Ranking MLB Managers, 1-30: The Youth Movement Is On

Liam McKeone

Baseball season is finally underway, and the dust has settled after a wild opening month that saw several contenders crash and burn. About 40 games in, teams have steadied things out, and we have a better idea of who’s real and who’s not.

One of the biggest factors of success comes from the dugout and the leader of the teams: managers, skippers, whatever name you want to give. Here’s a ranking of all the big-league managers, based on how much they help their teams and what skills they have to offer.

30. Brandon Hyde, Baltimore Orioles 

Brandon Hyde wasn’t exactly put in an advantageous position in his first year as a manager. Like last season, these Orioles aren’t really designed to win baseball games. Hyde appears to be doing a decent job of keeping everyone’s head up, but a truly atrocious run differential, it’s hard to rank him much higher. It isn’t about this year for Baltimore, and Hyde has potential, but at this time he belongs at the bottom of these rankings.

29. Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins 

Similar to Hyde, it’s no secret this team has no intention of winning this year. The Marlins are, again, an embarrassingly bad team. But the manager can only do so much when the team’s higher-ups sell off anything resembling talent as soon as they can.

Don Mattingly showed he was at least a decent manager when leading the Dodgers to multiple winning seasons, but the last two at the head of the Marlins haven’t done much to improve his reputation. The Marlins are the worst team in baseball by a wide margin, and only Mattingly’s previous experience prevents him from dropping into the bottom slot.

28. Dave Martinez, Washington Nationals 

Dave Martinez is as on the hottest seat any manager can be less than halfway through May. He was brought in to bring the Nats to the next level, but spearheaded a .500 effort in 2018 that resulted in the team’s generational talent departing for Philadelphia.

They’ve stumbled out of the gate this year, in part because of Martinez’s hesitance to yank his starters and go to the bullpen when the going gets tough. He’s gotten the short end of the stick in terms of injury luck, and the upper management for Washington certainly hasn’t done him any favors, but the outlook isn’t bright here. Martinez may yet succeed in a different situation, but right now it seems that his time in the Nationals’ dugout is limited.

27. Chris Woodward, Texas Rangers

Chris Woodward’s rookie season as the Rangers manager has generally gone smoothly. Texas is hovering around .500 early on in the season, and Woodward’s patience in regards to Rougned Odor has paid off at this early junction, but will need to navigate the incoming rough waters as their hopeful future closer, Jose Leclerc, tries to find his way. Woodward hasn’t shown enough yet to rank particularly high on a list like this, but the early returns are pretty solid.

26. David Bell, Cincinnati Reds 

David Bell’s first season as a manager has gotten off to a bit of a tough start. The Reds currently sit at 17-22, but have a +30 run differential. There have been more than a few frustrating losses brought about by Bell’s usage of relievers, and his constant lineup shuffling has had its ups and downs. Overall, the Reds should have a better record and Bell’s willingness to experiment are pluses, but he needs to prove those experiments work before he can rise much higher.

25. Mickey Callaway, New York Mets

Mickey Callaway is in a tough position with the Mets. His first year as a manager was inconsistent, and marked by a hot start that was derailed by injuries. The Mets started slow this year, but got into a bit of a groove before the injury bug hit again. None of this is to mention the front office shenanigans that happened in Queens over the winter, and first-year GM Brodie Von Wagnen may decide he doesn’t like Callaway, his predecessor’s choice.

Last season showed Callaway has the chops to be a big-league manager, but he still needs to grow into his role, and it may not happen with the Mets.

24. Rick Renteria, Chicago White Sox 

Rick Renteria signed an extension after last season, so the White Sox clearly like what he’s doing. He’s in the building to bring along their young talent, and he’s done that fairly well. His bullpen management still leaves a lot to be desired, but he doesn’t have a lot to work with.

The young guns for the White Sox have progressed as expected under Renteria, and the team was being thrown around as a potential dark horse for some big free agents over the winter, which is a win for a team that didn’t notch many of them in 2018. Renteria has room to move up rather quickly, depending on how the youth in Chicago responds to his managing this season, but for now he’s not doing enough to be considered even an average manager.

23.  Brad Ausmus, Los Angeles Angels 

Brad Ausmus is a fine manager who appears to have what it takes to succeed in terms of what he prioritizes, but that success hasn’t come yet. He oversaw the collapse of a Tigers team that went from winning 90 games in 2014 to 64 in 2017. He then headed to Los Angeles for this season, and the early returns are not ideal for a team looking to stop underachieving, sitting at 18-20.

Ausmus is analytically inclined and still young, so the jury isn’t completely out yet. But for now, he hasn’t shown that he learned from his mistakes in his first tenure as a manager, and has a lot of improving to do.

22. Charlie Montoyo, Toronto Blue Jays 

Charlie Montoyo is a fan favorite and you have to try pretty hard to not like him immediately. His overall managerial skills leave something to be desired, however. He’s a favorite in the dugout and keeps a handle on things with his strong personality, and he’s been around the game for so long that he definitely knows his stuff.

But Montoyo made some questionable personnel decisions this season (like playing Alen Hanson far longer than he had any right to be), and the Blue Jays were unable to take advantage of very slow starts by both the Yankees and the Red Sox. Montoyo is a great interview, but for now remains a slightly below-average manager.

21. Ron Gardenhire, Detroit Tigers 

Ron Gardenhire was brought on to help oversee an organizational rebuild, and so far, so good. He’s struck the correct balance of ruling with a firm hand but with the patience required for a team relying on their youthful talent as much as the Tigers are.

Gardenhire will slip up every now and again, but his job is far less dependent on day-to-day results than most other managers in the league. It’ll be a few years before we can officially judge Gardenhire, but thus far, he appears to be the man suited to bring along the futures of the franchise. His ceiling doesn’t appear to be that high, but he’s the perfect man for this particular job.

20. Ned Yost, Kansas City Royals 

Ned Yost is an old-school manager faced with a rush of new-school ideas, from analytics to shifts to everything else baseball has focused on in the past few years. He’s earned goodwill with the Royals organization for leading them to their first World Series title in 30 years, but the team has gone steadily downhill since then, and they currently sit near the very bottom of the American League with a 14-25 record.

The Royals are in a tough spot, but their issues have less to do with Yost and more to do with personnel. Yost is a good manager for a particular type of team, but he’s a fish out of water with this Royals squad, and may not be in that dugout past this season.

19. Andy Green, San Diego Padres 

Andy Green has done an excellent job bringing along the young talent of the Padres so far this season, but in his fourth season at the helm, one has to wonder how much of that can be attributed to him. He hasn’t really given any signs he can be a high-tier manager in the big leagues, from his lack of in-game adjustments to his old-school style of doing things.

He’s had three years, but hasn’t really improved in any way. The young guns of Chris Paddack and Fernando Tatis Jr. keep the fans excited, but Green has to prove he’s the manager for this team before he gets sent packing.

18. Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins 

I will be the first to admit that this might be a little high for Rocco Baldelli. But the first-year manager has been at the head of the surprise team in baseball this season. Despite his youth, Baldelli has led his team to the best record in the American League with a +50 run differential.

Baldelli hasn’t been at the helm long enough for anything to go wrong, but it feels wrong to not reward the young skipper for getting the absolute best out of a team few saw competing this season. We’ll have to see how he handles the inevitable adversity a long season will bring, but the initial outlook is quite positive.

17. Clint Hurdle, Pittsburgh Pirates 

Similar, but not to the extent of, Yost, Clint Hurdle has a certain level of built-in goodwill with the organization after he was the one to lead the Pirates out of the darkness and back into the playoffs. They didn’t win a championship, but the residents of Pittsburgh hadn’t had a taste of playoff baseball in decades. Since then, Hurdle has been middle of the road.

The Pirates didn’t manage to build off their postseason appearance, but Hurdle has remained the constant throughout. They’re sitting at just over .500 on the year, and Hurdle’s hot-and-cold managerial decisions have shone through in a big way. The team and Hurdle are both at a crossroads in terms of the future, and Hurdle’s ability to coach this team to success may very well determine which direction they take.

16. Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners 

Scott Servais has established a reputation as a solid, if unspectacular, manager over the last few seasons in Seattle. He keeps the ship steady, and has continued that this year as the Mariners sit with an even record early on this season.

Servais has yet to show that he can take a team to the next level, however, and while his gameplans are rock-solid, he’s slower to adjust than most managers in the league when the time calls for it. Servais needs to show some improvement this year, but for the time remains in the league’s middle class of skippers.

15. Bruce Bochy, San Francisco Giants 

In his last year as a manager, Bruce Bochy hopes to go out with a bang. The early returns on that aren’t great, though. The Giants are only 16-22 with a -36 run differential and don’t look to have any of the prerequisite qualities of a contender.

Bochy has more than earned his reputation as a quality manager, but the Giants’ lackluster run after their last World Series title in 2014 has made for a relatively disappointing end to his career. Bochy will forever be known as a winner and a grinder, but the back half of his run in San Francisco was unremarkable.

14. Aaron Boone, New York Yankees 

Aaron Boone is an interesting case study for baseball analysts around the country. He clearly has a talent for developing young players, as Aaron Judge and Miguel Andujar, among others, have burst onto the scene under his watch. On the flip side, his in-game decisions are questionable at best, and many believe he deserved the lion’s share of the blame for the Yankees’ series loss to the rival Red Sox in the 2018 ALDS. Yet, reports about the power of the Yankees analytical team raise questions about how much Boone is actually responsible for.

At the end of the day, Boone has a great relationships with the most important players for the Yankees, which counts for something, and it’s hard to hold him responsible for the team’s performance this year after every player of even mild importance is currently hurt or has been hurt. Net? He’s perfectly average.

13. Mike Shildt, St. Louis Cardinals 

While this is Mike Shildt’s first full season at the helm, he showed his potential after he took over for Mike Matheny last season. He led the Cardinals on a second-half charge that very nearly took them into the postseason before they stumbled down the stretch. Shildt’s official debut has gone well so far; the Cardinals are at 22-17 and have acclimated key offseason acquisition Paul Goldschmidt. Shildt has to navigate the rockiest waters to move his way up the ranks, but the future certainly looks good.

12. Gabe Kapler, Philadelphia Phillies 

Gabe Kapler has undergone the full Philadelphia experience in his year and change as skipper. He was at first praised for his unusual and aggressive managing style, then criticized when it didn’t always work, then back to being praised, so on and so forth. The expectations for Kaplar are very high this year after the team landed Bryce Harper, and all eyes are on him and Kaplar, who shares some blame for the late-season collapse that prevented the Phillies from playing postseason baseball.

So far, the returns are middling; Harper hasn’t played as well as he could have, but as a whole the team has a substantial and positive run differential and are currently at 21-16. The rest of the season will show just what kind of manager Kaplar is, and there’s reason to be optimistic, but if the team doesn’t perform up to their potential… Kaplar is gone.

11. Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves 

Brian Snitker was at the heart of last year’s surprise team, getting the most out of their young stars as they won far more games than anyone thought they would. That success hasn’t quite carried over to this year, but there’s a lot to be optimistic about for Braves fans. He’s navigated a rocky start very well, and continues to show that his players would do just about anything for him.

Snitker has his flaws as a classic old-school guy who trusts the gut over the numbers, but the Braves couldn’t be in a better spot as far as the players-manager relationships go.

10. Bud Black, Colorado Rockies 

Bud Black is in the midst of trying to establish a culture of success for a franchise that has had trouble winning consistently. He hasn’t quite gotten the team rolling early in the season, but has done a great job coaching up their young pitching staff. Black is the leader that quality franchises hang on to, and the Rockies have the talent to compete this year and beyond.

9. Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks 

Torey Lovullo has been huge for his team this season, guiding them to a 23-17 start despite losing their franchise player in Paul Goldschmidt for peanuts over the offseason. Lovullo was the man at the front when the Diamondbacks completely collapsed down the stretch in September of last year, but the NL West was historically competitive that year, so he gets a little slack. Not much, though.

With that and the Goldschmidt trade, few expected Arizona to come out firing like they have. They may still cool down, but Lovullo is quickly working his way up the ranks.

8. Alex Cora, Boston Red Sox 

Alex Cora went through his first true test as a manager when the Red Sox crashed and burned out of the gate in 2019. He eventually managed to right the ship and Boston recently fought back to .500, but nothing was working for a while there. While it’s only his second season, Cora’s rookie debut was impressive enough to warrant a top spot in these rankings; his aggressive usage of starters in playoff games came straight from the A.J. Hinch school of managing, and he seemed to make the right decision at the right time, every time. Cora has a bright future as a manager, and should be a regular in the top ten.

7. Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians 

Terry Francona is steady as they come, nearly leading Cleveland to a championship three years ago. He balances his gut with analytical thinking, and it’s generally hard to find someone to complain about him. Francona has a championship resume, and while the last few seasons in Cleveland have been disappointing, he took them to new heights as soon as he arrived. Francona has been, and will continue to be, in the upper echelon of major league managers.

6. Joe Maddon, Chicago Cubs 

Joe Maddon had one of his worst years as a manager last season, as the Cubs disappointed in just about every manner and not just stumbled, but crawled to the season’s end, finally put out of their misery by Colorado in the wild card round. That doesn’t offset the fact that Maddon is a natural manager who knows what to say and when to say it with balanced decision-making.

Things looked grim early on in Chicago this year, but Maddon deserves credit for getting the team to persevere and come out the other side unscathed, where they’ve slowly turned into one of the better teams in baseball and now own one of the best records in the National League. You know exactly what your’e getting with Maddon at this point, and for the most part, it’s good.

5. Bob Melvin, Oakland A’s 

Bob Melvin has consistently been one of the best managers in baseball over the last couple of years, even if the A’s don’t have a ring to show for it. They overachieved in a big way last year after their original core of young starters went down, and managed to win 97 games while in the same division as the 100-win Astros.

Melvin puts his guys in positions to win and manages to get the most out of them no matter what. He’s a top-tier skipper, and one many teams would love to have.

4. Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers 

Dave Roberts has largely been a huge success while managing in LA. He brought the team to the World Series is back-to-back years and has managed contenders over the last three seasons. His most impressive achievement, though, may be coming in 2019. Despite extensive personnel losses by the Dodgers over the offseason, Roberts’ team burst out of the gate and currently have the best record in the National League.

If they can sustain their success, Roberts will have a strong argument as one of the best managers in baseball. While that unfolds, he remains at the cusp of that elite level, but is still very good.

3. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays

Kevin Cash has proven that whatever it is the Rays do down in Tampa isn’t crazy. He fully embraced the front office’s initiative of constantly rotating pitchers and turned it into a winning team. The Rays have given Cash very little to work with as a manager, and he’s made it work. They managed to notch 90 wins last season despite being in the same division as the Yankees and Red Sox, both 100-win teams in 2018.

Cash has led his team to taking advantage of those same teams’ slow start in 2019, and have the second-best record in the American League right now. Cash does a lot with limited resources and fully embraces the strange and unusual in Tampa Bay as one of the best managers in baseball right now.

2. Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers 

Craig Counsell helped Christian Yellich to a breakout season and rode his superstar to the NLCS, coming within one game of a World Series appearance. As is, the Brewers have picked up where they left off (especially Yellich, my goodness) and sit at the top of the National League. As he did last year, Counsell has handled his motley crew of starting pitching very well, and continues to make it work this year.

Counsell still has to ensure his success wasn’t a fluke and the team can continue to both make and perform in the postseason, but he’s quickly established himself as one of the very best in major league baseball.

1. A.J. Hinch, Houston Astros 

No real surprise here. A.J. Hinch oversaw the development of the superstars that now run Houston, won a World Series championship, and has developed a juggernaut of a team that can beat you many different ways. Not only that, but Hinch’s coaching tree has already bore fruit; Alex Cora went from his bench coach to a world champion manager in the span of one year, and even cited his old boss on a few of his strategies.

Hinch is a great strategist who can develop talent and get the most out of his players. His success is recent by baseball standards, but the Astros have been so dominant that it’s hard to give the top spot to anyone else.