Sunday, November 13, 2022

Small Things

Hiring Eric Jagers is a smart move that could pay big dividends in the future.

Shortly after extending closer Edwin Díaz to a record-breaking deal, the New York Mets hired Eric Jagers as their director of pitching development. The 27-year-old Jagers will oversee the development of all the Mets' minor league pitchers. While the Díaz signing will justifiably garner much more attention from both the media and Mets fans, Jagers will be taking over a job that will be crucial for the club's hopes of taking some of the talented arms in their minor league system and turning them into cheap, controllable major league contributors.

If owner Steve Cohen's vision of a sustainable winner is to come to pass, a great deal of credit will be due to the efforts of Jagers and the coaches working with him. It seems like a lot of responsibility to hand over to a 27-year-old whose own career in the game ended in college thanks to thoracic outlet syndrome. But, despite his youth, Eric Jagers is exactly the sort of young, smart, and talented individual who progressive clubs are employing to take all of the advanced technology available these days and translate it into development successes for these organizations.

With the Wilpons out of the picture, Steve Cohen's Mets are investing heavily in cutting-edge tech that progressive clubs have been using to turbocharge their player development for years. This is important but, as I pointed out in my last post, the best technology available is useless without the right people in place. While it's important that they understand how to implement all of that expensive equipment, it's crucial to be able to translate all of the data output in a way that makes sense to the players that you're trying to help. In the New York Post article about Jagers' hiring, Mike Puma quoted GM Billy Eppler on what the club saw in their new director of pitching development:
"What we're trying to do — regardless of this hire or any hire — is really serve the players," Eppler said. "You just want to be able to answer every question, so if a player has questions you want to have them talk to somebody from a technical expertise and maybe from a psychological expertise. If we can really have that diversity of thought we should be able to serve the players for what they need."
Bobby Nightengale had a great piece about Eric Jagers in the Cincinnati Enquirer in January 2021, when Jagers had been hired to be the Reds' assistant pitching coach. Nightengale documented how Jagers had utilized Driveline to transform himself from a soft-tossing lefty into someone who could throw 95-mph fastballs. Unfortunately, injuries derailed Jagers' collegiate career. Jagers wound up interning at Driveline and then got into coaching. He quickly became one of the most sought-after young coaches in baseball, which led to a job with the Reds.

While Jagers never had the career as a pitcher he had once hoped for, his work with technology opened doors to his future career. He's more than just a smart guy. By all reports, Jagers won't be outworked:
Ask people about Jagers and one of the first things that always comes up is his work ethic. It's how he developed into a Division I pitcher and how he became one of the leading minds at Driveline.

"I feel like I work pretty hard, but this guy blows everybody out of the water," said Desi Druschel, who was Jagers’ pitching coach at Iowa. "He does more than anybody else ever will. He'’s off the charts with his work ethic."

Note that Druschel is now the assistant pitching coach for the Yankees. 

Kyle Boddy, the founder of Driveline who now also works for the Reds organization, summarized the qualities that made Jager attractive to the Mets for such an important job:
"It’s not just the technical side of it. He's the best at the actual information and delivering it to players. That's without question what he’s the best at. Is he the best nerd in the world? Probably not. Is he the best coach in the world? Probably not. Is he the best meld of both when it comes to pitch design? I don’t think there is any question."
In a post from earlier this month, I linked to a piece in The Athletic about the Astros success with their minor league pitching development. The Astros filled their system with young coaches who understand the technology and have the ability to share this knowledge with Houston's pitching prospects. The Mets are on solid ground in hiring Eric Jagers to work under well-regarded pitching coach Jeremy Hefner. I look forward to seeing what he can accomplish with the youngsters in the Mets organization.


In a surprising move, Astros GM James Click is now unemployed after owner Jim Crane was only willing to give Click a 1-year extension. Crane is a notoriously tough guy to work for, while Click is a well-regarded figure around baseball. While former GM Jeff Luhnow is rightly afforded a lot of the credit for Houston's success, Click is a talented executive who deserved better. He will have no problem finding employment in the game.

For 2 years, there has been speculation about David Stearns eventually coming to the Mets as president of baseball operations. I wonder if Steve Cohen would consider Click for the job. Click, only 44, is a Yale grad who spent more than a decade working his way up in the Rays organization. Stearns may be a bigger name, but Click has an impressive resume in his own right.

At the very least, the Mets should at least explore hiring Click as a consultant. He's quite unlikely to get an offer to be a GM at this late date, but it wouldn't be surprising to see him work for a team in the meantime. As Jay Jaffe pointed out in the FanGraphs article linked above, that was the path Alex Anthopoulos took with the Dodgers between his ouster from the Blue Jays and his hiring by the Braves. Click definitely has something to offer an organization, and Cohen's Mets should consider him.

That will do it for today. Thanks for stopping by. Please check back, as we'll be discussing the Mets all off-season. As always, please be well and take care.

Follow me on Twitter @MikeSteffanos.

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