South Bend Cubs – Picture by Todd Johnson
That is the number one question I get every Tuesday without fail.
One of the byproducts of the expanded rosters of the last two years in the minor leagues is that teams can place players on what’s called the “Development List.” It’s a little bit different from an injured list where there is a set time for a player to be on whether it’s a seven days or 60 days. We seen players be placed on the development list for a few days this year. We seen guys just be on it for a week or two. We saw Riley Thompson and Ryan Jensen placed on it back on May 9. Their stays have been longest I can recall.
The purpose of the development list varies from player to player. The Cubs have used it for a variety of reasons and are doing so again this year.
1. Time Off
Last year, we saw several pitchers go on the development list just to take a break because they were piling up a lot of innings too quickly. Richard Gallardo in Myrtle Beach took a break as the Cubs were concerned about him reaching his pitch limit too early in the season. Ryan Jensen also went on the development list last year for South Bend as they basically skipped him for a couple of starts so that he did not go over his innings limit.
While we are technically still in a pandemic, the needs for the list have changed a little bit. Last year, the Cubs were concerned with a a lot of arms burning out to early in the year after missing all of 2020. The Cubs sort of had to stagger putting them on the list. An additional concern for the list at the lower levels was the Cubs also went to five-man rotations at the lower levels in class A. Before, only Tennessee in Iowa rotations used five guys while Myrtle Beach and South Bend carried six starters.
2. Changing Pitches/Grips
In 2021, the Cubs put Max Bain on the development list in late July. The Cubs tinkered with his pitch grips and what he was throwing. They focused more on him going fastball, changeup, and curveball. They wanted him to have three pitches that he could throw at different vertical levels as well as have horizontal movement. The end result of that developmental list was that Max was the Pitcher of the Month in August 2021.
When Ryan Jensen got back on the mound last night for Tennessee, we saw a much shorter arm action. He always reminded me a little bit of Tim Lincecum and how stretched out he would get in his delivery. In doing so, there were a lot of little things that could go wrong in that type of elongated leadup. The Cubs spent basically five weeks rebuilding Jensen and he pitched really well coming off the list last night, although it was just two frames.
I thought Riley Thompson would be coming off the list as he posted some pictures of himself in Pensacola with the Smokies on Monday. So, he’s definitely with the team, he’s just not on the team. We’ll see what they do with him whenever he returns.
We haven’t seen a lot of hitters go on the development list. Usually when they do, the Cubs are tinkering with their swing a little bit or trying a new stance. Because of the repetitive nature of hitting and the fact that they’re playing every day, hitters don’t need to spend as much time on the development list as pitchers.
5. Stashing/In Case of Injury/Covid
Officially, the affiliate is not going to tell us why a player is on the development list. Ever. They’re pretty tightlipped about every roster decision. Sometimes it can just be to stash a guy for a few days but still have them travel with the team in case of injury. Jonathan Sierra of South Bend was with the team from opening day until May before he got to play. Caleb Knight was only on it for a few days and then an injury occurred and then he was back at it and active.
One bonus of carrying around a player on the development list with the team is that there is less risk of bringing Covid onto the team since that player has actually been a part of the team.
I’ll be interesting next year to see if the development list continues as part of the minor leagues. Considering that Major League Baseball is now in charge of the minor leagues and this has been a thing for two years, we are going to go see this continue for the time being as long as teams like it and use it as a way to help develop players.