Yankees bet on James Rowson’s familiarity to resurrect their offense

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The New York Yankees have brought back James Rowson as their new hitting coach in an effort to reinvigorate an offense that struggled mightily last season. He previously served as the Yankees’ minor league hitting coordinator in 2011 and 2012.

James Rowson takes over for Sean Casey, who stepped down for family reasons after being hired mid-season when the Yankees fired Dillon Lawson. This will mark his fourth stint as a major league hitting coach, having previously held the role with the Cubs and Twins and most recently as assistant hitting coach for the Tigers in 2022.

The Yankees are hoping James Rowson can get more production out of a lineup that was among the worst in the majors last season in runs scored, batting average, on-base percentage, and OPS. The team will rely on his experience guiding potent offenses like the 2019 Minnesota Twins who set the MLB single-season home run record.

Before joining the Tigers, James Rowson built an impressive resume as hitting coach for the Cubs and Twins. He also served as bench coach for the Miami Marlins from 2020-2022 under former Yankees great Don Mattingly.

The Yankees are banking on James Rowson’s analytical approach and familiarity with young hitters to help the offense rebound. His ability to connect with players was cited as a major reason for his return to New York’s coaching staff.

This will mark James Rowson‘s 10th season on a major league staff. He brings a wealth of knowledge from both his previous Yankees tenure and recent successful stops in Chicago, Minnesota, and Miami.

Can James Rowson revive the Yankees’ bats?

The 47-year-old James Rowson has a history with the Yankees, having served as their minor league hitting coordinator for seven years—first from 2008-2011 and later from 2014-2016.

During his second stint, James Rowson collaborated with players like Aaron Judge, establishing a positive reputation based on that experience. While serving as the Yankees’ Minor League hitting coordinator, James Rowson built a valuable connection with a young Aaron Judge, recognizing the budding slugger’s potential for greatness.

James Rowson once highlighted the inquisitive nature of the young hitter, emphasizing the importance of asking “Why?” According to him, when players inquire about adjustments or discussions related to the game, the question “Tell me why you want to do that?” reflects a commitment to making the information their own.

The 2023 season will represent the 10th year on a major league staff for the 47-year-old. He spent last season as the assistant hitting coach for the Detroit Tigers after serving as bench coach for the Miami Marlins from 2020-2022. Prior to that, James Rowson was the lead hitting coach for the Minnesota Twins from 2017-2019.

James Rowson’s three-year stint with the Twins saw their offense rank among the best in multiple categories including runs scored, batting average, home runs, and OPS. The 2019 Twins set a new MLB single-season record with 307 home runs as a team.

Before joining the Twins, James Rowson spent nine seasons total with the Yankees organization from 2006-2011 and 2014-2016. He served as their minor league hitting coordinator for seven of those years, so he is very familiar with working with young Yankee hitters coming up through the system.

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The Yankees hope Rowson’s analytical approach, familiarity with Judge, and proven track record guiding potent offenses will help spark an improvement for their below-average offensive attack last season. His prior experience in the organization made him an ideal candidate to aid the turnaround.

In addition to his time with the Twins and Marlins, Rowson spent two seasons in the Chicago Cubs organization from 2012-2013. He served as their minor league hitting coordinator before being promoted to major league hitting coach in June 2012.

Before getting into coaching, Rowson had a brief minor league playing career as an outfielder from 1995-1996 with the Seattle Mariners and in 1997 with the Yankees.

After his playing days ended, Rowson began his coaching career in 2002 with the Los Angeles Angels organization. He worked as a hitting coach in their minor league system for four years, advancing from Rookie ball up through Class A Advanced Rancho Cucamonga by 2005.

Now with 22 years of professional coaching experience, the 47-year-old Rowson joined the Tigers in 2022 as an assistant hitting coach. His familiarity with the Yankees made him an ideal candidate to return as their new hitting coach for 2023. Rowson had two previous stints with New York from 2006-2011 and 2014-2016, serving as their minor league hitting coordinator for a total of seven seasons.

The Bronx native worked closely with Aaron Judge during his earlier Yankees tenure, giving him preexisting rapport with the slugger. The organization hopes James Rowson’s blend of analytical skills and personal connections will boost their offense.

What Yankees expect from the new hitting coach

While Cashman refrained from discussing James Rowson specifically during the GM meetings last week, he did provide insight into the qualities the Yankees are seeking in their next hitting coach. Cashman emphasized the need for versatility—someone capable of connecting with both young and experienced players while demonstrating expertise in swing mechanics, analytics, technology, performance science, and strength and conditioning.

Cashman emphasized the need for coaches to establish partnerships and connections with players. According to him, coaches must be capable of adapting to the preferences of different players, recognizing that younger individuals may be more inclined towards technology and analytical information, while older players may have different interests. The ideal coaching staff should be versatile, offering comprehensive support across various aspects of the game. This approach was envisioned with the previous coaching regime.

The Yankees’ decision to replace hitting coach Dillon Lawson midseason with Sean Casey was directly attributed by GM Brian Cashman to a “lack of connectivity” between Lawson and the players. Connectivity and communication were not issues with Casey given his previous MLB playing experience. In addition to the hitting coach change, Cashman indicated further coaching staff moves are possible. With bench coach Carlos Mendoza leaving to manage the Mets, James Rowson may look to bring in his own assistants like hitting coaches Casey Dykes and Brand Wilkerson.

Getting through to veterans like Giancarlo Stanton will be a top priority for James Rowson. But further developing the Yankees’ young hitters will also be key as they look to take steps forward at the major league level.

James Rowson’s ability to relate to and communicate effectively with all the Yankee hitters will be vital. This was the reported weakness for Lawson that ultimately led to his dismissal. Unlike his predecessor, the Yankees are confident James Rowson’s blend of analytical expertise and interpersonal skills will revitalize their lineup.

Marlins' bench coach James Rowson in 2022.
SI

GM Brian Cashman stressed the importance of coaches being able to establish partnerships and connections with players. In his view, this connection is crucial for the effective flow of information and support to the players.

Cashman emphasized the importance of fostering a culture where every player in the clubhouse has access to the information and support they need. He acknowledged that different players, based on age and preferences, may have varying interests in technical and analytical aspects, and he expressed the need for coaches who can cater to these diverse needs.

James Rowson is slated to hold a virtual press conference with journalists on Tuesday morning.

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