With the coaching changes at the big league level for the Kansas City Royals, you had to expect those changes to have a trickle down effect on their minor league coaching staffs. They did, but there are still some constants.
Mike Jirschele will be leading Triple-A Omaha for the 11th consecutive season (2003-present). But wait. He also managed Omaha from 1995-1997. That is a LONG time with one team.
Before managing, Jirschele played minor league baseball for 13 years, as he was drafted in the fifth round by the Texas Rangers in 1977. He reached the Triple-A level (where he played six seasons), but never reached the big leagues (his managing career is emulating his playing career). He got his first managerial gig in 1992 with the Gulf Coast Royals (remember when the Royals had spring training in Florida?). The GCL team won the league championship. In 1993, he managed Rockford in the Midwest League and then Wilmington in 1994, where he won another league championship. Side note: I didn’t start going to Blue Rocks game until 1995, so I missed seeing Jirschele in action.
Jirschele won his 1,000th game as a minor league manager on May 23, 2011 and was named the Mike Coulbaugh Award winner at the end of that season, given to the Minors top manager. He also guided the Storm Chasers to the Pacific Coast League Championship (with a record of 79-63). They reached the PCL finals again in 2012, but lost (with a better record of 83-61). Oh and he coached top prospect Wil Myers, who has since been traded.
Tommy Gregg returns to Omaha for his fifth season as hitting coach. As a big league infielder, he played from 1987-1997. He started with the Pittsburgh Pirates and ended his career with the Atlanta Braves.
In 2012, the Storm Chasers hit .290, which was fifth in the PCL. They were fourth in the league in walks (with 496 in 5032 plate appearances), but as a team only struck out 861 times (tops in the league). The only downside to the Storm Chasers was that they were not a powerful team, as they were near the bottom in doubles (253) and homeruns (122).
Jirschele welcomes long-time Royals minor league coach Larry Carter to his coaching staff as his pitching coach. LC has been with the Royals for 16 years, the past 11 seasons in Double-A. Before coaching, he pitched at the end of 1992 in the big leagues with the San Francisco Giants.
It is a shame that LC’s promotion came after his pitching staff was one of, if not the worst, staff in the Texas League. NW Arkansas was a league-worst 58-81 after narrowly missing out on the division’s first half title. Then they bombed in the second half.
The Naturals had an overall ERA of 4.78 and threw the least amount of innings (1210). They had zero complete games and just six shutouts. They had just 26 holds, ten less than the team in front of them. The pitchers struck out just 976, but walked a league-high 558. They also allowed a league-high 141 homeruns (close to twenty more than the team behind them). On the positive side, Naturals pitchers on the whole allowed less hits (1206) than innings pitched.
Omaha will most likely contend again in 2013, though it will be much harder after Sunday night’s trade of three top level prospects (to go with letting the Robinson’s go). But somehow, Jirschele finds a way.