The Red Sox have recently hired Chili Davis as their next hitting coach. He previously did well as the hitting coach with the Oakland Athletics, since they scored the fourth most runs in baseball, played with the Yankees during the last two years of his career from 1998-1999 and would have been an ideal next hitting coach for the Yankees.
As of now, the hitting coaches that the Yankees should target should be Marcus Thames or James Rowson. They both have good reputations and have a few years experience as hitting coaches.
Rowson is currently the Yankees’ minor-league hitting coordinator. He has already interviewed for the position that has been vacant since Kevin Long was fired after the season. Rowson served as a hitting coach in the Yankees organization before leaving for the Cubs in 2012 when he took over as their hitting coach midway through that season. He left after the 2013 season to return to the Yankees.
Rowson knows New York well since he grew up in Mount Vernon, which is just outside of the Bronx, and went to high school at Mount St. Michael in the Bronx. He was drafted in the 9th round of the 1994 draft by the Seattle Mariners. He is 38 years old so he will be able to relate well to the veterans and younger players on the team. He played five seasons in the minors with the Mariners and Yankees before retiring in 1997 at the age of 20. He played in an independent league when he was 21.
The candidate that would likely be a better choice is the 34-year-old Thames. He has more success in Major League Baseball and was the Double-A hitting coach at Trenton this season. This means that he has experience with many of the up and coming hitters and already likely has some experience with the established players on the Yankees.
Thames is from Louisville and was drafted by the Yankees out of Texas State University in the 30th round in 1996. He also went to East Central Community College in Decatur, Mississippi. He would play seven games for the Yankees in 2002 and then played for the Texas Rangers in 2003, the Detroit Tigers from 2004 to 2009, the Yankees again in 2010 and then his last season was with the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2011. In 2010, he hit 12 homers and had a career-high .288 average with the Yankees.
He had 115 homers, 301 RBIs and 83 doubles in his career mostly as a fourth outfielder. Thames averaged a home run every 15.4 at-bats and reached 100 homers in 1,549 at-bats which is few than any other player who has 100 homers. He also holds the Tigers franchise record for average at-bats per homer, at 14.8. He was in the Yankees minor league system from 1996 to 2001, so he knows what it takes to develop young hitters.
Thames helped Rob Refsnyder, who could be the second baseman (or the back-up second baseman) next season, retool his swing at Double-A. In 2013, the was the Yankees Single-A hitting coach in Tampa. A benefit with Thames is that he knows the young prospects well and will be able to make sure the continue to improve once they are called up.
He is also a young coach who has made a difference in his first few years, which is a pleasant change from Long because he was older and didn’t make much of a difference last season. A hitting coach doesn’t always make a huge difference, a new voice with new ideas could be the difference between making the playoffs and advancing to the next round.
The Yankees were 13th out of the 15 teams in the American League in runs scored in 2014, and Marcus Thames could make a difference with the players who underperformed such as Mark Teixeira, Brian McCann and Carlos Beltran. It will also be important for those three to stay healthy the whole season.