It was announced on September 29, 2017 that Pete Mackanin would be transferred from the managerial position to a front office role at the end of the season.
With the Phillies seemingly turning a corner in their rebuild, General Manager Matt Klentak and President of Baseball Operations Andy McPhail wanted to go in a new direction.
And boy, did they go in a new direction.
Gabe Kapler was named the 54th manager of the Phillies exactly a month later on October 29. It was clear that Klentak had a lot of influence in this hiring. He has been clear in his analytical thinking, and Kapler was the Director of Player Development for the forward-thinking Los Angeles Dodgers organization and even wrote for Baseball Prospectus.
Despite serving in the Dodgers’ front office since 2014, Kapler does have coaching experience, albeit limited. He managed the Greenville Drive, the Boston Red Sox’s single-A affiliate, in 2007 during a one-year break from playing in the major leagues. Kapler managed the team to a 58-81 record before returning to the MLB in 2008. Then, after ultimately retiring from his playing career, Kapler coached for Team Israel in the 2013 World Baseball Classic Qualifiers. They would not make it to the tournament.
I am sure the question running through many Phillies fans’ minds is ‘what should we expect from Kapler in year one?’ While there is no concrete answer, especially given Kapler’s aggressive yet personal style of coaching, I think there is one quality he possesses that is vital in trying to respond to that question.
Expect Kapler to push the envelope. It has become very obvious since the hiring of Kapler that he will not be your prototypical manager. We have all read about his lifestyle blog and various methods he believes keep the body in peak condition. It is probably fair to expect him to be as nontraditional when it comes to managing the Phillies as he is with his own style of life — and as long as he resonates with the players, that is perfectly fine.
Obviously, Kapler cannot do all the managing and coaching by himself. Before I talk about someone not on the traditional coaching staff, here is the rest of the staff with some info on each coach.
Craig Driver - Bullpen Catcher/Receiving Coach
Driver graduated from the University of Puget Sound in 2011 and then received his Master’s from Central Washington University in 2014. He served as the Athletic Recruitment Coordinator and Head Assistant Coach at Puget Sound from 2014-16. Driver then took a position at Yale to become the team’s catching coach while also helping with hitting and recruiting.
Jose Flores - First Base Coach
Prior to being hired by Kapler and the Phils, Flores had been the Minor League Infield Coordinator for the past five seasons with the Chicago Cubs. He has additional coaching experience which includes manager of the Puerto Rico National Team for two years, coach in the Puerto Rico Winter League for ten years and coach with Puerto Rico in the 2013 World Baseball Classic. Flores was drafted by the Astros in the 38th round of the 1990 draft but would play just five minor league seasons. He will also handle the team’s infielders and baserunning.
Jim Gott - Bullpen Coach
Before joining Kapler’s staff, Gott was the Minor League Pitching Coordinator for the Los Angeles Angels from 2013-17. He started out in the Angels organization as a Rookie league pitching coach from 2010-12. Gott was drafted in the fourth round by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 1977 draft. He’d go on to pitch in 554 major league games across 14 seasons with the Blue Jays, Giants, Pirates and Dodgers.
Pedro Guerrero - Assistant Hitting Coach
Guerrero is just 28 years of age but has spent the better part of the past 12 seasons in the Dodgers’ minor league system, first as a player and more recently as a bench coach. He played for eight seasons in the Dodgers’ system as an infielder before retiring from playing in 2013. Guerrero then rejoined the organization in 2016 as a bench coach for Rookie league affiliate Ogden.
Rick Kranitz - Pitching Coach
Kranitz, one of two coaches retained by the Phillies, was elevated from assistant pitching coach to pitching coach. Following the 2015 season, Kranitz was named the Phillies’ bullpen coach. Kranitz has plenty of coaching experience with the most prominent being pitching coach of the Marlins (2006-07), Orioles (2008-10) and Brewers (2011-15). In 2006 he was named Coach of the Year after coaching the rookie-laden Marlins staff to a record-breaking season.
John Mallee - Hitting Coach
Mallee comes to the Phillies fresh off four seasons of coaching one of the best offenses in baseball with the Chicago Cubs. Before joining the Cubs in 2014, Mallee had been a major league hitting coach since 2010. He did so for the Marlins (2010-11) and Astros (2012-13). He has also had a few stints as a minor league hitting coach/coordinator with the Brewers, Expos and Marlins.
Bob Stumpo - Bullpen Catcher/Catching Coach
Stumpo, along with Kranitz, was the other coach retained by the Phillies. He will be serving the same role in the bullpen with pitchers and catchers. Stumpo is a former draftee of the Phils as they selected him in the 33rd round of the 2010 draft out of West Chester University. He never reached the majors, topping out at double-A Reading. Now 30 years old, he is continuing his bullpen role with the Phillies.
Rob Thomson - Bench Coach
Thomson comes to the Phillies to serve as bench coach after spending the previous 27 seasons with the New York Yankees. He had initially joined the organization in 1990 as the third base coach for single-A affiliate Ft. Lauderdale before working his way up and onto the major league coaching staff. Thomson was the bench coach for the Yankees in 2008 and then again from 2015-17. From 2009-14 he was their third base coach.
Dusty Wathan - Third Base Coach
Wathan is the living example of working your way up. Wathan played for 14 years, although he appeared in just three major leagues games. After retiring from his playing career in 2007, Wathan was hired as the manager of Phillies’ short-season affiliate Williamsport in 2008. He was then promoted to manager of single-A Lakewood in 2009 and won the league title. The Phillies deemed him worthy of yet another promotion, and so he spent 2010-11 managing high-A Clearwater. 2012-16 saw him in double-A Reading and becoming the winningest manager in Baseballtown. Wathan went to triple-A Lehigh Valley in 2017, then was interviewed for the Phillies manager spot before ultimately being beat out by Kapler.
Chris Young - Assistant Pitching Coach
Prior to joining the Phillies, Young had been with the Houston Astros since 2015, serving as a pro scout (2015-16) and MLB scouting supervisor (2017). He was also a pro scout with the San Diego Padres and did so for five seasons (2010-14). Young also pitched for seven years in the Rockies, Pirates and Marlins systems.
Sam Fuld was hired by the Phillies as their Major League Player Information Coordinator. Put simply, Fuld will be working with players, coaches and Kapler alike, helping them best prepare for games analytically. The position is a brand new one in the organization.
I thought this hire complemented the bringing in of Kapler very well. Having a manager who understands and embraces analytics should give Fuld ample opportunities to really connect with the guys in the dugout on a daily basis. While we don’t yet know how effective Fuld will be in this role, we do know that the Phillies are very much so trying to re-brand themselves as a forward-thinking organization.