The Detroit Tigers appear to have finished sorting out their managerial staff for the club’s minor league affiliates. Evan Petzold of the Detroit Free Press reported on Thursday that they’ve hired long-time MLB hitting coach Anthony Iapoce to replace Lloyd McClendon and helm the Triple-A Toledo Mud Hens for the 2023 season. The move has not yet been confirmed by the Tigers, but per Petzold the agreement has been in place for almost a month now.
The 49-year-old Iapoce has a long history as a major league hitting coach and has worked for the Marlins, Cubs, Red Sox, Blue Jays, and Rangers in his career. From 2006-2009, Iapoce was a minor league hitting coach for the Marlins. A stint as the roving minor league hitting instructor for the Alex Anthropoulos-led Blue Jays followed from 2010-2012. Theo Epstein then hired him as a special assistant overseeing hitting instruction in the minor leagues for the Chicago Cubs, putting Iapoce and Tigers’ President of Baseball Operations Scott Harris into the same orbit, along with Tigers’ shortstop Javier Báez.
After leaving the Cubs, Iapoce became the major league hitting coach for the Texas Rangers for three seasons. Epstein rehired Iapoce as the Cubs' hitting coach after firing Chili Davis in 2018. After three seasons, Red Sox GM Chaim Bloom hired Iapoce as senior hitting coordinator for the 2022 season.
This will be Iapoce’s first managerial stint, which may have helped attract him to Detroit and a reunion with Harris. The Tigers get another well regarded and experienced hitting coach in the system. Iapoce gets to try a new direction in his career as a team manager.
Iapoce was drafted out of college by the Milwaukee Brewers back in 1994, but never advanced to the major leagues as a player.
While we’ve seen nothing to help in terms of major league hitters yet, Harris has stated that the Tigers’ organization needs an overhaul in terms of its approach to teaching hitting. Some of that appears to have come to pass in the minor leagues already since the additions of Kenny Graham as Director of Player Development, and in 2021, Ryan Garko as Vice-President of Player Development.
Both men have been retained by Harris, and so far they've brought in a more diverse batch of hitting coaches with backgrounds with Driveline Baseball and some of the top major league teams. It’s hard to ignore that just about every notable Tigers’ position prospect then improved markedly in 2022. Several of them, such as Parker Meadows and Wenceel Perez, did so after stalling out for a few seasons with little progress. Harris has continued that trend at the major league level, firing hitting coach Scott Coolbaugh this offseason and installing a trio of major league hitting coaches with strong backgrounds to replace him.
Key hitting prospects slated to spend time with the Mud Hens this season include Meadows and Perez, but also top catching prospect Dillon Dingler and infielder Andre Lipcius. They’ll join recent acquisition Justyn-Henry Malloy and can probably be expected to spend much of the season at the Triple-A level preparing for their first look at the show.