunity to have their first pick for coaches of the minor league teams, since a lot of people had already been hired. They didn’t get to announce their full 2019 minor league coaches until February.
One narrative preferred by some segments of the mainstream media about the first year of the Elias tenure has been to talk about all of the “good baseball men” who didn’t retain jobs as the Orioles became more analytics-oriented. Some scouts and coaches probably did lose jobs for this reason. However, after year one, a whole lot of holdovers have managed to adjust and move up through the minor league coaching ranks.
The 2020 minor league coaching staffs will each have five coaches: Manager, pitching coach, hitting coach, fundamentals coach, and development coach. Staffs previously had four coaches. Previously, higher minors teams had a coach called a “field coach”, while the lower minors teams had a development coach. Now, every team will have a development coach plus a fundamentals coach.
Norfolk Tides (Triple-A)
- Manager: Gary Kendall
- Pitching Coach: Kennie Steenstra (promoted from Bowie)
- Hitting Coach: Sean Berry (returning to org. in 2020)
- Fundamentals Coach: Ramon Sambo
- Development Coach: Eli Steinfield (new to org.)
The manager, Kendall, has been managing O’s farm teams since 2004, when he helmed the rookie-level Bluefield Orioles, who haven’t existed for a while. He has managed at Aberdeen, Delmarva, and Bowie. Experience is not a bad thing for the new O’s player development group, as long as the managers and coaches can filter that experience through newer thinking.
Steenstra has also been in the O’s organization for a long time, coming up on his 16th season. The Baysox rotation did well under his tutelage last season and he’ll probably get to see many of the same guys at Norfolk to try to give them the last bit of polish needed to get up to MLB. Berry was the Tides hitting coach from 2015-17 and served as the Marlins Double-A hitting coach in 2019.
Steinfield, in the new development coach role, was an Astros Player Development Technology Apprentice in 2019. This probably gives a clue as to what the role of this coach is going to be up and down the minors. “Development” means using technology and analytics to help get the best version of each player.
Bowie Baysox (Double-A)
- Manager: Buck Britton
- Pitching Coach: Justin Ramsay (promoted from Delmarva)
- Hitting Coach: Tim Gibbons (new to org.)
- Fundamentals Coach: Butch Davis (previously Norfolk hitting coach)
- Development Coach: Grant Anders (new to org.)
Britton was the Eastern League Manager of the Year in 2019 as the Baysox played their way into the League Championship Series. Here is another case of the new Orioles front office seeming to like what they see from a guy who was already hanging around under Duquette.
Ramsay gets a bump up to Bowie after helping with a phenomenal Delmarva Shorebirds pitching staff last season. Gibbons arrives from outside of the professional coaching ranks, having served as Director of Hitting for Be Elite Sports Training. Anders, the development coach, spent 2019 as a Baseball Operations Trainee with the Reds.
Frederick Keys (High-A)
- Manager: Kyle Moore (promoted from Delmarva)
- Pitching Coach: Josh Conway (previously Bowie development coach)
- Hitting Coach: Tom Eller (promoted from Aberdeen)
- Fundamentals Coach: Collin Woody (new as coach)
- Development Coach: David Barry (previously Delmarva video technician)
A number of the players who contributed to Moore’s Shorebirds in 2019 will see him again in Frederick in 2020. Moore, too, has been kicking around even beyond the Duquette days; this will be his 11th season with the organization.
Conway was a Cubs minor leaguer and coach before joining the O’s organization last year; he graduated high school in Smithsburg, Maryland, so a Frederick assignment is not far from where he’s from. Eller was the head baseball coach of Harford Community College before he joined Aberdeen last season.
Woody, a former Orioles 38th round pick, makes the jump from minor league player to coach: He played 79 games for Frederick in 2018 and now will be one of its coaches this year at age 25. Barry, the development coach, has an Astros connection, as he was a baseball operations intern there before being hired by the O’s for this past season.
Delmarva Shorebirds (Low-A)
- Manager: Dave Anderson (previously minor league infield coordinator)
- Pitching Coach: Robbie Aviles (promoted from Aberdeen)
- Hitting Coach: Ryan Fuller (new to org.)
- Fundamentals Coach: Jeff Kunkel (new to org.)
- Development Coach: Matt Packer (new to org.)
This is Anderson’s sixth season with the organization, and he has previously managed nine minor league seasons elsewhere. He will have for his pitching coach Aviles, whose Aberdeen staff led the New York-Penn League in ERA, WHIP, and batting average against. Many of the Delmarva pitchers will have had him at Aberdeen in 2019.
Fuller is another addition from the private training circuit, serving most recently as the hitting instructor at The PIT (Power In Training) in Connecticut. Kunkel is a former Tigers minor leaguer who had also been an area scout with Detroit for the past four seasons. Packer joins the organization from the college coaching ranks, having been an associate head coach for Post University in Connecticut.
Aberdeen IronBirds (short-season A)
- Manager: Kevin Bradshaw
- Pitching Coach: Joe Haumacher (new to org.)
- Hitting Coach: Anthony Villa (new to org.)
- Fundamentals Coach: Branden Becker (new as coach)
- Development Coach: Joe Botelho (previously player development assistant)
This coaching staff is interesting because there are a number of guys who don’t have any professional coaching experience before this. That’s not a bad thing if they’re bringing in better ideas. They’ll all be working underneath an experienced manager, Bradshaw, who will be entering his 31st season of either coaching or managing in professional baseball.
Haumacher is a college hire, having been the Amherst (Mass.) pitching coach in 2018 and the Dixie State (Utah) pitching coach in 2019. Villa was a White Sox farmhand from 2016-18. Becker jumps right from the O’s minor league ranks to a minor league coaching spot; he played in eight games for Delmarva last season after having been drafted in the 17th round of the 2015 draft.
Botelho, the development coach, will be entering his fifth season with the Orioles, his first as a coach.
Gulf Coast League Orioles
- Manager: Alan Mills
- Pitching Coach: Adam Bleday (previously Frederick development coach)
- Hitting Coach: Patrick Jones (new to org.)
- Fundamentals Coach: Christian Frias (new to org.)
- Development Coach: Tim DeJohn (new to org.)
Mills was one of the three Orioles Minor League Managers of the Year for their respective leagues. His staff will include several new professional coaches. Jones was both a high school coach and private hitting instructor in Ohio for the past couple of seasons. Frias was most recently the hitting coach for Wabash Valley College in Illinois, while DeJohn joins the organization from the Milwaukee Milkmen of the Independent American Association. No, that team really exists.
Orioles Player Development
- Director of Minor League Operations: Kent Qualls
- Director of Baseball Development: Eve Rosenbaum (new to org.)
- Director of Player Development: Matt Blood (new to org.)
- Director of Pitching: Chris Holt (previously minor league pitching coordinator)
Rosenbaum’s hire was reported last week. The Orioles press release announcing the coaches and development staff describes her role as this:
In this role, she will oversee the alignment of methods across baseball operations, while also enhancing coordination between the scouting, player development, and analytics departments.
Rosenbaum graduated from Walt Whitman High School in Bethesda and returns to the area after working the past several seasons for, you guessed it, the Astros. In 2019, she was their manager of international scouting. She played softball for four years at Harvard.
There were a lot of things to be excited about in the Orioles minors just in the first year of Elias’s tenure, before he even had a full opportunity to hire people. The coming 2020 season will be the first one where there was a full offseason to prepare and make sure everyone’s on the same page before spring training starts.
Here’s hoping this group can oversee even more minor league success in the season to come and that the players can turn that minor league success into being part of the next good Orioles team down the road.