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Phillies hire new Triple-A manager, retain two minor-league coordinators


While there will be a new Triple-A manager, coordinators Jason Ochart (middle) and Travis Hergert will still be with the Phillies in 2022. (Cheryl Pursell)

Change is already underway in the Philadelphia Phillies organization as Preston Mattingly settles into his new position as director of player development.

Speaking to reporters for the first time since his hiring in September, the 34-year-old Mattingly announced that the Phillies have selected a new Triple-A manager for 2022.

Anthony Contreras will replace Gary Jones, who did not have his contract renewed after this past season, as Lehigh Valley skipper. Contreras had previously managed in the San Diego Padres system from 2014 until 2021. Mattingly was San Diego’s advance scouting and game planning coordinator prior to joining Philadelphia.

The selection of Contreras was made as part of a task that’s been the driving force behind the Phillies player development system’s overhaul: getting everyone within the organization on the same page.

In the effort to do that, there will be quite a bit of turnover in the organization as the team puts people into place with values that align. That’s not to say there isn’t internal personnel the Phillies want to keep around; minor-league hitting coordinator Jason Ochart and minor-league pitching coordinator Travis Hergert are being retained. But more changes will be made around them.

The Phillies are still looking to name additional player development personnel under Mattingly with the intention of building an organizational plan and philosophy to adhere to. But until the hires are made, it’s not quite clear what “the same page” will precisely mean within the system.

“We’re still in the process of bringing in a leadership team below me,” Mattingly said. “So, until we get that leadership team in place, it’s kind of hard to define what we’re going to be about as the Phillies.”

Open positions include minor-league field coordinator and minor-league catching coordinator, as the team did not bring back Chris Truby and Ernie Whitt, who previously served in those roles.

Once those spots are filled by candidates who can provide players with consistent instruction to be used throughout the system, Mattingly said he’ll leave it to his personnel to get to work on the field.

“One thing I’ve tried to do is prioritize people,” he noted. “I believe in people. … One thing about me that you’ll get to know — our staff especially — is I’m going to let people work and do their jobs. I’m not a micromanager by any stretch of the means. They’re going to be able to work and get things done.”

Contreras has already gotten the chance to get to work, in a sense, currently managing seven Phillies prospects in the Arizona Fall League. Shortstop Bryson Stott, catcher Logan O’Hoppe, outfielder Símon Muzziotti and pitchers Hans Crouse, Erik Miller and Damon Jones are all playing for the Peoria Javelinas under the former Giants and Padres farmhand.

Stott and O’Hoppe have both shined to this point in the AFL season. In 16 games, the former first rounder Stott is batting .339/.481/.464 with 20 RBIs and 17 walks compared to just 12 strikeouts. O’Hoppe, a 23rd-round pick in 2018, is slashing .321/.472/.509 with 17 walks and only 10 strikeouts in 15 games.

Continuing the development of players like Stott and O’Hoppe, as well as others within the system, will not only be how the newly-structured player development department can improve a farm system that was ranked 27th in Major League Baseball by MLB Pipeline in August, but also how it can make a tangible difference at the major-league level.

The Phillies have struggled to find depth outside their established big leaguers over the past two years, and prospects such as Scott Kingery, Adam Haseley, Adonis Medina and others have seen their progress stall in the upper minors, majors or both. Producing more young talent to complement players like Bryce Harper, Rhys Hoskins, Zack Wheeler and J.T. Realmuto could help turn the results around as the team continues looking to make the postseason for the first time since 2011.

“Obviously, you see what Bryson and Logan are doing in the Fall League,” Mattingly said. “They’re playing really well. I believe a lot of the arms we have in the system. I think it’s a system that’s deep with talented arms. I do think some of these guys could come fast, and it could change pretty quickly.”

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