Jason McLeod joined Jim Duquette and Jim Bowden during the Front Office (MLB Network Radio/SiriusXM Radio) on Sunday morning to discuss the upcoming draft.
McLeod talked about the draft room, the process the Cubs use to make the decisions on which players to select in the draft, how many players he’s seen, his responsibilities and the chain of command in the draft room.
The Cubs have a handful of players still under consideration for the fourth pick in the draft, which begins in just nine days (June 5).
There has not been a lot of sleep for Jason McLeod and his staff with the draft just around the corner. The same as it is for every big league organization. McLeod made it home Saturday and after getting some rest he was looking forward to lining up the draft board.
On when he will meet with his staff again to discuss the draft
The Cubs planned on getting their guys home for a couple of days to see their families before calling them in on Tuesday. McLeod said the Cubs would get started first thing Wednesday morning, “That will give us a full eight days,” McLeod explained. “And with the draft stay starting late, that gives us all day draft day to work as well.”
McLeod described the days leading up to the draft as “long and fun” with a lot of good discussion and debate, and pointed out you work all year “for really this week” and they are all looking forward to it.
On what is in the draft room and what it looks like
“I’m sure clubs do things differently. But when you spend all spring, and like I said the past 12 months scouring the countryside, you are going to have a 1000-plus names up on the board and they will be ranked … there will be position boards, you have your right handed pitchers, your left handed pitchers, some clubs break them down by position, by college or high school. So there will be walls or boards all over the place. We like to do it by position. You have a lot of names. We will have a general ranking before the guys all come in just so we don’t spend too much time,” McLeod explained. “We put them in a general area of round. And then from day one, I always like to just fit the college right handed pitchers from day one because that’s the bulk of the player pool and those days can get long. So I like to fit those guys first so we can work our way through that. As you get in deeper into the week you start going through some of the position boards. It allows us to spend the last couple of days, really on the cream of the crop and the better players in the draft.”
On how many players he has seen
“Well me personally in my role because I have the player development responsibility as well, this year I’ve probably ended up seeing about 75 players. I’ve tried to stick to the top two to three rounds,” McLeod said. “So during Spring Training, I would get out mainly on the weekends to see the players and come back during the week so I could be around minor league camp. Once Spring Training ended, I pretty much went full-time on the amateur side. When you are picking near the top like we have the last couple of years, certainly I want to see everyone that we are considering with that first pick.”
McLeod went onto explain he would “like to get two to three looks” on any player they are considering with the first round pick and he ends up spending most of his time on those guys.
On the top position players and pitchers in the draft, such as Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek and Carlos Rodon and how the scouts break down the pitchers for the draft
“Those are fun discussions to have when you are talking about player that are going anywhere in the first round certainly. We watch a lot of video. We have already had our regional meetings with our area scouts that have gone through their own evaluations of the players. Once we bring our regional crosscheck staff back in we will have more comprehensive performance data and really look at a lot of video and break down the video of the player,” McLeod explained. “We will talk about the stuff, how he uses it, the command, any thoughts that we have on the delivery itself, any mechanical issues, what kind of athlete we feel the player is. Can he make potential changes that we think that he made need to help him with his command or help him develop a little better feel?”
There are varying opinions in the room on each player. McLeod said the scout that saw the player will discuss him in detail.
“With our pitchers, as most clubs I think do, you tend to be a little more critical on long-term health. What he does now, what we think he’s going to do in the future. Those discussions can be pretty long-winded but certainly necessary,” McLeod said. “You put the video up there, you go through the evaluations. You talk about how much conviction the area scout has about this player. How well he knows him. What kind of teammate he’s going to be and you really try to flush through all of the information you can to eventually put them into the right spot on the board. Put them into a position that you think you can get them and also where you think he’s going to make the most impact for your team when you get him in the right round.”
On if the process has changed with gathering information on pitchers with the rash of recent arm injuries throughout the game
“With every club knowing that you need pitching I think the industry as a whole certainly has tried to look at in the amateur draft, what are the things we can do to make better decisions. Being the only sport that doesn’t have a combine that you can really do a full medical workout on guys prior to the draft it makes it really tough to fully be aware,” McLeod explained. “When you take that player there is always a hint of nervousness and hoping that he’s healthy and hoping that nothing is wrong inside his arm. Along those lines I think a lot of clubs certainly employ video now. Some teams use biomechanical analysis and consultants, and certainly we do that as well. You try to use the history of the player, or even if it is a high school kid. How much has he thrown during the last year? Is he a kid that pitched all summer went into the fall and did all of the travel ball teams? Did he shut himself down in the winter? So these are all of the things that we discuss at length as I’m sure most clubs do.”
McLeod added, “You draft a pitcher, no matter where you take him and there’s always, I know for me, that since of gosh I hope that when this guy comes and takes his physical he’s healthy.”
On some of the names at the top of the draft that the Cubs might be looking at and the difference between taking a position player versus a pitcher in the first round
Jim Bowden mentioned several of the top names earlier in the interview that have been discussed all year (Rodon, Aiken, and Kolek). McLeod said, “Unfortunately, like I just said, there have been some performances that weren’t as good as what the industry probably thought they should be and there’s a couple of high profile pitchers that went down with injury. I think that’s really shaken up the board of a lot of teams somewhat. And for us, we’ve made no secret about it that we want pitching. We are going to try to acquire pitching, as much pitching as we can via trade and draft. When you look at our last couple of drafts certainly we’ve taken the best player we’ve felt was on the board, and both of them were position players. For us, again, it’s just going to boil down to getting in the room. Having really good debates, thorough discussions and conversation. Right now I couldn’t tell you if it’s going to be a pitcher or position player. We’re not going into the draft saying ‘It’s got to be this guy’. I say we have a hand full of players that we are still strongly considering that we think will be at that pick. Looking forward to discussing it over the next week.”
On if there is a pitcher and a position player that is equal and with the strong group of position players in the system, would the Cubs take the pitcher over the position player
“It really comes back to the overall impact that we think the player is going to provide. Last year picking two, each of those top three guys we thought would be the top three guys. We just had a lot of back and forth on who we felt was going to be that guy. That’s what it boils down to. And we are not going to stray from that.”
On the chain of command in the draft room
“It is certainly something you have to respect everyone’s work and opinions. We also have Tim Wilken in our draft room as well. Not too many people can put their draft resumes up against his,” McLeod explained. “We’ve got tremendous experience in there. All of us understand at the end of the day that we work for Theo and Jed. My experience with them has been, certainly they are going to give their opinion, as long as we make a very valid argument, or I do, or Matt Dorey, who is our scouting director now, and we feel strongly and have conviction in it, they are going to go with that. Just as long as we don’t say I’ve got a gut feeling that it should be this guy. It’s got to be a strong argument. Theo, especially Theo, has not been one to say, ‘Well I understand how you guys feel, but this is what we are going to do.’ At the end of the day, he’s going to trust us. He put us in these positions for a reason and he believes in us and the process. As long as our process is thorough and we make strong, convicted arguments and back it up with the evaluations and all of that. They are going to trust the staff.”