Saturday, January 31, 2015

Phillies Minors' Managers Make a Major Difference

The Philadelphia Phillies are in classic rebuilding mode. Over the next few years the organization has committed to trying to accumulate as much young prospect talent as possible through trade, free agent signings, and the Draft.
As these youngsters come in to the Phillies system, they will be placed at various levels in the minor leagues. Many of them will pass through multiple levels of that system. 
At each stop, the person with the greatest influence over their progressive development will be the manager at those stops.
Let's take a look at the half-dozen men who are currently guiding each of the Phillies six minor league affiliates at AAA-Lehigh Valley, AA-Reading, High A-Clearwater, Low A-Lakewood, Short Season Williamsport, and at the Rookie level GCL Phillies.

ROOKIE - GULF COAST LEAGUE (GCL) PHILLIES
Phillies Minors Roly de Armas
Longtime organization man Roly de Armas guides the Rookie level GCL Phillies
While 63-year old ROLY DE ARMAS never reached the major leagues, he was a catcher in the Phillies minor league system from 1973-77.
On retiring, de Armas became a minor league manager in 1979 for the Phillies, guiding Helena to a 1st place finish. It was the first of 14 straight seasons managing in the Phils system for the Florida native, and he has been working in baseball at numerous levels since.
He had a few stints as a coach in the major leagues, including with both the Chicago White Sox and Toronto Blue Jays, and in the Phillies 2008 World Series-winning season even spent some time with the big club as the interim bullpen coach.
The coming 2015 season in the GCL will mark his 29th season as a minor league manager or coach, with the vast majority of those in the Phillies system. It will be his 9th straight season managing the Phillies rookie level team in the Gulf Coast League.

SHORT SEASON - WILLIAMSPORT CROSSCUTTERS
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New to the organization for 2015, 51-year old PAT BORDERS brings a wealth of invaluable experience in the game. The 1992 World Series MVP as the Toronto Blue Jays catcher, Borders played parts of 17 big league seasons.
Generally out of baseball for the last 9 years, Borders has the respect of Phillies club President Pat Gillick, who was the Jays' GM during those 1992-93 World Series-winning years and knows him as a winner.
He hit 15 homers in 1990, 13 for that 1992 squad, and was the regular starting catcher for both of the Jays back-to-back World Series clubs in the 1992-93 season, including that 1993 team that beat the 'Macho Row' Phillies in 1993 on Joe Carter's dramatic homerun.
From 1992-94 he led all American League catchers in Assists, and in 1988 led the league when he threw out 47.25 of attempted base stealers.
Borders was the classic field general as a backstop, and if anyone can be gone from the game that long and step right back in, it will be him. 

LOW A - LAKEWOOD BLUECLAWS
Phillies Minors Shawn Williams
Shawn Williams moves up from Williamsport to the Low A Lakewood BlueClaws (Photo: MiLB.com)
SHAWN WILLIAMS is being promoted this season to Lakewood, New Jersey and the Phillies Low A level squad.
To say that he grew up in the game is an understatement. Williams' father, Jimmy, was not only the Phillies bench coach, but also was a big league manager with Toronto, Boston, and Houston. His brother, Brady, is a manager in the Tampa Bay Rays system at the AA level.
Williams went to spring training as a player with the Phils just two years ago, was offered an opportunity to enter the coaching ranks, and jumped at it. He was the manager at short season Williamsport last season, guiding that club to a 33-43 record.
Just 31-years old, Williams is clearly being groomed to play a major role with the club at some point. At the very least he is building a resume that will put him into position to be considered for MLB managing or coaching jobs in the next few years.

HIGH A - CLEARWATER THRESHERS
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Now 54-years old, Greg Legg actually played for the Phillies, getting cups of coffee in both 1986 and 1987. That means he was a teammate of Mike Schmidt in the big leagues. With just 14 games and 22 plate appearances, he can still brag of a .409 career MLB batting average.
A 22nd round pick of the club in the 1982 MLB Draft, Legg spent 13 seasons in the Phils system, registering 1,094 hits. He joined the Phils minor league system as a coach for 1994, and got his first shot managing in the system in 1997.
He has been a coach and/or manager at all levels of the Phils minor league system up to AA, and was the hitting coach for the back-to-back South Atlantic League champion Lakewood squad in 2009-10. Last season, as the BlueClaws manager, he guided the club to a 53-84 mark, and is being moved up this season for a shot in Clearwater.

AA - READING PHILLIES
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The Reading Phillies are likely to feature one of the best pitching staffs in all of minor league baseball during the 2015 season, including top Phils mound prospects Aaron Nola and Zach Eflin.
To guide these players, as well as top overall prospect shortstop J.P. Crawford, the Phillies are calling upon Dusty Wathan. He reached the major leagues as a player with the 2002 Kansas City Royals, making him a 2nd generation big leaguer. His dad John Wathan both played and managed in the majors.
Dusty spent each of his final two playing season in 2006-07 in the Phils organization, and got into coaching immediately afterwards. This will be his 4th season (204-222) at the helm of the R-Phils for the man universally considered as one of the top managers in minor league baseball. The 41-year old is sure to be on the short list of managerial candidates for big league openings over the next few years.
AAA - LEHIGH VALLEY IRON PIGS
Phillies Minors Dave Brundage
Dave Brundage is back for his 3rd season at helm of Phils top minor league club. (Photo: lehighvalleylive.com)
This will be the 3rd straight season for Dave Brundage as the manager of the Phillies top farm club in Lehigh Valley. Prior to that, Brundage was the manager of the Atlanta Braves top farm club at AAA for 4 consecutive seasons.
A 4th round pick of the Phils in the 1984 MLB Draft, Brundage played two seasons in the clubs minor league system among 10 overall years in the minors.
He quickly reached the minor league managerial level upon retiring, and has spent much of the last 20 years as a minor league skipper, including winning the 2007 International League championship with the Richmond Braves. He has won over 1,200 games as a minor league manager overall.

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