We all follow the Dodgers minor league players with special interest as they move up the mountain towards MLB. It is a most difficult climb as the terrain is littered with land mines of various kinds. The task of the parent organization, in its own special interest and in the interest of the young men with whom they have been entrusted, is to smooth out the path up the mountain as much as they can. One way to do that is to find the best possible coaches for the minions in their charge and help them develop as players and, as importantly, as young men. These coaches not only work with the players on honing their baseball skills but also serve as confidants and mentors.
As we watch young pitchers grow and develop, as they all do, there is much going on behind the scenes. Not all will – in fact not many- will make it to the top of the mountain but I expect there are rare exceptions when they do not come away from the game as better young men and more prepared for the other challenges in their lives. Basically watching every pitch the young pitchers throw there is one set of eyes on them. Those are the eyes of the pitching coaches. Although we cannot tell for sure, I thought it might be interesting to at least have a peak and see if we can glean the reasons why the Dodgers filled out their minor league pitching coach positions for 2019 as they did. That is, do a thumbnail sketch of each minor league pitching coach as best the available information will allow.
Oklahoma City Dodgers – Bill Simas Simas is probably the best known for us as he has been in the system for nine years and at five different levels. His was given a brief profile on LADT when the OKC Dodgers 2019 coaching staff was announced.
Tulsa Drillers – Dave Borkowski Borkowski will begin his second year as the Drillers pitching coach. He was selected by the Detroit Tigers in the 11th round of the 1995 MLB June Amateur Draft out of Sterling Heights High School in his hometown of Sterling Heights which is actually a suburb of Detroit. He debuted with the Tigers in 1999 after five years of minor league ball. Over seven years he pitched in 181 major league games – primarily in relief – with Detroit , Baltimore, and Houston. He retired after the 1999 season and declaring himself a lifer he decided he wanted to stay in the game and hoped to catch on as a coach. He contacted the Houston Astros and within half an hour he was offered a coaching position. Borkowski, now 42, served as a pitching coach in the Astros farm system for eight years before being hired by the Dodgers as the Tulsa Driller pitching coach for the 2018 season. He had coached against the Drillers the previous two seasons with the Corpus Christi Hooks. Perhaps a coincidence, but his hiring came when the Dodgers minor league pitching coordinator was Don Alexander who also had been in the Astros organization.
In early July in 2018 – in Tulsa – he received a package from the Astros. Inside the package was a 2017 World Series ring Borkowski had earned for his contributions to the Houston Astros world championship year as the Corpus Christi pitching coach. The transition to Tulsa from Corpus Christi was a relatively easy one for Borkowski.
”They both have very good farm systems and very talented players, they both have drafted very well through the years,” Borkowski said. “Both are invested in the analytical side, maybe the Dodgers a little bit more than the Astros. Both teams are putting out a real good product on the big league level and the minor leagues. In the end, they are both pretty successful franchises right now.”
”All organizations preach pounding the zone, pitching to contact, be aggressive, be efficient, pitch inside, things like that,” Borkowski said. “The hardest thing is getting to know everybody, learn their personalities. Some need a kick in the butt and others a pat on the back. The Astros were huge on the analytical side of things so I was able to come right over here and get into the analytical side they have going. It was a pretty smooth transition.”
Rancho Cucamonga Quakes – Connor McGuinness McGuiness will be in his second year as the Quakes pitching coach after having served in the same role with the Great Lakes Loons in 2017. He is one of those coaches who did not play professional baseball at any level.
McGuinness attended high school at St. Stephen’s-St. Agnes High School in Alexandria, Virginia. Following his graduation from high school he studied and pitched for the Eagles at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia. Known for his ability to hold runners on base, his 10 career pick offs were the fourth-most in the program’s history at the time of his graduation.
The now 29-year-old McGuinness returned to Emory one year after his graduation, this time as a pitching coach. He stayed at Emery for three years helping lead the Eagles to back-to-back NCAA Division III College World Series appearances. He then moved on to the Catholic University of America in Washington D.C. for one year before being recruited by the Dodgers. Perhaps not sure baseball would lead to a career, but also maybe just being enterprising, while at Emory McGuiness started his own company, Slidestep Consulting, which specializes in research and data analysis. He moved the business to Arlington, Virginia after graduation. He also served as a statistical analyst for McNamara Baseball Group, helping develop data necessary for contract negotiations. Maybe he was just putting his degree in Economics with a concentration in Finance to work.
He was welcomed back to Emery in 2013 with open arms.
“We are extremely pleased to bring Connor back to Emory as a part of our coaching staff,” said Emory Head Coach Mike Twardoski. “As a player, we always considered him a coach on the field due to his tremendous leadership ability.”
Great Lakes Loons – Luis Meza The 28-year-old Meza has been a career Dodger having played seven years in the minor league system and now entering his fourth year as a pitching coach. The native of Venezuela made it briefly to the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes with short stints in both 2014 and 2015. His best year was 2013 as a member of the Great Lakes bullpen appearing in 51 games and compiling a 3.96 ERA in 72.2 IP.
He opted for free agency following the 2015 season and was hired as a coach by the Dodgers for the 2016 season. Since then he has worked as a pitching coach for two years in the Dominican Summer League with the DSL Dodgers 1 and 2 and last year with the Arizona League Dodgers.
Dean Stiles – Ogden Raptors Stiles, like Connor McGuinness, did not play baseball at the professional level. He did play college ball, first as an infielder at San Joaquin Delta College in Stockton, before transferring to the University of Oregon to complete his degree in journalism and play for the Ducks. He continued to pursue an education and in 1986 completed his secondary education credential at the University of Oregon College of Education.
He has been a high school administrator, teacher, and coach in Oregon and California for more than 25 years before a four year stint with the University of Oregon Ducks. Along the way he has coached at several high schools including Tualitin High School , Crook County High School and Summit High School – all in Oregon – as well as at St. Joseph High School in California.
Stiles worked as a volunteer assistant coach at the University of Oregon for five years. His stint at Oregon was interrupted by one year as the head coach at Lane Community College in Eugene, Oregon. His return to Oregon University was welcomed by head coach George Horton following Stiles’ successful year with Lane.
“Coach Stiles was a vital factor in helping develop our program for the first two seasons, before he joined Lane for a very exciting opportunity,” Horton said. “He had a very successful campaign at Lane last year, and we are very pleased to have Coach Stiles return to Oregon. He will be a fundamental asset in nurturing our pitching staff this year, and helping execute the program we have planned for the student-athletes.”
Stiles has been credited with helping develop one of the top pitching staffs in the nation during his time at Oregon, helping lead the team to four straight postseason appearances. In Stiles’ first two seasons in 2012 and 2013 working with the Ducks’ pitchers, Oregon finished in the top-15 in the country with consecutive sub-3.00 ERAs.
During the 2015 season he was the assistant pitching coach of the Eugene Emeralds (Cubs) of the short season rookie level Northwest League. He was the pitching coach at Florida International University in 2016 and San Jose State University in 2017.
At Florida International University Stiles was a coach at the same time that present Rancho Cucamonga manager, Mark Kertenian, was an assistant coach with the Panthers.
Stiles begins his second season as the Raptors pitching coach.
AZL Dodgers – Stephanos Stroop Stroop is in his first year in the Dodger organization. He too has an interesting resumé. He graduated from Claremont McKenna College in Claremont, California in 2010 where he played first base, the outfield and took the mound.
To further his education Stroop attended the Owen School of Management summer business institute at Vanderbilt University and completed his Masters in Sports Industry Management from Georgetown University while coaching at George Washington University as an assistant coach for two years. His duties with the Colonials included working with outfielders, pitchers and catchers.
During the 2015 and 2016 seasons Stroop served as the the Pitching Coach and Recruiting Coordinator at St. Catharine College in Springfield, Kentucky. That 2015 squad advanced to the National Tournament for the first time in school history. Stroop’s pitching staffs had respective ERA’s of 3.29 and 3.12 in his two seasons. During his time in Springfield, he developed four pitchers that would go on to sign professional contracts.
Sandwiched in between his two years at St. Catharine, he was the head coach of the Strasburg Express in the Valley Baseball League leading the Express to the championship and picking up Manager of the Year honors. The league is a collegiate summer baseball league in the Shenandoah Valley region of Virginia.
For the 2017 season Stroop accepted a position with the St. Petersburg Titans as their Pitching Coach and Recruiting Coordinator.
“Stephanos has a very impressive resume. He has a history of working well with players from all walks of life, and has a very sharp eye for talent. We are extremely lucky to have him on staff.” Said Coach Ryan Beckman when asked about his new pitching coach.
After one year at St. Petersburg , Stroop served as the pitching coach for the Southern University Jaguars.
Added to his expansive resumé, in a relatively short period of time, is a stint with the Atlanta Braves as an associate scout. More impressively was his time as an advanced scouting trainee with the Washington Nationals. His primary responsibilities were scouting summer college wood bat leagues, charting Nationals’ minor leaguers and their opponents and working with BATS video software.
DSL Dodgers – Ramon Troncoso Ramon Troncoso, a native of San Jose de Ocoa, Dominican Republic, starts his second year of coaching in the DSL in the upcoming season. He was initially signed as a non-drafted free agent by the Dodgers on June 20, 2002, and played his first three professional seasons for the Dodgers Dominican Summer League team.
He debuted with the Dodgers in 2008 and we all no doubt remember his big year in 2009 when he posted an ERA of 2.72 over 82.2 innings pitched. He appeared in 73 games and it was thought by many that he was the victim of overuse during that season. He pitched two more years with the Dodgers and one with the White Sox ending his MLB career.
It was hoped he might have been able to resurrect his career in 2015 when he signed a minor league contract with the Dodgers in February and was assigned to the AA Tulsa Drillers to start the season. After two appearances in AA he was promoted to the AAA Oklahoma City Dodgers, where he went 5–1 with a 1.98 ERA in 29 games, including two starts. He did not get another call to Dodger Stadium and finished out his career with two years in the Mexican League.
He accepted a coaching position with the Dodgers for the 2018 season.
DSL Dodgers – Roberto Giron Roberto Giron enters his sixth year as a pitching coach with the DSL Dodgers. Born in Villa Mella, Dominican Republic, he was signed by the Toronto Blue Jays as a non-drafted free agent on May 20, 1993.
Giron has been a road warrior over 19 minor league seasons while playing for at least 21 different teams .His travels included four seasons in the Mexican League and two in an independent league playing for the Sugar Land Skeeters of the Atlantic League. Additionally, he played seven times in the Dominican Winter League.
During his minor league career he appeared in 771 games over 1350.2 innings pitched while posting a 3.84 ERA and a 1.29 WHIP along with 1292 strikeouts.
He ended his pitching career following the 2013 season and was signed by the Dodgers as a pitching coach for the 2014 season.
His only innings pitched at a MLB level came during the 2007-08 seasons in which he pitched 7.3 innings in spring training with the Kansas City Royals.