The White Sox have announced the player development staff for 2017. While those that have followed the White Sox minor league staff closely will see a lot of the same names, there’s some big changes at Charlotte.
Leading off is the addition of Mark Grudzielanek as the manager at Charlotte. Grudzielanek spent 15 seasons in the majors with stops with the Expos, Dodgers, Cubs, Royals, and Indians. While playing for the Royals in 2006-7, Buddy Bell was Grudzielanek’s manager. The past two seasons, Grudzielanek has been working for the Diamondbacks, first as the manager of the Kane County Cougars in 2015 and then as the assistant minor league coordinator in 2016.
Joining Grudzielanek at Charlotte will be new pitching coach Steve McCatty. McCatty pitched for the A’s from 1977 to 1985. In the strike shortened 1981 season, McCatty lead the league in wins, ERA, and shutouts and came in second in Cy Young voting that season. He was previously the A’s pitching coach in 2002 and the Nationals’ from 2009 to 2015 where he helped develop Stephen Strasburg.
The Sox have two first time managers in the minors in 2017. Willie Harris will be the new manager at Winston-Salem. Last season, Harris got his first experience as a coach as the hitting coach for Great Falls. Justin Jirschele will be managing in Kannapolis next season. The former Clintonville Trucker has been a hitting coach for the past two seasons in the Sox minor leagues. Jirschele retired as a player in 2015 from Birmingham to take the hitting coach job at Great Falls. Jirschele’s dad, Mike Jirschele, is a coach for the Royals and previously managed their AAA Omaha team for 12 seasons.
John Ely is also rejoining the White Sox as the pitching coach at Great Falls. Ely was the Sox’ third round pick in 2007 and went to the Dodgers as part of the Juan Pierre trade before the 2010 season.
As usual, several of the minor league majors are rotating. Julio Viñas is going from Charlotte to Birmingham. Ryan Newman is going from Birmingham to Arizona. Tim Esmay is moving from the bench coach position that Charlotte had to managing at Great Falls.
With four new managers, that means four managers are gone. Joel Skinner is gone from the system completely. Cole Armstrong is switching from managing Kannapolis to the hitting coach in Birmingham. Mike Gellinger will be the new hitting coordinator for the system. Finally, Tommy Thompson will be the Camp Coordinator and Player Development Assistant.
Along with the manager changes, there’s a few changes in the development staff. Richard Dotson, the Charlotte pitching coach since 2008, becomes the minor league pitching coordinator. With Gellinger as the new hitting coordinator, Vance Law becomes the new Infield Coordinator. Oh, he’s replacing Ever Magallanes who’s now the coordinator of the Dominican academy. Magallenes is replacing Rafael Santana who’s now a Player Development Assistant.
While the press release spends a good deal of time discussing Jirschele and Grudzielanek, as it should, a more quiet move of J.R. Perdew to a pitching assistant is interesting as well. For those that have followed the minors closely, Perdew has been the pitching coach at Winston-Salem for the past few years. He’s also is a big advocate for the cutter and, based on several player interviews, teaches it to almost every pitcher that goes through Winston-Salem. At the coordinator level, he won’t be as focused on a single team and with a newly created position, it’ll be interesting to hear what his responsibilities are.
Another interesting change is new title for Anthony Santiago. He’s now the Latin/Cultural Development Coordinator. The Sox have been very involved in teaching English across the minors. I’m not sure if this is part of a more integrative approach, but it’d certainly be interesting to hear more about his job responsibilities.