Tag Archives: Luis Rojas

NL East Division comparison: Managers

Over a two-week period at the end of January, I presented a series of pieces evaluating and ranking each of the team’s in the National League East Division on a position-by-position basis.

Those rankings can be found here:

First base, second base, shortstop, third base, catcher, left field, center field, right field, bench/reserves, starting pitching, bullpen.

Those players will have the most to say about how each team fares on the field, and thus in the standings, during the coming season. But the men who write out the lineup cards and make the decisions about who is playing and pitching at any given time will have a big say as well.

If you go back and take a look at my evaluations on each of the positions and incorporate these managerial rankings, you will get a good idea of where each of the teams in the division stand as we prepare for the start of spring training.

Phillies pitchers and catchers are due to report on Tuesday of next week with their first formal workouts coming on Wednesday. The full squad will be in camp by the following week.

The first Grapefruit League game will take place on February 22 when the Phillies visit the Detroit Tigers at Joker Marchant Stadium in Lakeland, Florida. The first home game in Clearwater on the 2020 schedule will come the following afternoon when the Phillies host the Pittsburgh Pirates.

NL EAST – 2020 MANAGER RANKINGS

1) Philadelphia Phillies: Joe Girardi

Girardi will be in his first season with the Phillies in the 2020 season. However, he has more actual managerial experience, more of a winning record, and arguably has been under more of a big-league microscope than any skipper in the division. Girardi got his first managerial experience in the NL East when he guided the then-Florida Marlins to a 78-84 mark back in 2006. Though the Fish had a losing record, they also had the lowest payroll in all of baseball. Girardi kept a Marlins team with largely inferior talent in the playoff race until the final weeks. For that performance he was named as the NL Manager of the Year but a dispute with ownership got Girardi fired after that one season. Less than two years later he was hired to take over the highest-profile team in Major League Baseball when he was named as the manager of the New York Yankees to replace Joe Torre. Under Girardi the Yankees would win the 2009 World Series, defeating the Phillies in six games. Over ten seasons in the Bronx, Girardi would guide the Yankees to a 910-710 record and three AL East Division crowns. However, they were never able to again reach the World Series after that 2009 season and did not capture a division title after 2012. When the Yankees were edged out in seven games by what we now know were a cheating Astros team in the 2017 ALCS, Girardi’s contract was not renewed by New York. Girardi will be 55 years of age for the entirety of the 2020 season.

2) Atlanta Braves: Brian Snitker

At age 64, Snitker is the oldest manager in the division. He took over a young Atlanta club going through a rebuilding program similar to the Phillies during the 2016 season. He guided the club to a somewhat surprising first-place finish by 2018, and they repeated as division champions a year ago. However, the Braves have failed to advance in the postseason, losing to Los Angeles in an NLDS in 2018 and Saint Louis a year ago. In last year’s NLDS they led the Cardinals two games to one and held a 4-3 lead into the bottom of the 8th inning in Game Four only to see Saint Louis rally to tie. The Cards then walked it off in the bottom of the 10th, and put the Braves out with a 13-1 romp in the decisive Game Five.

3) Washington Nationals: Dave Martinez

The 55-year-old Martinez is 175-149 over two seasons with the Nationals, his first two seasons as a big-league manager. Of course, his team won the World Series a year ago, and he deserves a ton of credit for keeping them together after a horrendous start. We need to remember that his first team in 2018 went just 82-80 and the club was sitting at 19-31 on May 23 of last season. That gave Martinez an overall 101-111 mark over his first season-plus. From that point onward, the Nationals took off and went an unreal 74-38 (.661) and then moved dramatically through the postseason. The Nats rallied in the bottom of the 8th inning for a 4-3 victory over Milwaukee in the NL Wildcard Game. Then they rallied from down 2-1 in the NLDS to defeat the Los Angeles Dodgers, coming from a 3-0 deficit with another 8th inning rally in the decisive Game Five, which they finally won in 10 innings. And with what we now know regarding the Houston Astros cheating scandal, you have to give Martinez and the Nationals a lot of credit in edging out Houston by 4-3 in the World Series. Again they came from behind, winning the final two games after being down 3-2.

4) Miami Marlins: Don Mattingly

Mattingly was a six-time AL All-Star, nine-time Gold Glove Award winner, three-time Silver Slugger, and the 1985 AL MVP over a 14-year big-league career with the New York Yankees, one that could one day see him enshrined in the Hall of Fame. He is 276-370 over four full seasons from 2016-19 as the skipper in Miami. Prior to that he fashioned a 446-363 mark over five seasons with the Los Angeles Dodgers. That gives him an overall 722-733 record in nine seasons, making him the manager with the longest continuous streak of managerial experience. Of course, he had a far better cast of players to work with in LA, finishing in first place each of his final three seasons on the west coast. But each of those clubs failed to advance to the World Series, and Mattingly finally paid with his job for that failure to get to the Fall Classic. He landed on his feet almost immediately in South Florida but has been forced to deal with a change in ownership accompanied by a complete rebuilding program. It would appear that it is going to take at least another couple of years for the Fish to raise their on-field talent level to compete in the division. Whether Mattingly can survive through that period and still be around once they are good enough to win remains to be seen. He turns 59 in late April.

5) New York Mets: Luis Rojas

This will be the first season for Rojas as a big-league manager. He brings the experience of having guided a number of the younger Mets players while a minor league skipper. Rojas has been a coach and manager in the Mets minor league system since 2007, rising through each level of the club’s system. He was the 2013 South Atlantic League Manager of the Year after guiding Savannah to a championship, and later led the High-A St. Lucie club to a first place finish. Rojas gained further managerial experience in the Dominican pro leagues, leading Leones del Escogido to a championship. He managed Double-A Binghamton in 2017-18, then served as the Mets minor league quality control coach in 2019. Just over two weeks ago, Rojas got the Mets job when Carlos Beltran was caught up in the Astros’s sign-stealing scandal. At 38 he will be the youngest manager in the division by far as well as the least experienced.

 

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NL East Division position comparison: third base

My position-by-position evaluation of the Philadelphia Phillies and their rivals in the National League East Division moves today to the hot corner. In recent decades, the likes of Chipper Jones, Scott Rolen, David Wright, and Anthony Rendon played third base in the division.

A year ago, the position was manned for those NL East clubs by Maikel Franco, Josh Donaldson, Todd Frazier, Brian Anderson, and Rendon. Incredibly, only Anderson remains, and he may not end up playing there regularly for Miami in the coming season.

So far I’ve covered first base, second base, and shortstop. The Philadelphia Phillies finished third in each of those rankings. They are once again placed here in that middle-of-the road spot. But the position is so muddled at the moment that they could be at the top or bottom of these rankings by season’s end.

Tomorrow will see a move behind the plate to cover the division’s catchers. Next week, I’ll begin by working across the outfield, followed by separate pieces covering each team’s projected starting pitching rotation, bench, bullpen, and managers.

If it appears as though any particular position is unsettled or that a team may use a platoon situation, any potential starting players will be covered.

Once this evaluation process is complete, fans should have a better idea of where the Phillies actually stand entering spring training. Pitchers and catchers are due to begin reporting to Clearwater, Florida on February 11.

Let’s take a look now at what is easily the single most volatile, unpredictable position in the division for the upcoming 2020 campaign.

NL EAST – 2020 THIRD BASE RANKINGS

1) Jeff McNeil, New York Mets: Is McNeil a left fielder, where he played in 71 games a year ago? Is he a right fielder, where he played 42 times? How about maybe a second baseman, where he appeared in 37 games in 2019? Or will he finally spend most of his time at one position, third base, where he appeared in 31 games and made 16 starts for the Mets last season? Your guess is as good as mine, which may be as good as new Mets manager Luis Rojas as well. McNeil, who turns 28 in early April, is penciled-in as the starting third baseman. Of all the question marks at the position in the NL East, one thing is certain at this point – McNeil is the most proven, effective hitter of the bunch. He slashed .318/.384/.531 with 23 homers, 38 doubles, 75 RBIs, and 83 runs scored while making the National League All-Star team in 2019. The Mets could also go with J.D. Davis, who played in 31 games and made 27 starts, and Jed Lowrie, a veteran returning from injury, at times in the coming season.

2) Brian Anderson, Miami Marlins: Is Anderson a right fielder, where he made 55 starts and played extremely well in 2019? Is he a third baseman, where he made 64 starts and appeared in 67 games? He will turn 27 in mid-May, and could end up bouncing back and forth between the two positions once again in 2020. Anderson slashed .261/.342/.468 with 20 homers, 33 doubles, 66 RBIs, and 55 runs scored. If the Fish choose to play him regularly in right field, then any of Jon Berti, Jonathan Villar, or Miguel Rojas could see time at third base. This could end up as another position at which the Marlins rank at the bottom of the division by the end of the season. However, Anderson’s talent and potential, should he settle in at third base, make this speculative ranking valid.

3) Scott Kingery, Philadelphia Phillies: Stop me if you’ve read this type of thing already in this positional evaluation piece. Is Kingery a center fielder, where he made 57 starts and played in 65 games a year ago? Is he a shortstop, where he played in 119 games just two seasons ago and another 18 games last year? How about a second baseman, clearly his best defensive position, but where he has played in just 14 big-league games to this point? The Phillies version of a Swiss army knife to this point in his career, Kingery has also played 14 games in left field, four in right field, and even pitched once. For the 2020 season during which he will turn 26 years of age in late April, Kingery enters spring training penciled-in as the third baseman, and this could prove a generous ranking. He played 41 games and made 37 starts at third base in 2019, and overall did not play badly on defense. Kingery raised his slash line from the .226/.267/.338 he put up during his rookie campaign to .258/.315/.474 a year ago. In just 16 more plate appearances he banged 11 more homers and doubles, drove in 20 more runs, and stole five more bases. Does he have another level to his game? At this point, Kingery could go either way. He could also continue to get bounced around the field by the Phillies, whose top offensive prospect, Alec Bohm, plays third base and should be ready for a shot at some point during the 2020 campaign. There is also a possibility that new manager Joe Girardi decides to go with Kingery at second base, flipping Jean Segura to third.

4) Carter Kieboom, Washington Nationals: Kieboom has been one of the Nationals top prospects since they made him their first round pick at 28th overall in the 2016 MLB Draft. Kieboom broke into the big-leagues a year ago under emergency circumstances, called up from Triple-A to play shortstop in late-April and early-May when Trea Turner suffered an early-season injury. He didn’t play well defensively, making four errors while handling 40 chances across 10 games. He was also over-matched at the plate, slashing just .128/.209/.282 over 43 plate appearances. Sent back to the minors, he never received a recall. Still, Kieboom earned a World Series ring when the Nationals ultimately won it all. His Triple-A performance at Fresno continued to demonstrate his true ability. There he slashed .303/.409/.493 with 43 extra-base hits. Kieboom is considered Washington’s top prospect, and enters spring training prepared to try and take over the everyday job left vacant by the departure of Rendon to free agency. He could emerge as a leading NL Rookie of the Year contender. However, if he can’t handle the job, veterans Asdrubal Cabrera and Howie Kendrick could see time here.

5) Johan Camargo, Atlanta Braves: Who’s on third? It is a question that fans of every single team in the NL East might legitimately be asking themselves at this stage. Donaldson left via free agency, leaving a big hole in the Braves lineup. Camargo who appeared in 114 games and made 105 starts for a division-winning Atlanta club in 2018 at third base, is penciled-in as the starter for now. He played in 18 games, making nine starts, at third base for Atlanta in 2019 during a season in which he made appearances at five different positions. Camargo plays the fulls season at age 26. He owns a .269/.328/.438 career big-league slash line over parts of three seasons. Atlanta also has Austin Riley, formerly one of their top prospects, on the roster. During his rookie campaign last season, Riley played mostly left field, producing 18 homers, 49 RBIs, and 41 runs scored in just 297 plate appearances. However, he also hit just .226 and struck out 108 times. Riley played in five games at the hot corner, one of four different positions at which he was used.

 

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