1/20 Cubs convention wrap up
The Cubs Convention closed on Sunday with an informative session on the Minor League system. Here are some highlights from that:
* Javier Baez will open the 2014 season at Triple-A Iowa and is close to getting to the big leagues. The Cubs already have a young shortstop in Starlin Castro, who turns 24 in March. This spring, Baez may get some playing time at second base, depending on what the Cubs and manager Rick Renteria want to do.
“Our goal for Javy is to have him play shortstop for as long as he possibly can,” said Jason McLeod, director of scouting and player development. “He certainly has some things to clean up with the errors that were made last year.”
The Cubs’ No. 1 Draft pick in 2011, Baez made 44 errors combined last season.
* Some past Cubs’ first-round picks have struggled. Brett Jackson, 25, the No. 1 selection in 2009, and Josh Vitters, 24, the first-round pick in 2007, both battled injuries last season. Jackson batted .210 in 95 games, while Vitters hit .267 in 33 games.
“They did not stay on the field long enough, first and foremost,” McLeod said. “We still have belief in both of them, especially a guy like Josh. He was drafted in 2007, and you’ve heard his name so much, you’d probably think he’s 26 years old or 25 years old. When he was on the field, the performance was pretty good. He was born to hit and he’s always hit. There were other parts of his game that we felt he had to work on.”
Vitters is focusing on left field, and he and Jackson will be in the Cubs’ Spring Training camp.
“They both took this offseason to regroup, get healthy, and they’ll both be in camp here in a couple weeks,” McLeod said.
* McLeod has a little bit of history with Justin Grimm, acquired from the Rangers in the Matt Garza deal last July. When McLeod was with the Red Sox, he drafted Grimm out of high school. The Red Sox invited the right-hander to Fenway Park for a visit and he arrived alone. Grimm had a scholarship offer to attend Georgia.
“I think he just wanted a free trip to Boston, to be honest with you,” McLeod said Sunday.
Grimm didn’t sign, and was selected in the fifth round by the Rangers in 2010. He signed. But McLeod saw him before that when Grimm was pitching for Georgia in the SEC Tournament as a freshman. Theo Epstein, who was the Red Sox GM at the time, watched the young pitcher. It was the first time Epstein saw Grimm.
“He comes out firing 97 mile an hour fastballs, and Theo is about 15 rows up behind me and comes down in front of a full section of scouts and tells me, ‘You’re fired,’” McLeod said.
In the end, the Cubs and McLeod did get Grimm as he was part of the package for Garza.
* McLeod said the Cubs are waiting to see which team Masahiro Tanaka picks. Expect a decision this week. Friday is the deadline.
“Obviously, he’s talented and I think any team in baseball would want a 25 year old starting pitcher,” McLeod said. “We’ve scouted him extensively over the years. … The evaluation process is complete. We met with him last week in [Los Angeles] and we’ll find out in the next week. He’s obviously talented.”
* Among the Convention highlights was seeing the fans’ response to Derrek Lee, Ted Lilly and Mark Prior. All received loud ovations whenever they appeared at an event.
* Mark your calendar: Single game Cubs tickets go on sale March 7.
* If you can’t make it to Mesa, Ariz., this spring, you can listen to Cubs broadcasts on Cubs.com with Len Kasper and Mick Gillespie.
– Carrie Muskat