Following his purchase of the Mets from the Wilpon family, Steve Cohen and newly appointed team president Sandy Alderson relieved Brodie Van Wagenen of his position and removed many of his top aides, including Special Assistant to the General Manager Omar Minaya, Assistant General Managers Allard Baird and Adam Guttridge, and Executive Director of Player Development Jared Banner. According to Jon Heyman, the Mets will be replacing Banner with Kevin Howard as their new Executive Director of Player Development.
According to his predecessor, Howard’s job will be “to find innovative and creative ways to help our players get better from the time they sign with us until they reach the major leagues.” He will be tasked with working with other executives as well as the minor league coaches, coordinators, and instructors under him to develop strategies and policies to maximize the potential of the players in the system. Given his role, Howard will not be working with individual players as much as he will be developing organizational strategies, such as pitch usage for pitchers or batters focusing on taking pitches. The Executive Director of Player Development also deals with background issues that nonetheless have a major impact on how players grow and mature as ballplayers, as Dominic Smith can attest to: nutritional habits, sleeping habits, mental health, and physical health.
Howard’s rise to prominence began in 2015, when he was hired by Barry University in Miami as a coach and recruiter. When the collegiate season concluded, Howard was hired by Cleveland to serve as hitting coach for their Short-A affiliate, the Mahoning Valley Scrappers; the team was third of fourteen in league OPS, up from tenth the year prior. In 2016, he was moved up to the High-A Lake County Captains; the team was six of sixteen in league OPS, down from third the year prior. In 2017, served as hitting coach for the Low-A Lynchburg Hillcats; the team was second of ten in league OPS, down from first the year prior. In 2018, he was moved up to the Double-A Akron RubberDucks; the team was third of twelve in league OPS, up from sixth the year prior. In 2019 he was promoted to hitting coordinator, working as a liaison between individual coaches and coordinators from each minor league team and player development executives to develop and implement strategies to best develop every hitter’s abilities.
Before his coaching career, Howard was a minor league veteran. He went to Westlake High School in California and was drafted by the Padres in the 1999 MLB Draft but declined to sign with them and went to the University of Miami instead. In his three years there, he hit a cumulative .369/.444/.557, helped lead the Hurricanes to a national championship, was named to numerous honorary teams and won all kinds of awards, including Baseball America’s Freshman of the Year in 2000. He was eligible for the 2002 MLB Draft and was drafted by the Cincinnati Reds, who picked him in the 5th round. He signed with them and spent the next decade bouncing around in the minors, playing for the Reds, the Yankees, the Dodgers, the Phillies, the Mariners, the Padres, the Cardinals, and Blue Jays, reaching as high as Triple-A. His numbers as a whole were solid— he was a .285/.353/.441 hitter in 364 Triple-A games over 5 seasons and a .281/.333/.410 hitter in 382 Double-A games over 6 seasons— but his overall package was entirely fungible to Major League teams, leading to him never being promoted to the majors. He played in the indies in 2013 and 2014, unable to get a job in professional ball, and eventually retired as a player in 2014.