Scott Kornberg, Myrtle Beach’s new play-by-play broadcaster, caught up with Cubs farm director Jaron Madison during the Convention.
Jaron Madison talked about more in the Cubs’ system than the prospects during his informative conversation with Scott Kornberg.
On the Cubs coming off a 97-win season spurred by young players such as Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber, why do you think they’ve been able to be so successful so early in their careers in the Major Leagues?
“I think the biggest thing is they’re prepared from a mental standpoint. They know they’re talented. They know what they can do on the field but they’ve also put in the work with the mental side and getting prepared and understanding what the pitcher is trying to do them. And really just buying into what we’re trying to do and their role in the team. I think that’s what separates them. We try to really ingrain that in our players at the minor league level that, ‘Hey as you move up. You have to be prepared. You never know when you’re going to have to drop down a safety squeeze in a playoff game.’ All of our guys buy into that understanding that they are just a cog in the system. At the end of the day they will get to the big leagues and Joe [Maddon] will use them how he feels makes the most sense for the roster and the lineup that day. Every one of our players buys in to that and is willing to do anything to help our big league club.”
“I think that’s the biggest challenge. We see plenty of games. We get a chance to watch these kids from 14 to 20 years old and in college. Our system is setup we have a really good process in place with gathering information not only about what the player can do on the field, but the type of person he is. Each one of our scouts spends hundreds of hours on the road, in players’ homes, talking to guidance counsellors and teachers and ex-coaches and summer ball coaches and anyone we can to try to gain a little bit more information about who the player is as a person. And so we know what to expect when they come in the system. We know they are going to work hard. We know they are going to do the right things and put themselves into positions to continue to grow. We spend as much time as we possibly can to get to know those guys on and off the field and really try to minimize the risk of the makeup part of it.”
On coming from the Padres to the Cubs, what are some of the things you wanted to about the way they develop players in the minor leagues?
“Fortunately Jason [McLeod] had come here … Jason, Theo and Jed had come here the year before. A lot of the processes were already in place. We had a few staff changes and brought in a few guys that we thought fit our system and what we’re trying to do. And then it’s just about educating the scouts, talking to them. These guys are professionals. They know players. Now, it’s just ‘Hey this is what we’re looking for.’ These are the types of players that we feel will be successful in our system. Some of them will move fast. Some of them will take longer. We truly believe that the player development system that we have in place. And the coaches, they are invested in the players. We know that we can take a raw, crude, toolsy young player and take our time and make sure we get him right. Teach him the game of baseball and get the most out of his abilities. We also have the college guys that move quick like Kris and Kyle did this past couple of years and work their way up the system. We are prepared for both types of players where I think a lot of times you don’t have that symmetry between the departments. I think it’s really good having Jason over both departments has really helped. The types of players we’re going after are the same types of players we want to develop. It’s really easy and pretty seamless transition as you go through the system.”
On Myrtle Beach seeing a Championship team by a lot of the same players that won the year before in Kane County, in player development is there a balance between winning and teaching the players to learn how to win? And at the same time making sure you’re sticking with a guy and making sure he’s developing his skills?
“Absolutely. I think that’s probably one of the biggest challenges for the young managers. There is a fine line between winning and development. Making sure they understand at the end of the day, we want to have a winning culture but we’re not going to sell out to win an individual game. The biggest thing we’re trying to do is develop our players and sometimes you have to stick with a guy who might not be hot. It might be a big game but in the big, grand scheme of things winning a championship in the minor league level is nice. We want to win championships at the big league level and it’s more important those guys are developed and ready when they get there than winning a championship or pinch-hitting for a prospect because he’s in a slump. It’s definitely a challenge but it’s something that I think everyone of our guys is on-board with and understands.”
On the prospects that were with Myrtle Beach last year such as Jeimer Candelario that had a good season with the Pelicans and are there players Myrtle Beach fans can look out forward to seeing play at Wrigley Field one day?
“Absolutely. Guys like Victor Caratini, who caught a big chunk of the innings last year at Myrtle Beach. He was a guy that got off to a little bit of a cold start as far as statistics. But when you went in there you saw the approach, you saw the at-bats and you saw the hard contact right at guys. He was a little bit unlucky early in the year. As the season started to wrap up he kind of broke out and really put together a good campaign. He carried that into Advanced Instructional League and continued to get better as a receiver which is going to be for him probably more important than anything because we know he can hit from both sides of the plate. Now it’s a matter of, can you build the trust with the pitcher? Can you learn how to run a game and slow everything down so that you can help the pitcher and get him through the game? We have guys like that. Obviously, Chesny Young had a great year, won the batting championship this year. Mark Zagunis is a guy who has always been able to hit and always been able to get on base. These are guys who have stopped through there and will continue to work their way up to the big leagues. I think Myrtle Beach fans will be proud because they did share part of that championship and they were there to help win some games there. I think most importantly one of things we stress with our players is being a good person in the community and helping out the community. From everything I’ve heard, talking to everyone with Myrtle Beach, our guys have been willing to do anything to help out with the hospital visits or anything that has to do with helping Myrtle Beach because it’s just a great place to be.”
On players that are on the radar to start the season with Myrtle Beach
“We will have a lot of those guys that were in South Bend. Obviously Gleyber Torres is penciled in to be the starting shortstop there coming into the season. We’ll see how everything goes at Spring Training. We also have that young pitching staff with Trevor Clifton, Jake Stinnett, Erick Leal and guys like that. They are going to come up and battle for jobs. As well as Rashad Crawford and Charcer Burks and some of those other outfielders and infielders that were on that South Bend club who should be ready to push up and take the next step in their development. We also have Ian Happ, who probably should start out in Myrtle Beach bat wise, but he is making the full-time conversion to second base so we’ll see how that goes during Spring Training. He could be a guy that’s pushing for that club, too.