Dale Sveum has rounded out his coaching staff for 2013 yesterday, he removed the interim tag from hitting coach James Rowson, and added David Bell to the staff as the third base coach.
More on David Bell from Cubs.com
Bell, 40, managed in the Reds’ Minor League system the last four seasons, most recently guiding the Triple-A Louisville club in 2012. Prior to Louisville, Bell was the manager for Double-A Carolina from 2009-11. The ’09 season was his first as a manager or coach at the professional level after a 12-year Major League career, which ended in 2006.
A former infielder, Bell batted .257 in 1,403 Major League games for six different teams — the Indians (1995, ’98), Cardinals (1995-98), Mariners (1998-2001), Giants (2002), Phillies (2003-06) and Brewers (2006). Sveum was Milwaukee’s third-base coach in ’06.
So David Bell fills the role of what Ryne Sandberg would have been if he was still in the organization in my opinion. I like adding Bell to the staff, he’s only six years removed from playing in this league, and was always one of those smart ball players, hopefully he brings a lot to the development side of this team. I also think having Rowson stick around as the full-time hitting coach makes sense, the results might not have been there for everyone but no use in bringing in someone new before Rowson can have a full season to work with players.
Those weren’t the only moves yesterday as the Cubs announced that assistant GM Randy Bush has been given a three-year contract extension. Bush was the assistant GM under Jim Hendry in 2011 and is in the good graces of Theo Epstein given how much he helped Epstein with the transition to President of Baseball Operations. Cubs.com has the other moves announced.
The Cubs also announced Louie Eljaua has been promoted to special assistant to the general manager and director of international scouting. Paul Weaver, who was the director, will now be an international cross-checker and coordinator for the Pacific Rim. Alex Suarez was promoted to assistant director of player development.
The team also said Mark O’Neal, the Cubs’ athletic trainer since 2004, will stay with the organization but in a different role.
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When Theo Epstein came on board this off-season one story he told really stuck with me. It was when Theo was with Boston in 2011, and it was during the 2011 first year player draft. As the rounds flew by, Theo remarked in the war room that the Cubs finally “got it” in regards to the players that they were drafting. On one hand it’s a sobering statement considering I’ve been a fan of a team that was viewed by other teams as basically incompetent when it came to drafting and building a strong farm system. On the other hand it might have been the first time that Theo had the thought of joining the Cubs to see this process through. I didn’t like a lot of what Jim Hendry and company did here in Chicago, but there were some positives, and the 2011 draft class is one of them. That draft class signaled the change in philosophy for the Cubs, and Theo has assumed control and the responsibility of making sure that the organizational depth gets better each year.
The reason I’m writing about this today, or at least the article that prompted me to put my thoughts out here today, is from Jim Callis of Baseball America. If you don’t read Baseball America, or Jim’s work I highly suggest you do as he is a tremendous prospects resource. Any way, a couple of weeks back he published BA’s top 50 midesason prospects list which featured Javier Baez coming in at 25th overall (2011 1st round draft pick). Jim followed up that list with a new midseason prospect report that includes where some of the 2012 draft picks would be ranked. All any Cubs fan has to do is take a look at this list to see the impact of Theo Epstein so far.
#25 – Javier Baez (2011 – 1st Round Pick) – Hendry
#31-32 – Albert Almora (2012 – 2nd Round Pick) – Theo
#36-37 – Jorge Soler (2012 – FA Signing) – Theo
Just like that the Cubs have three players in the top 40, two of which have yet to pick up a bat in a game as a professional. By the end of the year these players could be higher, and there could be even more players on the list. This list doesn’t include Anthony Rizzo who was called up in late June, but he would have been a top 10, maybe top 5 prospect at this point. Instead he has stabilized a Cubs team that was in a free fall to the tune of a 12-4 record since June 25th.
The one thing that is clearly lacking from an improved Cubs system is not only pitching depth, but impact, power arms. Enter the trade deadline, and Theo’s next test. The Cubs have a countless number of players that can and most likely will be traded by July 31st. With these trades hopefully comes some of that pitching depth that has been absent from the Cubs system forever. The 2012 draft, which we will expand on very soon, brought in a number of quality, yet unproven arms, at least at a professional level. If just a couple of those pitchers take big steps and Theo hits big on the impending trades then we might be talking about a top 10, maybe even top 5 farm system by this time next year.
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The Cubs fired hitting coach Rudy Jaramillo today, Rudy was in the final year of a three-year deal. Something like this was bound to happen sooner or later given the Cubs poor offensive performance this year. It’s not like Rudy had much to work with, but the hitting coach is usually the first coach to be held responsible when the offense is failing. Jaramillo was also one of the last remaining coaches that Jim Hendry hired, and his aggressive approach clearly didn’t mesh with the “Cubs Way”, which is probably why we haven’t seen too much of that this year.
The Cubs have named minor league hitting coordinator James Rawson to take over for Jaramillo as the Cubs hitting coach on an interim basis. Rawson was previously with the Yankees for the last six years, four of those were as the minor league hitting coordinator. I will update this story as necessary.
Thanks for reading, go Cubs!