Though major-league moves are still shut down indefinitely thanks to our current reality of a never-ending lockout, the New York Yankees have continued to get better at the margins with a number of coaching staff changes.
By and large, these staff shakeups have all represented a rededication to the portion of the Yankees’ ethos that seems to be working: a successful offensive philosophy at the minor-league level (hit strikes hard) and a data-driven pitching approach, led at the MLB level by Matt Blake, whose second year at the helm brought forth a number of breakouts that 2020 did not.
New York’s only major infrastructure change came just a few weeks after the regular season ended when hitting coach Marcus Thames and the base coaches — Phil Nevin and Reggie Willits — were dismissed.
At first and third, the Yankees worked quickly to secure the services of ex-Mets manager Luis Rojas at the hot corner (and in a roving role), and waited until a few weeks ago to announce ex-MLB cameo-haver Travis Chapman would man the other side of the field.
When it came to replacing their hitting coach, though, New York went with a three-pronged approach, promoting minor-league hitting coordinator (since 2018) Dillon Lawson to the head job in the Bronx, supplementing his services with Casey Dykes and ex-Yankees third baseman Eric Chavez.
It won’t shock you, then, to find out that the team chose to fill Lawson’s vacancy by promoting from within as well, elevating third-year minor-league coach Joe Migliaccio to the role of hitting coordinator for the entire organization.
Yankees add Driveline pitching coach and promote minor league hitting instructor.
Migliaccio, another in a seemingly endless line of minor-league coaches who got it right in 2021, coaxing breakouts from across the system, has now been elevated to an overseeing role at the tender age of 30.
Clearly, youth is not driving these decisions, but rather progress. Thames had long been trusted by the front office, but in recent years, great strides were made across the minors that did not translate to the big-league club, which found itself collectively baffled with two strikes and whenever they encountered a fastball down the middle, one of the single strangest afflictions of April, May and June.
The Yankees organization didn’t just revamp their offensive approach this offseason, though. They also added Desi Druschel as an assistant pitching coach, and a recent mass announcement of new hires revealed that they’ve also brought Spencer Medick on board, a former Driveline disciple who will join the pitching development program.
Though Driveline alums haven’t always translated seamlessly to MLB work (founder Kyle Boddy dissolved his relationship with the Cincinnati Reds in Sept. after two years), the program is seen as the preeminent cutting-edge pitching factory these days, and swiping someone like Medick should again work wonders to reinforce the Yankees’ Gas Station.
We miss player movement (end the lockout, please), but it certainly feels like the Yankees have used this dead period to reinforce their ethos at every level.