Theo Epstein had no big signing to trot out for the faithful, nor was there a trade to capture an audience poised to erupt. Instead, the 2018 Cubs Convention began with a whimper as it was announced that the Cubs re-signed long-time minor league outfielder Trey Martin…<crickets>…
However, the weekend was filled enlightening moments from the Kids Only Press Conference, Wilson Contreras’s expletive-laced recounting of the Tommy Pham pickoff, a new TV network coming, hotel details, and a lot of people milling about the Sheraton Grand downtown. My #CubsCon experience ran to the minor league side, culminating with Sunday’s “Down on the Farm” session.
I took several things away from the weekend, not the least of which is how articulate, thoughtful, engaging, and sometimes humorous the young players were. Evan’s interviews with Dillon Maples and Mark Zagunis were two highlights for me, as was Maples’ display in the DotF panel as he explained everything from dancing in the bullpen to how pitching coaches and nutrition were keys to his success last year. Maples was not the only attraction Sunday, but he is turning into a charismatic personality.
Director of Player Development Jaron Madison and Director of International Scouting Alex Suarez answered a bevy of questions from fans aged from of all ages (including one who was present at the 1938 World Series), and one from yours truly.
Here’s a brief recapitulation of the session and some information given about some prospects.
- The Cubs have 80-90 regular scouts in the US and about 30 international scouts scouring the globe, including the Pacific Rim.
- Victor Caratini explained how spending spring training with the big league team helped prepare him to get to the majors and to do well once he got there.
- I asked where would Jose Albertos and Alex Lange start the season and Madison said that he expected both would be at South Bend.
- One of the highlights of the day for me was when Madison talked about Corey Black. Expectations for Black were still very high and his “maturity has taken a step forward. It helps that the righty has “two plus secondaries, sometimes three.” I really like that they have not lost faith in his talent.
- Suarez claimed that Albertos has MLB-caliber pitches and is a tough kid on the mound. He later added, “The injuries that he had, we don’t see hurting his development. He has the tools to succeed, just needs to continue to develop.” Suarez even quipped that Albertos was someone who could move quickly through the system.
- Mexico has become fertile ground for the Cubs, who are the leader in signing kids from there the past three years. Suarez also praised the talents of pitcher Javier Assad and second baseman Carlos Sepulveda.
- As for Adbert Alzolay, Suarez loved his athleticism and arm speed, his great mental makeup, and that the young righty is not afraid to try anything. Suarez called Alzolay fearless on the mound.
- One last interesting tidbit was that they are over 100 Cuban players who have been declared international free agents that have yet to sign with a major league club. The problem for the Cubs to date is that they don’t get to see them play in Cuba because of the current embargo, so the only place they can see him is international showcases.
It will be interesting to see what happens the next few weeks and whether any of these prospects will be part of a trade if the Cubs cannot sign a free agent of their liking. Regardless of what events transpire in the coming days and weeks, the future of the organization will continue to change as the development of young pitchers starts to come to fruition.