NEW YORK -- While rising through the Yankees' farm system, Aaron Judge logged nearly 500 at-bats for Class A Advanced Tampa and Double-A Trenton, which makes P.J. Pilittere something of an expert in breaking down the American League Rookie of the Year's swing.Having been promoted to the Major League staff
NEW YORK -- While rising through the Yankees' farm system, Aaron Judge logged nearly 500 at-bats for Class A Advanced Tampa and Double-A Trenton, which makes P.J. Pilittere something of an expert in breaking down the American League Rookie of the Year's swing.
Having been promoted to the Major League staff as an assistant to hitting coach Marcus Thames, the 36-year-old Pilittere said that though few could have predicted Judge's 52-homer performance, the coaches in the organization knew that the 6-foot-7 slugger was capable of special accomplishments.
"The things that I believed would come to fruition were the leadership qualities, the humility, the competitiveness that everybody sees behind the homers, awards and accolades," Pilittere said. "The really cool part is he's the same guy who was out in Scottsdale, [Ariz.], with us for the Fall League and in Trenton, [N.J.], and the Eastern League. It's not any different for him mentally.
"That's something that we were always preparing for with him, like, 'You're playing in New York tonight.' There's a million people in the organization who had a hand in helping that guy speed the process up. He's such a genuine guy. What he gives the world and the media is the truth. It is a really clear picture of who he is as a person, and that personality is infectious."
The Yankees have not formally announced manager Aaron Boone's staff for the 2018 season, other than the return of pitching coach Larry Rothschild. Josh Bard (bench), Mike Harkey (bullpen), Carlos Mendoza (infield), Phil Nevin (third base) and Reggie Willits (outfield/first base) have all been confirmed, plus Pilittere and Thames.
Boone has been holding conference calls with his staff, during which they have stressed the importance of a clear, concise and unified message. Pilittere, a catcher who played eight seasons in the Yanks' organization from 2004-11, is beginning his seventh year of coaching and said that he was "humbled and honored" to advance to the Majors.
"It has been a long road, but it's going to be really exciting to embrace this new challenge at a new level," Pilittere said. "Obviously, the Major League level is different, but once you get past that part, it's still baseball. The lights are a little bit brighter. It's still the same game."
Pilittere said that his philosophy as a hitting coach centers upon consistency in hitters' lower halves. That's something that he has imparted upon players such as Judge, Gary Sanchez and Greg Bird over the years, all of whom have spoken highly of Pilittere's communication style.
"That's when they can produce the big things that are happening in today's ballgame of the Statcast™ era and all the buzzwords that you're hearing, like optimal launch angle and maximum exit velocity," Pilittere said.
Having served as the hitting coach at Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre last season, Pilittere named Jake Cave, Thairo Estrada and Billy McKinney among the young hitters whom Yankees fans should watch closely this spring. He also had high praise for top prospect Gleyber Torres, who impressed at Triple-A before sustaining a season-ending injury in June.
"He was starting to really figure it out," Pilittere said. "He had a little bit of a scuffle getting used to the new league when he first got to us, but he's really smart, really advanced with the approach. He was able to make some adjustments that are really impressive for any player, and then you stop to think that he was 20 at the time and making those adjustments at the Triple-A level. That blows you away. He's got a real bright future ahead."
Bryan Hoch has covered the Yankees for MLB.com since 2007. Follow him on Twitter @bryanhoch and on Facebook.