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Mariners announce MLB coaching staff for 2020

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A mix of experience and fresh voices highlight the Mariners MLB staff

Yomiuri Giants v Seattle Mariners
Pictured: 31-year-old Dee Gordon with his 25-year-old hitting coach
Photo by Masterpress/Getty Images

The Mariners have announced their coaching staff for 2020:

There are some old faces and some new ones. Let’s break them down.

The returners:

Scott Servais, Manager

Age: 52

Experience: 10 years in MLB, 4 years managing MLB

This one is obvious, as we wrote earlier this week. Like it or not, and many do not, Servais has been given the wheel to helm the ship through the rebuild. We as a staff are just happy we get to keep our “Midwestern dad” jokes in rotation.

Perry Hill, 1B/Infield Coach

Age: 67

Experience: 6 seasons in the Mexican League, 9 years coaching MiLB, 20+ years coaching MLB

Scooping the well-regarded Hill up when he was inexplicably let go by the Marlins was considered a coup last year, and it remains so now. Looking at the number of errors the Mariners made in 2019, it might seem counterintuitive to praise Hill, but considering he was working with an error-prone Tim Beckham at short and lovable leadfoot Ryon Healy at third base for the first few months of the season, we feel Hill gets a pass on those first-half errors. The strongest recommendation for Hill is the improvement shortstop J.P. Crawford made under his tutelage. John documented and analyzed Crawford’s fielding misadventures from 2018 early in the season, highlighting both his moments of brilliance and times when the game sped up on him and he made errant throws, didn’t set his feet properly, etc. Hill and his famous “6 Fs of Fielding” helped Crawford to slow the game down and improve his mechanics. The most famous example is probably what’s referred to as “The Throw,” but I broke down a different play using the 6 Fs in this twitter thread, if you’re interested.

Tim Laker, Hitting Coach

Age: 49

Experience: 14 years in MLB, 9 years coaching MiLB, 3 years coaching MLB

Laker is an analytics-friendly coach who embraces tech and fits well with the Mariners’ data-based approach. Laker is most well-known for the work he put in with Mitch Haniger, both in the off-season at his own facility and when both were members of the Diamondbacks organization, but you can see a similar imprint on the swings of some other players in the organization, notably Kyle Lewis.

Baseball Swingpedia on YouTube

Manny Acta, 3rd Base Coach

Age: 50

Experience: 5 years in MLB, 6 years managing MLB, 9 years coaching MLB, 5+ years managing LIDOM and the Dominican Republic’s WBC team

Every year we hope Manny Acta will not return to the team—not because we dislike him, but because we hope he’s been given a job as manager somewhere. This year, Acta returns to his role as third base coach, taking over for Chris Prieto, who was let go in the off-season. He also represents the only native Spanish speaker on the coaching staff, and as such, his duties will likely extend beyond coaching third base.

Jared Sandberg, Bench Coach

Age: 41

Experience: 3 years in MLB, 10 years in MiLB, 10+ years coaching MiLB

Sandberg, an Olympia native, joined the organization last year as Field Coordinator for the Mariners. Sandberg is fluent in data and analytics and will take over control of the iPad seen in Manny Acta’s hand when he had this role in 2019.

Brian DeLunas, Bullpen Coach

Age: 44

Experience: 3 years coaching college, 5 years coaching high school, 5 years running own pitching academy, Premier Pitching

DeLunas returns to the organization in the role he had when he was first brought on, as bullpen coach. Last year DeLunas’s role was “Director of Pitching Development,” a Seattle-based role where he worked with pitchers at both the major and minor-league levels. Health concerns tied DeLunas to Seattle; hopefully a return to this role signals he’s healthy enough to travel with the team. DeLunas is a biomechanics expert who is excellent at analyzing pitcher mechanics, confirming what he’s seen with data points, and conveying that information to players; he is several coaches in one, and invaluable to the Mariners.

The New Faces:

Note that none of these faces are new, exactly; the Mariners are focused more on building a team internally, and the coaching staff reflects that. All of these people have had roles elsewhere in the organization before being promoted to the major-league level.

Pete Woodworth, Pitching Coach

Age: 31

Experience: 5 months playing MiLB (Tampa Bay, 2010), 2 years as scout for Tampa Bay, 5+ years collegiate coaching (Nova Southeastern, Florida Gulf Coast), 4 years coaching MiLB

Now things are getting interesting. While other organizations are interviewing well-regarded college coaches from major universities and franchise legends, the Mariners have promoted internally, tapping a pitching coach from inside the organization who might well be younger than some of the veteran pitchers he’ll be assigned to coach, and will have less major-league experience than all of them. Woodworth joined the organization in 2016, when he took over midyear at Clinton for former pitching coach Rich Dorman, who left the organization. Under his tutelage the 2016 LumberKings finished first in pitching in the Midwest League, with the highest win percentage and the second-lowest ERA in the league, while coming in third in K-BB ratio. In 2017 Woodworth was promoted along with Mitch Canham to Modesto, where together they oversaw the 2018 California League Champion Nuts team. The Mariners promoted the dynamic duo to Arkansas this year, where in the first half the Travelers absolutely shredded their Texas League competition. Canham left midyear to take his “dream job” at OSU, and reportedly wanted to bring Woodworth along with him; the Mariners outbid for Woodworth’s services, installing him as major-league pitching coach for 2020. This is an out-of-the-box move that will be really interesting to watch play out this season, and it’s a pretty big jump for someone who has only been coaching in affiliated ball for a few years. However, “Woody” is beloved by his players, and well-regarded as an excellent communicator who is also fluent in the data and analytics prized by the Mariners.

Jarret DeHart, Assistant Hitting Coach

Age: 24?? 25??? 2-[crumbles into pile of dust]

Experience: college baseball at Tulane, renown member of “Hitting Twitter”

It’s cheating a little to put DeHart in this category, since “JD” basically had this role last season, jumping between the minors and the big-league club as Tim Laker’s apprentice. However, it cannot be emphasized enough that the Mariners have an MLB coach who is younger than many (most) of the players he will be coaching. As a side note, I’m guessing on his age based on the fact that he graduated college in 2017, since he doesn’t have a Wikipedia page or a LinkedIn. What he does have is a strong recommendation from MLB players, like Daniel Vogelbach, and the high regard of many other players in the industry (a player from another team DMed me after DeHart’s hiring was announced last year to express deep envy that the Mariners had hired him instead of his own team.) Peep DeHart’s Twitter feed if you’d like to learn more about hitting, or just to get a glimpse into his mind. A mind that, and this cannot be emphasized enough, is barely a quarter-century old.

Carson Vitale, Major League Field Coordinator

Age: 31

Experience: 2 years in MiLB, 5+ years coaching MiLB

Vitale moves into the job Jared Sandberg held last year, and the major-league version of the job he did last year. I got a chance to speak extensively with Carson at the AFL last month and, despite his relative youth, he has a top-to-bottom view of the organization that’s deeply impressive. Vitale values players as people and it shows; he holds high expectations for players, especially where upholding organizational culture is concerned, but he also understands each player’s individual needs and how they learn best. He’s also an excellent communicator, to the point of his loquaciousness being a little bit of an inside joke (“Carson is...a talker,” deadpanned Penn Murfee, no Terse Tom himself). He also has a fantastic beard, which annoyed this Yankees fan, who is the biggest Karen who ever Karened:

Encouraging individuality is a big theme of this coaching staff, who run the gamut of ages and experience levels. It will be interesting to see what this highly varied team of chefs cook up in 2020.