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Cubs announce 2016 minor league coordinators

The Chicago Cubs today announced the club’s minor league coordinators for the 2016 season.

Tim Cossins returns for his fourth season as the organization’s minor league field and catching coordinator following 10 years in the Miami Marlins farm system, including the final six as the minor league catching coordinator. He was also a manager in the Marlins minor league system from 2003-07. Cossins began his coaching career in 2000 and in 2001-02 was the major league bullpen catcher for Kansas City. The former catcher played eight minor league seasons (1993-2000) in the Rangers, Yankees and Expos organizations.

Jim Brower enters his first year as the Cubs minor league pitching coordinator after spending the last three seasons as the pitching coach for the Kansas City Royals Double-A affiliate, Northwest Arkansas. He served in the same role for two seasons at Single-A Kane County prior to joining Northwest Arkansas. Brower appeared in nine big league seasons, going 33-32 with a 4.67 ERA (298 ER/574.0 IP) and 397 strikeouts in 354 major league games (28 starts). The right-hander led the majors with 89 appearances in 2004 with San Francisco.

Andy Haines enters his first year as the Cubs minor league hitting coordinator after spending the last two years as manager of the Marlins Triple-A affiliate, New Orleans. In 2012, Haines led Single-A Jupiter to the Florida State League Championship Series, falling one game short of capturing the title. All told, Haines was a manager in the Marlins system for seven years, compiling a 449-467 (.490) record. Prior to joining the Marlins, he was the manager of the Windy City Thunderbolts of the independent Frontier League, going 68-28, in 2007.

Jose Flores returns for his fourth season as minor league infield coordinator and his 16th year as a coach or manager. Flores spent two seasons as manager of the Puerto Rico National baseball team (2011-12) and was a bench coach for Ponce Leones in the Puerto Rico Baseball League (2010). He handled similar duties for the Gaguas Criollos baseball club in 2008, the same year he managed the Cleveland Indians Dominican Summer League team. After playing six seasons in Houston’s minor league system (1990-95), he began his coaching career in the Puerto Rico Winter League (2001-06).

Doug Dascenzo begins his second year as the organization’s minor league outfield and baserunning coordinator. Dascenzo has 17 years of coaching experience following a career that saw him play in parts of seven seasons in the majors, including five with the Cubs from 1988-92. Prior to joining the Cubs, Dascenzo spent the previous three seasons with Atlanta, including serving as the third base coach for the major league club in 2014. After retiring from baseball, he coached in the Padres farm system from 1999-2011, including six seasons as a minor league manager.

Dave Keller enters his 31st season as a minor league coach or manager, his 13th year in the Cubs organization and his second as minor league Latin America field coordinator. He managed Single-A Daytona in 2013-14 and led the club to the 2013 Florida State League title after he served as Iowa’s hitting coach in 2012. In 2011, he was the Cubs major league staff assistant after seven years (2004-10) as the organization’s minor league hitting coordinator. Keller was a major league staff assistant and bullpen catcher for Cleveland from 2001-03 following two years as the organization’s minor league hitting coordinator. He managed in the minor leagues in the Cincinnati (1987-89), Cleveland (1990-94) and White Sox (1996) organizations, and was named the 1993 Carolina League Manager of the Year with Single-A Kinston. The former first baseman played in the Reds organization for three seasons (1982-84).

Mike Mason begins his third season as assistant pitching coordinator after spending the previous six years as Triple-A Iowa’s pitching coach. He has 24 years of coaching experience following a seven-year big league playing career with Texas (1982-87), the Cubs (1987) and Minnesota (1988). Prior to joining the Cubs, he served as Kansas City’s minor league pitching coordinator (2004-07), while also handling interim pitching coach duties at the major league level in 2004. Mason served as pitching coach for Philadelphia’s Triple-A Scranton/Wilkes-Barre club in 2002-03 after serving as Kansas City’s minor league pitching instructor the previous two seasons (2000-01). He began his coaching career in Kansas City’s minor league system from 1991-99.

Tom Beyers returns for his 17th season with the Cubs organization and his second as the minor league assistant hitting coordinator, following two seasons as Single-A Kane County’s hitting coach. He was the short-season hitting coordinator in 2012 following one season as the minor league hitting coordinator in 2011. Beyers joined the Cubs in 2000 and was a minor league manager or coach for 11 seasons, including manager of Single-A Boise in 2004, a season in which he led the club to the Northwest League title and earned league manager of the year honors. A former outfielder, he spent his first 21 seasons in professional baseball with the Dodgers as a player, coach or manager after he was selected by Los Angeles in the 15th round of the 1979 draft.

Josh Lifrak returns for his second season with the Cubs as the club’s director, mental skills program. He is tasked with the development, implementation and supervision of the Cubs mental skills training program for all levels of the organization. Prior to joining the Cubs, he spent 10 years as the Senior Mental Conditioning Consultant for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida. Lifrak earned his Bachelor of Arts in Sociology from the University of Rhode Island in 1994 and earned a Masters of Science, Exercise Science with a concentration in Sports Psychology from Ithaca College in 2005.

Rey Fuentes begins his fourth season with the organization and second as Latin Coordinator, Mental Skills Program, following two years as cultural programs coordinator. In this role, he oversees all educational classes and mental skills programs for the Cubs Latin American players. Prior to joining the Cubs, he coached and taught physical education in the Orlando area.  Fuentes graduated from Barry University in Miami Shores, Florida, in 2002 with a degree in Exceptional Student Education.

Darnell McDonald begins his second season as the organization’s mental skills program coordinator and will work with players throughout all levels of the farm system. McDonald served as a Cubs baseball operations assistant in 2014 following his retirement after 16 professional seasons. He was selected by Baltimore in the first round of the 1997 draft and played for the Cubs in 2013.

Doug Jarrow begins his ninth season as Chicago’s minor league strength and conditioning coordinator. He previously spent five years in the Dodgers organization, including 2003-05 as the minor league strength and conditioning coordinator and 2006-07 as the major league strength coach. Jarrow began his career as a minor league strength and conditioning coach with Tampa Bay in 1998 and Pittsburgh in 1999.

Nick Frangella begins his 13th season with the organization and his third as head minor league athletic training and performance coordinator. He spent the previous two seasons as Triple-A Iowa’s athletic trainer.

Chuck Baughman enters his 16th year with the Cubs organization, his third season as assistant athletic training coordinator.  He spent the previous eight seasons as a rehabilitation coordinator and joined the organization as Single-A Boise’s athletic trainer in 2001. His career in professional baseball began in 1999 when he was the athletic trainer for Single-A Clinton in Cincinnati’s system.

Rick Tronerud returns for his 21st year with the Cubs and his third as minor league rehab pitching coordinator.  He spent the previous 13 seasons with Rookie League Mesa, serving as the club’s rehab pitching coach. Tronerud joined the organization in 1996 as the pitching coach at Rookie League Fort Myers after pitching (1972-81) and coaching (1982-89) in Oakland’s farm system.

Cubs agree to terms with OF Jason Heyward

Heyward(Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images)

The Cubs and outfielder Jason Heyward have agreed to terms on an eight-year contract through the 2023 campaign.

Heyward, 26, joins the Cubs as a three-time Gold Glove Award winner and 2010 National League All-Star and Rookie of the Year runner-up who has qualified for the postseason in four of his first six major league campaigns with the Braves (2010-14) and Cardinals (2015). The left-handed batter and thrower has averaged 31 doubles, four triples, 19 home runs, 68 RBI, 72 walks and 17 stolen bases per 162 games, turning in a .268 batting average with a .353 on-base percentage, .431 slugging percentage and .784 OPS in 835 major league games.

The 6-foot-5, 245-pound Heyward has consistently ranked as one of the best defensive outfielders in all of baseball. He won Gold Glove Awards in 2012, 2014 and 2015 and has made multiple top 10 finishes in outfield assists (including leading all right fielders in 2012 and 2014), putouts as a right fielder (first in 2012 and 2014), fielding percentage and defensive WAR.

Heyward set career highs in several offensive categories last year with St. Louis, including a .293 batting average, 33 doubles, 160 hits and 23 stolen bases in 154 games, his most since playing in a career-best 158 games in 2012. He posted a .359 on-base percentage, his best mark since his career-best .393 on-base percentage in his rookie season, while his .797 OPS was his best since 2012. His 6.5 WAR ranked fifth among all National League position players, and he captured his third Gold Glove in the last four years.

Selected by Atlanta in the first round (14th overall) of the 2007 draft, Heyward made his major league debut three years later, connecting for a three-run homer in his first-career plate appearance against the Cubs on Opening Day, April 5, 2010. His rookie campaign featured an All-Star selection, though he did not play due to injury, and an .849 OPS, the second-best OPS by a National League rookie since 2010 (behind only Kris Bryant’s .858 mark in 2015). Heyward was named NL Rookie of the Month in April and May and ranked fourth in the league with a .393 on-base percentage.

Heyward set a career high with 27 home runs, 82 RBI, 93 runs scored and six triples in 158 games with the Braves in 2012, also winning his first Gold Glove Award. He capped his Braves career in 2014 with another Gold Glove before being traded to St. Louis on Nov. 17, 2014 as part of the four-player deal that sent pitcher Shelby Miller to the Braves.

Born in Ridgewood, New Jersey, Heyward graduated from Henry County High School in McDonough, Georgia and turned down a scholarship from UCLA to sign with the Braves out of high school. Heyward’s father, Eugene, played basketball collegiately at Dartmouth University.

Cubs agree to terms with RHP Trevor Cahill

TrevorCahill(Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty)

The Cubs and right-handed pitcher Trevor Cahill have agreed to terms on a one-year contract.

Cahill, 27, went 1-0 with a 2.12 ERA (4 ER/17.0 IP) in 11 relief appearances with the Cubs last season after signing a minor league deal with the club on Aug. 18 and having his contract selected on Sept. 1. While with the Cubs, he limited batters to a .143 average, a .226 on-base percentage and a .268 slugging percentage for a .494 OPS against. Cahill turned in a 0.76 WHIP and struck out 22 batters in 17.0 innings, for an average of 11.6 per nine innings. In the postseason, he saw action in six games and went 1-1 with a 3.38 ERA (2 ER/5.1 IP), fanning eight in 5.1 frames.

The right-hander broke into the big leagues with Oakland in 2009 and was an 18-game winner a season later, going 18-8 with a 2.97 ERA in 30 starts while earning AL All-Star honors along the way. Overall, Cahill won 10 or more games in four straight seasons (2009-12) and is 65-72 with one save and a 4.13 ERA in 212 major league outings (39 in relief) with Oakland (2009-11), Arizona (2012-14), Atlanta (2015) and the Cubs.

Chicago’s 40-man roster now stands at 39 players.

Cubs and RHP John Lackey agree on two-year deal

JohnLackey(Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

The Chicago Cubs and right-handed pitcher John Lackey have agreed to terms on a two-year contract through the 2017 season.

Lackey, 37, went 13-10 with a career-best 2.77 ERA (67 ER/218.0 IP) in 33 starts with the St. Louis Cardinals last year, his 13th major league campaign. He finished ninth in Cy Young Award voting after matching his career high in starts, and his 218.0 innings pitched were second-most in his career (highest since his career-best 224.0 innings in 2007). Lackey ranked seventh in the National League in ERA, as he now joins a starting rotation for next season featuring three of the top 15 ERAs in the NL from 2015 (Jake Arrieta, second at 1.77; Jon Lester, 15th at 3.34).

The 6-foot-6, 235-pound Lackey is 165-127 with 18 complete games, eight shutouts and a 3.92 ERA in 388 major league games, all but one as a starter, with the Angels (2002-09), Red Sox (2010-11 and 13-14) and Cardinals (2014-15). His 2,481.1 innings pitched since the start of the 2002 campaign are fourth-most in the majors while his 165 victories and 387 starts both rank fifth, and his 1,965 strikeouts rank sixth.

Lackey has 12 double-digit win seasons since 2003, second-most in the majors behind only Mark Buehrle (13), and has posted 10 or more wins in every full season he has pitched since 2003. Lackey has reached the 200-inning mark six times, including 218.0 innings last season, and has made 31 or more starts in a season eight times.

The right-hander owns an 8-5 record with a 3.11 ERA (44 ER/127.1 IP) in 23 career postseason games, including 20 starts. His eight postseason victories are second-most among active pitchers, trailing only CC Sabathia’s nine victories. Lackey went 1-0 with a 3.48 ERA in two NLDS outings vs. the Cubs.

In 2013, Lackey went 10-13 with a 3.52 ERA in 29 starts for the World Champion Red Sox after missing the previous campaign recovering from Tommy John surgery performed in November of 2011. He went 3-1 with a 2.77 ERA in five postseason games (four starts) during the club’s World Series run.

Named an American League All-Star in 2007, Lackey set career marks with 19 wins and 224.0 innings pitched for the Angels. He led the AL with a 3.01 ERA that season en route to a third-place finish in the AL Cy Young vote. The 2007 campaign also marked his fifth-straight with at least 32 starts.

Lackey made his major league debut with the Angels in 2002, going 9-4 with a complete game and a 3.66 ERA in 18 starts before he went 2-0 with a 2.42 ERA in five postseason outings (three starts). He won Game 7 of the World Series against the San Francisco Giants on three days rest, becoming the first rookie pitcher to win a World Series Game 7 since Pittsburgh’s Babe Adams in 1909.

A native of Abilene, Texas, Lackey was originally selected by the Angels in the second round of the 1999 draft out of Grayson County College in Denison, Texas.

Chicago’s 40-man roster now stands at 38 players.

Cubs acquire LHP Brothers from Rockies

RexBrothers(Brian Bahr/Getty Images)

The Cubs acquired left-handed pitcher Rex Brothers from the Rockies for minor league left-hander Wander Cabrera. The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 38 players.

Brothers, who turns 28 next month, is 16-11 with 61 holds, 20 saves and a 3.42 ERA (92 ER/242.1 IP) in 286 major league relief appearances with Colorado covering the last five seasons. He has struck out 278 hitters in 242.1 innings, an average of 10.3 strikeouts per nine innings, while limiting opposing batters to a .243 average, including a .224 average to left-handed hitters. He has allowed only 21 home runs in his 242.1 innings. Brothers has finished three of his five seasons with a sub-3.00 ERA, while two of his campaigns have featured a sub-2.00 ERA.

The 6-foot, 210-pound Brothers broke into the big leagues with the Rockies in 2011 and posted 16 holds with a 2.88 ERA in 48 appearances during his rookie campaign before going 8-2 with a career-high 18 holds and a 3.86 ERA in a career-high 75 outings in 2012. Brothers spent time as Colorado’s closer in 2013 when he earned 19 saves with a 1.74 ERA in 72 appearances.

Brothers split the 2015 season between Colorado and Triple-A Albuquerque, going 1-0 with a 1.74 ERA in his 17 big league relief appearances. He limited major league left-handed hitters to a .227 batting average.

The southpaw was originally selected by Colorado in the supplemental first round (34th overall pick) of the 2009 draft out of Lipscomb University. He is a native of Murfreesboro, Tennessee.

Cabrera, 18, went 4-3 with a 2.34 ERA (11 ER/42.1 IP) in 14 appearances (seven starts) in his first professional season with the Cubs Dominican Summer League team.

 

Two Cubs farmhands on AFL’s top 20 prospects list

Contreras,-Willson-5.11(Photo by Roger C. Hoover)

The crop of Cubs prospects representing the organization at the 2015 Arizona Fall League might have lacked the hype that accompanied Kris Bryant, Javier Baez or Addison Russell in recent years. However, a few prospects did raise their profile in the showcase league and could be part of the next wave of budding stars.

On Tuesday, MLB.com’s Jim Callis unveiled his top 20 prospects from the AFL, and a pair of Cubs made the list.

5. Willson Contreras, C, Mesa (Cubs No. 10 prospect): After leading the Double-A Southern League in batting (.333) and extra-base hits (46), he continued his breakout 2015 by hitting .283/.361/.547 before straining a hamstring. Like [Gary] Sanchez, Contreras is an offensive-minded catcher with enough defensive skills to be a big league regular.
MLB ETA: 2017

11. Jeimer Candelario, 3B, Mesa (Cubs No. 20 prospect): The Cubs keep churning out impressive offensive prospects, and here’s yet another. Candelario is a switch-hitter with legitimate power (he ranked second behind Sanchez with five homers, 13 extra-base hits and 50 total bases) and arm strength, though he may not have the agility for third base.
MLB ETA: 2017

The 23-year-old Contreras, a converted third baseman, slugged .891 during the Double-A season and was named the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year. He debuted in the Cubs system in 2009 as a 17-year-old in the Dominican Summer League and could be knocking on the major league door sooner than later.

Candelario, who turned 22 on Tuesday, hit .291/.379/.462 between High-A and Double-A in 2015. It was a nice jump from a subpar 2014, though he’s always been one of the younger players at each of his respective stops. He signed with the Cubs in September 2010.

 

Cubs Arizona Fall League Stats Recap

PierceJohnson(Miranda Perez/MLB)

Mesa struggled as a team during the 2015 Arizona Fall League season, limping to a 9-21 record and a last place finish in the East division. Despite a poor showing in the standings, there were some promising players who raised their stock heading into the 2016 season. Here are the final stats from the Cubs prospects in the AFL:

AFLHitters

The headliner in this group is certainly Jeimer Candelario, who made the midseason Fall Stars team. He finished second in the league in total bases and tied for second in home runs. The infielder was also top three in doubles and hits and top 10 in batting average and runs batted in. Willson Contreras had a solid season before a hamstring issue shortened his fall. One of the more interesting stats was Mark Zagunis’ 19 bases on balls, which was tops in the league and gave the catcher-turned-outfielder an on-base percentage more than 200 points higher than his average—and second best OBP in the AFL. Cael Brockmeyer, who got into games only twice a week as a taxi squad player, didn’t have a great line, but he also demonstrated his on-base abilities.

AFLPitchers

Though the offensive numbers have dropped in recent years, the AFL is still seen as a hitters league, and the Cubs’ pitching prospects might have fallen victim to their power-hitting opponents. Rob Zastryzny flexed his strikeout muscles, finishing third in the league in punchouts. He put up a solid WHIP as well, taking fourth among pitchers with five starts or more. Pierce Johnson, one of the organization’s top pitching prospects, didn’t have the greatest fall season, but his last few starts better represented the player many believe he can be. Overall, his strikeouts were sixth in the league. David Garner surprised some with a steady effort out of the bullpen. Though his walk total was a tad high, his 9.0 K/9 rate was good.

Cubs Arizona Fall League: 11/19/15

Mesa concluded its AFL slate with a 5-1 loss to Glendale. A few Cubs got into the season finale. Here’s how they fared:

  • 1B Cael Brockmeyer (.194) walked to lead off the second inning. He scored the Solar Sox’s only run three batters later and finish 0-for-3.
  • DH Jeimer Candelario was 0-for-4 on the day, but hit .329 on the season.

The team finished with a 9-21 record. Scottsdale will take on Surprise for the AFL title game Saturday.

Cubs claim LHP Jack Leathersich from Mets

Leathersich(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)

The Cubs claimed left-handed pitcher Jack Leathersich off waivers from the Mets. The club’s 40-man roster now stands at 32 players.

Leathersich, 25, went 0-1 with a 2.31 ERA (3 ER/11.2 IP) in 17 relief appearances for the Mets last season, his first appearance at the major league level. He struck out 14 in 11.2 innings with 14 of his 17 appearances resulting in scoreless outings before requiring Tommy John ligament replacement surgery at the end of July.

The 5-foot-11, 200-pound southpaw was originally selected by the Mets in the fifth round of the 2011 draft out of the University of Massachusetts-Lowell. He is 9-9 with seven saves and a 3.55 ERA (83 ER/210.2 IP) in 160 relief appearances covering five seasons in the Mets minor league system.

Cubs Arizona Fall League Recap: 11/18/15

Pierce Johnson provided another strong effort in his final AFL start of the season as Mesa toppled Salt River 5-1 on Wednesday. A few Cubs players got into the act offensively as well. Here are some notes from yesterday’s action:

  • RHP Pierce Johnson (5.47) pitched four strong innings, giving up one earned run and striking out six to pick up the win. He surrendered four hits and a walk in the outing.
  • 3B Jeimer Candelario (.346) went 1-for-3, recording an RBI single in the sixth. He added a pair of walks and a run scored.
  • C Cael Brockmeyer (.214) singled to lead off the third. He also walked and recorded a run scored in the win.

Mesa wraps up its season Thursday with a home matchup against Glendale. First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 local time.

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