New York Yankees: Coaching staff brings old and new expertise to the Yankees

The New York Yankees and all the other MLB teams can’t make any major league transactions due to the lockout caused by the failure to come to a new agreement with the players union. The old Collective Bargaining Agreement ended on December 1st without a new agreement. As a result, Commissioner Rob Manfred immediately instituted the lockout putting everything on hold, preventing the Yankees from filling their many needs that include a new shortstop, number two pitcher, help in center field, and a new first baseman.

But, that lockout does not affect minor league transactions and other business, like acquiring coaches. The Yankees, with nothing else to do, have been busy signing several minor league contracts and firming up their coaches for the 2022 season. There will be a few familiar faces, but also more new adds to the staff than in previous years. The Yankees got rid of first and third-base coaches and hitting and assistant-hitting coach positions. Those are the new faces that will bring their expertise to the Yankees.

First, the Yankees signed to a new three-year contract with the returning Aaron Boone, who has brought the Yankees a 100, 103, 33*, and 92 win seasons under his tutelage. Then they hired ex-Mets manager Luis Rojas as their new third-base coach replacing the fired Phil Nevin. After a horrible hitting season last year, they concentrated on upgrading the hitting staff, firing Marcus Thames. The new hitting coach is Dillon Lawson, promoted from organizational hitting coordinator. He will have some strong backup with the hiring of Eric Chavez and Casey Dykes as assistant hitting coaches..

Matt Blake will return for a third year as the Yankee pitching coach on the pitching side. He will have a new assistant Desi Druschel. The Yankees also brought back bullpen coach Mike Harkey.

Dillon Lawson hitting coach:

Lawson will be charged with fixing the Yankees hitting. Last season was a miserable season for the Yankees’ talented lineup as they failed to hit the ball when it counted consistently. The team went through several hitting droughts throughout the season. Lawson has been the organization’s minor league hitting coordinator since 2018. He is a strong believer in analytics, and the promotion shows the Yankees’ strong commitment to baseball analytics. Before joining the Yankees, Lawson was a college coach at Southeast Missouri State and Missouri. In a stint with the Houston Astros, he also coached Carlos Correa.

Casey Dykes assistant hitting coach:

Dykes attended Western Kentucky University and played college ball with the Hilltoppers. He has a bachelor’s degree in sports management he earned in 2012. Dykes has an impressive resume being an assistant hitting coach for Western Kentucky, Bowling Green State University, Virginia Military Institute, and finally, as assistant hitting coach for the Indiana Univesity at Bloomington. The Yankees recognizing his expertise, hired Dykes as a minor league hitting coach in September 2019. In 2021, he was the hitting coach for the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre RailRiders. The Yankees have now promoted him to assist Dillon Lawson, helping him to improve the Yankee’s hitting.

Eric Chavez assistant hitting coach:

Chavez flashed elite numbers hitting over a shining 17-year major league career. He had a .268 career batting average during his 13 years with the Oakland Athletics, two with the Diamondback and two with the Yankees. Now Chavez is returning to baseball as the new assistant hitting coach for the Yankees. Chavez is 44, it has been revealed that Yankee manager Aaron Boone has wanted to work with Chavez for some time.

“He’s got a really good perspective on the game, he’s very open-minded,” Boone explained on Wednesday. “Where he’s part of the hitting crew, which he absolutely is, he’s going to be more than that. I kind of view him as a little bit of a Swiss Army [knife], where he’s going to have a lot of different responsibilities, he’s going to have his hands on a lot of different things, and it’s a role that I feel like is going to evolve as he allows it to.”

 Desi Druschel assistant pitching coach:

Druschel attended Upper Iowa University and Mount Mercy University, playing baseball and basketball. He graduated from Mercy with a bachelor’s degree in 1998. He got his masters in athletic administration from Indiana University in 2001. He began coaching in 1996 with Vinton-Shellsburg. He has also acted at assistant coach at Indiana University and Mount St. Clare College from 2000 to 2001. He spent three years with the Franciscan University, where he was hired as head coach. He then spent nine years with Mount Mercy. He was then hired as director of baseball operations for the University of Iowa. He was pitching coach for the Hawkeyes in 2017. The Yankees hired him in 2019, and now he has been promoted to assistant pitching coach under Matt Blake. 

Travis Chapman first base coach:

Reggie Willits, first base coach for the Yankees, decided to retire from baseball after the 2021 season, causing a hole in the Yankee coaching staff. Travis Chapman, a former Philadelphia Phillies third baseman and first base coach, has filled the spot. The 43-year-old spent seven seasons in the minor leagues with the Phillies, Kansas City Royals, Cincinnati Reds, and Pirates. In 1,771 career minor league at-bats, he hit .286, with 41 home runs. Previously with the Yankees Charleston River Dogs, he has been coaching in the team’s minor leagues in various capacities for several years. Now he is the Yankees’ first base coach.

Luis Rojas third base coach:

One of the early moves the Yankees have to make was to replace third base coach Phil Nevin who was first after making an egregious decision with Aaron Judge, causing him to be called out twenty feet from home plate. The Yankees hired Luis Rojas, the ex-New York Mets manager. Rojas, the 40-year-old Dominican, was a coach for the Mets and its manager during 2020 and 2021.

During his playing career with the Baltimore Orioles, Miami Marlins Expos, and Nationals, he was a highly rated prospect, but an injury never let him reach his potential, said his father, the famous Felipe Alou. Rojas began his coaching career in the Dominican Summer Leagues when he coached for several years. He was manager for the Gulf Coast Mets, where he was named manager of the year for the South Atlantic League when he won the championship in 2013. The Mets named him quality control coach in 2019. When the Mets fired Carlos Beltran in 2020, the Mets promoted him to the manager.

*2020 was a 60 game season.

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