They could pull in someone from outside the organization to mentor their batters, or they could promote from within.
The Pirates went with the latter option, officially elevating assistant hitting coach Jeff Branson to the top job Monday afternoon. Branson, 46, was the hitting coach for Triple-A Indianapolis from 2009-12, then ascended to assistant with the Pirates for the 2013 season.
Pittsburgh also announced former minor-league hitting coordinator Jeff Livesey will join NL manager of the year Clint Hurdle‘s staff in a yet-to-be-determined role. It’s a safe assumption Livesey will work under Branson in some form or fashion.
Branson will be the Pirates’ third hitting coach in as many years, as Bell served just one season following the departure of Gregg Ritchie to manage George Washington University last winter. In 2013, the Pirates ranked in the middle of the NL in batting average (11th), on-base percentage (eighth), slugging percentage (seventh) and runs scored (ninth), but were third in home runs.
Branson’s task will be to continue the development of young hitters like Starling Marte (and probably top prospect Gregory Polanco) while further polishing the skills of key players like Andrew McCutchen, Pedro Alvarez and Neil Walker.