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June 21, 2012

On the Beat

Who Wants to be the Next Skipper?

by John Perrotto

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The All-Star break is coming into view, yet no managers have been fired this season. In fact, there have been only a few reports of any of the 30 major-league skippers even possibly being in trouble. But it will eventually happen. Some owner will finally get fed up, drop the axe, and his club will begin a managerial search.

For the past two years, we have listed our top 10 managerial prospects. Someone must have never managed in the major leagues on a full-time basis or been ranked on either of our two previous lists in 2010 or 2011 in order to make this list.

The no-repeat rule means that such worthy candidates as Sandy Alomar Jr., Joey Cora, DeMarlo Hale, Pete Mackanin, Ryne Sandberg, and Ron Wotus aren't on this year's list. We're also proud to say that four men who have appeared on the first two editions of the list are now major-league managers: John Farrell, Don Mattingly, Ron Roenicke, and Dale Sveum.

This list was compiled through a mixture of personal observations and discussions with front-office types, scouts, and managers. The 10 prospects are listed in alphabetical order.

John Baker
Age:
31
Current position: Padres backup catcher
Background: Baker was the Athletics' fourth-round draft pick from the University of California in their famous "Moneyball" draft in 2002. He was traded to the Marlins after the 2006 season, made his major-league debut with them in 2008, and was traded to the Padres during the past offseason.
Why he is qualified: He is extremely perceptive and has a broader knowledge of the inner workings of baseball than most players. He understands how a front office works and the specific roles within the organization. He also has a firm grasp of sabermetric principles.

Jeff Banister
Age:
48
Current position: Pirates bench coach
Background: Banister was the Pirates' 25th-round draft pick in 1986 from the University of Houston and spent his entire playing career in the organization as a catcher from 1986-93, getting one major-league plate appearance 1991. He managed in the Pirates' farm system from 1994-98, served as a coach on their major-league staff from 1999-2002, was their minor-league field coordinator from 2003-10, then rejoined the major-league coaching staff last season.
Why he is qualified: Banister has outstanding people skills and knowledge of the game. He so impressed Pirates manager Clint Hurdle that he hired Banister as his bench coach after the two were finalists for the skipper's job in November 2010. Banister has a mental toughness and sense of conviction that comes from beating bone cancer and also overcoming seven operations that were required to repair a broken leg and ankle he suffered in a home-plate collision while in junior college.

Tim Bogar
Age:
45
Current position: Red Sox bench coach
Background: Bogar was the Mets' eighth-round draft pick in 1986 and an infielder in the major leagues from 1993-2001 with the Mets, Astros, and Dodgers. He managed in the minor leagues with the Astros and Indians for two seasons each, then was a major-league coach with the Rays in 2008 before joining the Red Sox' staff in 2009.
Why he is qualified: Bogar had the chance to learn under two of the best managers of this generation in Joe Maddon and Terry Francona, and he gets the seal of approval from both. Bogar is especially noted for his organizational skills. He also had three inside-the-park home runs in the major leagues, which has to count for something.

Randy Knorr
Age:
43
Current position: Nationals bench coach
Background: Knorr was the Blue Jays' 10th-round draft pick in 1986 from Baldwin Park (Calif.) High School. He was a catcher in the major leagues for 11 seasons from 1991-2001 with the Blue Jays, Astros, Marlins, Astros, Rangers, and Expos. He managed in the Nationals' farm system for five seasons beginning in 2006, except for a one-year stint on the major-league coaching staff in 2009. He rejoined the big-league staff this season.
Why he is qualified: Knorr learned how to get by on intangibles during his major-league playing career, as he appeared in just 253 games in those 11 seasons. He has a good feel for the game, a good rapport with players, and is getting the chance to learn under a veteran manager in Davey Johnson while working on an outstanding coach staff that includes Steve McCatty, Trent Jewett, Jim Lett, Bo Porter, and Rick Eckstein.

Kevin Long
Age:
45
Current position: Yankees hitting coach
Background: Long was the Royals' 31st-round draft pick in the 1989 from the University of Arizona and reached Triple-A while playing eight seasons in their farm system. He was a coach and manager in the Royals' farm system from 1997-2003, then joined the Yankees' organization as a minor-league hitting coach in 2004. He was promoted to his current position prior to the 2007 season.
Why he is qualified: Long is considered an outstanding teacher and even authored a book on hitting last year. The most impressive thing about Long is his ability to relate to players on all levels. Yankees superstars Derek Jeter and Alex Rodriguez believe and trust in Long and gladly extol his virtues.

Paul Molitor
Age:
55
Current position: Twins minor-league infield/baserunning coordinator
Background: Molitor was the Brewers' first-round draft pick in 1977 from the University of Minnesota and made his major-league debut the next season. He went on to have a Hall of Fame career, playing 21 seasons as an infielder and designated hitter from 1978-98 with the Brewers, Blue Jays, and Twins. In addition to the six seasons he has spent in his present job, he served as the Twins' bench coach for two years in 2000 and 2001.
Why he is qualified: Molitor was forced to adapt to different positions during his playing career because of various injuries and gained a great understanding of the game. He is widely respected throughout baseball and, despite having never managed, there is no doubt among those people polled that Molitor could handle the job with ease if he so desired to try his hand at it.

Eduardo Perez
Age:
42
Current position: Marlins hitting coach
Background: Perez was the Angels' first-round draft pick in 1991 from Florida State and played 13 seasons from 1993-2006 in the major leagues as a first baseman. Besides the Angels, he also had stints with the Reds, Cardinals, Rays, Indians, and Mariners. He was also an analyst with ESPN and a special assistant in the Indians' baseball operations department before being joining the Marlins' staff last season.
Why he is qualified: Perez has the personality to be a good manager, as he is outgoing and articulate. He also was noted for being a student of the game as a player despite having the bloodlines of being the son of Hall of Famer Tony Perez. While he has no managerial experience in the United State, he spent two offseasons managing in the Puerto Rican Winter League.

Bryan Price
Age:
49
Current position: Reds pitching coach
Background: Price was the Angels' eighth-round draft pick in 1984 from the University of California and pitched for six seasons in the minor leagues, including two in the Mariners' organization. He spent 11 seasons as a pitching coach and coordinator in the Mariners' farm system from 1989-99, then was their major-league pitching coach for six seasons. He was the Diamondbacks' pitching coach from 2006-09 and is now in his third season with the Reds.
Why he is qualified: The stigma of pitching coaches becoming managers has started to lift with the Padres hiring Bud Black and the Blue Jays hiring John Farrell in recent years. Price has long been considered one of the top pitching coaches in the game, and he gets rave reviews for his ability to communicate with players.

Luis Rivera
Age:
48
Current position: Blue Jays coaching assistant
Background: The Expos signed Rivera as an amateur free agent from Puerto Rico in 1981, and he made his major-league debut with them in 1986. He was a middle infielder in the majors for 11 seasons, also having stints with the Red Sox, Mets Astros, and Royals before his career ended in 1998. Rivera joined the Indians organization in 2000 and was a minor-league manager for five years and a major-league coach for four seasons. He then managed in the Blue Jays' farm system in 2009 and 2010 before being promoted to the major-league coaching staff last year.
Why he is qualified:  He has spent a lifetime around the game and received good reviews during his time as a minor-league manager. A native of Puerto Rico, Rivera is fluent in both his native Spanish and English, and he has developed the reputation of being a good communicator with players.

Eric Young
Age:
45
Current position: Diamondbacks first-base coach
Background: Despite being the Dodgers' 45th-round draft pick in 1989 from Rutgers University, Young wound up playing in the major leagues for 15 seasons from 1992-2006, primarily as an infielder with Los Angeles, the Rockies, Cubs, Brewers, Giants, Rangers, and Padres. He was an in-studio analyst for ESPN from 2007-09, then spent the 2010 as the Astros' minor-league outfield and baserunning instructor before being hired by the Diamondbacks prior to last season.
Why he is qualified: Young was noted for being one of the hardest workers in the game as a player, as he was able to have a long major-league career despite concentrating more on football while growing up and in college. He relates well to players and has commanded great respect despite being in the early stages of his coaching career.

---

A few minutes with Mets manager Terry Collins

On his team being over .500 in a season in which they were universally considered to be the worst team in the NL East: "I said it in spring training and on Opening Day: I liked my team. I felt if we could keep our team pretty much intact and not get hit with as many injuries as we did last season that we could win some ballgames. For the most part, we've stayed healthy. We've had a few injuries, but we've been able to survive them. I never said we were the most talented team in the league, but we do have good players and we play the game the right way. If you have that going for you, then you always have a chance to win some ballgames."

On third baseman David Wright bouncing back from an injury-plagued season: "He's so important for us. He's such a big part of everything with this club, both on the field and off the field. To have him playing every day and being as productive as he's been has obviously given our lineup a big lift. We're just a different team all the way around when he's playing."

On his "Big Three" starters of knuckleballer R.A. Dickey and left-handers Johan Santana and Jonathon Niese: "R.A. has been incredible. He has total control of the knuckleball. He's locating it wherever he wants in the strike zone, which is something you just don't see from a knuckleball pitcher. Johan came back faster and better than we could have hoped for. He's been great for us, pretty much like the Johan who was one of game's premier pitchers before getting his shoulder operated on. And Jon Niese has taken big strides. He's always had the stuff, but now he has the consistency to go with it. You pretty much know what you're going to get now when he takes the mound."

---

Scouts' Views

Giants first baseman Brandon Belt: "He's started to adjust to getting busted inside. Instead of getting tied up by inside fastballs, he's starting to turn them around and hit some of them out of the park. That was the biggest hole in his swing, and now that he's closed it you might see his career take off."

Mets right-hander R.A. Dickey: "I've never seen anyone ever throw a knuckleball like his right now, and that's going back to the days of the Niekro brothers. He's like a magician. He's making it rise and sink. He's cutting it and running it. I feel sorry for the hitters because they are just flailing at it."

Blue Jays third baseman Brett Lawrie: "When I watch him play, I think of Pete Rose. He plays with that same kind of mentality. He's always hustling, always going at it 100 percent, always trying to win. I'm not saying he'll get 4,000 hits, but he's like Pete in the way that you love him if he's on your team and you hate him if he's on the other side."

Athletics first baseman/outfielder Brandon Moss: "Who saw this coming? I had basically given up on him, but I also used to think when he was younger that he could hit enough to be a good major-league player. Maybe he's a late bloomer. It's worth it to the A's to find out."

Yankees right-hander Ivan Nova: "He's starting to learn how to pitch. He used to get by on pumping fastballs right down the middle, but now he's moving his pitches all around the strike zone. He's learning how to set the hitters up."

---

Five Observations

  • I have almost no doubt Roger Clemens used performance-enhancing drugs, but his case is clearly one of having enough money to build a dream team legal defense that could overpower government prosecutors in court. The Rocket was following Barry Bonds' blueprint.
  • I will vote for Clemens when his name appears on the Hall of Fame ballot in December. When I became a baseball writer 25 years ago, being a member of the morality police was not part of the job description. Even if cheated, he performed at a higher level than almost anyone else during the Steroids Era, getting out a lot of hitters who were also juicing.
  • If the weather remains as hot all summer as it did during the first day of summer on Thursday and baseballs keep flying out of parks because of it, we can table “The Year of the Pitcher” talk.
  • Here's hoping Braves right-hander Brandon Beachy recovers quickly from his Tommy John surgery. He's been a wonderful underdog story in working his way toward becoming an elite major-league starting pitcher after being an undrafted free agent from a small college.
  • I can't help but wonder how many failing professional pitchers are starting to think about experimenting with throwing a knuckleball in light of Dickey's recent success.

---

In this week's Must Read, Dustin Parkes writes for theScore.com about Blue Jays television analyst and former major-league catcher Gregg Zaun's recent rant on Toronto radio about prospect ratings and the people who make them, particularly the fine folks at Baseball America. There are a few things to watch for, notably that Kevin Goldstein does an outstanding job of prospect ranking here at BP, as Parkes discusses in his piece. Secondly, I know the people at BA take their rankings very seriously because I've helped rank prospects in multiple editions of their Prospect Handbook. I can assure you that any rankings you see either here at BP or in BA are well-researched and thought out, and not based solely on the opinion of a team's farm director. I like Zaun, and we once had an enlightening 15-minute conversation about what he would look for if he were scouting catchers. However, he needs to do his homework before blasting those who rank prospects for not doing their homework.

John Perrotto is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see John's other articles. You can contact John by clicking here

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