The Mets promoted Luis Rojas from Savannah, where he had managed for three seasons, to St. Lucie to be the team's manager. Although the Gnats won a SAL championship in 2013 (In part thanks to the post-season dominance of Steven Matz and Gabriel Ynoa) and make the postseason in 2013, records are a poor way to evaluate the efficacy of a minor league manager. The much more important question is whether the manager works hard, and induces his players to work hard for him through good times and bad. Rojas, the son of Felipe Alou gets it. The bi-lingual skipper was both a calming and firm force with his players. He had his emotional moments in disputes with umps, or elation over a championship, but his pitch and feel for the game are superb. I've worked with Rojas for four seasons in Savannah, and can say clearly he made my job easier. He always had a good explanation for what was going on the field, and why he made one decision over another. For a great example of his ability to discuss the game, and his preparation, take a look at his comments from one of my favorite plays of 2014, when Champ Stuart scored from second base on a sacrifice fly.
Joining Rojas in St. Lucie will be pitching coach Phil Regan, back for his seventh season at the level and hitting coach Joel Fuentes for his second year. Regan has a reputation within the organization as a technician who is strong on pitching mechanics. Fuentes talked about making a tweak in Dilson Herrera's swing here.
Jose Leger will replace Rojas in after three seasons in Savannah. When I've talked to Leger in Spring Training and on trips to Kingsport I've been impressed. An Appy League manager is a coach, a manager (in the corporate sense of the word), and perhaps even a little bit of a baby-sitter. The bilingual Leger seemed to handle these multiple tasks adroitly. He worked hard on the field, challenging his players to improve everyday with well-targeted instruction. His managerial decisions reflected someone who understand the bigger picture.
Leger will be flanked by pitching coach Marc Valdes and Valentino Pascucci, both back for their second straight season with Savannah. I was impressed by Pascucci's transition from player to hitting coach in 2014. In time, if he isn't already, I think he will be an excellent hitting instructor.
It's worth pointing out that there was a managerial opening in St. Lucie because the Mets decided to reassign Ryan Ellis who had been the manager in advanced-a for the last two years. According to ESPNNY's Adam Rubin, Ellis will remain with the organization as a hitting instructor with a short-season club. Whereas with players, AAA is always above double-A and double-A is above single-A and so on, with staff it is less linear. Some older instructors prefer working in short-season for the shorter schedule, or because the travel is easier. Sometimes a staffer will prefer an assignment closer to home - Kinsport pitching coach Jonathan Hurst is from upstate South Carolina, not far from Tennessee and likes the assignment close to home. However, this move with Ellis, moving down in levels, and down in seniority from manager to hitting coach, could reflect a dimming of his status within the organization.