Last August the Cincinnati Reds started what felt like a plan to alter the organizations scouting and developing department. The end result of the offseason saw the Reds put new men in place as the amateur scouting director, the international scouting director, the field coordinator, the minor league director of player development (and made it a 2-man department with a VP of Player Development – a job that didn’t exist before, and a Senior Director of Player Development – the previously highest job in the department).
What exactly it was that led to such a change – whether it was the belief that whatever they were doing wasn’t exactly working, or that they wanted to try something different – it doesn’t matter much. At the very top of the scouting and developing food chain, the Reds made wholesale changes. What was weird is that they didn’t follow that up with almost any coaching or managing changes following the season.
That idea seemed strange at the time. The only thing that made a little bit of sense would be where the new guys at the top of the farm wanted to spend the year seeing who was capable of what before deciding which direction to go in. It feels like perhaps that was correct, because Bobby Nightengale of The Cincinnati Enquirer reports today that the Reds will not be bringing back a handful of minor league staffers next season.
Outfield and Baserunning coordinator Billy Hatcher will not be coming back. He had been with the organization for 14 seasons, though this was his first at the minor league level. He had previously been the first or third base coach at the Major League level. Hitting coordinator Milt Thompson was also let go. Thompson had been the hitting coordinator with the organization from 2017-2019.
In Triple-A there will be a new manager and pitching coach. Manager Jody Davis and pitching coach Jeff Fassero were both let go. Davis had been in the organization for the last four seasons. In 2016 and 2017 he served as the hitting coach for Double-A Pensacola. Then he took over as the manager there in 2018 before moving up to Triple-A to manager the Bats this past season. For Fassero, he had been the pitching coach in Louisville for the previous three seasons. Prior to that he served as the pitching coordinator for one season, and as the Double-A pitching coach for the two seasons prior to that.
Double-A pitching coach Danny Darwin will also not be returning. Dr. Death as he was affectionately nicknamed by Nolan Ryan, had been a pitching coach with the organization for four seasons. All of those seasons began with the Double-A franchise at the time, but in 2018 he took over in the Major Leagues as the pitching coach when Mack Jenkins (and Bryan Price) were let go near the end of April.
At this point in time no one has been announced as a replacement. And it’ll probably be a while until that happens, too. Other teams are going through the same process right now. There will be a much less heralded free agency period for coaches and managers. But there’s also the opportunity for the Reds to go swoop in and hire someone(s) away from their current job, too. Whether it’s someone in another job in affiliated baseball, or someone working at a college somewhere.
The Reds have gone to a more analytical and technological approach to things this season. Every team is now using Trackman and Rhapsado pitch and hit tracking technologies. They are all using edgertronic high speed cameras to help break down in detail mechanics for hitters and pitchers. Things are very different when it comes to not only analyzing the game, but how the game is being taught.
I have no knowledge of why the coaches/coordinators aren’t being brought back for 2020. But the Reds are looking to move forward in a direction that they haven’t been going in the past. They have been downright terrible at developing starting pitching for the entirety of my life. When it comes to players they’ve drafted/signed as international free agents, there hasn’t been a single one from the last decade that’s been more than a #5 starter. Prior to that you get Johnny Cueto, Homer Bailey, and Mike Leake. That group worked out pretty well. But before them you go back to, uh, Brett Tomko? You’re Reds fans – you get where I’m going here.
When the Reds brought in Derek Johnson one of the things that was noted was that he was going to be given more direction with how the farm system was run with regards to pitching development. That’s not unsurprising – many organizations set a plan from the top. Johnson has a very analytical approach. The technologies used have taken a real step forward in 2019 compared to the past when it comes to the minor leagues for the Reds. Perhaps we start seeing more of that put to use in 2020.