Which NL East players could be future skippers?

April 17th, 2020

As history has taught us, if you have hopes of one day managing in the big leagues, you should prioritize being a catcher. Their unique experience of working with pitchers, hitting for themself and having the entire game take place on their cue makes them ideal candidates to oversee a 40-man roster.

But the National League East would like a word.

The Marlins’ Don Mattingly primarily played first and outfield. Same goes for Dave Martinez of the Nationals. The Mets’ Luis Rojas never made the Majors, but he was an infielder/outfielder when he played in the Expos’ Minor League system. (OK, yes -- Atlanta’s Brian Snitker and Philadelphia’s Joe Girardi fit the catcher-turned-manager mold.)

This week, MLB.com polled its beat reporters about which current player on the team they cover sticks out as the best candidate to one day be a manager. Only one selection was a catcher, and the four others come from vastly different backgrounds. One is a three-time Cy Young Award winner, one a bilingual eight-time All-Star, one the reigning runner-up for the National League Rookie of the Year Award and one the soul of his organization.

Without further ado, here’s each club’s “Most Likely to Become Manager” superlative, fulfilled:

Just a couple weeks after being selected in the first round of the 2015 Draft, Soroka was using bat speed, exit velocity and other advanced metrics while discussing Ronald Acuña Jr.’s potential. The 22-year-old right-hander significantly influenced the game plan he devised with veteran catcher Brian McCann before shutting down the Cardinals in Game 3 of last year’s NL Division Series. His attention to detail, advanced baseball IQ and communication skills would seemingly make him a prime managerial candidate within the next couple decades. But there’s certainly a chance he’ll end up making the kind of money that would lead him to pass on dealing with the headaches the role creates. -- Mark Bowman

Who says you have to be a former catcher to become a big league manager? Someday, Rojas could make the case for ex-shortstops. Currently, there aren't too many primary shortstops -- or middle infielders, for that matter -- who are managing big league clubs. Ron Gardenhire of the Tigers played short in the big leagues, and Craig Counsell of the Brewers was primarily a second baseman. Rojas is arguably the Marlins' best defensive infielder at any of the four spots. He knows how to play each of the positions, and he knows the game. He has also appeared in left field.

The Venezuela native is a natural leader, who has embraced being a veteran on a youthful Marlins squad. Rojas is accountable, and to the media, he is self-critical and speaks up when his club isn't meeting expectations. Rojas speaks Spanish and English fluently, and he is the top trash talker on the Marlins, yet he's all business when it's time to play. He represents his organization and MLB at the highest level, and he is the unofficial captain of the Marlins. Someday, Rojas might be called skipper or manager.
-- Joe Frisaro

Consider this speculative, as he has never publicly expressed interest in coaching or managing after his retirement. But few around baseball command as much respect in the clubhouse as Canó, a bilingual veteran of 15 big league seasons. Upon moving from Seattle to New York in 2019, Canó instantly became one of the Mets’ clubhouse leaders, serving as a mentor for several young Latin players.

Canó, who learned about leadership early in his career from Derek Jeter and other prominent Yankees, filled part of the void in Flushing left by retired captain David Wright. He's particularly influential in the batting cage, where teammates of all stripes look to him for advice. If Canó wants to continue his professional baseball career after his playing days are over, surely there will be a job out there for him somewhere. -- Anthony DiComo

Scherzer is one of the most intense players in MLB. He's also involved, a combination that could make him a solid future manager. The three-time Cy Young Award winner doesn’t do things “halfway.” (Even his bullpen sessions at the start of Spring Training were in high gear.) Scherzer has achieved a level of success over his 12-year playing career that would give him a wealth of knowledge to impart on a team. He already does that on a smaller scale in the Nationals' clubhouse, too, pulling together groups of pitchers as they soak up his information.

Scherzer, 35, has experience representing a team when he’s not on the mound. He is adept at league-wide issues as the Nats’ rep for the MLB Players Association and as a member of its executive subcommittee.
-- Jessica Camerato

It would not be surprising to see Knapp managing in the big leagues in 20 years -- if it interests him. He has a certain AJ Hinch-type feel to him. First, Knapp is a catcher, and catchers always seem to make solid managers. He is smart (he attended Cal-Berkeley); he understands the modern game and the needs and beliefs of the modern front office (he knows wOBA and more!); and he is well-liked and well-respected in the clubhouse, which is important when leading 26 men from different backgrounds over the course of a 162-game season (plus Spring Training and a potential postseason). Knapp is excellent with the media, which is an important skill because the manager is the face of the organization in many ways.
-- Todd Zolecki