Return of the launch angle?
Revival of the clutch hit?
The next Cubs hitting coach will try to maximize the skills of an offense that has yet to reach its potential despite winning the 2016 World Series.
Here’s a look at five potential candidates, listed in alphabetical order, to become the Cubs’ third hitting coach in three seasons after the dismissal of Chili Davis on Thursday:
1. Andy Haines
Current job: Cubs assistant hitting coach.
Background: Haines, 41, worked closely the last two seasons with former hitting coaches John Mallee and Chili Davis, so he has vast knowledge of the batters’ strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. He managed for seven seasons in the Marlins farm system (2009-15), and one former Marlins executive believed Haines was overdue for a major-league coaching position that never crystallized. Haines left the Marlins to join the Cubs player development staff as minor-league hitting coordinator.
2. Eric Hinske
Current job: Angels hitting coach.
Background: Hinske’s future is in the hands of the next Angels manager, but he might be able to smooth the rough edges Cubs hitters have shown over the past two seasons. The Cubs hired Hinske before the 2014 season as their first-base coach and liked having a coach not far removed from a 12-year playing career. Hinske, now 41, was careful not to interfere with Mallee’s teachings during three seasons as assistant hitting coach. He did form an instant connection with Anthony Rizzo. Nevertheless, it would be tough for a coach of Hinske’s talents to join a staff as tenuous as the Cubs’ with manager Joe Maddon entering the final season of his contract.
3. Anthony Iapoce
Current job: Rangers hitting coach.
Background: The status of Iapoce and other Rangers coaches won’t be determined until a new manager is hired. Iapoce, 45, served as a special assistant to the general manager/player development with the Cubs from 2013 to ’15. He’s familiar with many of their young hitters, including Kris Bryant, Javier Baez, Willson Contreras and Albert Almora Jr. Iapoce worked for three seasons as a roving minor-league coordinator with the Blue Jays (2010-12) and was the hitting coach for the Marlins’ Class A Jupiter affiliate in 2008 and ’09. The Rangers finished 14th in the American League this season with a .240 batting average and 1,484 strikeouts.
4. Dave Magadan
Current job: None.
Background: He was released Oct. 1 after three seasons with the Diamondbacks (2016-18) but did his best work with the Red Sox (2007-12), for whom Cubs President Theo Epstein served as general manager during Magadan’s first five seasons. The Red Sox led the majors in pitches per plate appearance (3.94) during Magadan’s supervision, and the Diamondbacks set a franchise record in 2017 with 220 home runs and tied a National League record with 10 players with at least 10 homers. Magadan, 56, also served as Padres hitting coach from 2003 to ’06 after a 16-year playing career that featured one season with the Cubs (1996).
5. Kevin Youkilis
Current job: Cubs baseball operations assistant, brewery owner.
Background: Family and business obligations make Youkilis’ candidacy a long shot. But Youkilis, 39, spends extensive time around the team in spring training, evaluates hitters in preparation for the amateur draft and has the respect of a few batters. He understands the importance of reaching base with great frequency and hitting for power after a 10-year playing career curtailed by back problems. Youkilis is destined to be a major-league coach or manager.