Good Lord, the Cubs weren’t messing around when they aimed to transform their minor league development system over the past year, with a particular focus on this offseason.
They’ve already completely overhauled the structure, and now they’ve announced eight new hires for the system.
This is all from the Cubs’ release – note the connections to private development organizations like Driveline and Elite (which is where the Cubs’ new Director of Hitting Justin Stone came from):
- Casey Jacobson is the organization’s new coordinator of pitching development. Jacobson, 29, is an instructor at Driveline Baseball in Kent, Wash., and in 2019 was an assistant coach at Augustana University in Sioux Falls, S.D., following five seasons as the pitching coach for Macalester College in St. Paul, Minn. During his time at Macalester, the team captured its first MIAC tournament championship and NCAA Regional berth, while Jacobson also trained area high school athletes in arm care and strength programs. The former pitcher began his collegiate playing career at St. Mary’s in Winona, Minn., before he transferred to Augustana for two seasons and then pitched for Roswell in the independent Pecos League in 2013. He graduated from Augustana University with a B.S. in Physics.
- Doug Willey has been named a pitching coach for Rookie League Mesa. Willey, 26, most recently was a graduate assistant bullpen coach at the University of Arkansas where he worked under pitching coaches Wes Johnson and Matt Hobbs. Selected in the 32nd round of the 2016 Draft by the Angels, he pitched one season in the team’s farm system before transitioning to coaching. He pitched collegiately at Franklin Pierce in Rindge, N.H., and at Arkansas. He earned his B.A. in Biology at Franklin Pierce and is completing his Masters of Education at Arkansas.
- Travis Fitta has been named the fourth coach, hitting and baseball development for Single-A Eugene. Fitta, 29, has most recently worked as Director of Hitting Development at Ohio University, utilizing data and tech paired with traditional player development techniques to create individualized hitting programs. He has also spent time working with youth and college-aged hitters at Next Level Academy/Triton Rays in Montgomery, Ala., and at the Texas Pitching Institute in
- Rachel Folden has been named the lead hitting lab tech and fourth coach for Rookie League Mesa. Folden, 32, created Folden Fastpitch in 2010, providing baseball and softball instruction based on biomechanics, science, technology and data, and has also served as a hitting consultant for Elite Baseball Training. She played five seasons (2008-12) in the National Pro Fastpitch league, including time with the Chicago Bandits, and also served as an assistant softball coach at Valparaiso from 2009-10. Folden is a 2008 graduate of Marshall University with a major in history and a minor in mathematics, and was named to the Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame in September of 2019.
- Steven Pollakov has been named the Dominican hitting analytics coordinator. Pollakov, 27, most recently served as a hitting apprentice in the Houston Astros farm system in 2019, integrating technology and biometrics into hitting programs. In 2018, he served as catching coordinator in the Boston Red Sox Dominican Republic Academy. Signed as an undrafted free agent in 2016 by the Chicago White Sox, Pollakov received his Bachelor of Arts in Philosophy and a European Languages Certificate in Spanish from the University of Hawaii in 2015. He is a graduate of Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois.
- Dan Puente has been named the hitting coach for Single-A South Bend. Puente, 37, has been a hitting and catching instructor at Elite Baseball Training since 2012, a technology-infused baseball and softball instructional company created by the Cubs Director of Hitting Justin Stone. Puente also served as an associate scout for the Houston Astros and from 2008-12 was the Manager of Youth Baseball Initiatives for the Chicago White Sox. A former catcher, he was selected by Baltimore in the 12th round of the 2004 Draft and played two minor league seasons.
- Will Remillard has been named the fourth coach, hitting and baseball development for Double-A Tennessee. The 27-year-old Remillard was a development coach with Tennessee last season following a playing career that saw him reach Triple-A Iowa in 2018. Selected by the Cubs in the 19th round of the 2013 Draft out of Coastal Carolina University, the former catcher was a 2014 Midwest League All-Star, and batted .272 (74-for-272) in 86 career minor league games, missing multiple seasons due to a right elbow injury.
- Will Skett has been named the fourth coach, hitting and baseball development for Single-A Myrtle Beach. Skett, 45, started So Cal Hitting Zone in 2012, a baseball training and batting development center that utilizes a data driven approach to improve player performance. As the head varsity baseball coach at Faith Baptist High School in Canoga Park, Calif., the last three years, he guided the team to a 60-6 record while guiding the team to its first-ever State Championship appearance in 2017. Skett is a former outfielder in the Toronto Blue Jays system, hitting .273 (301-for-1,102) with 44 homers in 305 games spanning three seasons from 1996-98, following three years playing for Long Beach State from 1994-96.
Boy howdy. The Cubs pretty clearly are no longer interested in having their lunch eaten by the Dodgers, Astros, Rays, and Yankees on the developmental side. This is the biggest explosion of developmental/tech-focused hiring I could imagine any club undertaking in a single offseason.
Note that the Cubs tried to hire Driveline’s founder Kyle Boddy, but he ultimately went to the Reds, who are allowing him to direct their pitching program while also staying on at Driveline. In Jacobson, the Cubs get that Driveline connection, and a new development coordinator to work under new Director of Pitching Craig Breslow.
The Cubs added a bunch of “fourth coach, hitting and baseball development” to their affiliates, which is definitely a new position. A developmental focus on hitting, I gather? Something slightly different from a traditional hitting coach? Interesting.
One of the hires with a connection to Elite is Rachel Folden, a woman. I know that’s awkward to type out, but it’s notable that a woman will be in a prominent development/tech position for the Cubs as they revamp the system. It’s good to see, particularly with her background.
The Cubs will announce their full minor league coaching staffs and coordinators later.