Yankees reportedly make hitting coach splash as lockout begins
There’s been precious little discussion of the New York Yankees‘ 2021 coaching staff to go around in recent weeks, which seemingly has nothing to do with the lockout.
Intent on pushing their hitting program closer to their Matt Blake-led pitching plans, in terms of innovation, New York’s braintrust dismissed Marcus Thames (along with Phil Nevin and Reggie Willits) and announced their intention to bring on a three-man weave to form a consensus on the next generation of hitting tweaks.
Other than Luis Rojas joining the organization as a base coach/player development guru, we spent weeks in relative silence on the coaching front.
Ex-Red Sox hitting coach Tim Hyers went to Texas instead, where he’ll now teach the $500 million middle infield how to age gracefully. Astros lead man Troy Snitker (son of Brian) is still in H-Town, despite rumors of his departure.
On Friday, ironically post-lockout, the dam finally broke — but New York promoted from within, rather than rocking the boat. In this instance, though, that actually seems like a good thing.
Desi Druschel, with the Yankees since 2019 and formerly of the Iowa Hawkeyes, will be promoted to aid Blake on the pitching side. For the lead hitting coach, the Bombers went with Dillon Lawson, who helped lead a revolution at the minor-league level in 2021. Good work is finally getting rewarded in the Bronx.
Who is new Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson?
We’re glad you asked, Bold Text! Lawson has been the Yankees’ minor-league hitting coordinator since 2018, joining New York from the Astros organization. Hmm, much like Carlos Correa … the pieces are starting to come together … if you’re insane.
While Thames oversaw stagnation at the top levels, Lawson led a revolution under the surface, leading to nearly-unprecedented minor-league domination in 2021 thanks in large part to Anthony Volpe, Oswaldo Cabrera, Oswald Peraza, Trevor Hauver/Josh Smith (traded) and others making enormous leaps. His contract at his current position expires at the end of the year, and the Yankees were reportedly nervous he’d jump ship … making an internal promotion to keep their trusted voice on board the next-best thing.
According to Marcus Thames upon his dismissal, there was a chasm forming between the philosophies at both levels, especially in terms of the drills being used. Whatever has been employed in recent years at the minor-league level (an emphasis on hard contact and keeping the ball off the ground, it would seem) would be welcome by all Yankees fans at the highest level.
Now, this doesn’t erase the need to hire hitting coaches entirely. When the Yankees dismissed Thames at the start of the offseason, Brian Cashman vowed to join the modern ranks and hire three different voices to collaborate on the major league staff. He’s still two short of that number, a goal he reiterated on Friday (despite his inability to comment on specifics).
Further personnel changes will need to wait for several weeks (months?) to be ratified. Though Cashman can’t speak on specifics, Lindsey Adler of The Athletic (subscription required) quoted him as saying he believes he’s at the finish line of the process.
If Lawson’s lessons translate to the grown-up Baby Bombers as well as they did the next generation, New York’s 2022 season may end far closer to the “finish line” than their 2021 campaign, too.