It's Monday morning here in Chicago and Tuesday just after midnight in Japan. The clock ticks...
Mashahiro Tanaka had a workout with his soon to be former Ratuken Eagles team and reader TokyoCraig was kind enough to send us some photos. Check them out in the photo gallery below.
Lots of good stuff to read over the past few days, so let's catch up a little bit...
Patrick Mooney touches on a number of topics in this piece...
Theo Epstein on the rebuilding process and a rapidly growing impatient fan base
"“You can tell your nieces and nephews that they’re fans of an organization with the second-best farm system in baseball,” Epstein said, “with a developing young core that’s going to be here for a long time. It’s going to be the heart of teams that are contending, year-in, year-out for the postseason and therefore the World Series. In a few years, they’re going to be playing in a renovated Wrigley Field."
“Sometimes when you take on a challenge,” Epstein said, “you know you’re going to be unpopular for a few years. You know you’re going to wear it for a few years, individually and as an organization. But if you’re tough and you have discipline, you know there’s going to be pay-off for everyone.
“That’s what makes it worthwhile. No one would want to come into a situation where it’s all on a silver platter for you, and you just show up and get the accolades that you don’t even deserve. We’re trying to build this thing the right way, from the ground up.
“We want to deliver (as) soon as we can, but we’re not going to stray from our vision.”
Jason McLeod on Masahiro Tanaka
“I think any team in baseball would love a 25-year-old starting pitcher,” said Jason McLeod, the vice president of scouting and player development. “We’ve scouted him extensively over the years (through) our pro scouting staff and a lot of video work that we’ve done on him. So the evaluation process is complete.
“He’s obviously talented. We understand — I think everyone understands — that’s not the same level of competition (in) Japan. But he’s a talented pitcher, and I’m sure the team that gets him is going to be happy.”
On scouting Tanaka
Mooney also wrote on the Cubs long term scouting pursuit of Tanaka and why the Cubs think he's a good gamble. We know that the Cubs are far more likely to take risks on players on which they have the most information, which is one reason why they felt more comfortable taking Kris Bryant over Jonathan Gray in last year's draft. The Cubs have plenty of info on Tanaka. Here is what Cubs pro scouting director Joe Boehringer, who has been scouting Tanaka since 2008, had to say,
"Any time we had a chance to see him get in an arena like that,” Bohringer said, “where we knew he was facing major league caliber players and watching his success or failure, that gives us a better idea of how he would actually be if we translate it to the major leagues.
“Tanaka is still a prospect. But because he's played at such a higher level of competition, it makes us feel a little more comfortable with our overall evaluation for how it's going to translate."
"In Tanaka's case, although Japan is not the major leagues, it is an established pro league," Bohringer said. "We have a track record of players like Hideo Nomo and Hiroki Kuroda and Yu Darvish that had dominated in Japan and come over and established themselves in the major leagues.
"The advantage we have with Tanaka — and why Tanaka will probably get a bigger contract — (is) he has less risk because we've had a chance to see him against higher competition."
Meanwhile, McLeod adds,
"On the Tanaka front, you really have to trust your scouts, first and foremost. We have a lot of history with this player in terms of seeing him and getting looks at him. We understand the competition levels and what he's going to face here.
"If there is a team that is fortunate enough to get him, then you have to start the build-up to that, what led to the decision and what you think he's going to be.
"Everything we do is all about projection. Whether it's a 16-year-old like Eloy Jimenez, whether it's 21-year-old Kris Bryant or whether it's 25-year-old Tanaka."
Tony Andracki covered some prospect-related topics,
On Javier Baez's ultimate position,
"That's something we have to sit down and discuss if we want to see what he looks like at second base or another position," McLeod said. "Our hope is that he plays shortstop as long as he possibly can. We think he can for a while. He certainly has some things to clean up with the errors that were made last year."
"It's a good problem to have, if it comes to that," McLeod said. "If he goes out and is having a very good year and the defense is tightened up and he gets better on his approach every day, then that will be a decision to make down the road.
"And I'm sure once we get to spring training, we'll sit down with [president Theo Epstein], [general manager Jed Hoyer] and the rest of the staff and see what the best way is to go about it."
On helping Jorge Soler and other Latin American players adapt,
"We have what we like to call a Latin American cultural assimilation program that's overseen by a coordinator," McLeod said. "That touches on different aspects from mental skills on field, but primarily off-field and assimilating to the United States and how to make different types of decisions and choices.
"A lot of it has to do with communication and English language classes. An incident like that -- that's an isolated incident -- certainly, we took a lot of time with him and tried to communicate as much as possible because obviously he knew right away that wasn't the right thing to do. At the same time, we have to understand where he comes from and a lot of the way they play in Cuba with fire and passion and intensity, that's a different style.
"We're trying to share information and say 'this culture, the way the game is played and the way you conduct yourself, this is how you act as professionals here. It's a constant education and not just for him."
On Arodys Vizcaino's recovery process,
"We're taking it conservative with the rehab and he's still only 23," McLeod said. "When he's right and healthy, he has electric stuff and hopefully that stuff will return."
2014 MLB Draft
Andracki also had some bits on the 2014 MLB Draft,
Jason McLeod already has a good idea of who their top 5 players are, though he does acknowledge that sometimes players do explode on the scene. Given what I said earlier about the Cubs pattern of collecting massive amounts of information on players they like, my guess is that they'll stick with the players they know best rather than one that emerges out of nowhere. Said McLeod,
“We feel we know who the top five are today. We’ll spend a lot of time with them. As things change, we’ll just scout the guy we think has the most impact for us.”
As to whom those 5 players are, we can only make an educated guess. I believe that college pitchers Carlos Rodon (L), Jeff Hoffman, and Tyler Beede are on that list. Rodon and Hoffman would probably go 1-2 if the draft were held today, so Beede is the most likely. I think NC State SS Trea Turner is also in that group. He fits the mold of an up the middle athlete with excellent athleticism and mental makeup that the Cubs like.
I'm not sure who the 5th player would be here. It could be Texas high schooler Tyler Kolek, who has hit 99 mph on the gun already and sits in the mid 90s. There are also some good prep hitters including Jacob Gatewood (SS) and Alex Jackson (C-OF).
Players who could breakthrough and enter the conversation with big seasons include prep RHP Touki Touissant, Hartford lefty Sean Newcomb, and athletic OF'er Michael Gettys.
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