Results tagged ‘ Tim Wilken ’

1/14 Kaepernick set on football

Tim Wilken was the Cubs scouting director in 2009, and talked to three NFL teams about their projections for Colin Kaepernick, who was a talented pitcher in high school but playing quarterback at that time for Nevada.

“[The NFL teams] didn’t think he was going to be much more than a [Canadian Football League] guy at the time,” Wilken said Monday. “The way it was described to me was that his arm action was somewhat suspect — kind of a slingy arm action with the football — and they were leary of that. They thought he was going to be more of a CFL guy than an NFL guy, and that was his sophomore year [in college]. As we all know, things have a tendency to change.”

Yes, they do. Kaepernick is now the San Francisco 49ers quarterback, and will lead his team into the NFC Championship game. However, he could have been prepping for the Cubs’ 2013 season. Chicago selected Kaepernick in the 43rd round of the 2006 First-Year Player Draft, hoping to convince him that baseball was better than the CFL.

“We were serious about this,” said Wilken, now a special assistant to the president/general manager on the Cubs. “We’ve had a little success in higher profile settings with [Jeff] Samardzija and [Matt] Szczur. We followed up on it, and after we got the reports from the NFL teams, we were saying, ‘Maybe he wouldn’t be too fond of playing in the CFL,’ so we were going to try to sell ourselves.”

Samardzija and Szczur, obviously, both chose baseball over football. Kaepernick’s high school baseball coach Mick Tate knew which way his pitcher was leaning. A three-sport start at John H. Pitman High School in Turlock, Calif., Kaepernick was nominated for all-state in football, basketball and baseball his senior year. That year, he was 11-2 with a 1.27 ERA in 13 starts with 10 complete games, 97 strikeouts and 39 walks. Plus, he threw two no-hitters. Scouts followed Kaepernick and the Pitman team, yet Tate, 61, knew baseball was just temporary for his star pitcher. Kaepernick received several scholarship offers from colleges to play baseball but only one school wanted him to play football, and that was Nevada. That’s where Kaepernick went.

“There was never a chance he was going to sign a baseball contract from what I know,” Tate said Monday.

The Cubs wanted Kaepernick to sign, play Minor League baseball in July, rejoin the football program at Nevada, and then commit to baseball after he graduated. In a 2011 interview, Kaepernick said: “What kind of leader would my teammates think I am if I left for a month to play baseball?” Instead, he would lead Nevada to victory in the Fight Hunger Bowl, and was the 36th pick overall in the 2011 NFL Draft.

“Colin was pretty set on his goals,” Tate said. “He wanted to be a professional quarterback. He’s done exactly what he’s wanted to do. You’ve got to give the kid credit.”

— Carrie Muskat

8/13 Monday morning quarterback

When a Cubs player has a tough time, Dale Sveum often calls it a “hiccup.” This month has been one big hiccup. Getting caught up after a tough weekend vs. the Reds …

* What happened? After a winning July, the Cubs are 1-10 in August, and batting .199 this month with a .300 slugging percentage. They’re averaging 2.8 runs per game, and have been out-scored 55-31, out-hit 104-71, and out-homered 11-5.

The pitchers have posted a 5.01 ERA, and opponents were batting .277 against in the last 11 games. The starters are 0-8 with a 4.48 ERA with six quality starts (Dates: 8/4, 8/6, 8/8, 8/9, 8/11, 8/12), while the bullpen has a 6.21 ERA, giving up 20 earned runs over 29 innings. Teams are batting .346 against the Cubs bullpen this month.

* 3B Josh Vitters was expected to start two of the three games against this week the Astros. Dale Sveum says Vitters, who has made three starts, is a good fastball hitter, which should serve him well in the big leagues.

* What’s surprising about the offensive slump is that the players dealt at the Trade Deadline (Reed Johnson, Jeff Baker, Geovany Soto) weren’t exactly forces in the Cubs lineup. Here are August numbers so far:

Anthony Rizzo .209 (9-for-43)
Darwin Barney .250 (10-for-40)
Starlin Castro .163 (7-for-43)
Steve Clevenger .143 (2-for-14)
David DeJesus .216 (8-for-37)
Brett Jackson .150 (3-for-20)
Alfonso Soriano .189 (7-for-37)
Bryan LaHair .176 (3-for-17)
Luis Valbuena .261 (6-for-23)

* August numbers for the bullpen …

Shawn Camp: 6 Gs, 8 ER, 4 2/3 IP, 15.43 ERA
Carlos Marmol: 4 Gs, 1 ER, 4 IP, 2.25 ERA
James Russell: 6 Gs, 3 ER, 5 IP, 5.40 ERA (.440 batting average against)

* On the plus side, congrats to Tim Wilken, who was director of amateur scouting and named a special assistant to GM Jed Hoyer.

* Keep an eye on: Double-A Tennessee first baseman Justin Bour now has 100 RBIs, and was batting .300. He’s batting .341 in August with four home runs and 15 RBIs. Bour is the first player in the Southern League to drive in 100 runs in a single season since 1999. Bour is the first player in the Cubs Minor League organization this year to reach 100 RBIs.

— Carrie Muskat 

9/19 Clevenger, Dolis to join Cubs

The Cubs will add catcher Steve Clevenger and pitcher Rafael Dolis to the roster on Monday now that their season with Double-A Tennessee is over. Mobile beat Tennessee on Sunday to claim the Southern League Championship. Clevenger, a converted catcher, batted .295 with five homers, 27 doubles and 39 RBIs in 95 games, while Dolis was 8-5 with 17 saves in 19 opportunities and a 3.22 ERA in 51 games with the Smokies.

Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken said Monday he was proud of the fact that Clevenger is the 14th player the team has picked in the First-Year Player Draft since 2006 to reach the big leagues. A shortstop when he was tabbed in the seventh round in 2006, Clevenger switched to catching in 2007. Wilken joked that when selected, he told Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita that Clevenger “runs like a catcher” and not a middle infielder.

“The one thing that was constant was that [Clevenger] was a good hitter,” Wilken said.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has decided to keep the Cubs’ player development staff intact for 2012 while he searches for a new general manager. Fleita recently received a four-year contract extension while Wilken is under contract for next year and on Monday, was assured that the team wants him to stay.

“I definitely think they’re going in the right direction,” Wilken said. “I’d love to finish my career here. Tom has shown confidence in our department. He’s been real supportive.

“There’s a lot of good people over here still,” Wilken said of the Cubs staff. “Hopefully, we’ll find a general manager we can get behind as well and really start progressing foward. We need to get better.”

What Wilken is looking for now are some “roster changers” — middle of the order pitchers and hitters.

— Carrie Muskat


10/10 Thanks from the Ricketts

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts sent a letter to season ticket holders this past week. Here’s a copy:

“It has been an incredible year for my family in our first season as stewards of the Chicago Cubs. Of all the new experiences, none was more enjoyable than the opportunity to meet and spend time with you—our season ticket holders.
“We met many of you during our game day walks through Wrigley Field.  Over the course of those games, you welcomed me and my family, you shared your thoughts and suggestions on improving the team and the ballpark, we celebrated some wins and, unfortunately, suffered too many losses.
“One of the highlights of the year was our first ever season ticket holder ‘open house’ on July 8th. On that day alone I met more than 2100 of you, as we spent a day together in the greatest ballpark on earth. (For all who have inquired—yes, we are going to host that event again and in fact we will double up with a night session as well).
“As our most highly valued customers, your opinions are invaluable as we move our organization forward. In fact, you will soon be contacted to participate in a quality assurance survey as we consider amenity upgrades and look to identify ways to improve your experience at Wrigley Field.
“On behalf of my entire family, thank you for your warm welcome and your incredible support of the Cubs organization. You are truly our partners and we respect your contribution and insights.”
2010 Review
“The 2010 season was a disappointment for all at the major league level–for my family, for the organization, for the players and for the fans. The team showed signs of its potential the last quarter of the season, but the 75-87 record fell well short of our goals. My family is committed to winning a World Series and though it may not be entirely evident from this year’s performance, there are encouraging signs.
“The 2010 highlights revolved around our home grown talent. Starlin Castro, Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner developed into budding stars, with Castro and Colvin in the NL Rookie of the Year discussion. That young group was enhanced by the August promotion of Casey Coleman, who went 3-1 with a 2.08 ERA in his last four starts. All need to take the next step in 2011, but we are very encouraged to have a group of young, home grown players emerge as regulars in 2010.
“We also have to recognize the superb job done by another one of our own–Mike Quade.  During the final 37 games, the team played at a .649 clip (24-13), the second best record in the Majors over that time frame. Making this even more significant, we played largely against teams fighting for playoff berths.
“It is my strong belief that, in the end, it is organizations with strong farm systems that win championships and I am convinced that our organization is making progress.
“Our success in producing talent from within our system can be attributed to a number of factors, including a commitment of financial resources. We believe we have one of the best scouting directors in baseball in Tim Wilken (now 4 years in place) and with a strong farm director in Oneri Fleita and a very productive international effort, we are making progress in what had been a weak spot in the organization.
“Our farm clubs performed very well in 2010, playing to a collective 374-316 record, with first place finishes at both the Triple-A level in Iowa (tied) and Double-A level in Tennessee. The overall .542 winning percentage was second among all major league organizations and our 374 wins were the most for the Cubs organization in 15 years. As I said at our opening press conference about a year ago, we are committed to winning the right way—with our farm system. We believe we are on the right track.”
2011 Preview
“We are early in the process of building the club for 2011. The first order of business is hiring our manager. Jim Hendry has identified a strong group of candidates and we are currently completing our interviews. This is a critical decision and I am confident we will find the right person to lead the club.
“The strength of our team in 2010 was our starting pitching, as we led the National League with 96 quality starts. We expect that to continue. We are excited to see the continued development of our young players and the strong bullpen work anchored by Carlos Marmol (38 saves and a reliever-franchise record 138 strikeouts) and Sean Marshall (2.65 ERA, 22 holds).
“Going forward, we recognize the need to recommit to fundamentals. We need to stabilize our defense and cut down on errors. We need to improve our offense and become more efficient in both moving runners and hitting with players in scoring position. It is too early to determine whether this will be addressed with internal moves, trades or through free agent acquisitions.  But we know we must improve in these areas.
“Given that we had the highest payroll in the NL in 2010, I get a lot of questions about our payroll commitment for 2011. As I said earlier, we are still working on our 2011 baseball plan, so it is hard to be too specific at this time. What I can tell you is that our overall baseball budget (scouting, player development and payroll) will be about the same in 2011 as it was in 2010. Continued long term success will come through superior scouting and player development, and we are committed to improving that facet of the organization. As a result, this likely means a shift of some of our resources from the major league payroll toward scouting and player development, but we are still very much in the evaluation phase.”
2011 Ticket Pricing
“The other question I get regularly concerns our ticket pricing for 2011 and beyond. Overall, our average ticket price will be flat in 2011 compared to 2010. Before going into greater detail on that topic, let me provide some background.
“My family is committed to providing ticket pricing that allows families to enjoy Cubs baseball. In so many ways, our children represent the next generation in the Cubs family. We want to invest in providing families with opportunities to experience Wrigley Field, including such things as running the bases, which will be continued in 2011.
“To this end, we will continue the policy of keeping many of our tickets in the sub $10 range–in fact, we will offer a substantial increase in sub-$10 tickets next year compared to 2010.
“In addition, we are increasing the number of bronze games (our lowest ticket pricing tier) from 6 games in 2010 to 15 games in the bleachers and 11 games in the grandstand in 2011. As a result, there will be 77% more tickets priced at $20 or less in 2011 than there were in 2010.  Stated differently, a total of more than 550,000 tickets will be available for $20 or less next year.
“Again, our average ticket price next year will be essentially flat compared to 2010 (actually it is fractionally down vs. 2010). This does not mean all ticket prices will be the same as last year however, as pricing was adjusted based on location and our schedule. A little background might be helpful.
“To set our pricing in 2011, we examined approximately 5 million transactions from our primary and secondary ticket markets from 2005 through 2010. Our goal was to keep our average ticket price flat overall but improve the alignment of pricing for games and seating sections with actual demand. The result is a market-based ticket model that reflects our fans’ buying patterns.
“The highlights include: (1) reducing the average ticket price for all gold, silver and bronze games, (2) separating the bleachers and grandstands in the pricing tiers, as the buying patterns vary significantly for each area, and (3) adding a new fifth tier of pricing (Marquee Tier) for our high
est demand games.
“Cutting through it all, the net result for our season ticket holders is that some will see a slight (in all cases, less than 3%) increase, others will see a reduction as much as 6% and some will see virtually no change at all.
“Other changes in 2011 include new season ticket holder benefits. Over the years, we have added significant benefits to being a Cubs season ticket holder, such as a dedicated area within our website, early access to Spring Training tickets and other special events (such as the very popular Dave Matthews concerts and Allstate Wrigleyville Classic football game coming in November), and last year’s open house.
“For 2011, there are a number of new benefits that I think you will find interesting. Among them is exclusive access to our players, coaches, manager, front office and ownership through Cubs Insider Webcasts that will occur throughout the year. In addition to updates on everything happening inside the ballclub, these webcasts will provide you the opportunity to ask questions on topics of your choice. A Season Ticket Holder Benefit page follows this letter and you should ask your Cubs representative about any of the items listed there.”
Wrigley Field Renovations
“Like you, we love Wrigley Field and are committed to winning a championship at the Friendly Confines. We all need to recognize, however,  that our wonderful Wrigley Field is fast approaching 100 years of age and is in need of substantial improvements. We committed over $10 million to that effort last year, largely to improve restrooms, add new food options, recast concrete, upgrade steel and other general maintenance. We will continue this effort in 2011 but again the focus will be more tactical than strategic.
“We spent much of the 2010 season assembling a team of renowned architects, engineers, designers and project managers to develop a master plan for a more significant Wrigley Field overhaul and Triangle Building development. Our planning will continue in 2011 and your involvement through the quality assurance surveys mentioned earlier is very important. We look forward to completing the analysis phase and getting underway with the construction and occupation phase.”
“Thank you again for your incredible support of Cubs baseball and the Ricketts family. We have spent our adult lives sitting next to you cheering for our team. We now have the responsibility to improve not only the play on the field but also to protect and save our summer home, Wrigley Field. With your help we will accomplish both.”

6/7 More on Cubs 1st pick Simpson

Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken said the team’s first-round pick, Hayden Simpson, has a good four-pitch mix and also a very good feel for pitching. Simpson’s style has been compared to Tim Lincecum, and Wilken said physically, the wiry Simpson is a cross between Lincecum and Roy Oswalt.

“I see a similarity in that we both use our whole bodies to throw the ball,” Simpson said of Lincecum’s somewhat contorted delivery. “We use everything we have.”

“It rivals it a little bit. You don’t have quite the arch,” Wilken said. “He’s pretty supple. He’s got a very fast arm.”

Scouts say Simpson has the same bulldog attitude that Oswalt and Lincecum have, too. Cubs Minor League roving pitching instructor Mark Riggins graded Simpson “100 percent” on his delivery. Wilken said one club that had extra picks on the first day of the First-Year Player Draft also was close to taking Simpson.

“This guy just made sense,” Wilken said.

GM Jim Hendry spoke to Simpson Monday night. The signing deadline is Aug. 16. If Simpson did sign early, he could report to Mesa, Ariz., for mini camp, and then it would be determined where the right-hander would be assigned.

— Carrie Muskat

6/7 Cubs pick RHP Simpson

The Cubs selected right-handed pitcher Hayden Simpson of Southern Arkansas University with the 16th pick in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft on Monday. It’s the third pitcher to be selected by scouting director Tim Wilken since he joined the Cubs in December 2005.

Simpson was recently named the Daktronics National Pitcher of the Year, only the second pitcher in Gulf South Conference history to earn the honors and first since Bubba Dixon did so in 1994. Simpson was 13-1 with a 1.81 ERA and six completed games in 15 starts for the Division II school, striking out 131 in 99 1/3 innings. He walked 35.

— Carrie Muskat

6/7 Draft day

The Cubs front office and scouting staff are gathered in Mesa, Ariz., for Monday’s First-Year Player Draft, which gets underway at 7 p.m. CT. The Cubs have the 16th pick in the first round. This is scouting director Tim Wilken’s fifth Draft for the Cubs.

“He seems like a guy who’s focused obviously, like everybody in the country, on who the first pick is,” player development director Oneri Fleita said. “But as soon as that pick is gone, his mind is motoring and he’s looking at who are they going to get in the 18th, 20th [rounds]. The Draft is not over until the 50th pick for Tim Wilken. I think that’s been a great dynamic and great strength that he’s given his staff.”

Here are Wilken’s previous five first-round picks:

2009: Brett Jackson/Class A Daytona

2008: Andrew Cashner/Cubs

2007: Josh Vitters/Class AA Tennessee

2006: Tyler Colvin/Cubs

2005: Mark Pawelek/Reds Class A

— Carrie Muskat

6/4 Draft day notes

The Cubs have the 16th pick in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft, which begins Monday, and won’t pick again until the second round (65th pick overall). Scouting director Tim Wilken and his staff are meeting now in Mesa, Ariz., to compile their board with players they have targeted.

“At this point, I have a pretty decent comfort level coming into it as far as what might land at our spot at 16,” Wilken said. “I like the picks from two to five. After that point, it might become a little thin. I’m quite a bit more comfortable than I’ve been in a few other Drafts. I don’t think it’s overwhelming, punch in the face ability, but there’s solid ability.”

Wilken said there is some right-handed pitching depth, just “OK” outfield depth and some third basemen available. The weakest part of the Draft, he said, was the catchers and also the middle infielders, especially at the college level.

Once the scouts go over their lists, they’ll come up with a game plan.

“Generally that first pick will be who we perceive to be the best possible pick there,” Wilken said.

— Carrie Muskat

6/4 First-year player Draft notes

Two of Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken’s No. 1 Draft picks are now on the Major League team in Andrew Cashner and Tyler Colvin. Wilken was the Blue Jays scouting director in 1995 when the team chose Colorado high schooler Roy Halladay. Keep the following story in mind as the Cubs head into next week’s First-Year Player Draft, which begins Monday:

Wilken watched Halladay play high school games in Arvada, Colo., and said: “You could see he was a good competitor. You could see he was a pretty strong young man.”

Halladay went to the Blue Jays’ complex in Dunedin, Fla., shortly after he signed. It was early July.

“There was a pitching coach there who said, ‘He looks awfully pale,'” Wilken said. “‘If I start running him foul line to foul line, he’s going to die in this Florida heat.’

“I put $20 down on the bench and said, ‘Who’s your best runner?'” Wilken said. “He said it was this Dominican kid. So they run, and after four pole-to-pole sprints, the Dominican kid broke down and goes on one knee and is gasping for air. Halladay is still running and just drills him into the ground, running-wise.

“I picked my $20 up and said, ‘Never judge a book by its cover,'” Wilken said. “‘And, by the way, [Halladay] finished third in Colorado in cross country in high school.’ The stamina and durability, you don’t always see that with a high school kid. He had a fast arm. You hear that he has good work ethic. You never know it until you sign him and get him into pro ball and then you really find out how dedicated he is to the sport.

“It also showed you how sometimes players get better through perseverence. He had a hiccup in Toronto and was sent back to ‘A’ ball. Roy never said a word about it. [Pitching coach] Mel Queen gave him a new arm slot and from that day on, you knew what Roy Halladay was all about.”

* The Cubs have the 16th pick in the first round of the Draft, which will be held over three days and begins Monday, with offering live coverage and analysis of the entire Draft. The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live on and MLB Network on Monday, beginning with the Draft preview show at 5 p.m. CT.

— Carrie Muskat

5/4 Looking ahead

The First Year Player Draft will be held June 7, and the Cubs have the 16th pick in the first round. They will not pick again until the second round, which will be the 65th pick. This will be scouting director Tim Wilken’s fifth Draft with the Cubs. You can follow the action on the MLB Network, which will be airing the event.

— Carrie Muskat