Jason McLeod, the Cubs Senior Vice President of Player Development and Amateur Scouting spent time Saturday morning with Bruce Levine and Wayne Randazzo on Inside the Clubhouse (670 The Score) and discussed a variety of topics in the Cubs system.
McLeod talked about the promotion of Javier Baez and why the front office decided August was the right time to call him up instead of September. The improvements Jorge Soler has made on the field and last year’s misperceptions.
In the pitching department, Jen-Ho Tseng, Paul Blackburn and Duane Underwood are having good seasons and the front office is happy with the starting pitching depth that has been built up in the system.
On the good feeling around the team with the recent promotion of Javier Baez
“I think when you start seeing some of the young players start to get to the Major Leagues it certainly makes everyone in player development and scouting that has had a hand in touching these players somehow, it makes you feel really good, excited. It makes the guys that are in the pipeline now that are starting to matriculate to the Major League level gets us all excited about them as well.”
“As we were talking more in the office, Theo, Jed, Ricky and the staff. You have to always look at what is best for the organization and when looking at the individual player, as well, what will be best for this player and his development. As we looked at the rest of this year and looking into 2015, I think the question really became ‘What will be best of Javy Baez [Javier Baez]and how would it help us most as an organization looking at next year?’ So when we were looking at September, four weeks versus bringing him up this past week and seven to eight weeks, we thought getting as much Major League experience and exposure this year would be more beneficial to him. Certainly we know it’s going be a learning curve and he’s going to take his lumps, but we thought the more experience he could get now would only help him more, and therefore help us as a team going into ’15.”
On Jorge Soler, his make-up and adjusting to life in the States
“I think it is easy sometimes to lump a lot of the Cuban players in together and you see how certain guys respond and how quickly they get to the Major Leagues or how quickly they integrate themselves into the American culture and to their teams. We have to sit back and remember when we signed Jorge [Soler] he was 19 years old so he wasn’t an experienced Cuban player that played at the highest levels like some of the other guys that have come over. So when he came over, I think it was a little different of an adjustment period for him. Unfortunately last year he had the incident on the field that no one was happy about. He was embarrassed about it as well. He’s learned from that. So I think that probably had something to do with some of those whispers you might have heard about what type of teammate is this guy and what type of person is he. He’s been nothing but someone that his teammates have rallied around and the staff really adores and loves working with. This year, unfortunately he was down in extended spring a lot due to the hamstring injuries, but when he got to Tennessee he was there for a brief time with Kris Bryant and when Kris left, he became the guy that the team really rallied around and looked too to be a leader for that team. I think they see him getting a little more comfortable being over here now for a couple of years, him understanding a leadership role and how others look to him and how he carries himself. Even as a 19-year old when we first met him, he always had a great smile and had a matureness to him when you talk to him and I think we are just seeing the continuation of that and thankfully he’s healthy now and been playing for a little bit now. I think you’ve seen a carry over to the success that he is having on the field.”
On how much time in the majors adds to and possibly aids in the development process for players like Javier Baez and Jorge Soler
“Well it is certainly a whole different game now. We like to say you are getting the third deck on the stadium and all of the media attention and the games being broadcast nationally. I think certainly it’s an evaluation process in and of itself just to see how guys handle that environment. Then in addition to they are facing Major League pitching now and guys that can stay in the zone, change speeds, change eye levels and this whole next seven or eight weeks for Javy is going to be an opportunity for us to see how he responds to the environment, how he responds to Major League pitching. Certainly guys are going to try to get him to go out of the zone with the breaking balls and so forth. It does allow us to evaluate, in a sense, but at the same time it gets Javy the experience going into the off-season to see, ‘Okay this is what these pitchers are trying to do to me. This is what I need to do with my approach going into 2015.’ Hopefully he will have 150-plus at bats to get pretty good experience over these next two months.”
On the ascension of young leaders on the team, Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro, is it easier to bring up the young guys
“I think we feel good knowing now that you have seen Anthony [Rizzo] and certainly Starlin [Castro] take on more of a leadership role, a mentorship role. Yet they somewhat have to now because, Starlin, I thinks, is one of the most veteran guys on the team now, and you can never underscore having veteran players on a team that have been through the battles that have been in good clubhouses, have been on winning teams. I think that’s going to be a constant topic of conversation for us is to find those guys. We have some of those players here now. Even with staff members, like Eric Hinske who played in the Major Leagues very recently and has been on winning teams. That is so important to have those guys that can really help mentor the younger players and that have done it recently or is still actively doing it. As great as we feel about what Anthony and Starlin are doing and some of the other guys, we don’t want to just bring in a bunch of young players into the environment and throw them into the wolves. We are going to need those veteran guys to show them the way of sorts. Really happy to see the maturation of both Anthony and Starlin.”
On when Jorge Soler will be called up
“You know he’s playing very well for sure. Last night [Friday] he had another really good game. A couple of walks, a double, a home run and it’s been really impressive to see when you factor in how much time he missed this year. To see him jump in and put the numbers up that he has at Double-A and Triple-A. Hopefully he’s going to force a decision here in the near future.”
On how he feels about the pitching in the system, such as Jen-Ho Tseng and Paul Blackburn
In regards to Jen-Ho Tseng, “It’s been super impressive when you consider that it’s maybe that not even a year yet that he’s been a signed player to see how quickly he’s integrated himself into the teammates, the culture here. He dove into his English classes and he’s a guy that, we have an interpreter with him, but he would rather, almost, not have the interpreter because he really wants to speak on his own. On the field, he’s been super impressive. He’s a three-pitch guy that throws a ton of strikes. I just saw him last week and he’s already got both breaking balls, curveball and a changeup, that he can really locate in the zone. So it’s really exciting to see what he’s done there and Pauly Blackburn [Paul Blackburn]. Duane Underwood, that really not a lot of people are talking about Duane, he might have the most upside in our organization in the minor leagues as far as starting pitching. He’s a mid-90s guy with a power curveball. He was the second sandwich pick for us two years ago. So we have young arms there. I think what makes us happy now is throughout the organization, we go to all affiliates now, we are happy with the starting pitching. We feel like we’ve built up some depth at all levels and certainly we’re hopeful that a few of these guys now will take a big step forward and even surprise us in terms of what their upside is.”
On winter ball and the Arizona Fall League rosters
“We don’t have, we are in those discussions now. We haven’t determined who is going. The way it works with the Fall League is that you have to put in for a priority position, since you share the team with three other clubs and each team would love to send … let’s say four teams want to send a shortstop there, well you can’t all send shortstops, so it is kind of a ballot and you get to put in for we want at this position. We did find out what that position is that we’re getting. We are still determining who the right guys are to send there.”