As noted in the Bullets this morning, it looks like the Cubs have snagged a top college coach to be their molder of young pitchers.
One of college baseball’s most respected and accomplished pitching coaches is leaving for a job in professional ball. Baseball America learned Sunday that Vanderbilt associate head coach Derek Johnson will become the Cubs’ minor league pitching coordinator.
Johnson, the 2010 Baseball America/ABCA Assistant Coach of the Year, deserves a great deal of credit for helping Tim Corbin build Vanderbilt into an elite program on the national level. Johnson joined the Vandy staff a year before Corbin was hired as head coach in 2002, and Corbin made the wise decision to keep him on the staff. In the last decade, Johnson has earned a glowing reputation among his peers and the scouting community for his ability to develop power arms, including David Price, Mike Minor, Sonny Gray, Jeremy Sowers and plenty of others.
“He’s had as much impact on our program as anyone,” Corbin told BA in the fall of 2010. “I think what D.J. has done with these kids is far-reaching. He’s kept them healthy, he’s made each one of them better. You look at the kids, the pitchers specifically, that have come out of our program, being able to pitch at the next level—it goes without saying . . . We would not have our success without having him on our staff.”
The move hasn’t yet been officially announced by the Cubs, but it looks like a done deal. It is just the latest in a long stretch of organizational changes that began with the introduction of Theo Epstein as President of Baseball Operations last year around this time. It is also just the latest example of the Cubs identifying and targeting a top talent, and doing what it took to bring that talent into the fold.
BA regards the hire as an excellent one for the Cubs, and believes Johnson is a flexible, knowledgeable instructor. He is also a proponent of long-toss regimens, so that will be interesting to follow. Long-toss, which involves throwing the ball over incredible distances, is a controversial method of arm conditioning because we don’t yet have any hard data on its ability to actually improve/protect the health of pitchers’ arms. Some folks swear by it, and others look at it – at guys throwing from one corner of the outfield to the other – and say, “This is nuts.”
Like I said, it will be interesting to follow. We don’t know that Johnson will impose a long-toss program, or, if he does, whether it will be for some or all prospects in the system.
All we know right now is that the Cubs continue to do what they can to bring in top men for spots within the organization.