Cubs: The rundown on the minor-league staff

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Cubs: The rundown on the minor-league staff

The Cubs are betting big on this youth movement, the idea of player development. So even if these names dont jump out into headlines, they will be doing important work behind the scenes.
Whether thats helping Brett Jackson with his two-strike approach at Triple-A Iowa, or guiding Arodys Vizcaino as he recovers from Tommy John surgery in Des Moines, there needs to be some finishing touches.
At some point next year, Cubs fans should be able to drive to Class-A Kane County and see some of the prospects Albert Almora and Jorge Soler who are supposed to be foundation pieces in Theo Epsteins rebuilding project.
Heres a look at the minor-league staff the Cubs unveiled on Tuesday:
Triple-A IowaMarty Pevey (manager)Mike Mason (pitching coach)Brian Harper (hitting coach)Nick Frangella (athletic trainer)Ed Kohl (strength coach)
Note: Pevey had worked as the organizations catching coordinator for the past three seasons, running his experience to almost three decades in professional baseball. Harper who won a World Series ring with the 1991 Minnesota Twins moves up a level after managing at Double-A Tennessee and Class-A Daytona.
Double-A TennesseeBuddy Bailey (manager)Jeff Fassero (pitching coach)Desi Wilson (hitting coach)Scott Barringer (athletic trainer)Ryan Clausen (strength coach)
Note: This will be Baileys 25th year as a manager in the minors. Fassero pitched for nine teams in the big leagues and went 121-124 with a 4.11 ERA during his 16-year career. Look for top prospect Javier Baez to be in Tennessee by the second half of next season if he continues on this fast track.
Class-A DaytonaDave Keller (manager)Storm Davis (pitching coach)Mariano Duncan (hitting coach)Peter Fagan (athletic trainer)
Note: Keller has been with the organization for almost a decade, earning a good reputation as a hitting instructor. Davis who won 113 games during his 13-year career in the big leagues is a new hire. He spent the last two seasons as the pitching coach at Class-A Hickory, an affiliate of the Texas Rangers. Before that, he helped The Bolles School in Jacksonville, Fla., win back-to-back state titles in 2009 and 2010.
Class-A Kane CountyMark Johnson (manager)Ron Villone (pitching coach)Tom Beyers (hitting coach)Shane Nelson (athletic trainer)
Note: Johnson, the former White Sox catcher, gets bumped up after managing two seasons at Class-A Boise. Villone pitched for 12 teams in the majors, and he could be working with some of the more interesting arms in the system, Pierce Johnson and Dillon Maples, trying to help get them to that level. On some nights, it could be worth sitting through the traffic to get to Geneva.
Class-A BoiseGary Van Tol (manager)David Rosario (pitching coach)Bill Buckner (hitting coach)Jonathan Fierro (athletic trainer)
Note: After five seasons as a volunteer coach and serving as an associate scout, Van Tol has been elevated. He has extensive experience in the college game after coaching at Gonzaga University and the University of Portland. Buckner the Curb Your Enthusiasm guest star returns for his second season on the job.
Mesa (Rookie)Bobby Mitchell (manager)Anderson Tavares (pitching coach)Rick Tronerud (rehab pitching coordinator)Ricardo Medina, Jimmy Gonzalez (hitting coaches) Steve Melendez (athletic trainer) Yi-Chiang Chang (rehab strength coach)
Dominican (Rookie)Yudith Ozorio (manager) Leo Hernandez (pitching coach)Oscar Bernard (hitting coach) Wilkin Perez (athletic trainer)
Note: The Cubs will only have one Dominican team next season. Osmin Melendez will manage the Venezuelan Cubs, a newly created team, with Franklin Blanco working as the hitting coach.
Tim Cossins who has spent the past 10 seasons in the Miami Marlins organization will help oversee it all as the minor-league field coordinator. The Marlins draw far more attention for their fire sales, but they have a good job developing impact players like Giancarlo Stanton.
The Cubs consider Derek Johnson to be a signature hire. Johnson had resisted other chances to leave Vanderbilt University, where he coached several top prospects, including future Tampa Bay Rays ace David Price, the American Leagues Cy Young Award winner in 2012. As the new minor-league pitching coordinator, Johnson will try to address the systems biggest weakness the lack of impact arms.
Anthony Iapoce, a special assistant in player development, will oversee the minor-league hitting program while working on other projects within the organization. The last three seasons he worked as a roving hitting coordinator for the Toronto Blue Jays.
Carmelo Martinez, whos been a presence for the Cubs in Latin America, becomes the hitting coordinator for Class-A, Rookie League and Dominican League teams. Jose Flores joins the organization as the minor-league infield coordinator. Lee Tinsley is back for his third year as the outfieldbaserunning coordinator. Doug Jarrow (strength and conditioning), Justin Sharpe (athletic training) and Chuck Baughman (rehabilitation) also return as coordinators.
There are roughly two months left until pitchers and catcher report to Arizona.

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How Ian Happ helped the 2017 Cubs find their identity

How Ian Happ helped the 2017 Cubs find their identity

How Ian Happ helped the 2017 Cubs find their identity

In the span of just over a week, Ian Happ has gone from arguably the Cubs' biggest trade piece to the 2017 savior.

OK, "savior" is extreme, but Happ has been an unlikely stabilizing force for the defending world champions.

In a week's worth of big-league action (seven games), Happ has smacked six extra base-hits, scored seven runs and posted a 1.182 OPS. But his impact has been so much more than just the numbers on the back of his Topps card.

Happ's presence has helped the Cubs reinvent themselves.

The plan heading into the 2017 season was to have Kyle Schwarber lead off and Ben Zobrist reprise his 2016 role as lineup protection for Anthony Rizzo.

But with Schwarber struggling atop the order, Happ's presence has freed up the ever-patient Zobrist to become the team's new leadoff as the week-old rookie is now protecting a perennial MVP candidate in Rizzo.

"It's all based on Ian Happ," Joe Maddon said. "I'm still very aware of protecting Rizzo. And that's where Zobrist came in handy. Now to this point, I'm looking at last month's numbers, Zo's really ascending and Schwarbs has come back a little bit regarding just getting on base.

"So Zo's the most likely candidate among all the groups to try to get on base more often and Rizzo's still protected with Ian. Just moving everybody down one slot with Ian there taking the role of Zobrist, I kinda wanted to give it a try."

It's only one game, but the refurbished lineup scored 13 runs Sunday, collecting 10 extra-base hits and scoring in seven of eight offensive innings.

Happ was right there in the middle of it all, smoking a 108 mph double off the right field wall in the first inning and doubling again later in the game. 

Zobrist homered. Rizzo homered. Bryant — who said hitting third is where he's most comfortable in the lineup — crushed a pair of homers and reached base five times. Schwarber went 1-for-3 with an RBI and a walk.

With Happ's presence bumping Schwarber down in the order, Maddon also has moved back to hitting the pitcher last.

"In my mind's eye, I'm more able or wanting to hit the pitcher ninth again because Schwarber is moved back," Maddon said. "Part of the method was to try to feed Schwarber with a nine-hole hitter."

With Happ in the lineup, the Cubs are averaging 6.3 runs per game. 

Again, it's a small sample size and the Cubs were due for an offensive explosion after a slow start to the season, but Happ has been a central figure.

"Nothing surprises me [with him]," Bryant said. "We all saw what he can do in spring. It's not surprising at all. He's definitely provided a spark for us since he's been up.

"He's just been great out there, moving all over the field. I don't even know what his main position is, but if it's center field, he's out there doing a good job, too."

Willson Contreras helped provide the 2016 Cubs with a jolt of energy when he made his debut in mid-June. Happ is doing the same thing this season, though his arrival has come a month earlier in the 2017 campaign.

Happ has only played one full season of professional baseball and appeared in just 91 games above A-ball before making his big-league debut.

But he's looked like he belongs from the outset, blending into a clubhouse that has welcomed so many young position players over the last few years.

Maddon's message to Happ upon arriving was simple: Why don't you stay a while?

It's not as catchy as "try not to suck," but it has helped Happ relax.

"Sometimes, we underestimate the impact we have on anybody," Maddon said. "In my situation, as a manager to the player, so you say something like that just trying to get somebody to relax and who knows?

"Like Javy with 'try not to suck' a couple years ago, who knows how it's processed and how it permits the player to process the day? I knew how good [Happ] was in spring training, I knew how good he's been this season and I just know how he is.

"So there was no reason for him not to approach it like, 'I want to stay a while.'"

Happ spent most of his time in the minors as a second baseman, but with Baez and Zobrist around, Maddon doesn't see a way to work the rookie in the infield at this time.

But then again, two weeks ago, nobody could fathom how the Cubs could possibly work another position player into the lineup on a consistent basis, but that's worked itself out. Right now, it's Albert Almora Jr. being relegated to the bench as Happ has taken over in center field.

Of course, there's still more than four months left in the season and things will undoubtedly change again. 

But for now, Happ has forced the issue and altered the entire identity of the 2017 Cubs.