SAN DIEGO — Gabe Kapler, while he had managed two seasons in the majors already, was regarded as a youthful hire by the Giants to succeed 64-year-old Bruce Bochy.
With the exception of Ron Wotus, the 44-year-old Kapler is six years older than the next eldest coach on his staff.
Wotus (58) better bring diapers.
It’s not yet complete — two positions at least need to be filled — but the first look at the Giants’ official coaching staff is filled with youth and, as the new regime likes to say, diversity of backgrounds. There are not many recycled major league coaches, and there are plenty of individuals who have helped aid player development but not at the major league level.
“One thing I did recognize as a common denominator,” Kapler said, “is a high degree of preparation and a high degree of care and willingness to put the player first at all costs.”
“Maybe the single most important input into the process,” Farhan Zaidi said, “was hearing from players that had been around these coaches and how well they connected with them and how well they learned from them.”
Brian Bannister, pitching director
Andrew Bailey, pitching coach
Ethan Katz, assistant pitching coach
Craig Albernaz, bullpen/catching coach
Donnie Ecker, hitting coach
Justin Viele, hitting coach
Dustin Lind, director of hitting/assistant hitting coach
Ron Wotus, third-base coach
Kai Correa, bench coach, infield/baserunning instructor
Not a typo: Two hitting coaches. “No distinction of rank,” Kapler said.
The non-Kapler and -Wotus eldest is 38-year-old, ancient Bannister. The youngest is Viele, at 29. Bannister, since mid-2016, had been in Boston as an exec and assistant pitching coach. Ecker had been the Cincinnati assistant hitting coach for one year. Lind was Seattle’s director of hitting development and strategies for one year. Bailey the Angels’ bullpen coach, a coaching assistant and video replay coordinator for two years.
And that is the extent of major league coaching experience that just became major league Giants coaches.
It’s the latest evidence that Zaidi’s Giants are thinking fresh, young and different. Everything will be about development, and this staff has experience in enabling young players to improve.
“The most important thing to hire for in a coach and leader is: Can they connect with players? Are they able to develop those players into players? Are the players very aware immediately that that coach can help them get better?” Kapler said from the team’s Winter Meetings suite. “Those factors weigh more heavily in my mind than, say, 15 years in the big leagues.”
Fifteen years in the big leagues? The coaches the Giants announced — Wotus excepting — average 33.75 years on earth.
Beginning on the pitching side, Bailey is best known as the former closer, with 95 saves to his name, 75 with Oakland, and last pitched in the majors in 2017 with the Angels. Bailey then joined the franchise as a coach and rose to bullpen coach last season before this leap.
Bannister, his would-be boss, has legitimate Red Sox bona fides, having worked there for five years as mostly an overseeing executive. Katz returns for an encore, last year serving as the Giants’ assistant pitching coordinator in the minor leagues, while Albernaz comes over from Tampa, where he was a minor league field coordinator last year.
On the hitting side, Ecker is a Los Altos High School student and coach alum; he was varsity head coach from 2013-14 before jumping to the Cardinals’ system, and then landed his gig in Cincinnati. In Viele, Zaidi raided his old-friend Dodgers, where the 29-year-old had lasted three seasons as a hitting coach in the minor league system. Lind most recently was the Mariners’ director of hitting development and strategies.
Guiding the clubhouse and third base will be Wotus. Next to Kapler on the bench will be Correa, who last year was Cleveland’s minor league short-season defensive coordinator.
Still to come are a first-base coach and quality assurance coach — for which they interviewed Rachel Balkovec, who has broken barriers in becoming the first woman to be a professional hitting coach, gaining that role in the minors with the Yankees. The Giants mentioned they will be prioritizing a native Spanish speaker for one of the spots still to be filled, as it’s perhaps the last bit of diversity of thought and background they seek.
Biomechanics. Physical therapy. Analytics. Baseball player. They hope they’ve checked every box as they try to further development for everyone.
“Player development continuing at the major league level is a theme that we’re seeing all around baseball right now,” Kapler said. “And one that we’re all — me, Scott [Harris] and Farhan — are all heavily invested in.”
Dave Groeschner, the team trainer, will be returning.