Former catcher piloted Double-A Reading to back-to-back division championships
By Evan Webeck
PHILADELPHIA -- Dusty Wathan will change Minor League zip codes next season, as he will move about an hour down the road and a level higher in 2017, taking over as the manager at Triple-A Lehigh Valley after spending the last five years with Double-A Reading.
Wathan will take over for Dave Brundage, who general manager Matt Klentak decided not to retain after consulting director of player development Joe Jordan.
"Joe and I sat down at the end of the Minor League season and we talked about it. We felt like it was time to move forward and make a change there," Klentak said. "We just felt it was time to make a change and we feel we have a ready replacement in house. Actually with the big league team right now, and he'll be our Triple-A manager next year -- it's Dusty Wathan."
Neither Wathan nor Brundage were hired by the current regime.
Phillies top outfield prospect Nick Williams didn't have the smoothest introduction to Triple-A under Brundage. The now-ousted manager benched the 22-year-old multiple times throughout the season for showing a lack of hustle. Klentak, however, praised Brundage's handling of the situation at the time.
"I think Dave has handled it very well, and I think Nick has handled it very well," Klentak said in June. "Water under the bridge."
Wathan, a 43-year-old former catcher, led the Fightin' Phils to the best record in the Eastern League this season and their second consecutive Eastern Division championship, though they were eliminated in the first round of the playoffs this season.
Many of the Phillies' top prospects will likely follow Wathan to Triple-A. Among those who carried Reading to a .631 winning percentage this season were outfielder Dylan Cozens and first baseman Rhys Hoskins, who slugged 40 and 38 home runs, respectively, leading all Minor League Baseball.
"I don't take it lightly," Wathan said of grooming players for the Majors. "It's an important step, the place to finish these guys and get them ready for Philadelphia. It might be the most important step."
Klentak noted the challenges that come with managing a Triple-A team, calling it the most difficult level to lead at in professional baseball with the eclectic mix of veterans and prospects. Wathan cited the eight years he spent at the level as a player, saying he's confident in his ability to make the jump from Double-A to Triple-A followed by a large chunk of his division-winning Reading team.
"I think it will be a unique situation next year just because we'll have so many guys that came through the system, so many guys that have already played for me," Wathan said. "It won't be like a lot of typical Triple-A teams where we're going to have a lot of free-agent guys that aren't happy with the situation. We're going to have a bunch of guys that have come through the system and are excited to try and get here. In that sense it will be unique to most Triple-A teams."
Evan Webeck is a reporter for MLB.com based in Philadelphia. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.