This is a particularly fun time of the year as we begin to dream about what 2017 will hold. Top prospect lists are coming seemingly weekly (including our own Top 25 which began rolling out today with our honorable mentions and will continue throughout the week) and we start to wonder what the upcoming season will hold for many of the young players that are expected to carry the franchise into the future.
However, player development isn’t as simple as turning on an oven and just waiting for the prospects to turn into whatever players they were meant to be. There is an entire infrastructure in place to help young players make the adjustments needed to succeed and that starts with the minor league coaching staffs. The Braves announced those coaching staffs today so lets look at them level by level.
Gwinnett Braves (AAA)
#Braves announced their minor league coaching staffs for 2017. AAA Gwinnett: Manager Damon Berryhill, PC Reid Cornelius, HC John Moses— Kyle Tait (@HearKyleTait) December 12, 2016
Gwinnett has had quite a bit of a coaching carousel with three different managers helming the team in 2016. First was Brian Snitker who was famously promoted to the big leagues, Rick Albert, and then John Moses. Rather than continue to stay with the coaching staff that finished the 2016 season, the Braves have overhauled things a bit with the addition of former Brave Damon Berryhill as the manager (it’s worth noting that Moses is staying on to be Gwinnett’s hitting coach).
Berryhill has had a successful post-playing career as a minor league coach and manager, the highlight of which is when he was named the Pacific Coast League’s Manager of the Year in 2015. He coached in the Rangers and Dodger systems before rejoining the Braves organization. Reid Cornelius was the Marlins bullpen coach since 2010 before being let go at the end of the 2016 season.
Mississippi Braves (AA)
AA Mississippi: Manager Luis Salazar, Pitching Coach Derrick Lewis, Hitting Coach Ivan Cruz. #Braves— Kyle Tait (@HearKyleTait) December 12, 2016
Mississippi, on the other hand, will continue to be guided by the steady hand of Luis Salazar. Salazar joined the Braves in 2011 and managed Mississippi last year after managing the Braves’ high-A affiliate before that. He is also pretty much the toughest guy on earth as he was hit by a Brian McCann foul ball, lost his eye because of it, and then returned to work a month later. Mississippi loses highly regarded pitching coach Dennis Lewallyn (more on him in a second) and gains Derrick Lewis, a former Braves farmhand who coached in the system previously for the high-A team, effectively switching spots with Lewallyn. Ivan Cruz has a coaching background in the minors that started with managing the Padres’ rookie league team. He served as Danville’s hitting coach last year.
Florida Fire Frogs (A+)
A+ Florida Fire Frogs: Manager Paul Runge, Pitching Coach Dennis Lewallyn, Hitting Coach Carlos Mendez. #Braves— Kyle Tait (@HearKyleTait) December 12, 2016
The newest addition to the Braves’ minor league system, the Fire Frogs will be led by longtime Braves org manager Paul Runge. Runge did have a short affair with the Astros organization recently, but before that managed basically most of the Braves’ affiliates at one time or another in the 1990s’ until 2010. Lewallyn seems to be going where the Braves’ need him most: with the Fire Frogs projected starting rotation that dominated as the Rome Braves in 2016. Carlos Mendez stays with the high-A affiliate as a holdover from 2016.
Rome Braves (A)
Class-A Rome: Manager Randy Ingle, Pitching Coach Dan Meyer, Hitting Coach Bobby Moore. All return from SAL Championship team. #Braves— Kyle Tait (@HearKyleTait) December 12, 2016
There is no surprise that Rangy Ingle is staying on as Rome’s manager. He seems to relish his role as a coach and mentor for the youngest full-season prospects and the results are hard to argue with (along with his 1500+ career wins at this point). Dan Meyer comes in as the pitching coach after briefly serving as the Braves pitching rehab coordinator. Bobby Moore played briefly for the Royals in the early 1990’s and has coached in the Braves organization in the past including as hitting coach for the high-A affiliate in 2011.
Rookie-level Danville: Manager Nestor Perez, Pitching Coach Kanekoa Texeira, Hitting Coach Barbaro Garbey #Braves— Kyle Tait (@HearKyleTait) December 12, 2016
Nestor Perez is a new face as a manager for Danville. He played for the Spanish national team and as a minor league shortstop before continuing to play on the international baseball circuit. Kanekoa Texeira should be a familiar name as he pitched in the Braves system over the last couple of years before ending his playing career this past season. Barbaro Garbey has been a journeyman minor league coach of sorts since ending his playing days in the late 1980’s.
GCL Braves (Rookie)
Gulf Coast League: Manager Barrett Kleinknecht, Pitching Coach Larry McCall, Hitting Coach Rick Albert. #Braves— Kyle Tait (@HearKyleTait) December 12, 2016
Finally, we have the GCL Braves staff which will feature former Braves farmhand Barrett Kleinknecht’s managerial debut after coaching a bit last season. Rick Albert notably is not managing this club and is now the hitting coach for the team. Albert has been with the organization for forever but has seemed to fall out of favor as the team looks for new voices in the system. Larry McCall was a pitching coach in the Orioles system for the better part of two decades.