Mattingly builds on own experience as new farm director

February 17th, 2022
Phillies/Miles Kennedy

CLEARWATER, Fla. -- Preston Mattingly has never been a great sleeper, which explains why he got up at 3:30 a.m. on Wednesday, roughly six hours before the Phillies opened their Minor League minicamp at Carpenter Complex.

And it explains the daily 4:30 a.m. basketball games he played every spring when he worked with the Padres.

Being an early riser should serve Mattingly well as the Phillies’ new player development director. He has work to do. Most evaluators grade Philadelphia’s farm system among the bottom third in baseball, but Mattingly believes it's better than that. He knows how that sounds, though, because of course the new farm director is going to say his system is better than outside evaluators think. He insists that he believes it.

“But it'll be proven over time,” Mattingly said. “Time will tell. But our system's a lot deeper than people give it credit. … I've had the pleasure of seeing a bunch of other teams' top guys, and I think the guys in our system stack up with those guys. They don't get the recognition that others do. When you talk about the top of our prospect list, [Mick] Abel and [Andrew] Painter, those guys are as good as anybody's two pitchers. You throw in a Griff McGarry and Johan Rojas and Logan O'Hoppe; I've gotten to see a bunch of catchers. Logan stacks up with anybody. Johan Rojas -- if there's a better defensive center fielder in the Minor Leagues, I haven't seen him.”

But the Phillies still need to develop that talent, which has been a problem in recent years. It is why president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski made substantial changes to player development last year. It is why Mattingly is here.

Mattingly’s No. 1 job: get everybody pulling in the same direction.

It hasn’t been that way in a while, with different personnel butting heads, which leads to mixed messaging with prospects. That caused major problems.

“We spent a lot of time this offseason with our new staff, bringing them in and getting them on the same page,” Mattingly said. “And what that means is we're working with the medical team, we're working with the strength and conditioning team, we're working with the mental performance team and we’re making sure everybody's a part of the process. Everybody has the same message when it goes from staff to players. So that's a big part of our offseason, getting everybody with a consistent message going in the same direction.

“I definitely wanted to hear their voices. They have a say in this. They wanted to see a direction; 'Where are we going?' So that's why we have spent a lot of the offseason saying, like, 'This is where we're going. This is who we are.' I know I'm being very generic and you probably hate that. But I think we'll just keep that in-house for right now. Maybe at some point we'll bring it out.”

Mattingly was once a top prospect with the Dodgers, a first-round pick in the 2006 Draft before his career ended after six seasons. (He later returned to college, where he played college basketball at Lamar.) Mattingly knows how players feel as they grind through the Minor Leagues. Those experiences, he said, will shape how he leads player development.

“I think when you're playing, you don't necessarily know why things are happening,” Mattingly said. “I think one of the things [with] taking this job ... I don't want what happened to me -- and it wasn't anybody's fault -- to happen to somebody else, where you feel like, I had a dad [Don Mattingly] who obviously was a very good player who could help me, but I felt helpless. I don't want any kid in our organization to feel that way. And so they're a big part of what we're doing here. Like, it's all a team effort, right? The players, the staff -- it’s a two-way street. We got to work together; it’s their career, we're trying to help them in any way possible.”

Mattingly is just getting started. It will take time. It will take work. When asked if he has planned any early basketball games in Clearwater, he laughed.

“They tried to drag me out early,” he said. “I was like, 'Man, I'm too busy right now guys. I promise I'll get out there.'”