Cubs Convention Recap Part IV: Cubs Player Development

Following the Cubs management presentation, Senior Vice-President of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod led a panel entitled “Cubs Player Development.” McLeod led with a recurrent theme heard throughout the convention that in a performance-enhancement-drug-free environment, talent is skewing younger. Stressing that he wants first-year players to compete every day, McLeod noted that developmental plans come later after young players become acclimated to the system. Many of these players are 17 or 18 years old and have never been away from home. In fact, many international signees have never even ordered food in a restaurant or know how to tip a cab driver. The team spends a great deal of time molding these young players into mature men.

Acknowledging that player development is hard to perfect, McLeod cited the St. Louis Cardinals’ organization as one to emulate (and hopefully surpass, right?). On that note, Cubs Farm Director Jaron Madison, who came to the team from the San Diego Padres, stated that the Cardinals’ scouting system is similar to what Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer established in Boston. The Cubs established an entire department to analyze statistics and continually develop new formulas and information to gain a competitive edge. Nonetheless, McLeod conceded that the Cubs had a lot of catching up to do scouting-wise when the new regime took over.

Other tidbits from the panel:

  • McLeod on pitching development – “guys are pretty much what they are by Double A”
  • McLeod stated that Ricketts gave the team the necessary money to effectively sign players both through the draft and through the international free agent market.
  • According to McLeod, high school pitchers need to pitch approximately 600 innings in the minor leagues before being ready to play at the major league level.
  • Although they fell short in their bid to acquire Masahiro Tanaka, Cubs player and development staff characterized him as “an advanced prospect,” had scouted him for several years in Japan, had a comprehensive “book” on him, and felt confident in his ability based on how he performed against his Japanese competition.
  • The panel admitted that the draft room becomes pretty heated at times. McLeod told the story from his time in Boston when he wanted to draft Clay Buckholtz and Jed Hoyer told him he was “@$&ing crazy.” McLeod won out and, of course, the rest is history.
  • Statistics and scouting are like a “seesaw” that needs balancing. The Cubs scouting and development department looks at both of these tools in combination when making personnel decisions.