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The big list of pitching coach candidates

Developing pitching will be vital for the Royals.

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San Francisco Giants Photo Day Photo by Rob Tringali/Getty Images

The Royals are still looking for someone to lead them in the dugout with bench coach Pedro Grifol, third base coach Vance Wilson, Rays bench coach Matt Quatraro, Dodgers first base coach Clayton McCullough, and Phillies third base coach Dusty Wathan as known candidates.

But the Royals also have a critical role to fill with pitching coach. The Royals finished dead last in runs allowed, with the most walks and fewest strikeouts. They have a stable full of young arms they need to develop, so it will be vital to have the right leadership to steer them towards success.

Here is a list of who the Royals could be looking for to be their next pitching coach.

Brian Bannister, Giants director of pitching

The former Royals pitcher has made a name for himself since his playing days by helping lead the Giants to become one of the top pitching teams in baseball. After working for the Red Sox for five years, he joined San Francisco after the 2019 season, and by 2021 they were second in the National League in ERA. He talks a lot about culture, and using analytics to custom a pitching development plan for each individual. The Giants have seen improved performance from pitchers like Anthony Desclafani, Kevin Gausman, Jake McGee, and former Royals pitcher Jakob Junis. Bannister did hint he was craving some Stroud’s, but he may not be willing to step down from his front office position to lead Royals pitchers.

Cody Buckel, Guardians pitching strategist

The Royals clearly want to be more like the Cleveland Guardians, the team John Sherman was once a minority owner in and a model for pitching development. Buckel was once a top 100 prospect, but never reached the big leagues as a pitcher. Instead he began working in pitching development with the Mariners, then began work with Cleveland in 2019, working in pitching development. He is very young - just 30 years old - but if he can bring the knowledge that allows Cleveland to develop the arms they have, he will be wise beyond his years.

Paul Gibson, Royals director of pitching performance

The Royals took Alec Zumwalt from director of hitting performance to MLB hitting coach, so could they do the same on the pitching side with Paul Gibson? His track record is less impressive so far, but Brady Singer is perhaps the best starting pitcher the Royals have developed since Zack Greinke, and Daniel Lynch still shows signs of promise. The Royals have suggested that Gibson will continue on in his role, so it seems unlikely he would become pitching coach.

Mike Harkey, Yankees bullpen coach

Harkey was a big league pitcher for eight seasons before getting into coaching. After working in the minors, he was the Marlins bullpen coach in 2006, then joined the Yankees as their bullpen coach in 2008, winning a title. He served as the pitching coach for Arizona from 2013 to 2015 before rejoining the Yankees as bullpen coach in 2016. His pitching staffs in Arizona were younger and had mixed results. Harkey was passed over for the Yankees pitching coach opening and may be a bit more old school than what the Royals are looking for.

Matt Hobbs, Arkansas Razorbacks pitching coach

Hiring a college coach would be a bit unorthodox, but not unprecedented, with the Twins hiring former Arkansas pitching coach Wes Johnson a few years ago. and the Reds hiring former Vanderbilt pitching coach Derek Johnson. Hobbs pitched at Mizzou and coached there, moving on to Arkansas, a program the Royals are quite familiar with. Johnson is thought to be on the cutting edge with his use of analytics and study of biomechanics and has a good rapport working with young pitchers. If you’re looking for another potential college hire, Texas A&M’s Nate Yeskie could be a name to watch.

Dane Johnson, Omaha Storm Chasers pitching coach

The Royals seem unlikely to go with an internal hire, but if they did, Johnson could be a candidate. He has worked as an MLB coach before, serving as bullpen coach for the Blue Jays in 2015 when they lost in the ALCS to the Royals. He spent two decades working in the Jays organization, but was abruptly fired in 2018. He has served as Omaha’s pitching coach the last two seasons, so he should be familiar with many Royals pitchers, and he may have had an impact on Brady Singer improving his performance.

Brian Kaplan, Phillies assistant pitching coach/director of pitching development

It’s always a good idea to poach talent from winners, and the Phillies are on quite a run. Kaplan was running a performance facility that attracted All-Star pitchers when the Phillies decided to bring him into the organization in 2021. Kaplan has a background in biomechanics and has emphasized body awareness and more collaboration between the pitching department and the medical and strength teams. His goal is to get starting pitchers to work deeper into games by understanding their body.

Steve Karsay, former Brewers bullpen coach

Karsay was the Brewers bullpen coach until last year when he stepped away last year due to family considerations, so he may not be ready to jump back into coaching. But if he is, he could be a prime candidate. The former big league pitcher worked as a minor league coach for Cleveland from 2012 to 2016 before joining the Brewers big league staff in 2018. His role in Milwaukee has been described as “in essence as co-pitching coach”, and Royals owner John Sherman has cited the Brewers as an organization he would like to emulate in regards to pitching development. Karsay interviewed for the Mets pitching coach opening in 2019.

J.P. Martinez, Giants assistant pitching coach

Martinez spent six years in minor league pitcher development with the Twins before joining the Giants as an assistant pitching coach in 2020. There he has worked with Brian Bannister and pitching coach Andrew Bailey to get improved results from several Giants pitchers. He helped run the alternate site for minor leaguers with the Twins in 2020 is “really good with people” according to Twins manager Rocco Baldelli. Martinez is fluent in Spanish which could be useful relating to Latino pitchers on the staff.

Connor McGuiness, Dodgers assistant pitching coach

The Dodgers spend a lot, but they also have a great track record of developing pitchers like Dustin May, Walker Buehler, and Julio Urías, and getting improved performances out of pitchers other teams have let go. McGuinness joined the Dodgers organization in 2017 after a stint as a college pitching coach, initially working in the minors. He joined the big league staff in 2020, working under pitching coach Mark Prior. McGuinness is big into spin data and mechanics and has worked to create individualized approaches to each pitcher.

Daniel Moskos, Cubs assistant pitching coach

Moskos was a former first-round pick as a pitcher, who began working at Driveline Baseball after his playing career. In 2020, the Yankees hired him as a minor league pitching coach, and he joined the Cubs big league staff in 2021, working with pitching coach Tommy Hottovy. Moskos has focused a lot on pitch design, an area of expertise J.J. Picollo has said he would like to add to the organization.

Tommy Phelps, Marlins minor league pitching coordinator

The Marlins get overlooked as an organization that can develop arms, but in the past they’ve produced Trevor Rogers, Pablo Lopez, and this year’s likely Cy Young winner, Sandy Alcantara. After a big league pitching career, Phelps became a minor league pitching coach with the Yankees in 2008. but was let go in 2020, moving to the Marlins right after that. Phelps was credited with helping reliever Chad Green get his career back on track and has worked with two organizations that have developed some young pitchers.

Brian Sweeney, Guardians bullpen coach

Sweeney had a brief big league pitching career with a stint in Japan, and began coaching in the minors for the Phillies in 2015. The Guardians hired him in 2018 to join their big league staff and he has served as bullpen coach since 2019. He has worked with Guardians pitchers to refine their development and help them be prepared and is reportedly big on analytics, working with Ruben Niebla, who left to become Padres pitching coach this year.

Everett Teaford, White Sox pitching coordinator

Teaford pitched for the Royals for three seasons before joining the Astros as a scout in 2016. He joined the White Sox in 2018 and has been credited with integrating Trackman data to minor leaguers in their organization. He believes in a high spin rate fastball with a sharp breaking ball, and has been able to implement that strategy with White Sox pitchers.

Joe Torres, Guardians assistant pitching coach

Torres replaced Niebla this year when he left for San Diego, after previously serving as minor league pitching coordinator and a minor league coach in the organization. The 39-year-old had a thirteen-year career as a pitcher in the minors before going into coaching. he has maintained a low profile, but has been part of the Guardians pitching juggernaut.

Max Weiner, Mariners pitching coordinator

Weiner is very young - he turns 28 in December - and never played professionally, instead topping out as a pitcher at Florida International. However he has quickly developed a great reputation as a guru, founding The Arm Farm, a pitcher development facility. He worked one year as a minor league coach for Cleveland before the Mariners hired him in 2018 to be their pitching coordinator. He is a certified biomechanics specialist and is constantly studying the game. He has emphasized first-pitch strikes with Mariners minor leaguers and has actually netted results, and has been praised for building relationships with players, and being versatile.

Chris Young, Cubs bullpen coach

This is not former Royals pitcher Chris Young nor former Diamondbacks outfielder Chris Young. This Chris Young was a standout at Mississippi State and pitched in the Rockies organization before working for the Padres, then the Astros. In 2017 the Phillies hired him as an assistant pitching coach and he became the head pitching coach in 2019, but lasted just one year. He has a good reputation and has worked for some smart organizations with an “analytical style”, and might make sense if Dusty Wathan ends up as manager.