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Phillies name three to their coaching staff

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Manager Gabe Kapler is starting to fill out his MLB coaching staff.

MLB: Chicago Cubs at Arizona Diamondbacks Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

New Phillies manager Gabe Kapler has begun to form his coaching staff for 2018.

Triple-A manager Dusty Wathan has been promoted to the big league club, where he will serve as the team’s third base coach, assistant pitching coach Rick Kranitz will be retained for an as-yet-undetermined role, and former Chicago Cubs hitting coach John Mallee has been added to take over for Matt Stairs as the Phils’ hitting instructor.

Mallee, who is 48, is the lone outside-the-organization hire of the three. He was let go by Chicago last month after three seasons, and helped develop a young Cubs lineup that at various points featured Starlin Castro, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Anthony Rizzo and Ian Happ. Over the last three seasons, the Cubs’ offense ranked 5th in the Majors in runs scored, 6th in wOBA and OPS, and 10th in wRC+.

From 2012-14, Mallee was the hitting coach for the Houston Astros, where he dealt with a number of young hitters on a rebuilding team. They lost 107, 111 and 92 games in those three seasons, but the team improved offensively during his tenure. They were 29th out of 30 MLB teams in OPS in 2012, 28th in 2013, and 16th in ‘14, and helped develop Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez, George Springer, Dexter Fowler, Marwin Gonzalez and Jake Marisnick, among others.

It’s clear Mallee has experience coaching young players at the beginning of their careers.

For Wathan, this is his 3rd promotion in three years with the organization. In 2016, he led Double-A Reading to an 89-52 record, which was good enough for 1st place in the Eastern League. Last year, he graduated with a number of the team’s top prospects to Lehigh Valley, where helped guide the Iron Pigs to a 80-62 record and a spot in the postseason. Now, he takes over for Juan Samuel as the team’s third base coach, where he will continue to help develop many of the same young prospects, Rhys Hoskins, Jorge Alfaro, Nick Williams, J.P. Crawford and Scott Kingery, that he has managed over the last two years.

Finally, it’s unclear if Kranitz, who is 59, will continue to serve as the team’s assistant pitching coach, or if he will have a different job in ‘18. It is a bit unusual that an assistant pitching coach would be named for the new pitching coach, and it’s possible that job could go to Kranitz. He was hired before the 2016 to be the team’s bullpen coach, and was promoted to be Bob McClure’s assistant last year. He has 10 seasons as a big league pitching coach, with the Marlins, Orioles, Brewers and Phillies, and an intimate knowledge of the young pitchers on the big league roster and in the upper minors.

There are still a few prominent coaching positions yet to be filled; pitching coach, bench coach and first base coach, with many of those hires expected over the coming weeks.