With Pitching Coach Chris Bosio and Hitting Coach John Mallee both now relieved of their posts in Chicago, and Bench Coach Dave Martinez up for jobs elsewhere (among other personnel changes), the Cubs clearly have had some hiring to do this winter.
Fortunately, they’ve already gotten things started by adding former big-leaguer Chili Davis to the team as the new hitting coach.
Davis played for five different teams during his 19-year Major League career (and was the first Jamaican-born Major Leaguer on top of that!), but I’m guessing not many of you are especially familiar with him, particularly in his post-playing days. So, like we do with new players, let’s take a second and get to know the Cubs new hitting coach. Cool? Cool.
Starting with his playing career.
Although Davis was brought up as a right-hander (that’s how he throws/fields), he was coaxed into becoming a switch-hitter upon arriving in the Minor Leagues with the Giants, and boy was that the right call. Through 9,996 Major League plate appearances (seriously?! someone give this guy four more hacks!), Davis finished with a solid .274/.360/.451 slash line, good for a 118 wRC+ during his era.
Moreover, he walked nearly 12% of the time during his big league career, while striking out in just 17% of those plate appearances. When you combine all of that with a .177 ISO and 350 career home runs, you can say, at a minimum, that the Cubs grabbed a GREAT Major League hitter, with the right approach, to be their hitting coach.
Of course, being good at baseball and having plenty of experience doesn’t always make a person a great coach. BUT being a great coach usually makes a person a great coach, so it’s nice to see he’s had some success in that arena, too.
After retiring from baseball in 1999, Davis worked his way up baseball’s coaching ladder.
He started as a hitting coach for the Australian National Baseball team (three years), before being hired as the Dodgers Instructional League hitting coach in 2010. A year later, Davis was hired to be the hitting coach for the Red Sox Triple-A affiliate, and just one season after that, he was hired on as the Oakland Athletics hitting coach – his first MLB coaching job.
A few years later, Davis returned to Boston to be the Red Sox hitting coach (2014-2017) and that’s where he’s been until today.
And if you’ve been paying close attention over the past few years, you’ll know that the Red Sox have had a series of big-time positional prospects debut (and succeed) just around the time Davis was brought into the fold. Specifically, Xander Boegarts (2013 debut), Jackie Bradley Jr. (2013), Mookie Betts (2014), and Andrew Benintendi (2016) have all more or less blossomed under his tutelage. That sort of experience with young, extremely talented hitters could translate directly to the Cubs, who have a similar crop of positional youngsters.
So, in Chili Davis, the Cubs have checked a lot of boxes: He was a great Major League hitter with the right approach/mentality at the plate (talent), he’s been a highly sought-after hitting coach for multiple teams over the years (pedigree), and he’s already worked with the type of young players he’ll see in Chicago before (experience).
It feels weird to say goodbye to a hitting coach who helped a team reach three-straight NL Championship Series, but in terms of a replacement, the Cubs appear to have done quite well.