Anthony Iapoce is no stranger to the Cubs organization from top to bottom and it’s clear that he was their primary target when it came time to move on from Chili Davis. In fact, members of the front office would have preferred to keep the former assistant to the GM around instead of letting him go to the Rangers in the first place.
“It was hard for us to give [Iapoce] up,” said Jason McLeod, Cubs senior vice president for player development and scouting, when Iapoce departed after the 2015 season. “But we knew this would happen someday.”
Things have changed a bit in three years, as Iapoce now returns to Chicago in a different role and with a great deal more fanfare. But the Cubs are hoping their newest employee is still the same person they raved about during his first go-round.
“What separates Anthony is the mindset with which he approaches the job every day,” McLeod gushed. “He played such as huge part in our change of culture.
The hiring of Iapoce signals a return to the foundation on which the current roster was built. Power, selective aggressiveness, and pull-side knocks elevated the Cubs from a young, hungry team to World Series champions in only a handful of years. Given his work with former hitting coach John Mallee and current assistant coach Andy Haines, there is perhaps no one more understanding for the Cubs hitting job than Iapoce.
But how will he approach his new job and what is his general philosophy?
[Iapoce’s] got this infectious side that makes you shake your head and say, ‘This guy is crazy.’ But it’s a good crazy.
“[Iapoce] lives and breathes [baseball],” McLeod said. “A positive guy and really intelligent. He’s got this infectious side that makes you shake your head and say, ‘This guy is crazy.’ But it’s a good crazy.”
Even though Iapoce was in charge of a group of mashers in Texas, he still stressed a sense of situational awareness, Interestingly enough, that was one reason Davis was hired in the first place. But as we’ve since learned, the short-lived coach had trouble communicating with younger players. The Cubs hope that changes for 2019.
It was Iapoce’s “craziness” that helped a talented 2017 Rangers team to reach their power potential. For the first time in MLB history, nine hitters smacked at least 17 homers. Joey Gallo was allowed to stay true to himself despite the worst contact rate in MLB over two seasons, which led route to a .353 wOBA over that time. Jurickson Profar, once one of the hottest prospects in the game, finally broke out with a .341 wOBA that might’ve come from a change in his stride.
Heck, Elvis Andrus hit 20 homers in 2017 after totaling 21 in the previous four seasons combined. Iapoce said Andrus’ power increase was driven by a confidence to pull the ball and only go to the opposite field when necessary. That sounds a bit different from how Davis had the Cubs going oppo once every other batted ball.
In short, what you’re going to see from Iapoce is a whole lot of positive energy. You’re still going to see and hear about many of the same principles that were stressed before, including situational awareness. It’s just that Cubs players are going to get a different delivery.
It sounds as if the Cubs lucked out with Texas firing their manager and making Iapoce available, so thank whatever deity you believe in accordingly. I’m ready for Willson Contreras to drop over 20 bombs again, for Kris Bryant to hit bomb after bomb onto Waveland, and for Kyle Schwarber to play pepper with the right field board again. Get me to spring training already.