Power Ranking All 30 MLB Managers Heading into 2020 Season

Zachary D. Rymer@zachrymerMLB Lead WriterMay 27, 2020

Power Ranking All 30 MLB Managers Heading into 2020 Season

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    Is anyone better than Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona?
    Is anyone better than Cleveland Indians skipper Terry Francona?Mary Schwalm/Associated Press

    Assuming it eventually happens, the 2020 Major League Baseball season will be unlike any other.

    But since the responsibility of calling the shots on the field will still fall to one person in each dugout, we endeavored to rank all 30 managers in MLB right now.

    Mind you, assessing how good managers actually are at their jobs is famously tricky. That's in part because they're generally only as good as the players they have to work with, which leads to still another complication: Relatively few of baseball's skippers have proved they can succeed in their current gigs.

    Rather than assume any more than we had to, we gave priority to 12 managers who make up the exception to that last rule. The other 18 are a mix of first-timers, guys stuck in thankless jobs, wild cards and veterans with plenty of experience but who are now facing new challenges.

    In any case, our rankings were informed by records, accomplishments, strategic know-how and leadership qualities.

Newcomers: Ross, Rojas, Shelton and Tingler

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    David Ross
    David RossAssociated Press

    Though several first-time managers have quickly found success in recent seasons, that's no excuse to assume that a lack of managerial experience in itself is a sign of impending success.

    As such, it's only fair that the bottom of this list should be a tie between the league's four newcomers.


    T-27. David Ross, Chicago Cubs

    The Chicago Cubs are taking a chance on David Ross, who went straight into the broadcast booth after retiring as a player in 2016. Yet that same transition has worked out for other managers in recent seasons. Plus, he'll be managing many of the same players who respected him as a teammate in 2015 and 2016.


    T-27. Luis Rojas, New York Mets

    Luis Rojas is only in this position because the New York Mets had little choice but to fire Carlos Beltran after he was implicated in the Houston Astros' cheating scandal. But while Rojas wasn't their first choice, he is a baseball lifer who comes highly recommended.


    T-27. Derek Shelton, Pittsburgh Pirates

    Under veteran skipper Clint Hurdle, the Pittsburgh Pirates did more damage to themselves than they did to opponents during an ugly 93-loss season in 2019. That gives Derek Shelton an easy act to follow, and his experience with the Cleveland Indians, Tampa Bay Rays and Minnesota Twins should serve him well.


    T-27. Jayce Tingler, San Diego Padres

    Jayce Tingler never played in the majors, much less managed in them. As such, he's a wild card for the San Diego Padres. Still, his palpable enthusiasm and willingness to mix old-school and new-school styles should endear him to the club's young and talented roster.

Some Patience Required: Hyde, Gardenhire, Mattingly and Servais

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    Don Mattingly
    Don MattinglyAssociated Press

    This next section is reserved for managers who should have better days ahead of them but who are stuck doing thankless jobs for rebuilding teams.


    26. Brandon Hyde, Baltimore Orioles

    Brandon Hyde's first season as manager of the Baltimore Orioles was marked by 108 losses and a notable altercation with veteran slugger Chris Davis. Things can only get better from there, and he should soon have the young talent to make that a reality.


    25. Ron Gardenhire, Detroit Tigers

    Ron Gardenhire had it made with the Minnesota Twins from 2002 to 2010, but his last six seasons as a manager have produced 595 losses. Similar to Hyde, however, he's anxiously awaiting the moment when the Detroit Tigers' rebuild will give him some shiny new toys to play with.


    24. Don Mattingly, Miami Marlins

    Don Mattingly hasn't had it as easy with the Miami Marlins as he did with the Los Angeles Dodgers, but it's understandable that the Marlins want him right where he is for the foreseeable future. Challenging though his time with Miami has been, he's at least kept the team's clubhouse from turning toxic.


    23. Scott Servais, Seattle Mariners

    Scott Servais has altered winning and losing seasons in his four years with the Seattle Mariners. Yet it's a good look for him that the Mariners dramatically overachieved in his best season (2018). Plus, last year's 94 losses don't seem so bad in light of how many players he had to juggle. Once Seattle's rebuild begins to bear fruit, his chance to shine will finally arrive.

Much to Prove: Roenicke, Kapler and Matheny

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    Gabe Kapler
    Gabe KaplerDarron Cummings/Associated Press

    This next section is for new managers who aren't lacking in experience but who are surrounded by question marks as they prepare to take on difficult challenges with new teams.


    22. Ron Roenicke, Boston Red Sox

    It's been five years since Ron Roenicke last managed in the majors—and nearly a decade since his high point with the Milwaukee Brewers in 2011. What's more, the team he's taking over is mired in scandal and missing Mookie Betts, David Price and Chris Sale. Though Roenicke was getting good reviews during spring training, it'll be a surprise if he's still with Boston in 2021.


    21. Gabe Kapler, San Francisco Giants

    The Philadelphia Phillies actually overachieved under Gabe Kapler's watch in 2018 and 2019, but he was nonetheless a controversial choice to succeed future Hall of Famer Bruce Bochy as the San Francisco Giants' manager. Though he's taking over a veteran-laden roster, his job will hinge on how he handles the team's upcoming young talent.


    20. Mike Matheny, Kansas City Royals

    With the St. Louis Cardinals from 2012 to 2018, Mike Matheny racked up a .555 winning percentage and took the team to the World Series in 2013. Yet his tenure was also marked by struggles with both tactics and leadership. So despite his prior achievements, he has much to prove as he prepares to manage a franchise that's rebuilding under new ownership.

The Jury's Out: Montoyo, Bell, Woodward and Renteria

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    David Bell
    David BellAssociated Press

    This section is for managers who have shown some promise but who are facing the biggest tests of their leadership in the face of heightened expectations for 2020.


    19. Charlie Montoyo, Toronto Blue Jays

    Though the Toronto Blue Jays lost 95 games in 2019, first-year skipper Charlie Montoyo did well in guiding Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Bo Bichette and Cavan Biggio to promising results. Following big offseason investments in Hyun-Jin Ryu and others, it's now on him to get Toronto closer to contention.


    18. David Bell, Cincinnati Reds

    In his first year with the Cincinnati Reds, David Bell co-led the majors in ejections and the team lost 87 games. Yet he did oversee a dramatic improvement for the club's starting pitchers, and he now has some bats to work with after a flurry of offseason signings. If he's up to it, the Reds will contend this year.


    17. Chris Woodward, Texas Rangers

    After taking over a club that lost 95 games in 2018, rookie manager Chris Woodward drove an improvement to just 84 losses in 2019. That was in part because his pitching and offense performed admirably under pressure. Though Woodward will have his work cut out for him in 2020, his debut is a strong foundation to build on.


    16. Rick Renteria, Chicago White Sox

    Rick Renteria doesn't have much to show for his four years as a manager, in which he's 274-373 with both Chicago clubs. Yet his reputation as a players' manager precedes him, and it might explain why Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jimenez broke out last season. In the wake of the White Sox's expensive offseason, Renteria will need more of that mojo to make their October dreams come true.

New but Not Inexperienced: Baker, Girardi and Maddon

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    Joe Maddon
    Joe MaddonMasterpress/Getty Images

    This section is for managers who have been there and done that with other teams but who are in relatively unfamiliar territory with new teams.


    15. Dusty Baker, Houston Astros

    The Houston Astros chose wisely in picking Dusty Baker to guide them through the fallout of their sign-stealing scandal. His 1,863 wins as a manager are a testament to his talent for keeping whatever house he's in charge of in good order. The big question, though, is how well an old-school skipper will mesh with Houston's famously hands-on front office.


    14. Joe Girardi, Philadelphia Phillies

    The Phillies could have done far worse in choosing Joe Girardi as Kapler's successor. He won 910 games and a World Series in 10 years with the New York Yankees, during which he gained plenty of experience in dealing with high-priced stars. A similar challenge awaits with the Phillies, up to and including high expectations and limited patience on the part of the team's fans.


    13. Joe Maddon, Los Angeles Angels

    Joe Maddon's time with the Cubs didn't end well, and there's some question as to whether his managerial style is as innovative as it used to be. Yet his credentials still include 1,252 wins, two pennants and a World Series title. And after the Cubs supposedly cramped his style in 2019, the Los Angeles Angels will surely give him more freedom to get creative from the dugout.

12. Bud Black, Colorado Rockies

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    John McCoy/Getty Images

    Rockies Record (W-L%): 249-238 (.511)

    Managing the Colorado Rockies comes with difficulties that simply don't apply to other teams. As such, the only manager in their history to lead them to back-to-back postseasons commands a certain level of respect.

    After nine mostly forgettable years with the Padres, Bud Black did that deed in his first two seasons with the Rockies in 2017 and 2018. The latter, in particular, reflects well on him because of how much better the '18 Rockies were than the sum of their parts.

    That speaks in part to how well Black juggled a lineup that was weak beyond Nolan Arenado, Charlie Blackmon and Trevor Story. Especially given the issues the bullpen had in the latter season, it's also a small miracle the Rockies posted a 3.52 ERA in late and close situations across the '17 and '18 campaigns.

    Of course, Black's magic touch wore off in 2019. Basically nothing went right, and the Rockies plummeted to 91 losses. And with Arenado seemingly sure to be traded, Black's outlook for 2020 isn't much sunnier.

    Nonetheless, he's still one of few managers with a winning record at their current post.

11. Rocco Baldelli, Minnesota Twins

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    Jim Mone/Associated Press

    Twins Record (W-L%): 101-61 (.623)

    Rocco Baldelli had never managed in the minors or the majors before the Minnesota Twins gave him the job. Plus, he was the first skipper hired from outside the organization in more than three decades.

    Suffice it to say Minnesota's gamble on Baldelli paid off. Though the end result was being swept in the American League Division Series, he led them to the second-best regular season in franchise history.

    On the surface, it's a credit to Baldelli that the Twins won more games than they should have. Harder to narrow down, however, is what Baldelli contributed to the effort.

    He generally stuck with his starters longer than he should have. He eschewed the stolen base. And while the Twins ranked second in the majors in defensive shifts, those shifts yielded an unspectacular .309 average. Such things may have loomed as larger threats if the offense hadn't blasted a record 307 home runs.

    Yet this is not to suggest Baldelli didn't deserve to win the American League Manager of the Year Award. Managing is just as much about personalities as percentages. By all accounts, Baldelli's relaxed attitude and willingness to collaborate made a huge difference with the former.

10. Mike Shildt, St. Louis Cardinals

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    Michael Reaves/Getty Images

    Cardinals Record (W-L%): 132-99 (.571)

    Not much was going right for the Cardinals when they fired Mike Matheny midway through the 2018 season. Mike Shildt fixed that, leading to club to a respectable 41-28 finish.

    Despite the small sample size, St. Louis realized then that it had something with Shildt in charge of the clubhouse and dugout. It removed his interim tag in August, much to the excitement of his players.

    "It's pure excitement," pitcher Dakota Hudson said. "We've been out there playing behind him and having a lot of fun. So for him to be our guy now, and it to be official, it's awesome."

    Schildt captured the National League Manager of the Year Award for 2019 after leading the Cardinals to 91 wins and the NL Central title plus an upset victory in the first round of the playoffs. His specific contributions include the team's much-improved defense and somewhat overachieving bullpen.

    In 2020, Schildt must find ways to squeeze more runs out of his offense. It might help to try more lineup variations, as he basically spent 2019 doing the same thing over and over and expecting better results.

9. Dave Martinez, Washington Nationals

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    Elsa/Getty Images

    Nationals Record (W-L%): 175-149 (.540)

    Dave Martinez finished just 82-80 in his first season as the Washington Nationals' manager in 2018. During a 19-31 start to 2019, some were calling for his ouster.

    Instead, the Nats stuck with their guy and were rewarded with a 74-38 finish to the regular season and a miraculous postseason run that ended in the franchise's first World Series championship.

    It's perhaps fair to credit Martinez for the clutch gene that served the Nationals well all season. Even before they cranked out clutch hit after clutch hit in October, they had led the NL in OPS with runners in scoring position. Martinez also pushed the right buttons with his pinch-hitters, who put up a solid .261 average.

    His biggest challenge, meanwhile, was an undermanned bullpen that posted an NL-high 5.68 ERA. But Martinez did well to downplay that by letting his starters eat innings. Come October, his genius solution was to keep feeding innings to aces Stephen Strasburg, Max Scherzer and Patrick Corbin.

    Could another manager have done these things? Maybe. But only one manager did.

8. Torey Lovullo, Arizona Diamondbacks

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    Jennifer Stewart/Getty Images

    Diamondbacks Record (W-L%): 260-226 (.535)

    In his first season as Arizona Diamondbacks manager in 2017, Torey Lovullo reversed the team's fortunes.

    In the wake of a 69-93 season in 2016, Lovullo led the Diamondbacks to a 93-69 record and a victory in the National League Wild Card Game. The effort netted him the NL Manager of the Year Award, which right fielder David Peralta traced back to Lovullo's key talent: "I think the difference for us is communication."

    After a modest 82-win campaign in 2018, Lovullo arguably did his best work last season. Despite an offseason trade of slugger Paul Goldschmidt and a midseason trade of ace Zack Greinke, the D-backs won 85 games.

    Granted, some figures suggest Arizona has underachieved (see here, here and here) under Lovullo. Yet his influence indeed goes beyond his communication. His bullpen has a 3.88 ERA since 2017 despite its low strikeout rate, which is surely related to the decent returns on his defensive shifts.

    With Madison Bumgarner and Starling Marte now aboard and a wealth of young talent waiting in the wings, Lovullo's best work may still be ahead of him.

7. Brian Snitker, Atlanta Braves

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    John Bazemore/Associated Press

    Braves Record (W-L%): 318-292 (.521)

    The Atlanta Braves were just 9-28 when Brian Snitker took over for Fredi Gonzalez early in 2016. They went nearly .500 the rest of the way, and there's little doubt now that Snitker is the real deal.

    In 2018, Snitker was named the NL Manager of the Year after guiding the Braves to 90 wins and the NL East title. That was a case of a rebuilding team's arriving ahead of schedule, which is a credit to how well Snitker managed a predominantly young roster.

    "He's done a phenomenal job," first baseman Freddie Freeman said. "It's very difficult to handle 25 different personalities, and he's one of the best at being able to do that."

    Still more difficulties awaited Snitker in 2019, including an inconsistent rotation and a bullpen that was kind of a mess at the outset of the season. Atlanta nonetheless finished with the fifth-best ERA in the NL. For this, Snitker should get credit for how his pitchers crushed high-leverage situations.

    After losing in the National League Division Series in 2018 and 2019, all Snitker has to do now is win a postseason series.

6. Kevin Cash, Tampa Bay Rays

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    Bob Levey/Getty Images

    Rays Record (W-L%): 414-396 (.511)

    It's no secret the manager of the Tampa Bay Rays must be creative in order to squeeze wins out of payrolls that typically rank at the bottom of the league.

    Joe Maddon did this well in his nine years at the helm, and Kevin Cash has proven to be no slouch since taking over in 2015. In particular, his last two seasons are marked by assorted strokes of genius.

    In 2018, the Rays got out to a 21-22 start before Cash started reliever Sergio Romo in consecutive games May 19 and 20. That was the proper beginning of the "opener" trend, which helped the Rays to a 3.50 ERA and 69-50 record the rest of the way.

    Cash continued to mix and match his pitchers in 2019. He rarely let his starters go through the order a third time, and his relievers were excellent in late and close situations. Between that, their reasonably effective shifts and constantly changing lineups, the Rays won 96 games.

    In the words of Rays general manager Erik Neander: "I don't think there's any individual member of our staff that has more to do with our success than Kevin."

5. Craig Counsell, Milwaukee Brewers

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    Joe Robbins/Getty Images

    Brewers Record (W-L%): 405-381 (.515)

    Though Craig Counsell won two World Series rings in a 16-year career as a player, he's proving to be an even better manager.

    He lost more than he won in his first season-and-a-half with the Milwaukee Brewers, but his last three have produced 86, 96 and 89 wins. What's more, the Brewers outperformed their expected records in each (see here, here and here) of those three seasons.

    In the last two years, Counsell has certainly benefited from Christian Yelich's transformation into arguably the best player in the NL. Yet Counsell's ingenuity has also been a factor in Milwaukee's success—and never more so than last season.

    To wit, his many lineup variations helped the Brewers overcome the injuries—including Yelich's season-ending knee injury—and slumps that constantly threatened their offense. He also salvaged a 4.40 ERA by keeping his starters on a short leash and guiding his relievers to a surprising number of shutdowns.

    Alas, it all ended in heartbreak in the NL Wild Card Game. But in fairness, that was no fault of Counsell's.

4. Aaron Boone, New York Yankees

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    Kathy Willens/Associated Press

    Yankees Record (W-L%): 203-121 (.627)

    The New York Yankees enjoyed plenty of success under Joe Girardi between 2008 and 2017, but the disconnect between him and the club's increasingly youthful roster necessitated a change in leadership.

    Enter Aaron Boone, who had been working in broadcasting after retiring as a player following the 2009 season. All he's done since then is become the first manager in baseball history to win 100 games in each of his first two seasons.

    Regarding New York's 100-62 effort in 2018, it was easy to chalk it up to circumstances that Boone had little control over. Specifically, it wasn't because of him that the club's offense hit a then-record 267 home runs. 

    But in 2019, the Yankees won 103 games despite a history-making bite from the injury bug. Surprise performances DJ LeMahieu, Gio Urshela, Mike Tauchman and Cameron Maybin helped drive a 306-homer outburst. Boone also frequently spared his starters from a third trip to the order, instead trusting a star-studded bullpen that's made a habit of owning late and close situations.

    All told, it's to Boone's credit that the Yankees overachieved in 2019 even more than they did in 2018. All he needs now is a signature postseason triumph.

3. Dave Roberts, Los Angeles Dodgers

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    Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press

    Dodgers Record (W-L%): 393-256 (.606)

    Before taking the reins of the Los Angeles Dodgers in 2016, Dave Roberts' managerial experience consisted of one measly game with the San Diego Padres in 2015.

    Four years later, he has an NL-high 393 wins, a Manager of the Year and two National League pennants to attest to his capabilities as a manager. Of those, arguably his best trait is his ability to get his players to buy into whatever the team requires of them.

    All managers have to do this, to be sure, but Roberts' challenge is heightened by the Dodgers' sheer depth. Last season, for example, resulted in 106 wins even though didn't use a single batting order more than three times while also using 16 different pitchers at least 20 times.

    Also, don't overlook Roberts' defensive shifts. Though the Dodgers haven't shifted as often as one might think since 2016, hitters' .285 average against their shifts is the lowest in MLB in this span.

    Of course, Roberts' occasionally iffy bullpen management is one reason the Dodgers are still riding a 32-year championship drought. But in his defense, there are other reasons that have nothing to do with him.

2. Bob Melvin, Oakland Athletics

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    Eric Risberg/Associated Press

    Athletics Record (W-L%): 731-664 (.524)

    Bob Melvin first took over the Oakland Athletics on an interim basis in June 2011. He's now the longest-tenured manager in Major League Baseball, and one of the most successful ones to boot.

    Melvin first tasted excellence with the A's between 2012 and 2014, guiding the team to 278 wins and three straight playoff berths. Back then, he made his mark as a master of the platoon advantage.

    More recently, Melvin piloted the A's to back-to-back 97-win seasons in 2018 and 2019. He's continued to mix up his lineups, as there were only two batting orders he used as many as three times in '19. He also used defensive shifts sparingly but effectively. He likewise managed Oakland's pitching staff to a 3.97 ERA even though it lacked stars in both the rotation and the bullpen.

    Yet those around Melvin are often more enthused with what he does behind the scenes. He lets his players be themselves, but also effectively communicates what he and the organization expect of them.

    There's but one thing Melvin's resume with the A's is lacking: a win in a postseason series.

1. Terry Francona, Cleveland Indians

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    Patrick Semansky/Associated Press

    Indians Record (W-L%): 638-494 (.564)

    Now that Bruce Bochy is retired, Terry Francona is the only active manager with multiple World Series titles. Both came as the skipper of the Boston Red Sox in 2004 and 2007.

    His time with the Cleveland Indians hasn't been quite as successful, but he's still won 144 more games than he's lost since taking the job in 2013. That's the result of him carrying on as an affable leader, though his ability to roll with the punches has also been a factor.

    In the middle of the 2010s, that meant becoming an innovative bullpen manager. Indeed, it's remarkable that the Tribe nearly won the 2016 World Series even though Corey Kluber, Andrew Miller and Cody Allen were Francona's only viable postseason arms.

    More recently, effective shifting, excellent high-leverage pitching and a frequent platoon advantage (see here and here) on offense helped the Indians achieve an unlikely 93-win season in 2019. They had gone into the year with a reduced payroll, and Francona then had to overcome Kluber's injury, Jose Ramirez's first-half slump and the eventual trade of Trevor Bauer.

    Ultimately, Francona's tenure with the Indians is proof that he can win under any and all circumstances.


    Stats courtesy of Baseball Reference and FanGraphs.