Manager Brian Poldberg has been at the helm for NW Arkansas for the last five seasons. He will return in 2013 for his sixth straight. The Naturals had reached the postseason in four of his five seasons, but in 2012, they were the worst team in the Texas League.
Prior to coaching, Poldberg played six seasons in both the NY Yankees and Kansas City Royals minor league organizations. He began coaching in 1987 and has spent 20 years (on and off) with the Royals. I remember him managing Wilmington back in 1998 when the Blue Rocks were one of the best teams in the Carolina League (coming off a season when they were the worst team in franchise history to that point). Poldberg then left the Royals organization before returning in 2008 to manage NW Arkansas (where he has been ever since). He is known to develop catchers, though Salvador Perez is the only “real” catcher the Royals have developed in the last ten years (at least).
Poldberg will welcome a whole new coaching staff, which will probably be weird considering he had the same pitching coach and hitting coach over the last five seasons. Gone are Larry Carter (who earned the promotion to Triple-A pitching coach) and Terry Bradshaw (who is the new minor league hitting coordinator).
Jim Brower takes over as the Naturals pitching coach after spending the last two seasons as pitching coach at Low-A Kane County. Before becoming a coach, he was a sixth round draft pick of the Texas Rangers back in 1994. He pitched for many organizations (including Japan, independent ball, and Italy) before calling it a career after the 2010 season.
Last season, the Cougars finished with a record of 68-72. The pitching staff had a 3.97 ERA, which does not seem high for a lower level, but it was just 12th in the 16 team Midwest League. The staff threw two complete games and had six shutouts. They gave up more hits (1243) than innings pitched (1231.2) and allowed 89 homeruns. However, they only walked 436 compared to 1117 strikeouts (which was second in the MWL).
Nelson Liriano will serve as the new hitting coach, as he will be in his 12th season with the Royals. Last season, he split time as hitting coach with rookie level Surprise and High-A Wilmington.
Some of the offense seemed to come around after Liriano took over in Wilmington as hitting coach, especially for third base prospect Cheslor Cuthbert, who hit .316 in the month of August. He also hit five doubles, which was the most he had in any month during the 2012 season.
It will be interesting to see if Poldberg can make 2013 a better season for the Naturals. He will probably have the same team, with a few pitchers mixed in from Wilmington.