Cardinals Name 2020 Minor League and Player Development Staffs

photo: Roberto Espinoza (Johnson City Cardinals)

St. Louis Cardinals press release

The St. Louis Cardinals announced today (Monday, January 6) their 2020 minor league coaching staffs for their affiliate teams in addition to their player development and medical personnel for the upcoming season.

The Cardinals announced that seven of their minor league managers will return to their same posts in 2020.  In addition, there will be four new pitching coach assignments and new hitting coach assignment at each of their affiliate clubs.

Ben Johnson (Frank Ramirez/The Cardinal Nation)

Ben Johnson returns for his second season as manager at Memphis, as does Joe Kruzel at Springfield (AA). Also returning as managers in 2020 are Dan Bilardello (Palm Beach-A), Erick Almonte (Peoria-A), Jose Leon (State College-A), Roberto Espinoza with the defending Appalachian League Champion Johnson City Cardinals (Rookie) and Fray Peniche (DSL Blue).  Joe Hawkins will be entering his first season as the manager for the Gulf Coast League Cardinals (Rookie) and Estuar Ruiz has been tabbed to manage the DSL Red team in 2020.

Malcom Nunez, Elehuris Montero and Chris Swauger (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Chris Swauger has been promoted to the Field Coordinator position following the retirement of long-time Cardinals coordinator Mark DeJohn. The team’s new Minor League Hitting Coordinator for 2020 is Russ Steinhorn.  Former Cardinals Jose Oquendo, Jason Isringhausen, Braden Looper, Ryan Ludwick, Orlando Palmeiro, Bernard Gilkey and Dean Kiekhefer hold a number of positions within the team’s minor league and player development staff.

The following is a complete listing of the Cardinals 2020 Minor League Staffs and Player Development assignments:

Manager Pitching Coach Hitting Coach Fourth Coach
Memphis (AAA) 2020 Ben Johnson Dernier Orozco Brandon Allen
2019 Ben Johnson Dernier Orozco Jobel Jimenez Mike McDonald
Springfield (AA) 2020 Joe Kruzel Darwin Marrero Tyger Pederson
2019 Joe Kruzel Darwin Marrero Brandon Allen Nick Longmire
Palm Beach (A+) 2020 Dann Bilardello Rick Harig Brian Burgamy
2019 Dann Bilardello Will Ohman Tyger Pederson Jason Broussard
Peoria (A) 2020 Erick Almonte Adrian Martin Cody Gabella
2019 Erick Almonte Cale Johnson Russ Chambliss Brad Jacob
State College (A) 2020 Jose Leon Dean Kiekhefer Jason Broussard
2019 Jose Leon Adrian Martin Cody Gabella
Johnson City (R) 2020 Roberto Espinoza Renee Cortez Daniel Nicolaisen
2019 Roberto Espinoza Rick Harig Brian Burgamy
GCL Cards (R) 2020 Joe Hawkins Giovanni Carrara Tyler Wolfe
Bernard Gilkey
2019 Joshua Lopez Giovanni Carrara Joe Hawkins
DSL Blue (R) 2020 Fray Peniche Bill Villanueva BJ Roper-Hubbert
2019 Fray Peniche Bill Villanueva Ismael Castro
DSL Red (R) 2020 Estuar Ruiz TBA Ismael Castro
Luis Cruz
2019 John Matos Renee Cortez Nabo Martinez
Bold: new external hire
Italics: new assignment within organization
2020 Field Instructors Trainer Strength coach
Field Coordinator Chris Swauger Memphis Dan Martin Frank Witkowski
Senior Pitching Coordinator Tim Leveque Springfield Chris Whitman Dan Vega
Hitting Coordinator Russ Steinhorn Palm Beach Alex Wolfinger Ross Hasegawa
Roving Pitching Instructor Randy Niemann Peoria Chris Walsh Kyle Richter
Roving Pitching Instructor Jason Isringhausen State College Joe Olsiewicz Don Trapp
Infield Instructor Johnny Rodriguez Johnson City Justin Wilson Jacqueline Gover
Instructor Jose Oquendo Gulf Coast Paden Eveland Corey Ritter
Dominican Academy Coordinator Jose Leger DSL Blue Kiomy Martinez Chris Latimer
Pitching Analyst Cale Johnson DSL Red TBA Luis Polanco
Special Advisor to Player Dev. Barry Weinberg
Cardinals Core Coach Braden Looper
Roving Hitting Instr/Cardinals Core Ryan Ludwick
Cardinals Core Coach Orlando Palmeiro
2020 Medical Staff
Player Dev. Medical Coord. Keith Joynt
Player Dev. Str. & Cond. Coord. Aaron Rhodes
Player Dev. Rehab Coord. Matt Leonard
Player Dev. Perf. Specialist DC MacLea
Player Dev. Rehab Coord. Asst. Victor Kuri

Brian Walton’s take

The head of player development for the Cardinals continues to be Gary LaRocque, assisted by Tony Ferreira.

Joe Kruzel and farm director Gary LaRocque (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

What is different in the table above from what you may see elsewhere is that I added the 2019 managers and coaches so you can get a visual take on the amount of change this year.

My comments for each personnel group follow.


Stability is the word. Seven returnees include The Cardinal Nation’s 2019 Manager of the Year, Johnson City’s Roberto Espinoza.

The only changes from 2019 are former player Joey Hawkins moving from hitting coach to manager of the Gulf Coast League Cardinals in his second year back in uniform and Estuar Ruiz to pilot the Dominican Summer League Cardinals Red. The latter was previously a Cardinals scout in Venezuela.

2019 GCL manager Joshua Lopez and DSL Red manager John Matos have apparently left the organization.

Pitching coaches

This group has a lot of familiar names, but three are back, just in new assignments. Rick Harig moves up from Johnson City to Palm Beach, Adrian Martin to Peoria from State College and Renee Cortez from DSL Red to JC.

Dernier Orozco and pitchers (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

Returning to the same jobs in 2020 are Dernier Orozco (Memphis), Darwin Marrero (Springfield), Giovanni Carrara (GCL) and Bill Villanueva (DSL Blue). All four are long-time Cardinals staffers.

New to the Cardinals in this role is former St. Louis left-handed pitcher Dean Kiekhefer, who retired last year and steps in as State College’s pitching coach. The DSL Red job is open.

No longer listed among the pitching coaches is Will Ohman, who was at Palm Beach in 2019.

Hitting coaches

Here is the area of the greatest change, which is not surprising given a new coordinator for the system was hired in Russ Steinhorn for year two of the administration of St. Louis hitting coach Jeff Albert. Another move occurred last August, when Jobel Jimenez was promoted from Memphis to St. Louis as the new assistant hitting coach under Albert.

Everyone is on the move for 2020, with all hitting coaches either new to the organization or to the level assigned..

Brandon Allen and Conner Capel (Brian Walton/The Cardinal Nation)

The four full-season hitting coaches each moved up one or more levels from 2019 – Brandon Allen from Springfield to Memphis, Tyger Pederson from Palm Beach to Springfield, Brian Burgamy from Johnson City to Palm Beach and Cody Gabella from State College to Peoria. Also, Ismael Castro shifts from DSL Blue to co-hitting coach for DSL Red.

New hitting coaches begin with State College’s Jason Broussard, the fourth coach at Palm Beach in 2019.

Five new hires fill out the lower four levels, with Daniel Nicolaisen at JC, Tyler Wolfe and Bernard Gilkey (more on him below) at GCL, BJ Roper-Hubbert at DSL Blue and Luis Cruz co-coach at DSL Red.

Among hitting coaches to depart are Russ Chambliss (Peoria) and Nabo Martinez (DSL Red).

Fourth coaches

No word yet on this training program for scouts/coaches for 2020.

Field instructors

Chris Swauger, who was the assistant in 2019, takes over as field coordinator following the planned retirement of Mark DeJohn.

Steinhorn was hired back in October to succeed George Greer as the leader of minor league hitting instruction.

Cardinals Change Minor League Hitting Coordinators

Three familiar names are back in the same instructor roles – Jose Oquendo, Randy Niemann (pitching) and Johnny Rodriguez (infield). Cale Johnson moves from Peoria pitching coach to a pitching analyst position.

Cardinals Core is a program to teach character building and leadership skills to minor leaguers primarily through former big-league players. These had been non-uniform roles, but that appears to have changed in 2020. As noted above, Bernard Gilkey is now co-hitting coach for the GCL team. Other returnees Braden Looper, Ryan Ludwick and Orlando Palmeiro are now listed in a dual role of Cardinals Core and coach.

One name missing from the 2020 rolls is former St. Louis catcher Tony Cruz, who served as a minor league catching instructor last season.


The departure of former Memphis trainer Matt Corvo allowed the three trainers who were in the organization last year to each move up one or more levels for 2020. They are Dan Martin, Chris Whitman and Alex Wolfinger. Chris Walsh and Joe Olsiewicz are back at Peoria and State College, respectively.

New hires are coming at JC – Justin Wilson, GCL – Paden Eveland, DSL Blue – Kiomy Martinez and DSL Red – TBA.

Strength coaches

Seven of the nine strength coaches are returning to the same assignments, augmented by new hires Jacqueline Gover (JC) and Chris Latimer (DSL Blue)

Medical staff

No changes among the US-based team for 2020. This year, the DSL medical staff members were not identified.

Bonus for members of The Cardinal Nation

Cardinals Welcome 37 Prospects to 2020 Instructional Camp

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