It took a little longer than usual for these announcements to be made but the Cubs finally released their Minor League coaching staff assignments and officially named their new Minor League pitching and hitting coordinators. Perhaps the changes made to the MLB coaching staff caused a trickle down effect in which the organization wanted to take their time and make sure everyone is on the same page heading into the 2018 season. It is imperative at the Minor League level to have a cohesive development plan across all levels.
The good news is, there are relatively few changes across the system, which should provide for great stability. The four full season managers all return. Marty Pevey will become the longest tenured manager in Iowa Cubs history and is primed to hit a pair of personal milestones this April. He is not only three wins shy of the franchise record for victories (356) but he is also three wins shy of 1,000 in his career. This comes a season after Myrtle Beach manager Buddy Bailey became just the 11th man in Minor League Baseball history to amass more than 2,000 wins. Mark Johnson returns for his 3rd straight season in Tennessee and Jimmy Gonzalez for his 4th with South Bend.
Now on to the changes. After leading the Eugene Emeralds to two consecutive League Championship Series (and a 2016 title), Jesus Feliciano moves up the ladder and replaces Jacob Cruz as the hitting coach in Tennessee. That vacancy exists because Cruz has been promoted to the post of Minor League hitting coordinator. Last year was the first in the organization for the nine year MLB veteran, but after a successful stint with the Smokies, the Cubs rewarded him with a stint as the hitting coach for the Mesa club in the Arizona Fall League, and now Cruz will be in charge of overseeing the hitters at all levels.
The Cubs also had a vacancy to fill for the pitching coordinator job as well. This time they went outside the organization to fill to role. The ownership changeover in Miami allowed the Cubs to hire Brendan Sagara away from the Marlins. A pitching coach with 17 years of experience, he was the assistant pitching coordinator for the Marlins last season.
Replacing Feliciano in the Eugene dugout will be Steve Lerud. This will mark the coaching debut for the recently retired former pro catcher. Carmelo Martinez, Lance Rymel and Pedro Gonzalez return to their posts leading the Rookie Level Mesa and the Cubs two Dominican Summer League clubs respectively. Some exciting news comes in the form of the announcement that the Cubs will field a second Rookie League team in Mesa beginning in 2018. The club will be lead by longtime Cubs farmhand Jonathan Mota, who spent last season as the hitting coach in South Bend.