Yankees hitting coordinator Joe Migliaccio recently spoke with Pinstripe Alley. In part one of our interview, he discussed groundbreaking minor league manager Rachel Balkovec, new Yankees hitting coach Dillon Lawson, and his own role in the organization for this coming year. Below, the discussion continues as Migliaccio discusses a variety of topics related to the past season.
I asked Joe to define in his words the 2021 season for the Yankees minor league hitters as they came off a canceled season and thrived upon returning to game action.
“Just very rewarding, obviously with plenty of work still to do, coming off where there was so much uncertainty, just really proud of our hitters how they just put their head down and went to work,” said Migliaccio. “From a staff side we’re doing everything we can to assist them with making their dreams a reality.”
As more and more players found success using the coaching staff’s drills and philosophies, it became easier and easier for other players to buy in.
“When you get a player for example, he makes a swing adjustment and has all kinds of results, that has this domino effect on another player who says, ‘why is he doing that drill, and why is he using that bat,’ and then that player says ‘let me try this,’ and he makes some strides and before you know it, you’ve got everyone from the Dominican Republic (academy) all the way up, kind of grasping this “Hit Strikes Hard” and the depth that goes under each component.”
With concerns about both unnecessary travel in terms of both COVID protocols and budget, the minor leagues operated under a new scheduling format in 2021. The new format included six-game series from Tuesday through Sunday with Monday as a scheduled off-day. I asked Joe about his opinion on the new scheduling format that will remain in place at least through 2022 in the minor leagues.
“From a quality-of-life standpoint it was great, you’re actually able to unpack your suitcase and settle in a little bit more than a typical three- or four-game series,” said Migliaccio. He continued with the opportunities that a longer series presented on the coaching side, “You’ve played the same team for six days, so from a minor league side you're trying to educate your guys to this level of knowledge where they can eventually be their own coach and go over the advance report on their own and feel confident about it. Once you get deeper into that week, there is a really good chance you see that reliever for a second or third time. You see the first starter again on game six, it’s a chance for our players to dive a little bit deeper in terms of preparing and knowing, ok, this is what we had written down for this reliever, this is what my perception of these pitches is, here’s an adjustment I can make the second time around when I face him. So just from preparing our guys in terms of making adjustments and being professional about their preparation, I think that was really beneficial for them.”
Having now worked at the upper levels of the Yankees system, I asked Migliaccio about what he feels when he sees a player he has worked with get called up to the major leagues or added to a 40-man roster.
“Yeah, I was fortunate enough to see that happen a few times this year and its truly goosebump worthy,” said Migliaccio. “A player Face Timed me when he got put on our 40-man roster, just what an emotional moment, unforgettable moment and a feeling that I hope many of our players will be able to experience in the near future. You’re in it with them, you’re there every day, seeing them get a little bit better and a little bit better, and making the adjustment they need to make to have the success they need to not just make it to the big leagues, but stay in the big leagues. Obviously, all the credit goes to the players, every single bit.”
While on a road trip this season, Double-A Somerset woke up to images of their home stadium flooded, and the realization that numerous players had just lost their vehicles and countless other personal items. I asked Joe what that event felt like as they witnessed it unfold across the news and social media.
“Yeah, at first it didn’t feel really, there was kind of this snowball effect of emotions and thoughts, where you think, oh my gosh is this real, then you see another video and another picture, followed by, is that my car submerged in the water,” said Migliaccio. “Then that thought is followed by everything you own is in that vehicle, because the majority of our staff and players are living out of the hotel during the season. When we are at home we check in, when we go on the road, we check out. The cars will stay at the facility so you're talking about some players had everything tied to their name inside that vehicle and they weren’t able to do anything to alleviate that situation before it was over. So, my sole focus that day and going forward was to just make sure I was available to help in any way possible. The game wasn’t the priority at that point. Could you imagine being in another country at the age of 21, and having to deal with car insurance companies because your car just got flooded? I couldn’t even imagine being in that situation, so a very unfortunate event to say the least.”
“We had a great element of staff and I think the Yankees were able to come in and help our guys out as well, so that was great to see. But you look at it just a few months later and those were just materials. While you’ll probably never get them back, you can replace them. It was an event that was very unfortunate, but the players were safe, their families that were back in town were safe. At the end of the day that’s the most important part of it. It’s very unfortunate for sure. The (Somerset) Patriots were awesome about it, they helped the guys out.”
After nailing his picks prior to the 2021 season, Joe declined to pick a specific player as a breakout candidate for 2022, but offered a strong assessment of what he is seeing behind the scenes.
“We’ve got talented players at all levels, we’ve got future big leaguers at all levels, some more well-known than others,” said Migliaccio. “I’ll say this, we have quite a few guys that are flying under the radar that are very close to that breakout season. We treat everybody the same, you’re a number one prospect, or you’re unranked, that doesn’t matter to us. We want everybody to be a big leaguer. We do everything we can to make that happen, I think after maybe two months you're going to see some names pop up and say who is that guy, or I didn’t see that coming.”
Heading into 2022, Migliaccio will be at the helm of a talented hitting department, and he sees big things coming.
“When Dillon (Lawson) got hired, there was this three-year plan, obviously that second year, things really got hosed up,” said Migliaccio. “We’re very happy with how things have come to fruition in terms of player development at the end of the day... but by no means are we stationary with what we have, we are always looking to get better, we’ve built this platform, this base if you will, of what we believe in. You’ve now seen, over the course of three years, that it works, our players are performing in the games, the train is full-speed ahead, the emergency brake is off, and we are trying to see how fast we can go without falling off the rails.”
Joe Migliaccio takes over the hitting coordinator role heading into 2022 with big expectations after a very successful 2021 minor league season across the Yankees system. Top prospects such as Oswald Peraza, and Anthony Volpe will be on the cusp of the major leagues if they continue to show improvement, while fans will be looking to find the next player who breaks out in a big way.