2013 cubs conventionI have returned home after a long, Cubs-packed weekend at the 2013 Cubs Convention. More on that later – by which I mean the “meta” version of the visit – but I want to catch you up on the substantive bits from yesterday’s ‘Down on the Farm’ panel, featuring Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod, Farm Director Brandon Hyde, Director of Pro Scouting Joe Bohringer, Josh Vitters, and Chris Rusin. It’s perennially one of the best panels, and this year’s was no exception.

Among the substantive information discussed …

  • Hyde talked about this past week’s Rookie Development Camp, and said the primary focus was helping the young players understand what it is going to be like when they make it to the big leagues. So, again, the inclusion of Javier Baez says a lot about how quickly they expect him to rise through the ranks. McLeod added that Kerry Wood and Mark Prior addressed the youngsters about the transition to the big leagues (about which we heard last week), which he thought was the perfect duo to speak about pressure, hype, and performing.
  • McLeod described the ‘Player Plan’ that each minor league player has – it sounded a lot like a corporate employee file – which documents his strengths, weaknesses, things he needs to focus on, etc. The plan is shared with the player so they know what the development guys think they need to be doing.
  • Bohringer described the four things a prospect generally needs to have to be considered a starting pitcher long-term: at least three quality pitches, a repeatable delivery, the ability to throw strikes with consistency, and a starting pitcher’s frame.
  • Hyde said something I’ve been saying for years: you don’t move a prospect off of a higher defensive position (SS and CF are the two main ones that come up) until it becomes absolutely necessary, because you want to preserve that prospect’s value (which, yes, includes trade value). If you’re a quality shortstop or center fielder by trade, moving to a lesser defensive position (say, 3B or LF, respectively) can be accomplished in a relatively short time. See, for example, Manny Machado taking over at third base immediately for the Orioles after not having really played it much in the minors.
  • McLeod says the leap between High-A and AA is the biggest in the minors, and it’s where some guys really get separated (because “at that point, you’re really just a phone call away from the big leagues”).
  • Hyde couldn’t say enough good things about the Baez/Almora/Soler trio, saying they have off the charts tools, etc. He also said they’ve been working out in Miami (though obviously Baez was in Chicago for the last week), and all are in great shape.
  • Hyde also defended Vitters, saying he was great in AAA at a young age in 2012, and his call-up actually helped him learn some things (speaking of preserving value … ).
  • McLeod said that new Pitching Coordinator Derek Johnson is a proponent of long toss, but he isn’t married to it. Johnson recognizes that long toss isn’t for every pitcher, and the program has to be tailored to the individual.
  • Bohringer said that, if Arodys Vizcaino comes back to where he was pre-Tommy John surgery, he’s going to be a huge part of the Cubs going forward.
  • Hyde says that Dan Vogelbach has been in Arizona, working on his body. But he noted that Vogelbach is actually a very athletic young man, who could wind up being a good one defensively. He mentioned the possibility of a move off of first base (though no position was mentioned, you’d have to assume the only other plausible option is left field (again, I think this was more about preserving value than an actual belief that Vogelbach can become a passable left fielder or a quality first baseman)).
  • Hyde suggested that the Cubs don’t have any kind of hardline position on the age at which a prospect is called up, but he emphasized that the big leagues are very challenging physically. A player tends to tell you by his performance when he’s ready, Hyde said.
  • The inclusion of Vitters and Rusin on the panel was interesting, given their relative (perceived) status in the organization. Was it a reflection of them being better thought-of than we have been led to believe? Was it merely a matter of scheduling convenience? Probably something on that end of the spectrum. Each said he was working on his core strength, by the way, to last longer in the season.
  • Marc N.

    Pawelek hit the 90’s going into the draft, the problem is that he had the worst mechanics you will ever find in a first round pick and it led to major control issues amongst other things that cost him velocity.

    The pick was actually considered a strong one on draft day….He was seen as the best LH HS pitching prospect that year.

  • ruby2626

    My bad Marc N. Might have had him mixed up with Simpson or someone else, somewhere along the line there was a soft tosser that Hendry picked way too high. I googled Pawelek out of curiousity. Mentioned he had maturity issues and then talked about an injury that he incurred tripping over his playstation in the middle of the night. yep, sure he was completely sober when that happened.

  • Joe_Smith

    Hey Brett, I haven’t heard much about the 2 Cubans recently. Is there any status on them and do you see the Cubs going after them?

  • cheryl

    Regarding V, I said some time ago that the cubs may have to make a choice between the batting of V and the defense of Rizzo. A couple of things struck me as interesting in terms of V – what do they mean he’s working on his body? Is he working on his athleticism? I’mnot clear on what they mean. Also, the level that a player performs at AA was referred to as a very good judge of that player’s future. So we probably won’t know more about V until this season. I’d like to know more about how he plays 1st at AA than to speculate further about him. On another issue why doesn’t Sveum leave well enough alone when talking about Soriano? It’d be better if he said nothing.

    • cheryl

      On second thought they probably mean he’s working with weights and conditioning. When do theminor leaguers report?