Cubs Announce Minor League Coordinators as Developmental Philosophy Continues to Evolve

See below for the press release detailing myriad new hires and assignments, as well as some familiar faces who will remain in the same roles. We can debate all day as to whether or not the organization has made the right decisions at the big-league level, but no one who’s actually paying attention can argue with the strides the Cubs have made from a developmental standpoint.

I won’t break all of these down, but I have to point out Rachel Folden being promoted to minor league hitting coordinator. Her passion for the game is matched only by her knowledge of hitting, but what makes Folden so valuable is the ability to share that passion and knowledge in a way that each individual hitter can understand and apply.

The Cubs shook things up behind the curtain on the performance side of things last year, parting ways with Adam Beard after what was a relatively short tenure. Blaine Kinsley now starts his first full season as director of strength and conditioning and performance nutrition, presumably with the ultimate goal of improving the organization’s results when it comes to injury prevention. The rash of injuries suffered throughout the 2021 season, particularly those involving pitchers, may have led to Beard’s departure.

Finally, I want to highlight the hiring of Kathleen Morton as minor league food service and catering coordinator. Her focus on recipe and meal planning will boost what has to this point been a developmental strategy focused mainly on physical output rather than nutritional input. You’d think that would be a given, and I know the Cubs have been among the leaders when it comes to providing food to minor leaguers, but this whole aspect of the game has been woefully overlooked for far too long.

The Chicago Cubs today announced their minor league coordinators for the 2023 season.

Kevin Graber joins the Cubs as minor league field coordinator after serving as a part-time associate scout with the Yankees from 2009-22 while also working for the Phillips Academy in Andover, Mass. as senior associate director of admission and varsity baseball coach starting in 2008. Graber, a former infielder who played professionally in the independent leagues both domestically and in Australia, attended Winthrop University, earned his Bachelor’s degree in Public Communications from The College of Saint Rose in 1992 and earned his Master’s in Education from the University of Massachusetts Amherst in 2008.

Mark Johnson is in his 13th year in the Cubs system and will serve as minor league catching coordinator for the fifth straight season while also serving as assistant field coordinator for the second-consecutive season. In nine seasons as a minor league manager, he earned a Midwest League title with Single-A Kane County in 2014 and a Carolina League title with Single-A Myrtle Beach in 2015 before he guided Double-A Tennessee from 2016-18. Johnson played 17 seasons (1994-2010), including 322 major league games with the White Sox (1998-2002), Oakland (2003), Milwaukee (2004) and St. Louis (2008).

Dave Keller begins his 20th year in the organization and his ninth as minor league Latin America field coordinator. He brings over 35 years of minor league coaching and managerial experience, managing three clubs to championship series appearances, including a Florida State League title with Single-A Daytona in 2013. The former first baseman played in the Reds chain for three seasons (1982-84) after Cincinnati selected him in the 28th round of the 1982 Draft.

Dai Dai Otaka joins the Cubs as minor league infield coordinator following a collegiate playing career at Yale University in New Haven, Conn., from 2017-20 and Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore during the 2021 campaign, in which he batted .314 in 22 games at shortstop. Otaka was named Yale Baseball Rookie of the Year in 2017 and helped Yale lead the nation in double plays per game his Junior year. He earned his Bachelor’s in Political Science from Yale.

Doug Dascenzo enters his ninth year as the organization’s minor league outfield coordinator, bringing with him 24 years of coaching experience. He played parts of seven seasons in the majors, including five with the Cubs (1988-92). He coached in the Padres system from 1999-2011, including six seasons as a minor league manager. He also coached in the Braves system from 2012-14, including third base coach for the major league team in 2014.

Casey Jacobson is in his fourth season in the organization, his first as minor league senior coordinator, pitching development following three campaigns as coordinator, pitching development. A former instructor at Driveline Baseball in Kent, Wash., Jacobson coached six seasons in the college ranks with Macalester College (pitching coach, 2014-18) in St. Paul, Minn., and Augustana University (assistant coach, 2019) in Sioux Falls, S.D. The former right-handed pitcher played collegiately at St. Mary’s in Winona, Minn., and Augustana prior to a stint with Roswell in the independent Pecos League in 2013. He graduated from Augustana University with a B.S. in Physics.

James Ogden begins his fourth campaign as the organization’s minor league coordinator of pitching performance. He had a seven-year tenure as pitching coach for Lipscomb University in Nashville, Tenn., where he helped the team to the 2015 Atlantic Sun championship. He graduated from Lipscomb with a B.A. in Oral Communications with a minor in Health in 2008 and earned his Master’s in Education with an emphasis on Instructional Leadership in 2010.

Carlos Chantres is in his fifth season with the organization, and his fourth as assistant coordinator, pitching. The 2023 season will be his 18th as a coach, coordinator, or special assistant. He spent two years with Atlanta, including as a special assistant to player development in 2018, after stints coaching in the Tigers (2015) and Mariners (2016) chains. Chantres spent nine seasons coaching in the Yankees system (2006-14) after 12 minor league seasons (1994-2005) pitching with the White Sox (1994-2000), Brewers (2001), Devil Rays (2002), and Phillies (2004-05) organizations.

George Thanopoulos has been named minor league rehab pitching coordinator after serving as manager, minor league pitching development in 2022. He joined the organization in 2021 as a minor league development coach. Thanopoulos pitched two seasons in the Rockies system from 2016-17 after he was selected in the 27th round of the 2016 Draft out of Columbia University in New York City.

Tony Cougoule is in his fourth season in the organization and his first as Arizona Complex pitching coordinator following three seasons as a minor league pitching coach with Rookie League Mesa (2000) and High-A South Bend (2021-22). He served as pitching coach for Westmont College in Santa Barbara, Calif., from 2010-19. Cougoule played collegiately at Mount Mercy University, earning team MVP and all-conference honors in 2003. He completed his Master’s degree in physical education from Azusa Pacific University in 2007.

Rachel Folden is in her fourth year with the Cubs and her first as minor league hitting coordinator. She served as a hitting coach with the Arizona Complex League club and was the lead hitting lab tech. She created Folden Fastpitch in 2010, providing baseball and softball instruction, and played five seasons (2008-12) in the National Pro Fastpitch league, including time with the Chicago Bandits. Folden is a 2008 graduate of Marshall University, having majored in history with a minor in mathematics and was named to the Marshall Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019.

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Steven Pollakov is in his fourth season with the Cubs, his first as minor league hitting coordinator. In 2022, he served as assistant hitting coordinator and was a hitting coach for Low-A Myrtle Beach. Pollakov 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 is a graduate of Buffalo Grove High School in Illinois.

Desi Wilson begins his 16th season with the Cubs and his first as minor league position player rehab/development list coordinator following 15 campaigns as a minor league hitting coach, the last six with Triple-A Iowa. Selected by Texas in the 30th round of the 1991 Draft, he appeared in 41 games for the San Francisco Giants in 1996, hitting .271 with two home runs and 12 RBI.

Blaine Kinsley starts his first full season as director of strength and conditioning and performance nutrition following five years with the University of Arkansas, first as baseball assistant strength and conditioning coach then as director of baseball strength and conditioning starting in June of 2019. Kinsley was a strength and conditioning coach in the St. Louis Cardinals chain in 2016-17. He earned his Bachelor’s degree in sports management and health and exercise science from Lenoir-Rhyne University, and from the University of Arkansas received a Masters of Physical Education in 2020. Kinsley is working towards his PhD in Health, Sport and Exercise Science at Arkansas.

James Edwards is in his seventh season in the Cubs organization and his second as minor league medical coordinator after he was minor league assistant medical coordinator in 2021. He handled athletic trainer duties with Double-A Tennessee (2020), Single-A South Bend (2018-19) and Single-A Eugene (2017), and also served as an intern with the Arizona League Cubs in 2016. He earned a B.S. in Athletic Training from Aurora University and a M.S. in Exercise Science from California University of Pennsylvania.

Sean Folan begins his ninth season with the Cubs and his second as a minor league assistant medical coordinator. In 2021, he served as a rehab athletic trainer and strength and conditioning coach following three seasons as Single-A Eugene’s athletic trainer. Folan earned his Master’s in Athletic Training from Florida International University in Miami in 2014 after he graduated from Concordia University of Chicago in 2012 with a degree in Exercise Science.

Mark Weisman begins his second season with the Cubs and his first as minor league strength and conditioning coordinator. He joined the organization as the strength coach for Single-A Myrtle Beach in 2022 after a one-year stint as a performance coach at SPEAR Training Center in Vernon Hills, Ill. He served as the director of performance for Southeast Missouri State University in 2020 and the assistant strength coach at the University of Iowa from 2016-2020.  He graduated from the University of Iowa in 2014 where he played running back.

Dallas Lopez will serve as the Arizona Complex League strength and conditioning coordinator and is in his ninth season with the organization. He has handled minor league strength and conditioning coach duties with Rookie League Mesa (2015-16, 2022), Single-A Eugene (2017-18), Single-A South Bend (2019) and Triple-A Iowa (2021). Lopez graduated from Northern State University in Aberdeen, S.D., with a Bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice.

Yimy Rodríguez is in his second year as the organization’s head of minor league nutrition. Rodríguez, a former right-handed pitcher in the Dodgers chain (2010-11), has been the lead sports dietician at the University of Rochester Sports Medicine since 2018. He earned his B.S. in Clinical Nutrition from SUNY College at Buffalo in 2017.

Kathleen Morton joins the Cubs as minor league food service and catering coordinator, bringing with her 25 years of experience as an executive chef, most recently working seven years with Integrated Support Solutions, Inc., as director of corporate dining and executive chef. Morton, who earned an associate degree from Long Beach College, has an extensive background in recipe and menu development with a focus on health standards.

David Da Silva starts his sixth year as mental skills coordinator after nine years as a mental conditioning consultant for IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla. He earned a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology from New Hampshire College/Southern New Hampshire University in 2000 and earned a Master of Science in Movement Science from Barry University in 2003.

Javier Guerrero is in his fourth season as mental skills coordinator and his ninth season in the organization. He spent 2018-19 as a minor league mental skills assistant following three seasons as a Dominican Republic video operations assistant. He graduated with a B.S. in Clinical Psychology from Universidad Iberoamericana in 2006 and earned his graduate certificate in International Family & Community Studies from Clemson University in 2007.

Along with the Minor League Coordinators, the following staff and advisors have also been named for the 2023 season: Mike Mason, Advisor to Pitching Development; Tom Beyers, Senior Advisor, Hittingand Edgar Pérez, Latin American Assimilation Coach.

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