To most MLB fans of a certain age, former Chicago Cubs pitcher Mark Prior is remembered as one of the most gut-wrenching stories in recent baseball history.
Rather than becoming a star on the bump, Prior has instead reinvented himself as the pitching coach for Dave Roberts and the Los Angeles Dodgers.
After finishing third in Cy Young voting and winning 18 games with a 2.43 ERA at age 22, Prior would record a 4.27 ERA in the next three seasons, and injuries forced him out of the majors for the final time at age 25.
Prior joined the Dodgers as bullpen coach in 2018 before becoming the pitching coach last season.
While it sounds easy to be the pitching coach for a rotation that features names like Walker Buehler, Max Scherzer, and Julio Urias, it’s not always a walk in the park when it comes to making sure all of those superstars are pitching like superstars. Prior is not only helping them perform, but he’s helping them exceed expectations.
Despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw has been injured for two months, Dustin May has been out for four months, and Trevor Bauer is in legal limbo thanks to his sexual assault allegations, the Dodgers have a sub-3.00 ERA since the All-Star break.
Prior is starting to build a very impressive body of work, and it should be enough to get him some interviews for managerial openings in the offseason.
Dodgers pitching coach Mark Prior has proven he can be a manager
Prior came into the pitching coach role in a tough situation. Not only did he need to help Buehler and Urias develop while maintaining Kershaw’s excellent production, but he joined in a pandemic-shortened 2020 season after the departure of Rick Honeycutt, who had served in that role since 2006.
All Prior has done in 2021 is help make Buehler the favorite for NL Cy Young, develop Urias to the point where he is the MLB leader in wins with 16, and push players like David Price and Tony Gonsolin to fill the void in the rotation until they acquired Scherzer.
When his 2021 performance is mixed in with the fact that he helped a cast of characters that had a very diverse combination of pitching styles come together and win a World Series in 2020, his ability to turn pitching staffs around makes him more than qualified to lead a team.
Considering that some managers have been hired out of the broadcast booth or front office with no relevant coaching experience in recent years, Prior has a resume that warrants at least some interviews. The Dodgers would be sad to see him go, but Prior is becoming such a strong coaching candidate that it may be hard to pass on him if you need a new manager.