Chicago Cubs’ Plan for the 2012 Draft: Be Less Wrong

We’re two days before Opening Day on the 2012 season, the first for the Chicago Cubs since Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod took over. So, as you might expect, preparations are feverish.

Preparations for the June Draft, that is.

Epstein recently explained just how much goes into his crew’s drafting process, and it’s herculean. From Patrick Mooney at CSN:

The Cubs want to know who hangs out with the wrong crowd, and what makes them tick. They want to see how they compete in other sports. Their 25 amateur scouts have been given cameras and must shoot at every game they attend, to create a video library.

“Information as a whole is the currency of the draft,” Epstein said. “So there are different buckets of information – scouting information, makeup information, medical information, statistical information, and our goal is to drill deeper than any other team.

“The goal is to get to know the kids better than they know themselves, because you’re looking at a 17-year-old. You’re projecting how he’s going to be at 27. It’s very difficult. You need to drill very deep to try to gain that kind of insight.”

Everyone talks to the coach and the kid’s parents, right? Where can you make a difference?

“Do you talk to the equipment manager?” Epstein said. “Do you talk to the guidance counselor? Do you dig deep enough to find out when the kid has struggled and (faced) adversity? What (has been) his biggest failure? How (has) he bounced back from that failure?

“There’s a lot of different ways to do it. Do you have a psychologist interview the kid? Do you have him take an objective test? Do you log your entire relationship with the kid, every bit of information that you get, so everyone in the draft room can share it and gain the insight?

“You can’t just wake up and do it in April and hope to have a good decision. It’s like a 15-month process, minimum.

“We know this approach gives us a better chance of being less wrong. (That’s) what scouting’s about, degrees of being less wrong, when you draft 50 guys and you get two or three right. This isn’t just something we’re doing for like window dressing. It evolved over 10 years in Boston. We feel pretty confident in the system.”

The entire article is excellent, and worth a read. The depth into which the Cubs dig into these kids’ makeup, past, and production, is impressive. And, even with that level of evaluation and work, the Cubs are still going to be “wrong” more than they’re “right” about these kids. I like Epstein’s candor and perceptiveness: it isn’t about being right all the time, it’s about being wrong slightly less often than your opponents.

As for maintaining a competitive advantage in the Draft, despite the restrictions imposed by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (which dramatically limits spending unless you’re willing to lose some future draft picks and pay a steep tax), the Cubs recognize that it all starts with the scouts.

The Cubs are equipping their scouts with the best equipment, video cameras, and company cars. In some cases, better pay comes into the equation, too.

The Cubs also want to create a support system to make scouts feel connected, despite the many hours on the road. As McLeod put it: “[It’s] creating an environment where they know that people care about what they’re doing. They’re not just 2,000 miles away driving down a lonely highway and no one knows what the hell they’re doing out there. Because it can be a lonely frickin’ gig.”

In other words, if you can’t “buy” the best prospects in the Draft, at least you can “buy” the best scouts. That doesn’t just mean with money; it means also creating the kind of place where, all things equal, a guy is going to prefer to be with the Cubs over any other franchise.

Once again, the new regime is taking a long view of competitiveness, and I’m reminded why I swoon and squeal.

Brett Taylor is the editor and lead writer at Bleacher Nation, and can also be found as Bleacher Nation on Twitter and on Facebook.

29 responses to “Chicago Cubs’ Plan for the 2012 Draft: Be Less Wrong”

  1. CubFan Paul

    I’ll work for the team that doesn’t make me share hotel rooms with another man

  2. Brandon Howes - AA Correspondent

    Looking forward to “scouting” the AA Tennessee Smokies beginning tonight from my seat in Row 1 above the dugout!

    1. Luke

      I’m looking forward to those scouting reports.

  3. Norm

    25 amateur scouts…I wonder how many scouts they have total, including majors and minors…

    1. Roughriider

      According to the 2012 Media Guide the Cubs have 66 scouts total. Majors ,Minors & Internatonal.

  4. Another Eric

    I think it would be cool to see a Cubs scouts’ blog at some point in the future, something akin to Byrd’s blog on cubs.com. It would be fun to learn more about what scouts are looking at on a daily basis, what impresses them, etc. And it might alleviate some of the isolation scouts must feel (make them a more visible part of the larger Cubs’ community) for maybe at least a handful of them who would be interested and who write decently well. Might not be practical for any number of reasons, but might be kind of cool.

  5. Jay Anderson Jr

    As a guy who prefers playing all in house talent on my big league team, this is what I like to hear. It makes me proud when a guy we drafted, we develop and that we bring to the majors has success. This is why no matter him much I disagree with the current makeup and roster moves of the big league club, I feel Theo is the perfect hire. Here’s to hoping we develop these guys and keep them instead of trading them for others.

    1. DocWimsey

      Why on earth do you derive pride in the success of a Cubs minor leaguer? Unless you work with the Cubs development (and given your major differences with Epstein’s baseball philosophies, that seems both unlikely and improbable!), it’s not an accomplishment by you, me or anybody else here.

      1. Jay Anderson Jr

        What’s the deal Doc, I feel you are stalking me. You comment on every statement I make. What wrong with taking pride in your team and organization. I thought that’s what being a fan is about.

    2. Norm

      Jay, may I inquire as to your age? I’m thinking that maybe you were a fan of baseball pre-1970′s when there was no free agency?

      1. Jay Anderson Jr

        I not that old. 30. I just believe in spending your career with one team. Giving everything you have to that organization, and that organization showing you loyalty back. I know that has changed in sports, but I still like it the “old school way”.

        1. TWC

          Jay, have you ever changed jobs?

          1. Jay Anderson Jr

            Please don’t compare sports with a regular job. I know they have a right to play where ever. Look at Paul Pierce and Ray Allen. The won a ring together in Boston, but who’s more beloved. Pierce is, because he has spent his whole carreer a Celtic. I know they have a right, but career 1 team players hold a special place with me. Please tell me what’s wrong with that.

            1. Norm

              Nothing is wrong with that. But to prefer a crappy one team player over a better multi team player is irrational.

              1. DocWimsey

                Actually, I have to disagree. It is highly unethical to vilify people for making choices contrary to one’s particular moral paradigm. Players have lots of reasons for choosing to play on other teams. Many do so because they grew up as fans of that team and they get to fulfill a dream by playing for them. Many are unhappy with the current organization. Many want to play on a team with a chance to win.

                1. MichiganGoat

                  And many (including myself and others) wanna get PAID… Bling, bling bitches.

            2. MichiganGoat

              There nothing wrong with that but to expect that and hold it against players is just not that realistic in today’s world. So say we signed Prince Fielder and he wins the MVP and Garza get the Cy Young are you saying you’d rather wish we rather avoid FA and only go with home grown talent.

            3. TWC

              OK, so you hold other people to different standards than those you hold yourself to.  Good to know.

              1. Jay Anderson Jr

                No I do not. I’m not saying these people are bad people for changing teams. I know this is a business. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t like Garza. Garza is a better pitchers then wells, but Well is more of my favorite. I cheer harder for Wells because he’s a career cub.

                1. SirCub

                  I think I can understand your perspective. It’s kind of like Stockholm syndrome. We’ve become irrationally attached to the Cubs players who have inflicted damage on us through their horrible play over the years.

        2. DocWimsey

          Good grief, “changed”? When was reality ever like that? Never mind when women were happy in the kitchen, “Negroes” were happy in the ghetto and gays were happy in the closet: I think that you might have to go back to when serfs sang songs of joy praising their benevolent lords! :cool:

          Teams showed players loyalty in the same type of world where Bilbo Baggins roamed. Players stuck with their teams out of loyalty in the same world. In this one, teams discarded players like so much trash when they were done with them. The players were (like serfs) pretty much bound to single teams by business practices that US courts declared to be illegal.

          You need to get over the good-old-days-that-never-were……

    3. Richard Nose

      In house love + Jim Hendry regime draft track record = years of shart.

  6. Sven-Erik312

    All this stuff that Theo wants the Cubs Scouting organization to do seems so logical and simple, you would think it be standard proceedure and not even need to be said, it seems to be so basic – and yet it apparently needed to be said anyway.
    Why?

    1. RoughRiider

      Sound and prudent judgment based on a simple perception of the situation or facts is not the same for everyone.

    2. Richard Nose

      I’ve thought that about a lot of things they’ve implemented. Guess that’s how a team ends up in the cellar.