The Double-A Somerset Patriots coupled a strong pitching staff with a prolific offense to win a division title in the Double-A Northeast, Eastern Division in 2021. The team’s offense led the league in home runs, total bases and slugging percentage on the year while finishing second in walks. A number of individual players including Oswald Peraza and Oswaldo Cabrera had breakout seasons under the guidance of Somerset hitting coach Joe Migliaccio. Migliaccio was recently promoted to the role of Yankees Hitting Coordinator and took some time to talk with Pinstripe Alley about a variety of topics. Below is part one of what will be a two-part interview.
In the days leading up to our conversation, the Yankees made news by naming Rachel Balkovec as the manager of the Low-A Tampa Tarpons. I asked Joe about his experience working with Balkovec, who previously served as a fellow hitting coach inside the Yankees organization.
“First and foremost, I’m beyond excited for her, its earned recognition, she’s a role model that countless people are looking up to,” Migliaccio said. “She’s able to use her platform for the better, from offering her mentorship to young women across the country, to challenging our department in various aspects she’s breaking down barriers full speed ahead and is not stopping anytime soon.”
When asked what makes her the right person to break the barrier that is a female managing in the ranks of professional baseball, Migliaccio continued with some insight on her work ethic and mentality.
“To quote from her press conference yesterday, she said ‘I don’t lose sleep over swing mechanics, I lose sleep over culture.’ I mean that is exactly who she is, she is a meticulous culture creator, she’s a role model to us all and I’m incredibly grateful to call her a friend,” Migliaccio said. “She just goes the extra mile with everything, whether it's in the cage and she takes it to a video review, she goes home and edits a video review to make something standout a little clearer to the player. A few weeks ago, she was in Tampa and drove down to Miami to see a player ... She worked out with that player, and same day drove back. It’s little things like that, I say little, but it goes so far. It means so much and at the end of the day its genuine. She’s such an amazing person, it's another step in where she’s ultimately going to land as a general manager as she wants to be one day.”
When Migliaccio took the time to speak with Pinstripe Alley in the fall of 2020, we learned about his longstanding history with the Yankees hitting coordinator at the time, Dillon Lawson. Lawson has now moved up to take the Yankees’ hitting coach position and Migliaccio offered his thoughts on Lawson’s promotion to the big-league level.
“The New York Yankees were in a position to hire the best hitting coach in the world, and that’s exactly what they did,” Migliaccio said. “Dillon understands the complexity of a baseball swing on the most detailed of levels along with understanding the most advanced technology out there. But what he does so well is that he’s able to couple the two together and translate all this complex information into simplistic terminology for players to comprehend and apply. So essentially the Yankees hired an expert relationship builder, that’s just an incredible human being.”
CABRERA AGAIN!!— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) July 7, 2021
Oswaldo Cabrera is now 2-for-3 today with 2⃣ home runs and 5⃣ RBI! A two-run as a left-handed bat and now a three-run from the right side! pic.twitter.com/cSAI8UdmST
With Lawson’s promotion to the major league level, Migliaccio — who has been with the Yankees since 2019 — was recently promoted to the organization’s hitting coordinator role, which will involve some changes and new responsibilities moving forward.
“This is one of those things that at a 30,000-foot view, you don’t know, what you don’t know,” Migliaccio said. “But fortunately, the person in this position before me is still in our organization ... Dillon and I have had countless conversations and we both anticipate a seamless transition, but I think one of the main differences is, I’m not with a team ... I’ll be traveling from level to level, assisting our coaches there and making sure they are set up for success. During our first three years here we just had to prioritize certain areas that we felt were important to build this base of, ok, what do we want to build up from, and we feel that those have been a major success to date. Moving forward we’ll look to take advantage of what we think are some low hanging fruits in terms of player development and some other areas.”
Migliaccio continued by discussing some of the first tasks that he will be involved with as spring training approaches, making sure that the organization has their coaches in place for each affiliate and getting everyone up to speed. From there, it’ll be down to implementing the new ideas that they want to stress throughout the organization and scaling the work to each level.
Oswald Peraza. Bomb. Tied game! pic.twitter.com/VmAsGG9cas— Somerset Patriots (@SOMPatriots) September 15, 2021
As a whole, the Yankees system saw numerous players take big strides forward on the offensive side of the ball in 2021. The system wide improvement was particularly impressive coming off a lost minor league season in 2020. With that lost season came lessons learned that are already being applied to current offseason plans.
“What we learned about the offseason is simply, we can do more, we don’t always have to be hands on to have an impact with the players,” Migliaccio said. “So, whether it is a continued education session about pitch recognition or a bat speed program, we’ve been able to dive deeper and supply what the players are wanting and needing. When they are away from us and during the COVID shutdown, we were able to implement a very detailed remote training program and since we’ve just adjusted to make it better. I think with that approach and knowing what we did during that shutdown, being able to apply it each offseason now when guys are away from us, we know we can supply them with certain things to track what they are doing.
“Strength has had a huge impact on this as well, so they’re getting programs from the strength department, programs from the hitting department, they’re getting programs from our speed department,” Migliaccio continued. “So them simply having in hand what we’d like them to do, it just helps them be in a better place when they show up to spring training. They’re now hitting the ground full speed ahead not having to try and play catch-up and get to game speed and you kind of waste this three-to-four-week period before you actually get to where you want to be, you can show up to spring training ready to go and be that much more ahead.”
For part two of our interview with Yankees hitting coordinator Joe Migliaccio, click here. We will discuss how he feels about the success of players he’s coached, how the coaches and team handled the mid-season flood in Somerset and other topics.