photo: St. Louis Cardinals field staff – 2017 (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)
St. Louis Cardinals press release
The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Thursday) their 2018 minor league coaching staffs for their affiliate teams in addition to their player development personnel for the upcoming season. The Cardinals Farm System finished 4th among all teams in overall winning pct. (.546; 410-341) in 2017, winning league titles at Memphis (Pacific Coast League) and Palm Beach (co-winner in Florida State League).
The Cardinals have retained the incumbent managers for seven of their minor league affiliates, but there will be new pitching coaches at six of their affiliates. In addition, the team has announced seven new hitting coach assignments for 2018.
Stubby Clapp, the Baseball America Manager of the Year for 2017, returns for his second season at Memphis (AAA), while Johnny Rodriguez (Springfield -AA), Dann Bilardello (Palm Beach –A), Chris Swauger (Peoria – A), Joe Kruzel (State College – A), Roberto Espinosa (Johnson City – R) and Fray Peniche (Dominican Summer League 1) also return to pilot their respective teams.
Several of the team’s Field Instructors have been retained, however Randy Niemann will move into a new role as Minor League Pitching Instructor, Steve Turco will serve as Minor League Roving Instructor and former Cardinals All-Stars Ryan Ludwick (Minor League Hitting Instructor) and Jason Isringhausen (Minor League Pitching Instructor) have joined the Field Staff for 2018.
The Cardinals also announced that Melody Yount is joining the Baseball Operations staff as Manager of Player Communications, and that Jennifer Long has been named Baseball Developer and Javier Duren will serve as a Baseball Operations Fellow.
The following is a complete listing of the Cardinals 2018 Minor League Staffs and Player Development assignments. (Note: The following list was enhanced by TCN’s addition of 2017 managers and coaches.)
|Manager||Pitching Coach||Hitting Coach|
|Memphis (AAA)||2018||Stubby Clapp||Dernier Orozco||Mark Budaska|
|2017||Stubby Clapp||Bryan Eversgerd||Mark Budaska|
|Springfield (AA)||2018||Johnny Rodriguez||Darwin Marrero||Jobel Jimenez|
|2017||Johnny Rodriguez||Jason Simontacchi||Jobel Jimenez|
|Palm Beach (A+)||2018||Dann Bilardello||Will Ohman||Brandon Allen|
|2017||Dann Bilardello||Randy Niemann||Erick Almonte *|
|Peoria (A)||2018||Chris Swauger||Cale Johnson||Russ Chambliss|
|2017||Chris Swauger||Dernier Orozco||Donnie Ecker|
|State College (A)||2018||Joe Kruzel||Adrian Martin||Roger LaFrancois|
|2017||Joe Kruzel||Darwin Marrero||Roger LaFrancois|
|Johnson City (R)||2018||Roberto Espinoza||Rick Harig||Cody Gabella|
|2017||Roberto Espinoza||Cale Johnson||Brandon Allen|
|GCL Cards (R)||2018||Erick Almonte||Giovanni Carrara||Joshua Lopez|
|2017||Steve Turco *||Giovanni Carrara||Cody Gabella|
|DSL 1 (R)||2018||Fray Peniche||Bill Villanueva||Jose Leon|
|2017||Fray Peniche||Bill Villanueva||John Matos|
|DSL 2 (R)||2018||John Matos||TBA||Nabo Martinez|
|* interim 2017 change|
Bold: new external hire
Italics: new assignment within organization
2018 Cardinals Minor League Field Instructors
- Field Coordinator – Mark DeJohn
- Assistant Field Coordinator – Ron “Pop” Warner
- Dominican Republic Field Coordinator – Jose Leger
- Senior Pitching Coordinator – Tim Leveque
- Minor League Offensive Strategist – George Greer
- Manager/Pitching Analytics – Paul Davis
- Minor League Pitching Instructor – Randy Niemann
- Minor League Roving Instructor – Steve Turco
- Minor League Infield Coordinator – Luis Aguayo
- Minor League Catching Instructor – Travis Tartamella
- Minor League Hitting Instructor – Ryan Ludwick
- Minor League Pitching Instructor – Jason Isringhausen
Brian Walton’s take
What will catch most casual fans’ attention is the final two names above. Two more former Cardinals players have returned to the fold to coach minor leaguers, in ex-outfielder Ryan Ludwick and ex-closer Jason Isringhausen. In a way, they replace Jose Oquendo and Willie McGee, both of who moved from minor league instructors to St. Louis for 2018.
Let’s break down the changes by position groups.
After considerable change in 2017, when the top six affiliates had different managers from the year before, all six are back in the same jobs for a second year in 2018.
In the Gulf Coast League, Steve Turco had to leave his job during the 2017 season for personal reasons and then-Palm Beach hitting coach Erick Almonte stepped in on an interim basis. With Turco moving into a roving instructor job for 2018, Almonte will remain leading the GCL Cardinals.
As detailed for members of The Cardinal Nation, the Cards will have two Dominican Summer League teams in 2018. Long-time manager Fray Peniche will lead one team, with hitting coach John Matos taking over the second squad.
Just as it did with managers a year ago, a move from Memphis to St. Louis set the carousel moving. It was Mike Shildt a year ago, with Bryan Eversgerd making the move from the Redbirds pitching coach to St. Louis’ bullpen coach for 2018. Another move previously disclosed was Springfield pitching coach Jason Simontacchi leaving the Cardinals for Kansas City.
Among returning coaches with new team assignments: Dernier Orozco moved up three levels from Peoria to take over for Eversgerd at Memphis. Darwin Marrero also progressed three levels from State College to Springfield, filling Simontacchi’s position.
Cale Johnson, who had been Johnson City’s pitching coach in 2017, was reassigned two levels higher to Class-A Peoria, replacing Orozco. The fourth coach/scout at Memphis last season, Adrian Martin, steps in as State College’s pitching coach in 2018, replacing Marrero.
The Cardinals also made two new pitching coach hires, with the DSL 2 job still open.
Will Ohman is the new Palm Beach pitching coach, replacing Randy Niemann, named a roving pitching instructor. Ohman, a long-time major league left-hander, broke in with the 2000 Chicago Cubs and pitched until his 2013 retirement. In his post-playing career, the now-40-year old has operated a business to train young ballplayers, acebaseball.net.
Taking the reins of the Johnson City pitchers in 2018 will be Rick Harig. Harig is a 30-year coaching veteran who has recently run a business focusing on performance development. The 56-year old retired educator had a long and successful career coaching high school baseball in Boulder, Colorado that began in 1983. Harig also spent three years working on skills and mental development with the San Diego Padres and several colleges.
The Memphis and Springfield hitting coaches from 2017, Mark Budaska and Jobel Jimenez, return for another season. The former filled in as St. Louis’ assistant hitting coach for an interim period last summer when Bill Mueller was on a leave of absence. Another returnee is Roger LaFrancois at State College.
Brandon Allen, Johnson City hitting coach in 2017, moves up three levels to high-A Palm Beach. Last season’s Gulf Coast League Cards hitting coach, Cody Gabella, replaces Allen at Johnson City for 2018. The fourth coach/scout at Peoria last season, Joshua Lopez, is the new GCL hitting coach, taking over for Gabella.
The Cardinals have hired three new hitting coaches from the outside, with one from 2017, Peoria hitting coach Donnie Ecker, having left the organization.
At Class-A Peoria replacing Ecker is Russ Chambliss, son of former MLB slugger and one-time (1993-1995) St. Louis hitting coach Chris Chambliss. Russ Chambliss, 42, is a former Yankees farmhand who once played in the outfield for Washington University in St. Louis. The younger Chambliss coached in high school ball in New Jersey and at the collegiate level with SUNY-Maritime.
Both DSL hitting coaches are new to the Cardinals – Jose Leon and Nabo Martinez. Leon reached the majors as a first/third baseman with Baltimore (2002-2004). The Puerto Rico native was originally drafted by St. Louis in 1994 and after reaching Double-A, the power-hitting prospect was traded to the Orioles in 2000 for Will Clark. Martinez, a native of Cartagena, Colombia, red-shirted at Cabrillo College in 2011, then was a pitcher/second baseman at NAIA Doane College from 2012-2014.
A new position previously announced is the Dominican Republic Field Coordinator, filled by long-time Mets manager Jose Leger. A return to a prior role was also disclosed earlier, with Pop Warner back as assistant field coordinator. The former Memphis manager filled in as a coach with St. Louis during the second half of the 2017 season.
The shifts in assignments for Niemann and Turco were already touched on above, with the only other changes being the aforementioned additions of Ludwick and Isringhausen as instructors.
Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation: Cardinals Gear Up for Increased Dominican Presence
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