With the formal announcement of the Chicago Cubs’ re-affiliation at the Low-A level, switching from the Peoria Chiefs to the Kane County Cougars, team President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein spoke on a range of related topics. Among his thoughts (for which you can find exemplary source quotes here, here, and here):
- On aligning with the Kane County Cougars, who play just 45 miles west of Chicago: “I’m a big fan of having as many affiliates as possible close by to the city. It creates a lot of efficiencies with rehabs. It allows front office and staff to see the team play a little more often. It also gives our players a feel for the market. Before there’s too much pressure on them, they get an understanding of how important baseball is and get to know the fans a little bit. It’s obviously good for the affiliate with a link to the hometown team. I hope it can be a win-win …. Just from my own experience in Boston when we had Pawtucket, Portland and Lowell nearby, I think there’s no replacing proximity.It’s an outstanding feature to have if you can have a number of affiliates close by.”
- On leaving Peoria in favor of Kane County: “It’s never easy but [you] just try to handle things professionally. If you look, almost the whole Midwest League turned over and it’s par for the course these days.”
- Theo added that, while the Cubs aren’t currently planning on having Kane County change its mascot from the “Cougars” to the “Cubs,” it is a possibility down the road, depending on how the teams want to market things.
- On Jorge Soler participating in instructional ball rather than the Arizona Fall League: “We feel like he’s at a point in his development where he needs a lot of instruction. He hasn’t played a ton of quote-unquote ‘organized baseball’ and hasn’t gone through a Spring Training with the club yet. It’s not a question of talent. But there’s a lot about ‘The Cubs Way’ that we want to teach him. It’s a good chance to get one-on-one instruction. There are some small mechanical adjustments we want him to make in his swing with his stride direction [and] where he starts [and] loads his hands. Those types of adjustments are better made under the club’s supervision and in a one-on-one environment in instructional league, where you can use video day after day after day. It’s just a better environment for him to develop.” That just sounds so … smart. Yes. That. Do that.
- On making minor league roster decisions: “[The decision] really happens in Spring Training but it depends on each player’s individual player development plan. There’s criteria for advancement and when they satisfy that criteria they move up. During Spring Training we have meetings where we get together and decide, fill out the rosters. It’s primarily what the right step is for each player’s development and then obviously sort of at the end of the roster you fill in other players to balance out the rosters as best you can.” If you think about it, that’s gotta be a really complicated process – you need to have a complete roster, but you also want certain guys at certain levels … but you’ve also got to make sure there are at bats/innings for them … but you’ve also got to make sure the right position is available for them … and on and on.
- Relatedly, Theo added that we can expect to see a number of Boise’s top prospects – guys like Albert Almora, Dan Vogelbach, Gioskar Amaya, and on – start the year at Kane County, because that’s the next logical step up the ladder.