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.

35 Responses

  1. Bill

    Seems like the right approach, but change seems to come at a glacial pace for the Reds. Ideally, this happens at the start of the rebuild.

  2. SultanofSwaff

    I’m a big fan of these moves. Frankly, while I understand it on a certain level, this idea that only former professional players can be professional coaches is a bias that doesn’t lead to hiring the best and brightest, yet the Reds have generally looked at their former player fraternity first. Hopefully this changes. With so much technology nowadays, I think the average minor leaguer is far more open to the coaching from guys who weren’t former pros. Just look at the popularity of Driveline. Every decent sized city has facilities like that now. The current generation of players don’t have as much need for the perspective of a grizzled veteran like in the past because they now have the learning tools at their disposal.

  3. MuddyCleats

    Long over due IMO. Just compare Indians vs Reds SP development. In short, Tribe has been much better at in last 20 yrs? Even though teams r located n same state & have eyes on many of same local talents one org is doing much better w/ player development

    • Wes

      Lolz

      Chapman, cueto, leake, Bailey, the other Cuban who had tommy john (forgot his name)

      At one point in time this was the highest paid crop of home grown talent in baseball history.

      Last 10 years. You are correct sir. Last 20 it’s a draw

      • MuddyCleats

        Chapman & Leake spent almost NO time in minors. Leake was at his best coming right out of college & Chapman could fall out of bed & throw a 100 – I wouldn’t count either as development credit

    • Oldtimer

      Goes back longer than that. It’s why Reds traded for Joey Jay and Bob Purkey. Milt Pappas. Jack Billingham and Fred Norman. Tom Seaver. Jose Rijo. Bronson Arroyo. To name a few.

      Reds had some success. Jim O’Toole. Jim Maloney. Gary Nolan, Don Gullett. Mario Soto. Tom Browning. Again, just to name a few.

      Reds have been unable to consistently develop good SP for a long time. Or gave up too soon (Claude Osteen, Mike Cuellar, Ross Grimsley come to mind).

      • Muddycleats

        Spot On! Real question is why r other teams of similar size doing much better. The 64K $ question

    • Mk

      For what it is worth the D-backs sign more Ohio talent than the Reds or the Indians combined so the geography argument is really not a valid one.

      • MuddyCleats

        Location is a Red herring really. Just noting two clubs fm very similar locations can b so different. Reds realize it finally & r trying 2 improve/change. Agree w/ scouting issue – just seem 2 pick wrong on draft day which leads me 2 believe they r considering wrong variables. Jack Armstrong, Tomko, Bailey & Bob Steve R essentially the same guys. All FB – NO pitch guys who struggle @ ML level.

      • Doug Gray

        Homer Bailey threw two no-hitters and was one of the best 20 starting pitchers alive for the two-and-a-half years before he got hurt.

        Robert Stephenson literally had the highest swinging strike rate on any pitch in baseball this year with his slider.

  4. terry m

    Doug

    You mentioned that the Reds had not develop any pitching from the draft or International free agents. I think it’s not only development but perhaps more in scouting !!! The International free agent is what gets me crazy with the REDS. The Reds made a splash when they signed Yorman and Duran and then sat on their hands. If it wasn’t for relaxation with Cuba the Reds have done zero in this area. THIS IS A SOURCE OF TALENT….

    • Doug Gray

      Is it scouting? Perhaps. But it’s not like the Reds drafted guys without arm talent. Internationally – they simply didn’t spend the money, though with pitching in particular, the track record for every team is iffy when it comes to spending big on arms internationally and then developing them. But given the fact that they also haven’t developed any international arms, too, probably tells you where the larger problem lies between the scouting and developing side of things in the last decade plus.

      • MuddyCleats

        Here’s where I agree w/ U. Reds draft a lot of arms, but wasn’t until Bailey was taught split by Lehr, not Reds, did HB really turn corner n AAA. All 4 above were drafted as #1 SP w/ only HB having much success or longevity. Great 2 see Homer pitch so well 4 A’s- Truely rooting 4 him N playoffs. Not hating on Reds, just think Org is misguided on evaluating talent & would like read more about successful Orgs & how they develop their talent. Or what Reds did 2 bring Garrett & Aquino along etc. B very boring if we all agreed 100% w/ everything u write

  5. Oldtimer

    Friendly typo note. Bryan Price was let go as Mgr in 2018 (not David Price).

    I will say their managerial capabilities are probably similar.

  6. kevinz

    Nice glad trying to change things up. Hope it all works out. Glad at least trying different stuff. Same ole same ole just end up in the same spot.

  7. Cguy

    Also making major changes at ML level by dumping hitting coach Turner Ward. I knew he was the problem. Surely Reds offense will be a juggernaut in 2020 now that the problem is solved.

  8. Oldtimer

    Reds 2019 lineup. 1B Votto. 2B Peraza or Dietrich. SS Iglesias. 3B Suarez. C Barnhart or Casili. LF Winker (most of the season). CF Senzel. RF Puig (most of the season).

    Reds 2020. 1B same. 2B Peraza or VanMeter. SS Galvis or Iglesias. 3B same. C same. LF same. CF same. RF Aquino.

    Results likely to be similar.

    • Cguy

      OT, it’s called sarcasm. It’s essential to remaining an optimistic Reds fan

      • Oldtimer

        The Reds lineup had plenty of hitting and scoring ability. It will next year, too. The Reds BULLPEN was a much bigger issue in 2019.

        I doubt Turner Ward had much to do with the poor bullpen results.

        I’ve been a Reds fan since the 1950s. I’m well aware what it takes to be one.

      • Tom

        Oldtimer with all due respect, the offense was quite bad and nowhere near good enough to compete for a championship. Hopefully that is the crystal clear mission for all involved in 2020.

      • Oldtimer

        The offense was not bad until Puig was traded and Winker got injured.

        Votto had a mediocre year. Suarez had a career year, as did Jose Iglesias. Derek Dietrich was good the first half of the season. Aquino was excellent as a rookie. Senzel was good until he got injured. Just to name a few.

        The Reds hit 223 HR in 2019 to break their team record.

        The bullpen OTOH was pretty lousy all year. The Reds lost more games due to blown saves (23 total by the bullpen) than poor offense.

      • Cguy

        Oldtimer, I don’t believe I questioned whether you knew what it takes to be a Reds fan. I said sarcasm is essential to remaining an optimistic Reds fan. I don’t see any controversy is either statement. As for the Reds pitching, they were 14 in the NL in 2018 with a 4.63 ERA and 4th in the NL in 2019 with a 4.18 ERA. Surprisingly, as relief pitching goes, they came in 9th in 2018 with a rp ERA of 4.14 while they had the 7th best rp ERA this year with 4.28. The bullpen was not a larger issue, compared to the rest of the NL. I need not post the offensive stats for the Reds in 2019- they’re not good.

      • Oldtimer

        “OT, it’s called sarcasm. It’s essential to remaining an optimistic Reds fan” yep, you did.

        Correction, Reds hit 227 HR in 2019.

        Reds bullpen was 46 of 69 on save opportunities. Lost 23 games where Reds were up late. If they flip HALF (11) of those, Reds are 88-74 or so.

      • Oldtimer

        Correcting math error. 86-76 if they flip half of blown saves (11 of 23).

    • Cguy

      There’s just a world of difference between being a Reds fan (which I believe we both are), and being an optimistic Reds fan. I try hard to remain optimistic. I see no reason to be fanatical about something if I have a low opinion of the organization.

  9. Krozley

    I imagine Doug is pretty happy right now with the Reds hiring of Driveline founder Kyle Boddy as minor league pitching coordinator and the promotion of Caleb Cotham to pitching king, or whatever. Great moves to get a fresh look for the organization and I hope they do something similar when it comes to hitting. Getting Cotham makes that Chapman trade worthwhile (okay not really, but it is a little bonus).

    • Keith

      The thing that most amazed me was the way he talked about the Reds organization. “The direction the Reds are going blew me away.” That quote right there gets me really, really excited about the Reds future. I’ve followed this team through highs and what feels like a lot of lows, but the organization seems to be advancing quickly, and I’m pumped for the next decade!!!!