After parting ways with some organizational coaches, the Texas Rangers added a pair of former players as managers in the Minor Leagues.
This offseason the Texas Rangers decided the organization as a whole needed a change. That change started with firing almost all of the minor league coaching staffs. Seems dramatic, right? Well, shortly after the minor league seasons ended, Triple-A Nashville manager Jason Wood was released, as well as Double-A Frisco manager Joe Mikulik. Both had five years under their belts within the organization. The Nashville Sounds also saw pitching coaches Brian Shouse and former big league All-Star Eric Gagne let go. Hitting coach Howard Johnson is being reassigned, as well as coach Geno Petralli, who will be a roving minor league instructor.
Going forward, Jon Daniels wants to focus more on player development. Daniels said that in 2019 the Rangers wanted to begin the transition to a new style of analytical baseball, and did so with an excellent hire in Chris Woodward. Now, he wants to shift that same mindset to the minor leagues and change how the Rangers develop their coveted prospects. Daniels seems to have found the men to help the club take those next steps with the new hires for Triple-A Nashville and Double-A Frisco.
For Double-A Frisco, a familiar face and more underrated player in the Rangers system for several years will take charge. The legend of Bobby Wilson will return to the Lone Star State. Wilson, 37, just retired from baseball at the conclusion of the 2019 season. He spent 16 years in the major leagues, including two with Texas from 2015-2016, and was one of the most highly regarded players as far as preparation was concerned. It’s an unusual sight to see a player go straight from playing to managing, but even more surprising is the faith the Rangers have in him going to arguably the most pivotal level in the minors.
Double-A is the make it or break it level at the minor league levels. Players either take that next step in development or drop off the radar of the big league team. He’ll be handling the likes of Leody Taveras, Curtis Terry, Steele Walker and other top prospects in Frisco in the upcoming season, seemingly none more important than big time power catcher Sam Huff who looks primed for a shot at Double-A this year. It will be an interesting season in North Texas to say the least, as the future of Rangers baseball waits in the wings just a short drive north of the ballpark.
The second surprising hire of the offseason is former fielder extrordinaire Darwin Barney to manage the Nashville Sounds. Barney, 34, is taking his first coaching job with the Rangers at the highest level of the minor leagues after spending parts of eight seasons in the major leagues as a player. Barney was a .246 hitter from 2010-2017 over 814 games with the Cubs, Dodgers and Blue Jays.
He was never much with the bat over the course of his career, but his glovework is what put him on the map. In 2012, he was awarded the Gold Glove at second base for his defensive work with the Cubs. Barney signed a minor league pact with Texas in 2018, but didn’t crack the big league roster that year and was later released by the organization. He will round out the minor league managerial vacancies.