As the Yankees kick off their offseason, they have some internal holes to fill that aren’t related to their roster. Off-field personnel changes have become all too familiar to the Bronx Bombers, who will name their third hitting coach since 2022 and are looking to find a balance between a strong background in data and the ability to effectively communicate it to players. After a report from Erik Boland regarding the Yankees’ strong interest in James Rowson, Joel Sherman of the New York Post is reporting that the Yankees have offered him the position.
The team is looking for somebody with strong communication skills and a background in player development to better relate to both the veterans and young players on the team, and Rowson’s familiarity with the organization could be exactly what they’re looking for.
Does James Rowson Fit What the Yankees Need?
After serving as the assistant hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers this past season, native New Yorker James Rowson could become the hitting coach of the New York Yankees. Rowson went to Mount St. Michael HS in the Bronx, eventually being drafted by the Seattle Mariners in 1994 and joining the Yankees’ organization in 1997. His professional career was brief, but the Yankees would hire him nearly a decade later to become their MiLB Hitting Coordinator, and he’d serve the role through the 2011 season.
He’d head to Chicago to become the Cubs’ hitting coach from 2012-2013, and then return to the Yankees in his original role in 2014, overseeing a pivotal stretch of MiLB development for the franchise through 2016. Names like Aaron Judge, Gary Sanchez, and Miguel Andujar rose through the ranks in those years, and while not all of them panned out exactly how we envisioned, the Yankees still led all of baseball in fWAR and wRC+ from their rookies from 2017-2018.
Even removing the production Aaron Judge gave them as a rookie, they still would have had the second-most fWAR from rookies over that stretch, and the Yankees find themselves in a similar position now. Following 2016, Rowson would become the Minnesota Twins’ hitting coach, and the team was top five in wRC+ (105) over his three-year tenure, peaking in his final season in 2019 where the Twins not only broke the team record for HRs (307) but also finished with one of the four lowest strikeout rates in baseball.
“Whenever you do something good around James he blows it out of proportion, in a good way. You feel almost invincible.”– Max Kepler on James Rowson back in 2017
The Yankees lacked a strong clubhouse connection from coach to player on the hitting side of things, and Rowson seems to possess the experience as a professional player, the player development background that involves data usage, and the coaching acumen to check off all of the boxes the Yankees have. Rowson was the bench coach for the Miami Marlins from 2020-2022, a role typically given to a coach who has a strong relationship with players, and he was even their acting manager briefly when Don Mattingly tested positive for COVID-19.
Rowson isn’t a household name, but he’s generally kept a loose clubhouse and has worked with some younger squads in recent memory. The Marlins were an upstart team in 2020 that has struggled to remain consistent but ran out plenty of young inexperienced position players around the diamond. This past season, the Tigers were one of the 10 youngest position player groups in baseball, and that could allow him to relate to the younger guys on the roster.
“We’re going to encourage the same thing here, to get these guys to be free”– James Rowson on Miami Marlins, 2020
Player empowerment is something that creates culture, and blending that with his extensive background in player development, experience in a variety of coaching roles, and his ability to connect to players as a former professional himself should fit well with what the Yankees are looking for. Ultimately, the results and the anecdotes from players on the Yankees will be a test of his reputation as a coach, but his track record would suggest he could do pretty well