Oklahoma City Dodgers Coaching Staff – Part 1

Last Wednesday the Dodgers announced their minor league coaching staffs. There were some changes of assignments within the organization, some not returning, and others added from outside. The shuffling of the assignments is always a bit mind boggling as some coaches move to lower levels such as Justin Viele moving from Rancho Cucamonga to Great Lakes and Seth Connor moving from Great Lakes to Ogden. Others moved up such as Jeremy Rodriguez from Great Lakes to the Oklahoma Dodgers and Pedro Montero from Rancho Cucamonga to Tulsa.

The reasons for the shuffling are not always -well never – clear to the casual observer. Some are obvious promotions, but others remain mysteries. By design there is always one Spanish speaking coach at each level which might necessitate some moves while others may be as a result of particular skill sets such as those of the inimitable John Shoemaker. Perhaps others are by request of certain coaches. In other cases, coaches may actually follow players up the ladder.

Two mysteries for me from last year’s coaching fraternity have been what happened to OKC manager Bill Haselman and Great Lakes pitching coach Bobby Cuellar. Haselman, who no doubt is close to breaking into MLB as a manager, is moving to a roving instructor position essentially changing places with Travis Barbary who has been the team’s catching coordinator for the past twelve years. I have been unable to find where Bobby Cuellar might have landed or if he has retired, which I doubt.

Looking at the Oklahoma City coaches for 2019 there are some clues as why they make up this year’s coaching corps.

Bill Simas – Pitching Coach

The 47-year-old Simas is back after last season’s OKC pitching staff finished second in the Pacific Coast League with a 3.92 ERA and tied for first in fewest home runs allowed.

Some may recall that Bill Simas pitched as a relief pitcher with the Chicago White Sox for six years in the mid to late nineties. During a career ended by an arm injury in 2000, He pitched quite well for the Sox having a career ERA of 3.83 and recording 18 saves in 1998. Following surgery for ligament damage Simas missed the entire 2001 season. He worked briefly in the minor league systems of the Tigers, Mariners and Dodgers but never again pitched at the MLB level. With the Las Vegas 51’s in 2003 he went 4-0 with a 1.96 ERA and allowing only 9 walks in 46 IP.

Pitching in Mexico in 2005 Simas had a 4-6 record with 21 saves and a 2.82 ERA. He led the Mexican League with 50 games finished and was third in saves. After his season in the Mexican League he was out of baseball until 2009 when he returned to pitch for the Long Island Ducks in the Atlantic Independent League where he had pitched in 2004. The California native earned Atlantic League Closer of the Year honors with the Ducks in 2009 after leading the league in saves with 27. Following that season, he became the Ducks pitching coach in 2010 thus beginning his coaching career. In 2011 he was signed by the Dodgers as the pitching coach for the Ogden Raptors of the Pioneer Rookie League.

A 6thround selection by the California Angels of the 1992 MLB June Amateur Draft outof Fresno City College, Simas is a member of the pitching school of hardknocks. He has climbed the ranks of the Dodgers minor league system and nowperhaps would be considered their number one in-house option to replace RickHoneycutt when he retires. Below is the ladder he has climbed.

          Ogden Raptors: 2011-2012   

          Great Lakes Loons; 2013-2014

          Rancho Cucamonga: 2015

          Tulsa; 2016-2017

          OKC: 2018-2019

Scott Coolbaugh – Hitting Coach

Coolbaugh was selected by the Texas Rangers in the 3rd round of the 1987 MLB June Amateur Draft from University of Texas in Austin.

He played 167 games at the MLB level over four years with Texas, San Diego and St. Louis in which he hit .215.

His minor league career, which included two stops in Japan, consisted of 1036 games in which he had a batting average of .261 and a .343 OPB.

Following his playing career which ended in 1999, Coolbaugh began his coaching career in 2000 as the manager of the High Desert Mavericks of the California League. Since then he has managed with the Lancaster JetHawks and the AAA El Paso Chihuahuas and served as a hitting coach with Double-A Frisco and two years (2008-09) with the Oklahoma City RedHawks. For him, this a return to Oklahoma City.

For the past four years he has served as the hitting coach for the Baltimore Orioles. He is indeed familiar with the launch angle revolution but sees it more as pertinent to certain players and not a panacea for all hitters.

“You can get caught up in it,” Orioles hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh said. “You never want to impose a higher launch angle on someone who’s not a power guy . . . You could be asking a guy to be doing something that works against them.”

One of the now 52-year-old former third baseman’s protégés was former Dodger Manny Machado who had this to say about Coolbaugh.

    “… Coolbaugh’s been a big influence on why I’ve been doing so well, staying on me every day, getting me in the cage,” Machado said. “I talk to him between innings — if he sees something wrong or he sees how pitchers are pitching to me. I think that’s why, offensively, we’ve been so different. He’s been on top of us a little more. It just makes the game easier. It’s already hard enough.”

Coolbaugh’s son Tyler, also a third baseman, was selected by the Orioles in the late rounds of the 2017 June Draft.

Baseball fans might recall that his brother Mike was struck by a line drive while coaching first base for the Tulsa Drillers on July 22, 2007 and died as a result of the accident. Scott and Susan Coolbaugh started Diamond Dreams in 2009 to honor Mike’s legacy in the game.  In Mike Coolbaugh’s honor, Diamond Dreams has raised money to build safe, state-of-the-art batting cages and practice facilities; provided financial assistance and baseball equipment to others in the baseball community nationwide who have been affected by tragedy; awarded college scholarships to student-athletes from Mike’s high school in San Antonio and Dallas/Fort Worth area high schools; and provided financial contributions to the Orioles Charitable Fund and Texas Rangers Baseball Foundation.

This article has 34 Comments

  1. Great read, DC. I have never been to Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark and I intend to go this summer.

    Bill Simas certainly is climbing the ranks as a pitching coach. Do you think he would leap ahead of Mark Prior and be the Dodgers pitching coach is Honeycyutt retired or went to the FO?

  2. Good observation Mark. That one is a tough one and one I had not thought of being a big Bill Simas fan. Simas would have an advantage having worked with so many of the pitchers who have come through the system.
    .
    Prior would have an advantage being a big name and more so because he has worked closely with Rick Honeycutt. I expect he sees himself as the heir apparent for Rick’s job and so probably do the Dodgers. He may well have been hired with that as a condition or else he might already have been hired away from the Dodgers..
    .
    Both guys are qualified and while Simas has a relatively long history as a minor league pitching coach, he does not have experience as a pitching coach at the MLB level. Unless Prior is hired from away, or Simas, then it seems likely Prior would move into Rick’s role and Simas would advance into Mark’s role ass bullpen coach. Simas would then move on to another team as its pitching coach in due course.

  3. There were a couple of good stories in The Athletic about a couple of high-profile players who might see the lack of movement of big name FA differently. Justin Turner said he was not surprised Harper and Machado have not yet signed. However, he did sound a significant alarm about what the stalling means for the state of the game.
    .
    “It’s been this way the last couple years,” Turner said. “For whatever reason, whether it’s a machismo thing, I don’t know if they’re waiting out one another to see who can get a better contract, or the offers aren’t there, or I don’t know what’s happening. I certainly think it’s taking too long for players of that caliber to figure out where to go. It definitely should be a conversation in the next few years, leading up to the CBA, to try to figure out how to get the ball rolling on this process.”
    .
    Paul Goldschmidt who was a union rep while with the DBacks might have a different take. Goldschmidt has once before signed a team friendly contract. The Athletic author, Mark Saxon, believes that Goldschmidt may take particular umbrage with team owners’ increasing reluctance toward spending in free agency. Saxon wonders whether Goldschmidt will feel obligated to push for a maximum-value contract given his views, though he emphasizes that Goldschmidt himself has declined to discuss his feelings about a new contract.
    .
    Interesting takes. While both are exceptional baseball players and for all practical purposes exceptional citizens, JT is considered pretty much of a junk yard dog type getting every ounce of his abilities to exceed expectations, while Goldy is a natural elite athlete. If I were a GM, both players would be at the top of my list for must have players.
    .
    One other interesting take I got through scouring the blogs this AM, was Sonny Gray. While he was not a miss by LAD, he is someone that I have thought highly of for several years, including his miserable year and a half in NY. Bobby Nightengale Jr of the Cincinnati Enquirer noted:
    .
    “Gray noted that his relationship with newly hired pitching coach Derek Johnson, who previously was his pitching coach at Vanderbilt, played a significant role in the decision. The Reds also have one of Gray’s college battery-mates, Curt Casali, on the roster as a backup to starter Tucker Barnhart. Gray also explained that his late father was a Reds fan, adding that the first MLB game he ever attended as a child was at Great American Ball Park. As to what prompted his struggles in New York this past season, Gray was uncertain but said he feels stronger having endured the struggles.“I honestly think you can go through some hardships at times and come out the other end better than you ever were,”Gray said.
    .
    My guess is that while Gray could have signed for more next year, he was content with a very comfortable 3 year $30.5MM contract. Perhaps for some, the almighty dollar is not the most important reason for signing a contract. Familiarity with a former college pitching coach and another former college teammate as the team’s backup catcher, plus the nostalgic trip down memory lane with the Reds all led him to sign a team friendly 3-year extension. Good for Sonny. He seems happy to have found a home.
    .
    By the way, I do think that while JT, Kenley, and Clayton all got good FA contracts, they gave the Dodgers a “home team” discount because of how they felt about being a Dodger. I am not sure about Kenley, but I do know that both JT and Clayton are WIDELY known as hugely philanthropic driven. In fact, it was fun reading all the takes about Justin Turner Day in LA at LA City Hall yesterday for all of his charity work.

  4. Thanks for your contribution DC.

    And AC those are some good takes too.

    It will be interesting to see if the Reds take off this year, with all their moves.

    You just never know, until the season progresses.

    They sure had our number last year.

  5. I just read that the Dodgers were still in on Realmuto even after Martin’s acquisition, and Bellinger’s name wasn’t mentioned in this deal, but Mark’s fav Kbear our top catching prospect, was.

    Of course I don’t know if this is serious deal, or that everyone just thinks that Realmuto would fit well with the Dodgers.

  6. Mark – make your final offer to the Marlins and tell them it’s time to accept it or we’re going to move on!
    .
    DC and AC thanks again for providing us with such great insight. I always feel so much better informed about the Dodgers’ organization after reading your posts. You make being a Dodger fan much more entertaining and enjoyable. Mark that applies to you too!

    1. OK, here’s my final offer:

      Edwin Rios
      Joc Pederson
      Josiah Gray
      Austin Barnes
      Cristian Santana

      For Realmuto. Take it or leave it!

  7. Dodger prospects/system news:
    `
    Baseball America’s top 100 list has:
    Keibert Ruiz (20)
    Alex Verdugo (35)
    Gavin Lux (40)
    Dustin May (82)
    Will Smith (95)
    `
    Baseball Prospectus’s has:
    Alex Verdugo (19)
    Dustin May (27)
    Keibert Ruiz (31)
    Will Smith (59)
    `
    Very surprised at the omission of Lux, who speaking of:
    From Kyle Glaser:
    If Lux hits .315+ with double-digits HRs and SBs at AA/AAA while showing the same athleticism in the middle of the diamond as he did last year, that’s a Top 20 prospect at least
    `
    I’m continually amazed at how well the team’s system maintains given the signing restrictions and late in round position.

    1. If Lux hits .315+ with double digit HRs and SBs at AA/AAA, I am going out on a limb and predict that someone is going to get bumped from the LAD 40 man and Lux is going to get a September call.
      .
      Lux was rated the #9 SS by MLB Pipeline, and I am certain that he will be included in the MLB Pipeline Top 100 when it gets published on Saturday.

  8. A bird in hand (Realmuto) is better than two birds in the bush (Ruiz, Downs).
    .
    Probably Ruiz, Downs, Barnes required to get Realmuto.
    .
    LF Pederson
    C Realmuto
    SS Seager
    3B Turner
    CF Belinger
    2B Taylor
    1B Muncy
    RF Hernandez
    .
    Another bird in hand (Haniger) that would be better than two birds in the bush (Verdugo, Muncy) + Maeda.

      1. Realmuto is really good and provides a righty bat. I still like Smith as the long term catcher over Ruiz so it is easier for me to trade Ruiz.

        1. You are the only one in the country who likes Smith over Ruiz.

          Smith will be a nice player, most likely a backup.

          Ruiz has a chance to be a lot better than that.

          I really would not want to trade either player, because Smith has a lot of worth as a backup at 2B and 3B as well as catcher.

          You evidently have not seen both players play. Smith Started 49 games at Catcher last season. Ruiz started 85. Ruiz is also 3 years younger. Are we to believe that the Dodgers Future Starting Catcher is going to start only about half the games the other Catcher did? The reason for that is that the Dodgers do not see him as a starting catcher.

          1. Oh my how things have changed. Do you remember when the Dodgers traded Carlos Santana and Jon Meloan for Casey “The Chin” Blake? Trade deadline deal, not two years of control. Is KBear gonna be better than Carlos? Or, was it an overpay for The Chin?

          2. I like Smith’s speed and defense which projects as a sure thing, unlike his bat. Ruiz’ bat has a much higher ceiling. Neither Ruiz’ bat or defense project as a sure thing and, Ruiz can be flipped for a win-now player that might be extended.
            .
            Time will tell.

  9. The Dodgers reportedly have a minors deal in place with veteran backstop Josh Thole. Per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter), the arrangement includes a $600K potential MLB salary as well as an opt-out opportunity on July 1st. Thole has seen time in eight MLB seasons, slashing a cumulative .242/.313/.306 through 1,499 plate appearances, but hasn’t been asked up to the bigs since 2016. He plied his trade last year at Double-A with the Tigers organization.

    1. I wonder how Rocky Gale is feeling about now. Josh Thole is a fairly decent emergency catcher.
      .
      It is going to be interesting to see where all the catchers will be assigned.

  10. Carlos Santana can’t carry K-Bear’s… chest protector!

    Santana was not going to play for LA as the NL did not have a DH. I liked the trade… Blake was a junk yard dog!

        1. Well Mark, I sure hope you’re right about KBear. Especially if you think he can outhit Santana, we really have someone special. I wouldn’t trade Keibert in that deal either. I would for Verdugo!

    1. You may be right on both counts, but McCourt didn’t want to pay Blake’s salary for the rest of that season so Cleveland wanted a better prospect, hence Santana. I believe they saved less than $2M for a pretty productive MLP that could have produced for the Blue. I would include Smith in a deal for Realmuto (with Joc) and Alvaraz but not Ruiz.

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