Results tagged ‘ Jason McLeod ’

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

6/2 Draft day

The Cubs haven’t done any mock drafts yet heading into Thursday’s First-Year Player Draft. Jason McLeod, head of scouting and player development for the Cubs, said it’s a little different when you have the second pick overall.

“When you’re picking [No. 2], it takes a lot of the ‘mocking’ out of it,” McLeod said Sunday. “If you have the group of five players or so, it’s like, ‘OK, in our mock draft, Houston takes player X. OK, we’re on the clock.’ You can do a lot of strategy when you’re picking deeper in the Draft.”

McLeod said the Cubs front office has actually spent more time discussing their second and third round picks, Nos. 41 and 75 overall, more in recent days.

“We’ve probably discussed No. 2 for about two hours of the four days we’ve been here,” McLeod said. “We’ll get into those guys more this week.”

Having the No. 2 pick overall has given McLeod and others the chance to see some of the best amateur players.

“For me, on a weekly basis, I’ve spent a lot of Friday nights seeing the top college pitching around the country and seeing the best players who we’re going to consider with that pick and with our second pick at 41,” McLeod said. “When you’re only seeing the best players, it’s a lot of fun nights.”

The Cubs have narrowed their list to four: pitchers Jonathan Gray of Oklahoma and Mark Appel of Standford and third basemen Kris Bryant of San Diego and Colin Moran of North Carolina.

“Ultimately, it’s long term, who will make the most significant impact on the organization,” McLeod said. “We don’t go into any Draft drafting based on need, we go in drafting on who we feel is going to provide the biggest impact for our club, hopefully for years to come. Whether you’re picking sixth like last year, or two, or in Boston, late in the first round, that’s always the mindset. The player pool changes a lot when you’re picking at the top of the Draft.”

– Carrie Muskat

1/17 Wood & Prior

Jason McLeod, the Cubs director of player development and scouting, made a point of asking Kerry Wood and Mark Prior to speak to a dozen top prospects during the team’s first rookie development camp. Prior spoke Thursday, which was the final day of the week-long program.

“Who better to know and understand having all the hype, having all the pressure, being the young guy coming up and then performing in this environment?” McLeod said of the two Cubs pitchers who had to deal with plenty of highs and lows in their careers. “”Who better than those two guys? Those had to have been two of the most hyped Cubs prospects of the last 15 to 20 years.”

McLeod knew Prior from his brief time with the Padres. The pitcher didn’t hesitate when asked to talk to the kids.

“He was fired up about it and said, ‘I’d love to talk to those guys,'” McLeod said.

– Carrie Muskat

1/17 Updating Cubs prospects

A dozen Cubs prospects completed a week-long rookie development camp on Thursday. The sessions included a workout at Northwestern University, a seminar, and some extra training. Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, David DeJesus, Theo Epstein and Tom Ricketts were among the people who addressed the group. The 12 players who participated included position players Javier Baez, Jae-Hoon Ha, Matt Szczur, and Logan Watkins, and pitchers Dallas Beeler, Marcus Hatley, Barret Loux, Trey McNutt, Zach Rosscup, Nick Struck, Robert Whitenack and Tony Zych.

Jason McLeod, the Cubs scouting and player development director, was asked about a few of the prospects. Here’s an update:

* How close is Baez to the big leagues?

“Javy’s still so young,” McLeod said. “He’s only played really three months of a full season and obviously, last year, he took the Midwest League by storm in a short time there and hit some bumps there in Daytona. Being that he just turned 20 years old [on Dec. 1], obviously, he’s a talented young man, he’s going to ultimately decide [when he’s ready]. He loves to work, he works extremely hard. The plan for him this year is to get a full season under his belt.”

* McNutt was used as a starter and reliever last season at Double-A Tennessee. What’s his future role? McLeod said that’s to be determined. The results were better when McNutt pitched in relief and that may be the best spot.

* Jorge Soler worked out in the Miami area this offseason, and had some sessions with new hitting coordinator Anthony Iapoce and player development director Brandon Hyde.

“He’s still getting used to being in the states and getting ready to coming into Major League camp,” McLeod said of the Cuban outfielder.

Where will Soler play in 2013? That’s also to be determined. He spent last season at Class A Peoria.

“He’s put himself in position to start at a higher level but we have to see how things shake out,” McLeod said, noting that they have an overload of outfielders, including Reggie Golden and Evan Crawford, who are both coming back from injuries.

* Whitenack has missed time after needing Tommy John surgery in 2011, but is now 100 percent.

“I’m really looking forward to seeing what everyone here saw two years ago,” McLeod said of the right-hander, who was 7-0 in 11 starts in 2011 before he was hurt.

* Junior Lake has played infield and outfield in the Dominican Republic Winter League. Where will he end up? McLeod said Lake will get most of his playing time at shortstop or third, but will also play in the outfield this spring.

“We want to maximize his ability and versatility,” McLeod said.

– Carrie Muskat

10/10 Keep an eye on Baez

At 19, Javier Baez is the second youngest player in the Arizona Fall League, and making a huge jump, competing against players who have been in Double-A or Triple-A.

“He’s a guy who, mentally, we felt was ready for the Fall League, ready to be pushed like that, ready to be challenged like that,” said Jason McLeod, head of scouting and player development for the Cubs.

On Tuesday night, Baez looked ready. The Cubs’ top prospect went 2-for-3 for the Mesa Solar Sox, hitting a solo home run in the second inning into the upper tiers of the batter’s eye in straightaway center at Salt River Fields, and added a tie-breaking two-run double in the sixth. The homer was impressive, even in the dry Arizona air.

Told that he’s one of the youngest in the AFL — only the Rangers’ Luis Sardinas is younger — Baez just shrugs.

“I’ve heard that,” Baez said. “If you do good here, you have to keep working hard. They just tell me to do my job every time, play hard, do everything right.”

He flashed some of his defensive skills as well with a diving stop of a ball, and nearly threw the runner out. Replay might have backed up Baez. What’s impressed McLeod and others are the shortstop’s instincts for the game.

“When you watch him play defense and watch him on the bases, he plays like a veteran who has been in the Major Leagues for a long time and at a very young age,” McLeod said. “That was the most pleasant surprise for me and it’s really fun to watch him on defense. It’s like he sees things before it happens.”

It wasn’t a perfect night. Baez did strike out twice. But he was perfectly positioned on defense, backing up on plays in the infield.

“He’s got tons of talent and it’s not just hitting, it’s his overall game,” said Tom Beyers, Cubs Minor League hitting coordinator. “One of his biggest strengths is aptitude. I was very impressed with how he took instruction and applied it right away in a ballgame. Some guys, that process takes longer than others. His is pretty quick, and the knowledge he has of how the game is played, he always seems to be a step ahead.”

– Carrie Muskat

8/15 Fleita follow up

Cubs players were surprised to hear that Oneri Fleita was dismissed on Wednesday as the player development director.

“I feel real bad,” shortstop Starlin Castro said. “He was like my father … but it’s a business.”

Fleita was a father figure to several of the Cubs players in his 12 years with the organization. He would take the Latin players into his home, help them assimilate into the U.S. culture, and treat them as if they were his sons. Fleita escorted me on a trip to the Cubs academy in the Dominican Republic, and it was impressive to see how devoted he is to the people there, from the kitchen cooks to the coaching staff. His work was obviously appreciated by the Ricketts family, who gave him a four-year contract extension last September.

But once Jason McLeod arrived in November and took over as scouting and player development director, the situation changed. Theo Epstein said he talked to Fleita about possibly moving to another role in the organization but both agreed it would put Fleita in an “awkward position.” He has solid relationships with players and coaches.

There were two more front office changes on Wednesday. Chuck Wasserstrom, manager of baseball information, was dismissed as his position was eliminated. Wasserstrom had been with the Cubs for 25 years. Ari Kaplan, manager of statistical analysis, was re-assigned as a consultant. Assistant general manager Randy Bush, a holdover from the previous regime, was in “good standing” and will continue in his role, Epstein said. The search for a new farm director will begin immediately, Epstein said, and some internal candidates will be considered.

“There’s a lot of work to be done here, there’s a lot of great people who have contributed in the past,” Epstein said. “Some people will be moving on. Hopefully it proves to be best for the Cubs and best for them.”

Fleita was going to watch the Class A Peoria Chiefs this week before getting the news Wednesday morning. He still planned on going to Peoria — his daughter is looking at Bradley for college — and the Chiefs shouldn’t be surprised if he stops by.

– Carrie Muskat

 

5/30 McLeod on Rizzo: “It shouldn’t be long”

Jason McLeod has heard buzz about Anthony Rizzo before. McLeod, now the senior vice president of scouting and player development for the Cubs, heard the same hype last year when Rizzo was in the Padres Minor League system.

“It’s deja vu, Jed [Hoyer] and I have been saying,” McLeod said Wednesday. “We went through the exact same thing last year. What I’m more happy about is not the numbers he’s putting up but the development we talked about. He has been working on some things mechancially and his approach and his day to day routine, and that’s what I’m most happy about for Anthony. He’s got a routine that’s working, he’s been successful, and I think because of what he went through with the anticipation of San Diego and the struggles when he got up, it’s made him a better player mentally. He’s much stronger coming out of that. He’s in his finishing stages now. It shouldn’t be too long before he’s up here. I think he’ll be a better player for going through that last year.”

Rizzo has not played since Sunday because of soreness in his right wrist. McLeod said he expected the first baseman to be back in Iowa’s lineup either Wednesday or Thursday.

– Carrie Muskat 

1/6 Rizzo thrilled to be back with Theo & Co.

Anthony Rizzo was “ecstatic” at the news that he’d been traded again, and was going to the Cubs. He’s back with the group that originally drafted him when Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod were in Boston.

“I got called up to the big leagues last year and struggled a little bit,” Rizzo said Friday. “I wouldn’t say some people wrote me off, but some people I guess lost some faith in me. For them to still have that faith, with everything they helped me through, it just shows me how loyal they are and how honored I am to play for them.

“This is such a big business,” Rizzo said. “I’ve seen it now for the last five years how much of a business it is. Everyone I’ve spoken to talks about how professional Theo is, how straightforward he is with everyone. It means a lot to me to be with them again.”

When the Padres dealt for Yonder Alonso, did Rizzo think he might get traded again?

“I couldn’t even tell you,” Rizzo said. “I figured something would happen, but I wasn’t completely sure. I just went on with my offseason and trained as hard as I’m training to prepare for next year, wherever it was. Now I’m a Cub and hopefully will remain a Cub for many years to come.”

In 2008, Rizzo was limited to 21 Minor League games after being diagnosed with Limited Stage Classical Hodgkins Lymphoma in late April. He returned in ’09 to lead all Red Sox Minor Leaguers with a .368 on-base percentage and ranked third in the system with a .297 batting average between Class A Greenville and Class A Salem. 

“From the very bottom of the organization to the very top, to the ownership, when I was sick, they didn’t only help me out, they helped my family out and made sure everything was going to be OK,” Rizzo said of Epstin & Co. “To be back with the main people who were around me is just an honor. It’s a real exciting opportunity and I hope to make the best of it.”

– Carrie Muskat

 

12/20 Changing Sox

According to WEEI Boston, the Cubs have hired Red Sox area scout Matt Dorey to be a national crosschecker. Part of the Cubs-Red Sox agreement to allow Theo Epstein to leave Boston included restrictions on who he could take with him. Although Epstein cannot hire anyone from the Red Sox top-tier level in baseball operations, he can add at least one person. Dorey had been an evaluator in Louisiana and Texas the last two years, and started with the Red Sox under current Cubs exec Jason McLeod. Among the players credited to Dorey are right-hander Anthony Ranaudo, third baseman Garin Cecchini, and outfielders Kendrick Perkins and Lucas LeBlanc.

The Cubs also have reportedly hired former Red Sox pro scout Kyle Evans, who apparently was leaving the Red Sox. WEEI says Epstein also may try to hire former Red Sox VP of international scouting and player personnel Craig Shipley, who left Boston after he was replaced last month. Shipley was one of Epstein’s first front office hires in 2002.

Epstein reportedly cannot hire anyone from the Red Sox office for three years, according to ESPNBoston.com.

– Carrie Muskat

 

12/8 Cubs Caravan luncheon Jan. 11

Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod will headline the fifth annual Cubs Caravan luncheon on Jan. 11 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. CT at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse, 33 W. Kinzie Street, in Chicago. Tickets for the luncheon are $150 each and include the opportunity to sit at a table with a Cubs player, coach, or member of the front office staff. Cubs TV broadcaster Len Kasper will emcee the event. Tickets are available for purchase by calling 773-404-CUBS. Space is limited to 120 guests. Players and personnel appearing at the luncheon are subject to change.

– Carrie Muskat

 

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