By Todd Johnson
It is always fitting and ironic that the session about the Cubs minor league sessions is always last. When I sat down in my chair to check out the festivities, I was not sure what I was going to get from Jason MacLeod, Jaron Madison, and whoever else would be on the panel (It would be just them). And I wondered what kind of questions Tennessee Broadcaster Mick Gillispie would field from the audience.
I started out watching the video feed from the Eugene Emeralds. It was tough to hear the questions, but Jason McLeod came through pretty clear. That lasted for about 16:37 before the feed cut out. After that, I relied on tweets from Evan Altman, Tony Andracki, the South Bend Cubs, and a few others.
For the first ten to twelve minutes, pitching was the main focus of the panel. McLeod said,
“After developing no pitching in 7 years and money becoming issue at the major league level, there’s definitely a sense of urgency. It’s on us. We can’t just keep celebrating Kris Bryant. It’s so obvious it’s not even an elephant in the room.”
He later added that the Cubs were too conservative in the pitchers they selected in 2012 and the he takes the blame for that. However, both McLeod and Madison feel good about where the pitching is at now and Brailyn Marquez’s name came up several times throughout the session.
As for who could help the MLB squad this year, Madison and McLeod mentioned Adbert Alzolay, Dakota Mekkes, and James Norwood. McLeod said they would all likely be used out of the pen. Duncan Robinson even got a bit of pub at one point in the conversation.
When it came to Nico, Madison quipped that Nico should move through the system quickly. The two men on the panel were also high about Hoerner’s makeup and potential leadership skills. McLeod and Madison threw out Miguel Amaya, Cole Roederer, and Brennen Davis as names to keep an eye for 2019. McLeod also said that there were several kids in the DSL but he didn’t want to name any of those hitting prospects by name just yet.
A couple of other discussions involved David Bote’s incredible work ethic along with Jason Vosler and Charcer Burks. A good sign also occured when the discussion turned to Jose Albertos.
Another aspect of their discussion I enjoyed, even though it was very brief, was that by having a second rookie league team in Mesa, it is going to allow the Cubs to be more aggressive in the draft. Last year, the Cubs signed over 30+ players including several high school and junior college picks.
Jaron Madison also spoke highly about the future for 2017 top picks in Alex Lange and Brendon Little. Madison said that Lange needs to improve his consistency. As for Little, Madison said, “He has all the upside in the world. He spent nearly the entire offseason in Arizona working his butt off and showing us what he can do.” Everyone I talk to in the system just loves Little and his desire to improve through hard work and using tech.
There was one funny bit where McLeod told how Cole Roederer in Arizona asked one guy where he played in 2018. The player responded, “Chicago, Wrigley Field.” It was Ben Zobrist.
The Baseball America Podcast
While I did find the reports and video for the session fun to listen to, I got an outsider’s perspective of the system via a podcast on Baseball America. I started checking it out as soon as Down on the Farm ended. I found it very enlightening. Kyle Glaser and Josh Norris talked about the system and several of the Cubs top prospects in detail.
The views from beyond the Cubs’ universe also like Nico Hoerner a lot. Norris sees Nico as a fast mover like many of us do. Both writers also praised Miguel Amaya for his first half of 2018 and talked of his overuse in the second. Zack Short even got some high praise later in the podcast for his defense and power.
In addition, the head scratching seasons of Aramis Ademan and Jose Albertos were discussed in detail. I really like Glazer’s analogy of Ademan. “He looked like an 8th grader playing high school varsity football.” By that Glazer meant that Ademan had the tools to play, he’s just not physically strong enough to hang with them on a day-to-day basis.
As for Jose Albertos, Norris very much still believes in him. He stated, “I bet on upside, I bet on tools.” Norris quoted scouts who said that Albertos’ problem was more mental than physical.
The biggest plaudits in the podcast came later for 2018 pick Cole Roederer who Norris thought of putting Cole at #2 if he would be in a really aggressive mood. The Andrew Benintendi comp came up again about Cole and Norris stated he thought Cole would begin 2019 in South Bend.
Davis got a lot of praise too. While both Roederer and Davis have high ceilings, Davis’ floor is a bit lower. Based on conversations with scouts, Roederer might move a faster pace than Davis who has his own set of skills to work on that Cole has already mastered.
I will be back tomorrow with the 5 Series. This week’s prospects to be analyzed are Yovanny Cruz and Jared Young. I am not sure who goes first yet. On Friday, relief pitchers close out the organization breakdown series and hopefully Baseball Prospectus releases their Top 10 Cubs prospect list this week. Lots of good stuff coming your way.