New Phillies director of player development Preston Mattingly has taken a crash course in learning the organization since his appointment in late September. He spent his first few weeks on the job interacting with players and staffers during the Florida instructional league and is now watching several of the team's prospects play in the Arizona Fall League.
Mattingly has made a few staff changes and he confirmed a notable one as he Zoomed with Philadelphia reporters for the first time Friday.
Anthony Contreras is the new manager at Triple A Lehigh Valley, replacing Gary Jones, who had skippered the club since 2018 and did not have his contract renewed.
Contreras, 38, comes to the Phillies from the San Diego Padres organization, where he coached and managed in the minor leagues. A former infielder, Contreras played nine seasons in the minors in the San Francisco Giants and Padres organizations.
Mattingly, 34, also comes from the Padres organization, where he worked five years, first as manager of scouting and then as coordinator of major league advance scouting and game planning.
"I know Anthony well from San Diego," Mattingly said. "I've been observing him for five years. I love the way he works. He has a passion for the game, a love for players and a desire to get better."
Mattingly said minor-league hitting coordinator Jason Ochart and minor-league pitching coordinator Travis Hergert would remain in their roles, though he added there could be additions to the leadership group in both of those areas. The overall numbers produced in both areas in the system were not impressive in 2021.
The team is still considering candidates to fill openings for catching coordinator and field coordinator. Highly regarded veteran catching coordinator Ernie Whitt curiously did not have his contract renewed as the organization has watched two of its young backstops, Rafael Marchan and Logan O'Hoppe, improve steadily and climb the team's list of top 10 prospects. The field coordinator is essentially the top instructor in the system. Chris Truby had filled that role for three years before being let go in September.
Around baseball, Mattingly is considered a bright front-office prospect. He is smart and articulate. He was a former first-round pick of the Los Angeles Dodgers and, of course, grew up around the game as his dad, Don, went from All-Star first baseman with the New York Yankees into the coaching and managerial ranks. Don Mattingly currently manages the Miami Marlins, a rival of the Phillies in the National League East.
The younger Mattingly, however, has never worked specifically in a player development role.
"Not from a title standpoint," he acknowledged.
Mattingly pointed out that he's long been fascinated by player development and mentioned that he has spent much time, dating even to his playing days, observing the work of player development leaders in the Dodgers and Padres organizations. He said he assisted in some player development matters during his time with the Padres and with the Phillies would benefit from the experience and counsel of general manager Sam Fuld and assistant general manager Jorge Velandia.
"In terms of readiness, obviously, I think I'm ready," he said. "There will always be a learning curve. You have to learn on the fly. One thing about me is I'll always work and look to get better, and I think I'll learn quickly.
"I prioritize people. I believe in people. One thing our staff will get to know is I'm going to let people work and do their jobs. I'm not a micromanager. They'll be able to work and get things done."
Back in August when he first made leadership changes in player development, Phillies president of baseball operations Dave Dombrowski spoke of a department where everybody was "not on the same page." Changes in personnel can address some of that, but philosophical differences over how to teach and develop players remain, not just in the Phillies organization but throughout a baseball industry where new school and old school are in a constant wrestling match with each other.
How will things be taught in the Phillies' system under Mattingly? Will teaching practices revolve around traditional coaching or will they favor a more contemporary approach built around data and technology?
"I think there has to be a blend," Mattingly said. "I think there's a lot of youth that has a lot of knowledge, and I think there are a lot of veteran baseball people who bring the same thing, the experience, the way they saw the game and played the game.
"I want to blend the two. In terms of the butting heads within the organization, the old school vs. the new school, I only believe in one school and that's the Phillies.
"That's the way we're going to do it going forward. It's going to be what the Phillies are about, not what the old school or the new school is about. It's the Phillies way going forward.
"There has to be a consistent message throughout. Old school, new school, we're all in this together trying to help young men reach their goals and the Phillies win a championship."