The Royals will not only have a new Major League manager this year with Mike Matheny, but their minor league affiliates will have a few changes in the dugout as well. The club announced 2020 minor league coaching staff assignments, with Scott Thorman, Chris Widger, and Tony Peña, Jr. receiving promotions.
Thorman will move up from Class A Wilmington, where he won a Carolina League championship last year, to manage the Double-A Northwest Arkansas Naturals. There, he will likely be tasked with handling many of the top pitchers from the 2018 draft class. Doug Henry, who was the Royals bullpen coach as recently as 2017, will serve as pitching coach, while Abraham Nunez will serve as hitting coach.
Players love him. Remember Daniel Lynch raving about him this past October— Alec Lewis (@alec_lewis) January 10, 2020
Peña will serve as a bench coach for Triple-A Omaha to begin the year before leading the short-season rookie ball team in Burlington, North Carolina as manager. Peña had been managing the Royals Arizona Summer League team the last two years. Former Royals pitcher John Habyan joins the organization as pitching coach after serving in that role for Hofstra University. Ramon Castro will be the hitting coach.
Tony Pena Jr will make a *terrific* manager someday if he wants. https://t.co/dpLJ4ewCGD— Sam Mellinger (@mellinger) January 10, 2020
Chris Widger also moves up, going from Burlington to manage the High-A team at Wilmington this year. Steve Luebber, in his 15th year with the Royals, will serve as pitching coach. Andy LaRoche takes over as the hitting coach, after serving in that role with Burlington last year.
There will be no changes at the helm for Triple-Omaha, where Brian Poldberg will skipper the team for a seventh straight season. Dane Johnson comes over from the Marlins organization to serve as Omaha’s pitching coach, and Brian Buchanan will serve as hitting coach.
Brooks Conrad will manage the team at Low-A Lexington, with Glenn Hubbard as his bench coach. Veteran pitching coach Carlos Martinez will assist him, as will hitting coach Jesus Azuaje. Omar Ramirez will manage the Idaho Falls Chukars for a third consecutive season, joined by bench coach Nelson Liriano, pitching coach Clayton Mortenson and hitting coach Chris Nelson.
Miguel Bernard is the new manager for the Surprise Royals in the Arizona Summer League, after previously serving as catching coach and manager with the Dominican Summer League Royals. Former Royals pitcher Mark Davis will serve as pitching coach with Julio Pimentel, and Carlos Reyes serving as rehab pitching coach. Former Royals hitting coach Andre David will serve in that same role for the Surprise Royals, with former Royals first baseman Willie Aikens serving as bench coach.
The Royals also announced a number of other development and minor league coordination positions. Alec Zuwalt takes over a new role, as director of hitting performance and player development. Drew Saylor joins the organization after being named Baseball America’s 2018 Minor League Manager of the Year with the Dodgers, serving as the Royals Minor League Hitting Coordinator. Mike Tosar, who is credited with his work with Jorge Soler, also comes over from the Dodgers to serve as a special assignment hitting coach. Jason Simontacci will serve as Royals pitching coordinator, Mitch Stetter will serve as manager of pitching performance, and Jeff Suppan will serve as a roving pitching coach. John Wagle will serve as director of performance science and Paul Gibson will serve in the new role of director of pitching performance. Nick Relic will be manager of minor league operations.
The Royals had revamped much of their minor league player development, creating several new roles. Dayton Moore talked to Alec Lewis of The Athletic about some of the new positions, like the director role taken over by Zumwalt.
“I’ve always believed you let the needs of your organization guide the path of your most productive and talented people,” said Royals general manager Dayton Moore. “As we began to evaluate and analyze some of our hitting philosophies as it pertains to our drill work and drill series we put in play, how that works with performance science, how that works with understanding and implementing the technology and training hitting coaches, we felt we needed somebody to oversee it on a daily basis.
Other former Royals players involved in player development include Malcom Culver, Derrick Robinson, J.C. Boscan, as well as former MLB player and Kansas City native Damon Hollins. You can see a complete lists of roles here.