Jason McLeod, Cubs VP of scouting and participant progress, a short while ago admitted to an organizational flaw of staying too conservative with draft decisions and subsequent expertise progress. That prompted my latest assessment of his underneath-the-radar lousy draft document from 2006-15 with different groups.
But even though McLeod was largely addressing the disappointing outcomes in making homegrown pitchers, he explained small about posture-participant progress. So right here are some ideas on a couple of the organization’s non-pitching regions that may call for additional scrutiny and adjustment as properly.
Concentrate on OPS
Since Day 1, Theo Epstein has been very clear: He covets high-slugging hitters with a affected individual plate tactic. This signifies hitters who grind out plate appearances, generate balls late in at-bats, just take their walks, and run up pitch counts. This tactic normally leads to leaps in each OPS and strikeouts. Furthermore to a stage, the included run generation from the OPS gains can additional than make up for the increased whiff charge.
This high-OPS tactic was a important offensive attribute of Epstein’s 2004 and ’07 Boston championships. Interestingly, he selected not to implement it entirely to his draft philosophy. He still applied top picks to at times just take common non-slugging table-setters like Dustin Pedroia (2004) and Jacoby Ellsbury (2005).
But right after drafting make contact with-hitting Albert Almora ninth overall with his to start with Cubs decide on in 2012, Epstein applied his following a few high to start with-round picks to completely draft and build high-K sluggers who ideal matched to his high OPS progress model. Youthful players who didn’t match were being traded (D.J. LeMahieu, Tony Campana) or slowed in promotion (Almora). Those who embodied this model – Jorge Soler, Kris Bryant, Addison Russell, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ – ascended quickest to the important league roster.
So how do we consider this in close proximity to monolithic progress tactic? Does it deserve any credit score for a just cannot-pass up expertise like Bryant? Did it hinder absolutely free-swingers Almora and Javier Baez? Was Happ above-rewarded for hitting homers and having walks, but promoted too quickly to the detriment of his make contact with charge? And could this model reveal why other groups constantly benefit young Cubs hitters than Epstein for trades to function?
In search of OPS 2.
These are all very good concerns for debate. Of study course, it is essential to keep away from letting perfect be the enemy of quite darn very good. After all, how can you argue with an tactic that contributed to 4 different Environment Sequence titles, which includes the 2013 Pink Sox right after Epstein’s departure?
As a result right respect must provided to its earlier good results, but maybe with an emphasis on “past.” For even at the entrance office environment degree, baseball calls for continuous adjustments. After several years of emulation by other groups and adjustments by elite pitching, Epstein’s high-OPS tactic has dropped some of its potency. This applies fewer in the normal season, wherever the Cubs lineup still reliably racks up wins in opposition to diluted pitching staffs. Against much better contending pitching staffs down the extend and in the playoffs, on the other hand, people pros have flattened.
Cracks even appeared with the 2016 Cubs. That 12 months, playoff opponents shut them out additional moments (4) than any Environment Sequence winner at any time. In point, no other Environment Sequence winner due to the fact the playoffs expanded to a few round in 1995 were being shut out additional than after. Fortunately, the Cubs’ other remarkable sides (starting up pitching, protection, Aroldis Chapman) supplied plenty of benefit to conquer this boom-or-bust offensive inclination and prevail in seven game titles above Cleveland.
Interestingly, it was Epstein’s successor in Boston, Ben Cherington, who most properly built on Epstein’s OPS innovation to build what I get in touch with “OPS 2..” The Pink Sox won another title in 2018 behind the top OPS in baseball. Nevertheless this variation ironed out all the boom-and-bust by decreasing the offense’s K-charge to fifth-most affordable and mixing in a single of baseball’s ideal running game titles (125 steals, 80 percent good results charge).
Meanwhile, the Cubs’ collective farm process retains publishing a high wander charge (9. percent), but also experienced the sixth-maximum strikeout to strike charge (1.04 Ks for each strike). To Epstein’s credit score, he on a regular basis speaks of the have to have for his young hitters to decreased their K-charge by building better two-strike ways. He even introduced in Chili Davis previous 12 months to assist with that. But alas, the young hitters rejected Davis – and maybe that tactic – like a terrible organ donation.
As they say, it is tough to transform a important league hitter’s DNA. But prospective customers should be different. So how curious no proof exists of a robust two-strike tactic staying emphasized in the Cubs slight league process. Choose the Cubs’ most latest posture-participant get in touch with-ups. Victor Caratini’s reduced electricity numbers do not justify his 21 percent K-charge with the Cubs previous 12 months. David Bote slugs additional, but his 29 percent K-charge in the majors and 26 percent at Iowa previous 12 months are each too high.
Hunting to the following established of posture players closest to promotion, middle infielders Trent Giambrone and Zack Quick – who our Todd Johnson is pretty high on – each attribute increased than most popular strikeout numbers. Quick did put up an impressive 16 percent wander charge at Double-A Tennessee, but also a 30 percent K-charge (136 Ks) in opposition to just 17 homers. And even though Giambrone has worthwhile base-thieving competencies (26 of 35 previous 12 months), his 20 percent K-charge is not best for a participant with his modest electricity profile.
So Cubs prospective customers plainly obtained the memo on wander charge and OPS. But right until the corporation better codifies two-strike and situational hitting ways into their progress program (which includes promotion conclusions), a single just cannot be expecting the system’s penchant for high swing-and-pass up hitters to diminish quickly.
The luxury of team speed?
The Cubs noticeably deemphasized steals as a weapon underneath Epstein, who on a regular basis calls obtaining a speedy leadoff hitter a “luxury.” But the deficiency of diversification of the Cubs’ offense seriously showed the previous two several years. Nevertheless, some indicators present a doable endeavor to catch up in the rapidly lane.
For occasion, the Cubs previous 12 months boasted five prospective customers who stole additional than 25 bases: Giambrone (AA), outfielder Wynton Bernard (AA/AAA), and A-ball outfielders Roberto Caro, Zach Davis, and Fernando Kelli. This place the Cubs in a tie for seventh-most these kinds of base stealers in the minors. Furthermore 2018 draft picks Nico Hoerner (11 steals in 21 Arizona Drop League game titles) and Cole Roederer (13 steals in 36 AFL game titles) each attribute speed as pieces of their game titles.
Hoerner may offer the ideal indication as to regardless of whether this progress is intentional or fortuitous. For occasion, will the Cubs stimulate him to sacrifice speed to build additional bulk electricity, or will he continue being a base-thieving threat. For my income, I have no problem if he became a speedier mini-Pedroia: 30-40 doubles, 15 homers, 30-40 steals. In other text, a youthful variation of Whit Merrifield.
But thieving bases gets more challenging as a participant ascends the qualified ladder. I never presume to know if fifth-12 months slight league outfield and baserunning coordinator Doug Dascenzo is adept at instructing highly developed base-thieving technique. Nevertheless, excellent technique was not his important league forté with his high in the major leagues of 15 steals and a profession 65 percent good results charge.
Furthermore, Epstein employed Dascenzo when the corporation most valued common baserunning acumen above base thieving. This meant additional focus on to start with-to-3rd technique, having very good secondary leads, and looking through balls in the dirt. Given the Cubs stuck with virtually all the same slight league progress staff members, I question if the corporation would reward from a couple new specialised coaches to better cultivate the greater offensive diversification needed.
Capture as catch can
It’s properly chronicled that a lot of defensive metrics rank the Cubs young catching tandem of Willson Contreras and Victor Caratini pretty reduced. I to start with became curious about any connection to progress tactic right after Caratini was demoted to Iowa previous May. There he began just 19 of 32 game titles behind the plate, which seemed amazingly reduced provided what an best prospect it was to get catching reps and sharpen his defensive competencies.
A chance, of study course, existed that a lingering personal injury may have minimal Contreras. Nevertheless even further assessment of Caratini and Contreras’ slight league careers present a pattern of substantially decreased workloads by Cubs catching prospective customers as as opposed to the progress histories of other top important league catchers.
Of study course, it helps make sense to not overwork catching prospective customers, as small progress can materialize when a participant is overly fatigued. But as with the Cubs’ pitching prospective customers, a too conservative tactic to catching workloads can slow progress in additional specialised defensive regions like pitch framing and blocking.
As Miguel Amaya is now a single of the organization’s top-rated prospective customers, this tactic is well worth fast assessment. Amaya did get started 92 game titles at One-A South Bend previous 12 months, a awesome increase above Contreras and Caratini’s season highs. Nevertheless, it is still under the slight league workload provided most of the game’s attained catchers.
In closing, a good quality progress system should encompass a lot of facets. The Cubs are thought of amid the industry leaders for their investments in good quality amenities, highly developed engineering, diet, and mental competencies. But the time appears to be ripe for a further assessment and updating of progress ways to boost the posture-participant expertise pipeline.