The Blue Jays have a prospect who has steadily climbed through their minor league system, and is poised to head to the majors before long.
We’re not talking about Danny Jansen, Vladimir Guerrero Jr, or Bo Bichette (although all three have played for him). We’re talking about AA New Hampshire Fisher Cats’ Manager John Schneider, who is one of the top Managerial prospects in the game.
Schneider was a Catcher in the Jays system from 2002-2007, until injuries forced him into retirement. He stayed in the organization as a Catching Instructor. In 2008, he was named the GCL Jays Hitting Coach, and took over as Manager a year later, and was the youngest at that position in all of Minor League Baseball at the time.
Schneider has continually progressed up the Blue Jays system, with stops at Vancouver, Lansing, and Dunedin, where he led the team to the first Florida State League title in the team’s 33 year history.
Along the way, he’s worked with Jansen, Guerrero, and Bichette, along with Ryan Borucki, Cavan Biggio, T.J. Zeuch, Jon Harris, Max Pentecost, and Jonathan Davis. And he’s gained a solid reputation as a player’s Manager in the process. From an observer close to the team, here are a couple of examples:
-A pitcher was really struggling and instead of (Pitching Coach Mark) Riggins going out to the mound, Schneider did and got the kid to laugh along with the infielders. Pitcher relaxed and continued on in the game.
-In Lansing a couple of years ago, he thought the team was too loose and unfocused, laying around on the couches and playing ping pong like everything was ok. So he had the ping pong table removed and all of the couches removed and the players had to earn them back.
– In the midst of a terrible 9 game losing streak last season, he told the entire team the next night’s game was at 6:30 and not to show up until 6:00. Result; broke the losing streak and that team went off on a tear that won the FSL championship.
With the Blue Jays likely finally to get the go-ahead from Rogers for a full-on rebuild, the composition of the 25-man roster looks to be significantly younger from the current one. Manager John Gibbons has worked with young players throughout his post-playing career, but one wonders if he has the will to go through another rebuild at this point, or if he’s the right man for the job. A veteran Manager might be the cure for an underperforming veteran-laden team, and the team probably owes it to Gibbons to let him pursue other opportunities if his heart isn’t into a tear down.
Many have thought former MLB Manager Eric Wedge, currently serving as a field co-ordinator/advisor in the Player Development department, has always been a Manager-in-waiting for the team. Truth be told, Wedge has not been in charge in a dugout since 2013, and at 50, is more than a dozen years older than Schneider. And is baseball terms, that’s a significant gap. Players of this era don’t respond well to the old methods, which sometimes seems to mainly consist of yelling. That’s not to say that Wedge comes from the school, but Schneider has proven that he’s much more in touch with the mix of millennials that will soon form the core of the Blue Jays roster.
The knock against Schneider is that he’s never been in the majors in any capacity. Some might argue that his skills might be better developed if he spent some time as an MLB coach first. That would mean an opening would have to be created on the Toronto staff (I know many of you could suggest a candidate). Schneider does have over 800 games of experience as an MiLB Manager, and knowing the players he’ll likely get getting from the minors has to be a huge advantage – he knows their respective strengths and weaknesses, and already has their respect. A seasoned bench coach would likely be a huge benefit to him as het gets to know the league. If it’s time to make a clean sweep and get on with the rebuild, the most obvious change should be at the top. Schneider has won throughout the system, and has contributed greatly to the development of many of the team’s Top 10 prospects. He’s widely regarded throughout the organization, as well as minor league baseball. As a rookie Manager, he’s bound to make mistakes, but like his young charges, he’ll have a chance to grow. As one of the top Managerial prospects in the minors, he may not last long if the Blue Jays don’t soon promote him.