Multiple outlets are confirming information first reported by Matt Gelb of The Athletic that the Phillies have hired Josh Bonifay from the Houston Astros as their new director of player development. The Phillies have not confirmed the hire.
According to the Astros website, Bonifay teturned as Houston’s field coordinator last season after spending the 2017 season doing that same job with the Texas Rangers. However, he spent six seasons prior to that in the Astros minor league system, including four years as a manager and two as a hitting coach. In two of those four seasons as skipper, he was named Manager of the Year for their Single-A minor league team in Quad Cities, and won the 2013 Manager of the Year Award while in Greeneville.
The move comes as the Phillies are looking to implement much of what they’re doing at the Major League level in the minors. This season, some of the team’s young players struggled with knowing what to do with extreme defensive shifts, and much of the reason for those struggles was that most of these players had never played in extreme shifts in the minors. A shift away from human-based scouting and a greater reliance on data is clearly the direction this franchise is looking to go, and Bonifay would certainly help in that endeavor.
In selecting another Houston employee, the Phillies have made no secret of the fact they are trying to follow the same paths blazed by analytically-driven teams like the Astros, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox and Chicago Cubs. Most notably, manager Gabe Kapler was tapped to be the team’s manager after running the Dodgers’ farm system from 2014-17, hitting coach John Mallee was formerly a hitting instructor in the Chicago and Houston minor league systems, and assistant hitting coach Pedro Guerrero Jr. came from the Dodgers organization.
With Bonifay on board, the Phillies are obviously hoping he can replicate some of the success Houston has had at developing young position players. Alex Bregman, Carlos Correa, Jose Altuve and George Springer are all key members of that team’s core and have blossomed into superstars. And while the Phils do have a solid cadre of pitching prospects in the minors, led by Sixto Sanchez, Adonis Medina, and Jo Jo Romero, they have a lack of potential high-impact position players in the pipeline, with shortstop Luis Garcia, Alec Bohm and outfielder Adam Haseley likely their top offensive players in the minor league system.