The job of managing has changed as the game has evolved over the past 20 years, with front offices taking a more hands-on approach to on-field decisions.
Despite those changes, there is still tremendous value in having a former player serving as the field general. Whether it’s the ability to relate with their players, knowledge of the game or elite communication skills, teams benefit from having former big leaguers in the dugout.
In this week’s National League Central notebook, MLB.com's beat reporters took a look at which current players could be part of the next wave of big league skippers when they’re done playing. These five candidates could all get a call to lead a team in the future, some sooner than others.
Brewers: Brock Holt, UTL
Does he want to coach or manage in the future? We have no idea, since we were just getting to know the former Red Sox utility man after the Brewers signed him in February. But Holt has a lot of factors going for him, starting with the defensive versatility that made him so attractive to Milwaukee, and his reputation as a terrific communicator. He’s also regarded as one of baseball’s best clubhouse guys, whose departure caused dismay in Boston among teammates and fans alike.
“He's a culture guy,” Brewers general manager David Stearns said. “It's energy, it's positivity. It's playing the game hard and caring about winning. It's all of those things. He's been on really good teams -- he's been on world championship teams. Bringing that type of perspective is an added benefit.”
It sounds like the kind of perspective that someday would make for a good manager. -- Adam McCalvy
Cardinals: Yadier Molina, C
Molina already has a bit of experience after managing the Puerto Rico U-23 National Team to a third-place finish in the Pan American U-23 Baseball Championship in 2017. If he wants to, Molina could probably find a coaching or managing job as soon as he’s done playing -- not that he wants to be done playing anytime soon. As a catcher, Molina controls and understands so many facets of the game, which is key for any manager. He’s already viewed as a stabilizing influence in the clubhouse and leader both on and off the field.
This season would be the 37-year-old's 17th in the Majors, all with the Cardinals. His impact on the team is obvious in some ways and not-so-obvious in others, from his postseason experience -- he has more playoff at-bats (348) than anyone in Cardinals history -- to the way he mentors young catchers in Spring Training, to his guidance of young pitchers like Jack Flaherty and Dakota Hudson. -- Anne Rogers
Cubs: Kyle Hendricks, SP
Hendricks might not fit the mold of players typically considered to be future managerial candidates, but the Cubs' pitcher has a few traits that could put him on this path.
First and foremost, Hendricks knows his limitations on the mound and has had to work hard to rise to his level of success in the big leagues. The righty does not blow batters away, but instead has to rely on finesse, command and outthinking his opponent in the batter's box. That has, in turn, helped him foster great relationships and rapport with his catchers and other teammates, whom he leans on heavily to post the numbers he does.
Hendricks knows what it is like to grind through the Minors and find consistency in the Majors, and he has experienced a lot of October baseball, including starting Game 7 of the 2016 World Series. On top of all that, Hendricks -- nicknamed "The Professor" -- is intelligent off the field, not only on it. He attended Dartmouth and completed his bachelor's degree in economics in 2013. -- Jordan Bastian
Pirates: Jacob Stallings, C
Pittsburgh’s starting backstop checks all the boxes, and not just because catchers -- especially longtime backups, like Stallings was until this year -- tend to make for good managers.
He’s a student of the game, someone lauded for his intense preparation even when he’s not playing. He has also shown a desire to continue learning, as evidenced by his (successful) efforts to improve his pitch-framing last season. That kind of flexible mindset is almost mandatory for modern managers, as technology and data continue to change the game.
Teammates rave about Stallings’ communication skills, and pitchers love throwing to him. He became so many starters’ personal catcher late last season that he wound up as the starter by default. Stallings has shown an ability to mesh with everyone -- established veterans like Chris Archer, young big leaguers like Joe Musgrove and prospects like Mitch Keller. While he’s not the loudest voice or the most outgoing personality in the clubhouse, it’s easy to see Stallings emerging as a quiet but respected leader given the trust teammates have in him.
On top of all that, coaching is in his blood. Stallings is the son of longtime college basketball coach Kevin Stallings, who worked as a head coach at Illinois State, Vanderbilt and Pittsburgh from 1993-2018. Stallings used to help his father with some behind-the-scenes work. How much more prepared could he be to someday step into the manager’s office? -- Adam Berry
Reds: Michael Lorenzen, RHP/UTL
Primarily a Reds reliever, Lorenzen has only recently started scratching the surface as a two-way player. In 2019, he played 29 games in the outfield -- including six starts in center field -- and has extensive pinch-hitting and pinch-running experience. When he first debuted in the Major Leagues in '15, it was as a starting pitcher. Add it up, and Lorenzen has some practical experience in just about every facet of the game that he could use to relate with his players, should he eventually choose a career in managing.
Lorenzen also has embraced fitness routines and the technology being used on the analytical side of the game. Although generally mild-mannered off the field, he’s highly competitive and shows much intensity while games are being played. He has also enjoyed a positive rapport with fans and the media and is active in the community. All of that would serve him well when running a club on a daily basis. -- Mark Sheldon