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Rays announce minor league coaching staffs for 2019, front office moves

The press release is provided in full.

MLB: Spring Training-New York Yankees at Tampa Bay Rays Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Per a team press release:

The Tampa Bay Rays have named the minor league on-field coaching and medical staffs for the 2019 season.

Among the organizational changes are Craig Albernaz (field) and Tomas Francisco (catching) moving into roles as minor league coordinators, Brady Williams managing Triple-A Durham, Reinaldo Ruiz managing Class-A Bowling Green and Rafael Valenzuela managing the Rookie-level Gulf Coast League Rays. Morgan Ensberg was hired to manage Double-A Montgomery and Jeff Smith was hired to manage Class-A Charlotte. In addition, Quinton McCracken (coach) will join the Durham staff and Brady North (coach) will join the GCL Rays staff.

Albernaz, 36, has been named minor league field coordinator, joining Michael Johns. Last season, he was named Midwest League Manager of the Year, leading Bowling Green to its first championship in their nine seasons in the Midwest League. The title wrapped up a historic campaign for the Hot Rods, as their 90 wins led Minor League Baseball and set a record for a Rays affiliate. Following the season, Bowling Green was named Baseball America’s Minor League Team of the Year. In 2017, as manager of Short-A Hudson Valley, Albernaz led the Renegades to their third New York-Penn League title in franchise history. He was a coach with Hudson Valley in 2016 and with Rookie-level Princeton in 2015. He had a nine-year playing career as a minor league catcher, eight of which he spent in the Rays organization.

Francisco, 30, has been appointed minor league catching coordinator, replacing Paul Hoover, who was named to Kevin Cash’s coaching staff as major league field coordinator. Francisco spent the previous two seasons on the coaching staff for the GCL Rays. Prior to that, he spent three seasons on the Dominican Summer League Rays staff after retiring from a four-year playing career in the Rays system. The former catcher originally signed with the Rays on May 3, 2006 and started his professional career with the DSL Rays. He reached as high as Bowling Green in 2010.

Williams, 39, becomes Durham’s manager after five seasons at the helm for Montgomery. Last year, he led the Biscuits to a postseason berth for a fourth consecutive season. They finished the regular season with 79 wins, their most since 2007. Previously, Williams managed Charlotte (2013), Bowling Green (2010-12) and Hudson Valley (2009). He coached at Class-A Vero Beach in 2008 after serving the previous two years as a coach at Class-A Columbus (2007) and Southwest Michigan (2006). Williams was selected by the Boston Red Sox in the 45th round of the 1999 June Draft, and the former first baseman played five seasons of minor league ball with the Red Sox (1999-2001), Minnesota Twins (2002) and Rays (2003) before joining the coaching ranks. He is the son of former Rays special instructor and big league manager Jimy Williams.

Ruiz, 38, returns to manage Bowling Green after spending one season at the helm for Charlotte. He managed the Hot Rods from 2015-17, leading them to the postseason twice and a then-franchise-record 84 wins in 2016. During the 2016-17 offseason, he coached the Brisbane Bandits of the Australian Baseball League and helped them win the Claxton Shield trophy. Ruiz served as hitting coach for Princeton (2012-14), Hudson Valley (2010-11) and the GCL Rays (2009), and as catching instructor for the Rookie-level Venezuelan Summer League Rays (2007-08). He has also coached first (2013-14) and third base (2014-15) for the Bravos de Margarita in the Venezuelan Winter League, and spent two years (2005-06) as the hitting coach for the Navegantes del Magallanes in the VWL after concluding an eight-year career as a professional catcher.

Valenzuela, 31, was named manager of the GCL Rays, and it will mark his first season managing at any level. He has served as a coach for three different affiliates, most recently with Princeton last season. For the second half of the 2017 season, he replaced Craig Albernaz, who was named manager of Hudson Valley, on the Durham coaching staff. He began his coaching career with the GCL Rays in 2016 following a four-year playing career in the Houston Astros organization (2010-13).

Ensberg, 43, joins the Rays organization to manage Montgomery, replacing Brady Williams. He spent the previous two seasons managing in the Astros system, with Class-A Buies Creek in the Carolina League last year and with Short-A Tri-City in the New York-Penn League in 2017. He spent the 2016 season as the Astros minor league mindset coach, the 2014-15 seasons as the Astros minor league special assignment coach and the 2013 season as the infield coach at Class-A Lancaster. He joined the coaching ranks in 2011 and spent two seasons as a hitters and infielders coach for the University of California San Diego. Ensberg played parts of eight seasons in the majors with the Astros (2000, 2002-07), San Diego Padres (2007) and New York Yankees (2008). He was named the Astros MVP in 2005, when they won the National League pennant. He also came to Rays camp as a non-roster invite in 2009, but was released at the end of spring training.

Smith, 44, joins the Rays organization to manage Charlotte, replacing Reinaldo Ruiz. He has spent the last 14 seasons coaching or managing at the professional level, including the last two seasons in the majors as first base coach for the Twins, where he also assisted with catching instruction and baserunning. Prior to that, he managed in the Twins organization for Class-A Fort Myers (2008-09, 2015-16), Double-A New Britain (2010-14) and Class-A Beloit (2006-07) and coached for the GCL Twins in 2005. He was named Florida State League Manager of the Year in 2009, leading the Miracle to an 80-58 record. Smith was selected by the Twins in the 1995 June Draft and played in the organization through the 2002 season. He also played minor league ball in the Red Sox (2003) and Texas Rangers (2004) organizations. He totaled 658 games in the minor leagues before suffering a career-ending left knee injury.

McCracken, 48, joins the Durham coaching staff after one season as the minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator for the Miami Marlins. He spent the previous five seasons in the front office of the Astros, two as the director of player personnel (2016-17) and three as the director of player development (2013-15). Before joining the Astros, he worked two seasons in the front office of the Arizona Diamondbacks as their assistant director of player development. McCracken played in the majors for parts of 12 seasons from 1995–2006, including three seasons for the Rays. He was the club’s second selection in the 1997 Expansion Draft and started the team’s inaugural game in 1998, batting leadoff and playing center field. He scored the first run and recorded the first stolen base in franchise history. He was named Team MVP for the Rays in 1998, when he hit .292 (179-for-614) with seven home runs, 59 RBI and 19 stolen bases. He also compiled an 18-game hitting streak and recorded 18 outfield assists, still a club record, that season. McCracken attended the 1998 Devil Rays 20-year reunion last season.

North, 27, joins the coaching staff of the GCL Rays, and it will mark his first coaching experience in the professional ranks. Most recently, he was the director of hitting and mental performance at Top Level Athletes in Orlando, where he created and implemented individualized hitting programs through the use of movements, data and mental conditioning. Previously, he served as an assistant coach at Cumberland University, where he also played collegiately for the 2014 NAIA National Championship Team. He graduated from Cumberland with a master’s degree in sport and exercise science. He was the hitting coach for two seasons at Gaither High School in Tampa, including the 2016 state championship team.

Other changes to the minor league coaching and medical staffs for the 2019 season: Coach German Melendez will move from Charlotte to Princeton, coach Ivan Ochoa will move from the DSL Rays to Charlotte, conditioning coach Sergio West will move from Princeton to Charlotte and conditioning coach Paul Jones will move from Charlotte to the GCL Rays.

For the major league staff, the Rays have hired Jean Ramirez as bullpen catcher, replacing Mayo Acosta; and Josh Rodrigues as replay administrator.

In baseball operations, Sandy Sternberg has been hired as director, development strategy; and Kate Martinez as assistant sports dietician.

Promotions within baseball operations include Ryan Bristow to assistant director, pro scouting; Cole Figueroa to assistant director, hitting development; Hamilton Marx to assistant director, amateur scouting; Ryan Harmon to lead sports dietitian, baseball performance science; Samantha Bireley to coordinator, baseball administration; Ryan Pennell to coordinator, baseball performance science; Simon Rosenbaum to coordinator, baseball development; and Jeremy Sowers to coordinator, major league operations.