Yesterday, at the last day of the Cubs Convention, I had the pleasure of watching the panel “Down on the Farm.” The panel included Senior Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting Jason Mcleod, Director of Player Development Jaron Madison, as well as Director of Amateur scouting Toney Dorsey. What follows are bullet points on notes I found to be interesting about the way the Cubs develops prospects, as well as the prospects themselves.
One of the most important things about player development is to prepare them for the big stage, as well as the World Series. On Friday, Addison Russell said he never felt nervous or rushed, even when the Cubs were pushed to the brink in the World Series. It’s this makeup, to continuously follow your routine, even in the biggest moments, is what the Cubs staff is looking for. – Jaron Madison
Other than just developing them on the baseball field, the Cubs also try to develop their prospects to be contributing members of society. One of the aspects the Cubs loved about Kyle Schwarber was his great “quality of a human being.” The Cubs’ scouts asked everyone, coaches, teammates, parents etc. and everyone said Schwarber was a fantastic teammate, and he has the “Cub way” makeup. This resume showed on the the biggest stage in baseball, the World Series. –Toney Dorsey
There was a lot of talk about the importance of makeup during evaluations. The area scout likes to check a player’s upbringing, home life, schooling etc. to get an idea of who the player is. Also, the organization wants their players to be productive members of society. After receiving a big draft bonus or making it to the majors, players are going to have a lot of people pulling on them. It’s important to develop their mental skills to help them make good decisions, which advisors and agents can also help with. The mental skills department helps the players with being able to perform at the highest level mentally, being a good person, teammate, and learning how to treat people correctly. Relating this to the 2016 Cubs, during the Convention all of the players talked about how fun the clubhouse was at all points during last season, which allows the team to play loosely. Also, having minor leaguers help out with charitable organizations and in the community is important to the team as well. –Jason McLeod
Ian Happ went through some ups and downs this season, and at the end of the year he tired out, especially in the Arizona Fall League. However, he’s embraced the physical challenge for next season and knows he needs to manage his body to sustain the rigors of the Major Leagues. He is also committed to playing second base in the majors, and is going to work hard to achieve that goal. –Toney Dorsey
In regards to the 2017 draft, Dorsey thinks that the high school pitching for 2017 is an area of strength which the Cubs could target. He also noted that there aren’t as many elite college bats. Dorsey still wants the Cubs scouts to not put blinders on any players, and to let the players tell you who they are. Let them drive themselves to the Cubs. –Toney Dorsey
The Theo Epstein regime have still yet to develop a major league quality starter, but they still have some pitchers in the system that they think can become that. Names that were noted include a fully healthy Duane Underwood (who moved to Arizona in the offseason to be ready for next year), Oscar de la Cruz, Jose Albertos, Dylan Cease, Ryan Williams, and Trever Clifton. –Jaron Madison
About Eloy Jimenez, McLeod says that he is a semi-advanced hitter for a young Latin teen. He doesn’t swing and miss much, has tremendous hitting ability, but his big flaw last year was that he makes too much contact early in counts. Next season his goal is to continue to mature as a hitter and to understand how pitchers are going to attack him.
Lastly, I asked a question about how the Cubs plan to approach the 2017-2018 International signing period because there is now a stricter budget in place with the new CBA. McLeod answered that they’re going to continue to scout the same way, however, the new CBA does hamstring the big market teams a little more. It’s important for the front office to understand that if they do go all in on one elite player, they’ll only have very little money to spend on the rest of the class, so they need to make sure their scouting is thorough.
And with the conclusion of the panel, the 2017 Cubs Convention came to a close. The 2017 season is just around the corner, and we’ll preview each team as well as come out with our Top 20 prospects soon.