Carter Hawkins on the Cubs, the Guardians, and Pitcher Development
When Chicago Cubs President Jed Hoyer brought in Carter Hawkins from the (then) Cleveland Indians organization to be his new General Manager, there was undoubtedly a whole lot that went into that decision. Forward looking things. Personality fit things. Work ethic things. Experience things.
But the opportunity to get a peek under the hood of what Cleveland had been doing for YEARS to CONSTANTLY churn out quality pitching was just as unquestionably part of the decision. I don’t know that anyone would say it out loud, and it’s not like you can just port over everything an organization is doing by hiring one assistant GM. Still, you just know it was part of the move, and, so far, pairing Hawkins with AGM Craig Breslow and the pitching development infrastructure that had started to be built out by Hoyer just before Hawkins arrived … it’s looking pretty good.
Hawkins spoke with David Laurila at FanGraphs about his time in the Cleveland organization and now in Chicago, and I appreciate that Laurila straight up asked the thing I’ve always wondered:
As for the teams’ respective hitting- and pitching-development processes, Hawkins told me that “the frameworks and models are essentially the same.” Developing arms being a Guardians strength and a Cubs weakness, I was especially interested in whether Hawkins’s current club is copying some of what his old employers have been doing so well.
“I would say the Guardians have done a great job of finding guys and then individualizing their performance plans,” the executive told me. “If you look at a guy like Eli Morgan, he’s a significantly different type of pitcher than Triston McKenzie. They had individualized plans, and with the help of a great coaches and a great process, the Guardians are maximizing their potential.”
Of course Hawkins wasn’t going to say “yes,” but … I read that as yes! The Cubs are indeed trying to borrow certain methods and approaches that have worked for the Guardians, and with which Hawkins was intimately familiar. The Cubs had a much more rigid approach several years ago, where they had a developmental philosophy they kinda tried to apply across the board, rather than being as highly individualized as they are now.
I love it.
Note, though, that even in a world where the Hawkins arrival heralded a SIGNIFICANT improvement in pitcher scouting and development, you can’t forget that first part. Yes, it’s about pitcher development – things are looking good, as I said – but it’s also about acquiring those pitchers in the first place. That, too, has been something Cleveland was always incredible at: acquiring the right guys whom THEY KNEW they could develop really well. It’s going to take a few years for us to really appreciate whether the Cubs have improved at that part, too. (Though last year’s draft, with so much pitching taken throughout, including seven-figure bonuses for three of their first four picks in righties Cade Horton and Nazier Mulé, and lefty Jackson Ferris, is probably going to tell us a lot over the next two years.)