Sources: Driver to be Cubs' 1B, catching coach

December 1st, 2019

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have spent much of this offseason continuing the process of modernizing their operations and adding creative minds into the mix. That has been a focus for rebuilding the player development staff, but also in reshaping the group of coaches at the Major League level.

Another move along those lines came to light on Sunday, when sources told that the Cubs will hire Craig Driver to be their new first-base coach. According to ESPN's Jesse Rogers, who first reported the expected hiring, Driver will also double as a catching coach for Chicago.

The Cubs did not confirm the hire and have not formerly announced any part of the planned 2020 coaching staff, preferring to wait until the entire cast was complete. With Driver now expected to be on new manager David Ross' staff, the makeup of the Major League coaching group has come into focus.

Via multiple sources or reports, the Cubs' 2020 staff is expected to include: Tommy Hottovy (pitching), Chris Young (bullpen), Mike Borzello (associate pitching and strategy), Anthony Iapoce (hitting), Terrmel Sledge (assistant hitting), Andy Green (bench), Mike Napoli (quality assurance), Will Venable (third base) and Driver (first base).

Driver spent the previous two seasons as a bullpen catcher and receiving coach for the Phillies, following two years in a similar role as part of the coaching staff for Yale University's baseball program. J.T. Realmuto had already earned a reputation as one of the best catchers in baseball prior to '19, but he won his first Gold Glove Award in his lone season working with Driver in Philadelphia.

Driver has a strong reputation for coaching catching mechanics and framing techniques, and he played a role in the development of the Phillies' catching lab. The Cubs have already established a hitting and pitching lab at their headquarters in Mesa, Ariz., and will surely get Driver's input on how the organization can enhance its development of catchers both in the Majors and Minors.

Over the past three seasons, the Cubs ranked 25th (minus 8.2 in 2019), 28th (minus 19.9 in '18) and 24th (minus 10.5 in '17) in Framing Runs, according to FanGraphs. The last time Chicago was in the top 10 in that area was 2016 (15.2), when Ross was one of the catchers on the Cubs team that won the World Series.

While All-Star catcher Willson Contreras made positives strides in '19 with pitch presentation, he still ranked near the bottom of MLB (45th among 48 catchers with at least 400 innings) in Framing Runs (minus 8.9). Backup Victor Caratini (1.6) ranked 21st in MLB in that same grouping. The Cubs will also have catching prospect Miguel Amaya (ranked as the Cubs' No. 2 prospect by MLB Pipeline) in camp this spring.

In recent seasons, Borzello has served as the Cubs' primary catching coach, but the addition of Driver would allow him to focus on the pitching and strategy components of his wide-ranging role. Both Ross and Napoli can offer their input as former catchers.