Cardinals Announce 2019 Minor League Staff Assignments

photo: St. Louis Cardinals field staffs – 2017 (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Friday, January 18) their 2019 minor league coaching staffs for their affiliate teams in addition to their player development and medical personnel for the upcoming season.  The Cardinals Farm System finished 6th among all teams in overall winning pct. (.534; 401-350) in 2018, as Memphis won its second-consecutive Pacific Coast League (AAA) title and also the Triple-A National Championship Game, and both Peoria (Midwest League-A) and the GCL Cardinals (Gulf Coast League – Rookie) advanced to their respective league Championship Series.

Jose Leon (St. Louis Cardinals)

The Cardinals announced five new managerial assignments for 2019, but will have incumbent pitching coaches at all nine of their minor league affiliates.  In addition, the team has announced seven new hitting coach assignments for 2019.

Memphis native and former Major Leaguer Ben Johnson will be entering his first season as manager at Memphis after most recently coaching the Durham Bulls (Tampa Bay-AAA) in 2018.  Joe Kruzel will pilot Springfield (AA) after two seasons at the helm in State College, while Dan Bilardello (Palm Beach-A), Roberto Espinoza (Johnson City–Rookie), Fray Peniche (DSL Blue) and John Matos (DSL Red) return to their respective teams.  Erick Almonte moves to Peoria (A) as manager, and both Jose Leon (State College-A) and Joshua Lopez (GCL Cardinals-Rookie) have been promoted to managers.

(Memphis Redbirds)

Several of the team’s minor league field instructors have been retained, however Chris Swauger will move into a new role as Assistant Field Coordinator under Field Coordinator Mark DeJohn, and Johnny Rodriguez will serve as Minor League Infield Instructor. Jose Oquendo was recently announced as Minor League Roving Instructor, and former Cardinals catcher Tony Cruz has been named Minor League Catching Instructor.

Brian Walton’s take         

Let’s break down the Cardinals 2019 minor league staffs and player development assignments along with the comparable roles in 2018, starting with the team coaching assignments.

Manager Pitching Coach Hitting Coach
Memphis (AAA) 2019 Ben Johnson Dernier Orozco Jobel Jimenez
2018 Stubby Clapp Dernier Orozco Mark Budaska
Springfield (AA) 2019 Joe Kruzel Darwin Marrero Brandon Allen
2018 Johnny Rodriguez Darwin Marrero Jobel Jimenez
Palm Beach (A+) 2019 Dann Bilardello Will Ohman Tyger Pederson
2018 Dann Bilardello Will Ohman Brandon Allen
Peoria (A) 2019 Erick Almonte Cale Johnson Russ Chambliss
2018 Chris Swauger Cale Johnson Russ Chambliss
State College (A) 2019 Jose Leon Adrian Martin Cody Gabella
2018 Joe Kruzel Adrian Martin Roger LaFrancois
Johnson City (R) 2019 Roberto Espinoza Rick Harig Brian Burgamy
2018 Roberto Espinoza Rick Harig Cody Gabella
GCL Cards (R) 2019 Joshua Lopez Giovanni Carrara Joe Hawkins
2018 Erick Almonte Giovanni Carrara Joshua Lopez
DSL Blue (R) 2019 Fray Peniche Bill Villanueva Ismael Castro
2018 Fray Peniche Renee Cortez Jose Leon
DSL Red (R) 2019 John Matos Renee Cortez Nabo Martinez
2018 John Matos Bill Villanueva Ismael Castro

Most of these assignments and roles were set over two months ago, but in the interim, the organization may have been making some adjustments and filling all the coaching gaps. Subscribers to The Cardinal Nation first learned of many of these changes in early November.

2019 Cardinals Minor League Coaching Rumors


Kruzel is entering his seventh year of managing in the Cardinals system with a career winning percentage of .521 and Midwest League playoff clubs in 2015-2016. Leon is a former Major Leaguer who coached the potent DSL Cardinals Blue offense in 2018. For additional insight on both Kruzel and Leon plus much more, TCN members can read this article.

Brian Walton’s St. Louis Cardinals Instructional Camp Leftovers

Pitching coaches

The consistency under coordinator Tim Leveque is clear, with the only change a swap between the two DSL teams.

Hitting coaches

Tyger Pederson (Cal Poly)

Three coaches, Jobel Jimenez, Brandon Allen and Cody Gabella, each moved up one level for 2019. New hires are Tyger Pederson and Joe Hawkins.

Pederson, 29, played college ball at the University of the Pacific, was drafted by the Los Angeles Dodgers and also played in independent ball. Dodgers outfielder Joc Pederson is his younger brother. Tyger spent last season as the volunteer assistant coach at Cal Poly.

Joey Hawkins (SLU)

Hawkins, 25, was assistant hitting coach/recruiter for St. Louis University last season following a year at Jefferson College in Missouri as hitting coach/recruiter. The former infielder from Missouri State and Canadian native played for two seasons in the Cardinals system, 2015-2016, primarily with Johnson City.

As far as the departees go, 2018 coach Mark Budaska is now with St. Louis, and apparently long-time hitting coach Roger LaFrancois will not be back for 2019.

I also expect the Fourth Coach program to continue in 2019, but if so, those names are apparently not ready to be announce. Two of the 2018 Fourth Coaches, Elijah Tupuola and Craig Richmond, moved into scouting roles (see article below), while new Johnson City hitting coach Brian Burgamy was also in the Fourth Coach role at Memphis in 2018.

St. Louis Cardinals Announce Baseball Operations Changes

Field instructors and medical staff

Minor League Field Instructors 2019 2018
Field Coordinator  Mark DeJohn  Mark DeJohn
Assistant Field Coordinator  Chris Swauger  Ron “Pop” Warner
Dominican Republic Field Coordinator  Jose Leger  Jose Leger
Senior Pitching Coordinator  Tim Leveque  Tim Leveque
Minor League Offensive Strategist  George Greer  George Greer
Manager/Pitching Analytics  Paul Davis
Minor League Pitching Instructor  Randy Niemann  Randy Niemann
Minor League Roving Instructor  Jose Oquendo  Steve Turco
Minor League Infield Instructor  Johnny Rodriguez
Minor League Infield Coordinator  Luis Aguayo
Minor League Catching Instructor  Tony Cruz  Travis Tartamella
Minor League Medical Staff
Minor League Medical Coordinator  Keith Joynt
Minor League Rehab Coordinator  Matt Leonard
Minors Strength & Conditioning Coord.  Aaron Rhodes
Minor League Performance Specialist  DC MacLea
Minor League Asst. Rehab Coordinator  Victor Kuri
Minor League Rehab Consultant  James Spencer
DSL Medical Director  Pedro Betancourt
DSL Head Strength & Conditioning  Jeremy Lezama

While there is considerable consistency, key changes reflected in the above table include the staging of Chris Swauger to replace Mark DeJohn next season after the latter retires, the retirement of long-time scout and manager Steve Turco and the departure of Paul Davis to become the Seattle Mariners big-league pitching coach.

Also, last year, Ryan Ludwick and Jason Isringhausen were listed as minor league hitting and pitching instructors, respectively. I know for sure Ludwick is back and suspect Izzy is, too.

The final eight names, the medical staff, were not specifically called out last year by the Cardinals. Some are returnees and some are new.

Trainers and strength coaches

Finally, here are the trainers and strength coaches by level. These are very important individuals, who like the medical staffers noted just above, are unfairly overlooked while putting in long hours in relative anonymity. Most of the full-season ones are returnees, with a lot of new names at short-season.

Minor League Trainers and Strength Coaches Trainer Strength coach
Memphis Matt Corvo Frank Witkowski
Springfield Dan Martin Dan Vega
Palm Beach Chris Whitman Ross Hasegawa
Peoria Chris Walsh Kyle Richter
State College Joe Olsiewicz Don Trapp
Johnson City Alex Wolfinger TBA
Gulf Coast TBA Corey Ritter
DSL Blue Shoki Hioki TBA
DSL Red TBA Luis Polanco

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Brian Walton can be reached via email at Follow Brian on Twitter.

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