Yankees hire Wilkerson as assistant hitting coach
NEW YORK -- The Yankees have completed their coaching staff for the 2023 season, announcing that Brad Wilkerson has been named as the club’s assistant hitting coach.
Wilkerson, who played in the Majors with the Expos/Nationals, Rangers, Mariners and Blue Jays, will join hitting coach Dillon Lawson and assistant hitting coach Casey Dykes on the Yankees’ staff. He fills a vacancy created when Hensley Meulens departed to accept the Rockies’ lead hitting coach position.
“My future role with the Yankees is just being there for the hitters,” Wilkerson said. “It’s talking to them about baseball, about situational hitting and decisions, when they’re going to swing and why they’re going to swing. It’s just seeing the baseball and getting these guys right, moreso mentally than physically, in a lot of ways. It’s just making sure their minds are clear and prepared each and every night.”
The 45-year-old Wilkerson spent the last three years as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator for Jacksonville University. During the 2020-21 season, he helped lead Jacksonville to an ASUN Conference Championship.
Before that, Wilkerson was the head coach at The King's Academy in West Palm Beach, Fla. He has also served as a coach for USA Baseball, where he was named the “Volunteer Coach of the Year” by the organization in 2014.
Wilkerson said that the Yankees reached out about 10 days ago to gauge his interest; he said that he would only be interested in a big league position. The offer materialized quickly, following Zoom sessions with manager Aaron Boone and Lawson.
“It was a tough decision for me, just with the timing of the whole thing,” Wilkerson said. “But at the end of the day, the opportunity I have in front of me to get back to the big leagues and work with these guys, with every resource in the world to try to win -- it’s just very intriguing to me. The type of competitors, the types of guys that I want to be around, it was a no-brainer for me.”
Over eight big league seasons as an outfielder and first baseman with the Expos/Nationals (2001-05), Rangers (2006-07), Mariners (2008) and Blue Jays (2008), Wilkerson batted .247/.350/.440 (105 OPS+) with 500 runs scored, 193 doubles, 28 triples, 122 home runs and 399 RBIs in 972 games.
Wilkerson was the runner-up for the 2002 National League Rookie of the Year Award, placing behind the Rockies’ Jason Jennings. Wilkerson’s best season was in 2004 with Montreal, when he batted .255/.374/.498 (120 OPS+) with 32 homers and 67 RBIs in 160 games.
“I was always a guy that was a pretty patient hitter -- aggressive, but patient,” Wilkerson said. “The biggest thing for me is, you’ve got to get a good pitch to hit and hit it hard when it comes. Obviously we dig down deep in the cages and we work on mechanics, but I’m big on the mental approach and making sure with these guys that their minds are clear.”
Wilkerson’s addition is the only change on Boone’s coaching staff from last season, when the Yankees won 99 games to claim the American League East before falling to the Astros in the AL Championship Series.
Lawson, Dykes, bench coach Carlos Mendoza, pitching coach Matt Blake, assistant pitching coach Desi Druschel, first-base coach Travis Chapman, third-base coach Luis Rojas, bullpen coach Mike Harkey and catching coach Tanner Swanson are all returning in their previous roles.
“I feel like I’m very prepared for this,” Wilkerson said. “Obviously I haven’t been in a big league dugout in a while, but I feel very confident in my skills to get these guys to relax, be themselves and get the most out of their ability.”