HOUSTON, TX - The Houston Astros announced today their minor league staff for the 2017 season.
The Astros coordinators will be Doug White (pitching coordinator), Jeff Albert (hitting coordinator), Dan Radison (fundamentals coordinator), Mark Bailey (catching coordinator), Adam Everett (infield coordinator), Josh Miller (complex pitching coordinator), Ralph Dickenson (hitting instructor), Bryan Baca (medical coordinator), Christian Bermudez (Latin American medical coordinator), Brendan Verner (strength and conditioning coordinator), Rachel Balkovec (Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator), JT Podell (rehab coordinator) and Jesse Michel (mental skills coordinator).
The managers for the Astros nine minor league clubs will be as follows: Tony DeFrancesco (Triple A Fresno), Rodney Linares (Double A Corpus Christi), Omar Lopez (Class A Advanced Buies Creek), Russ Steinhorn (Class A Quad Cities), Morgan Ensberg (Class A Short Season Tri-City), Danny Ortega (Rookie Level Greeneville), Wladimir Sutil (Rookie Level Gulf Coast League) and Carlos Lugo (Rookie Level Dominican Summer League Astros Orange).
COORDINATORS AND INSTRUCTORS
Doug White will enter his second season as pitching coordinator in 2017, which will be his fifth campaign with the Astros. He joined the organization in 2013 as pitching coach for the New York-Penn League Champion Tri-City ValleyCats, and then spent the 2014-15 seasons as Houston's roving pitching instructor. Prior to joining the Astros, White spent five seasons as a pitching coach in the Cardinals minor league system.
Jeff Albert moves into his fourth season as Houston's hitting coordinator. He joined the club in 2013 as roving hitting instructor after spending five seasons as a coach in the Cardinals minor league system. A graduate of Butler University, Albert played professionally in the independent leagues and also received his Master's degree in Exercise Science at Louisiana Tech University.
Dan Radison is entering is his fifth season with Houston in a newly created role as fundamentals coordinator. During his time with the Astros, Radison has been a Double A hitting coach (2015-16), minor league special assistant (2014), Major League assistant hitting coach and advanced coordinator (2013), interim first base coach (2012) and special assistant to the General Manager (2012). A veteran of over 35 years in professional baseball, Radison has spent over 10 seasons working as a Major League coach with the Astros (2012-13), Nationals (2010-11), Cubs (1995-99) and Padres (1993-94).
Mark Bailey will begin his 20th year as a coach or instructor in the Astros organization, and his second as catching coordinator. The former Astros catcher (1984-88) has been a mainstay in the organization since beginning his coaching career as a hitting coach with the Class A Advanced Kissimmee Cobras in 1998. During his 26 years with the Houston franchise, he has served stints as Major League bullpen coach (2002-09), hitting coach at various minor league levels (1998-01, 2010-12), catching coach (2013-14) and roving catching instructor (2015).
Adam Everett is set to return to the Astros for his second season as infield coordinator. The Astros primary shortstop from 2003-06 began his coaching career with Houston in 2013 in a three-year stint as infield instructor. During September of the 2014 season he served as Houston's Major League interim bench coach.
Josh Miller will be Houston's complex pitching coordinator for the second consecutive season in what will be his 11th overall year with the Astros. In his current role, Miller oversees the Astros pitching programs at their complex in West Palm Beach, Fla., which includes the extended Spring Training and rehab pitching programs.
Ralph Dickenson will move back into the role of hitting instructor, a position he held with Houston during the 2015 season. Dickenson joined the Astros in 2013 as hitting coordinator, and has gone on to serve as Houston's assistant Major League hitting coach (2014) and Triple A hitting coach (2016).
Bryan Baca has been promoted to medical coordinator in what will be his 11th season with Houston. He has been an athletic trainer for various Astros affiliates, including Triple A Fresno (2015-16), Double A Corpus Christi (2013-14), Class A Advanced Lancaster (2011-12) and Class A Short Season Tri-City (2008-10).
Christian Bermudez has also received a promotion, as he will serve a dual role as the Astros Latin American medical coordinator while also serving as athletic trainer for the Astros Rookie Level Gulf Coast League club. Bermudez has been an athletic trainer in the Astros system since 2013.
Brendan Verner will be Houston's strength and conditioning coordinator for the fifth consecutive season. Prior to joining the Astros in 2013, Verner spent six seasons working in the Cleveland, Pittsburgh and San Diego minor league systems, in addition to spending two seasons on Cleveland's Major League staff as an assistant strength and conditioning coach.
Rachel Balkovec will return to the Astros for her second season as Latin American strength and conditioning coordinator and GCL Astros strength and conditioning coach. The first female strength and conditioning coach in the history of professional baseball, Balkovec worked as a strength and conditioning coordinator and coach in the Cardinals and White Sox systems prior to joining the Astros in 2016.
JT Podell is back as rehab coordinator for the second consecutive season. Podell runs the Astros minor league rehabilitation program out of the Astros facility in West Palm Beach, Fla., while also assisting with the rehab of the Astros Major League players.
Jesse Michel joins the Astros as mental skills coordinator in a newly created role for the 2017 season.
TRIPLE A FRESNO GRIZZLIES
Tony DeFrancesco is returning to the Astros for his seventh season as the organization's manager at the Triple A level. The 2015 Baseball America Minor League Manager of the Year and 2003 Sporting News Minor League Manager of the Year has led the Astros Triple A clubs to a winning record in each of the last five seasons, including Pacific Coast League and Triple A National Championship titles in 2015.
Dyar Miller will be Fresno's pitching coach for the second consecutive season. A 49-year veteran of professional baseball, Miller joined the Astros in 2013 following an 18-year run working for the Cardinals in various roles, including Major League bullpen coach (2012) and minor league pitching coordinator (2008-11).
After spending the last eight seasons as Houston's hitting coach at the Class A Advanced level, Darryl Robinson has been promoted to Triple A hitting coach. During his eight years with Lancaster, Robinson was part of two California League Championship clubs (2014, 2012). In 2013 he was named the California League Coach of the Year after the JetHawks led the minors in on-base percentage, runs, walks and OPS.
The Astros development coach at Fresno will be Aaron DelGiudice, who spent the 2016 season working as a development coach with both Fresno and Class A Advanced Lancaster.
Lee Meyer joins the Astros for his first season as Fresno's athletic trainer. Meyer has spent the last seven seasons working in the Yankees minor league system. Taylor Rhoades will join the Grizzlies for his first season as strength and conditioning coach in what will be his fourth overall season with the Astros.
DOUBLE A CORPUS CHRISTI HOOKS
Rodney Linares will guide the Hooks for his third season as manager in 2017. Last year, Linares led Corpus Christi to their second-best regular season record in franchise history (85-55). In 2015, he was named Texas League Manager of the Year after the Hooks won a franchise record, 89 games while becoming the second Texas League team in a 20-year span to reach that win total. The 2017 season will mark his 11th as a manager in the Astros system.
Dave Borkowski will return as the Hooks pitching coach for his second season. The former Astros relief pitcher spent parts of seven seasons in the big leagues, and has spent the last eight years as a pitching coach in Houston's system.
Joel Chimelis enters his 12th overall season with Houston and his second as hitting coach at Corpus Christi, a post he held during the 2012 season. Chimelis has since spent the last 11 years as a hitting coach in Houston's system, starting at Tri-City (2006-10) before working his way to Lexington (2011), Corpus Christi (2012) and Quad Cities (2013-16).
Tommy Kawamura will be Corpus Christi's development coach. Kawamura joined the Astros last season, splitting his time as a development coach between Corpus Christi and Lancaster.
In what will be his 10th overall season with Houston, Grant Hufford will return to Corpus Christi as athletic trainer for his third season. Dwayne Peterson joins the Hooks as strength coach following stints with Lancaster (2016), Quad Cities (2015) and Greeneville (2014).
CLASS A ADVANCED BUIES CREEK ASTROS
The manager of the Buies Creek Astros for the club's inaugural season will be Omar Lopez, who has served as Houston's Class A Advanced manager in two of the last three years. Now entering his 19th year with the Astros, Lopez has been a manager in the Astros minor league system in every season since 2008.
Joining Lopez on the coaching staff will be Chris Holt (pitching coach), Troy Snitker (hitting coach), Mickey Storey (development coach), John Gregorich (athletic trainer) and Mark Spadavecchia (strength coach).
Holt is set to start his fourth overall season as a pitching coach with Houston, and his first at the Class A Advanced level. He joined the Astros in 2014 at Tri-City, spending two seasons with the club before moving up to Quad Cities last season. Snitker returns to the Astros in his first season in an official coaching role. The son of Braves manager Brian Snitker, Troy played professionally for three seasons, and last year assisted the Astros coaching staff at the club's complex in Kissimmee, Fla. Storey will join the professional coaching ranks following a nine-year professional playing career (2008-16) that included a 26-game stint in the Majors with the Astros during the 2012 season. Gregorich returns for his fourth season with Houston, and his first at Buies Creek, while Spadavecchia will enter his fifth season with Houston and third at the Class A Advanced level.
CLASS A QUAD CITIES RIVER BANDITS
Russ Steinhorn will manage the Quad Cities River Bandits in what will be his fifth season with the Astros. Steinhorn led the DSL Astros Blue club to a 42-23 record last season in his first stint as a minor league manager. He joined the Astros in 2013 as hitting coach at Tri-City, spending three seasons in that position.
Drew French has been promoted to pitching coach at Quad Cities after joining the Astros last season as pitching coach at Tri-City. Ben Rosenthal is joining the Astros as hitting coach at Quad Cities. Rosenthal, who had a four-year professional playing career as a catcher, was most recently the hitting coach at Point Loma University in San Diego, Calif. Jason Bell joins the Astros from the collegiate ranks and will serve as Quad Cities' development coach. Bell played at the University of Central Missouri and has since coached at the University of Maryland-Eastern Shore and Heartland Community College.
Elliot Diehl and Hazael Wessin join the River Bandits as athletic trainer and strength coach, respectively. Both Diehl and Wessin have been with the Astros since 2015.
CLASS A SHORT SEASON TRI-CITY VALLEYCATS
Morgan Ensberg will hold his first career managerial post in 2017 as manager at Tri-City. Ensberg joined the professional coaching ranks in 2013 as an infield coach with Lancaster (2013), and has since served as Houston's minor league special assignment coach (2014-15) and development coach (2016).
Ensberg's staff will consist of Bill Murphy (pitching coach), Jeremy Barnes (hitting coach) and Daniel Cerquera (athletic trainer). Murphy moves up to Tri-City after joining the organization last season as Greeneville's pitching coach. Barnes played seven seasons in the minor leagues (2009-15) and went on to coach in Australia following his playing career. Cerquera joined the Astros in 2015 as an athletic trainer in the Dominican Summer League.
ROOKIE LEVEL GREENEVILLE ASTROS
Danny Ortega will begin his seventh season with Houston, and his second consecutive as Greeneville's manager. Prior to managing Greeneville last season, Ortega spent five seasons as a coach for the Astros Dominican Summer League teams, which included one season as a hitting coach and four as a catching instructor.
Erick Abreu (pitching coach), Cesar Cedeno (hitting coach), Ben Myers (athletic trainer) and Jacob Behara (strength coach) will comprise the coaching staff at Greeneville. Abreu, a former pitcher who spent five seasons in the Astros system, has coached in Houston's system since 2014. Cedeno returns to Greeneville for his sixth consecutive season, and his 17th as a coach with the Astros. The four-time All-Star played 12 seasons (1970-81) with the Astros and collected five Gold Gloves as an outfielder. Myers will be entering his third season with the Astros organization, while Behara will begin his first.
ROOKIE LEVEL GULF COAST LEAGUE ASTROS
The GCL Astros will also have a first-time manager in Wladimir Sutil, who has coached in Houston's system since 2014. Sutil played professionally from 2004-13, including the first eight seasons of his career in the Astros system.
Jose Rada (pitching coach) and Luis Mateo (hitting coach) will be joined by Christian Bermudez (athletic trainer) and Rachel Balkovec (strength coach) on the GCL coaching staff. Rada pitched in the Cardinals minor league system for six seasons, and spent the past year assisting the Astros pitching staff at their academy in the Dominican Republic. Mateo has spent eight seasons as a coach with Houston, including the 2016 season with the GCL Astros.
DOMINICAN SUMMER LEAGUE ASTROS
Carlos Lugo will manage the DSL Astros Orange for the second consecutive season, while the DSL Astros Blue manager will be determined at a later date.
Rick Aponte will serve as pitching coordinator and pitching coach for the DSL Astros Blue in what will be his 41st season with the Astros. Gerardo Olivares and Darwin Peguero will be pitching coaches for the DSL Astros Orange. Hitting coaches in the DSL will be Evaristo Lantigua (Blue), Omar Rosario (Blue) and Rene Rojas (Orange). Erik Acevedo Rojas (Blue), Alejandro Martinez (Orange) and Selin Aquino (Orange) will all return to the Astros organization as coaches.
The trainers in the DSL will be Ambiorix Reyes (Blue) and Roman Rendon (Orange), while the strength coaches will be Miguel Angel Cabrera (Blue), Mike Myers (Orange) and Geremias Guzman (Orange), who will also serve as a strength coordinator.