Dan Kantrovitz, the Cub V-P of Amateur Scouting, appeared on 670 The Score’s “Inside the Clubhouse” on Saturday morning and spoke at length about the Cubs’ draft process and strategy leading into the draft.
When Bruce Levine asked about the Cubs first pick at seven, Kantrovitz said, “If I knew who we were going to draft, I might feel a little bit more comfortable answering that question. At this point, at seven, you just got to go into it OK with not knowing who you’re going to take and then you’re going to read and react to the six picks in front of us.”
There’s really not much more the Cubs can do other than hurry up and wait. They key will be sticking to their board. Speaking of boards…
The next question from Mike Esposito revolved around coming up with a list of their top seven guys and following their board. Kantrovitz responded, “It ends up being a little bit more complicated than that. For all intents and purposes, if it ends up going with the top six on our board flying off, the seventh guy on our board will be our pick.”
Bruce Levine then asked a good question about how the Cubs structure their decision making process and who makes that final decision about draft picks. Would it be Kantrowitz or would it be the GM or would it be a consensus? What is the setup with the Chicago Cubs? Kantrovitz eloquently explained:
“Every team does it slightly differently. When you’re talking about a pick as high as seven, it is an organizational pick. We are going to have complete alignment from Jed on down. There’s quite a bit of discussion every day before our meetings, and when we break, and that’s, whether it’s Jed or Carter or Perez, anybody that’s involved in the executive leadership level has a vested interest in this. We get opinions from our player development staff, from our research and development group, and then obviously our scouts. It’s a collaborative process. In this day and age with all this information coming at us, You can’t help but have a lot of people involved in this.”
I found this to be a really insightful answer. After Brennen Davis graduates, the number 7 pick could be the hope of the franchise for a few years to come (or until next year’s draft based on the Cubs’ current record). More than likely, that prospect will also be a top 100 prospect in all of MiLB. In other words, it’s a big time pick.
Another excellent question that co-host Mike Esposito asked was how the prevalence and importance of bullpen arms is changing how the Cubs select pitching. I really liked that question and I liked the answer as well.
“Pitching has certainly evolved and is still evolving pretty quickly. We see that at the amateur level, the high school level and the college level as well. I think at the end of the day, though, you have to have weapons to go multiple times through the order. So, sometimes having two pitches isn’t going to cut it. So that’s something that’s changing our ability to measure how effective a pitcher might go multiple times through the order. But at the end of the day you still have to find somebody that’s going to get outs at the major league level. And that’s a hard enough task as it is. Once you’re in a position to say, ‘We’re not sure if he’s a starter or a reliever. We think he’s a big leaguer.’ That’s not a bad problem to have. There’s a spectrum of what are the chances he will be a starter at the next level. What are the chances that he might have enough weapons in his arsenal to go more than once through the order. In terms of what’s changed, I think we have probably more tools at our disposal to evaluate those different weapons in a pitcher’s arsenal. It’s definitely something that’s evolving as more data is being thrown at us. Hopefully that will enable us to be a bit more precise in those evaluations.”
What I liked about this answer is that pitching questions asked within an organization are usually pretty simple. Answering them and evaluating your own pitchers is not. Success at one level is not a precursor for success at the next. The same holds true for pitching. Success the first time through an order doesn’t mean the second or third are going to on a par with the first time.
When Bruce Levine asked whether Kantrovitz was looking at a high school player or a college player or the best player available, Kantrovitz responded, “It’s got to be the best player available. There’s essentially four demographics: the college position player, the college pitcher, the high school pitcher, and the high school position player. I think people might have their preferences. At the end of the day, you have to be open to any of the four demographics. If you are not, you probably constrain yourself unnecessarily and might miss somebody that’s a really good player”
Esposito then asked the final question about whether or not the pedigree of certain prospects plays into an evaluation. Basically: Do sons of former players have an edge? It was a very good question. Kantrowitz said,
“It’s a really good question. I think the answer is probably yes, it factors into it. Where it really impacts the player is his ability to be exposed to resources in developing throughout his life that other players wouldn’t have. It’s just a big advantage to have somebody, if your dad was a big league hitter, to break down your swing and have video with him after the game. Similarly if he was a pitcher. So if you’re hanging around the clubhouse and your dad‘s co-workers happen to be other major leaguers, there’s a chance that you might get more out of that than if your dad‘s occupation is something else. It certainly plays into the development opportunities that a player has been exposed to at that point. But at the end of the day, when we draw a line of demarcation, now we need to evaluate this player, currently where he’s at in relation to his peers, the name on the back of the jersey isn’t as influential in the decision making process. There’s the other component which is this: does this player know what he’s getting into? Is he ready for pro ball, does he have the mentality to stick it out through the ups and downs? There is probably an advantage associated with seeing your dad or relative or your brother go through that process. Just so that it’s not quite as shocking when you do encounter those bumps in the road. That’s something we pay a lot of attention to and try to focus on the makeup evaluation whether this player’s going to be able to overcome adversity or not. Often times, if you’ve seen somebody go through that, you might be able to handle it a little bit better. At the end of the day, it’s just part of the process, one piece of the picture. It is not going to make or break a decision. But we have to be aware of it and try and see how it affected the players development up to this point.
I really like how nuanced the response was. I love how Kantrovitz brought in makeup and adversity into the answer. Most of these draft picks were the best players on their team or in their conference and haven’t had to struggle. Dealing with that is a key component of development and sons of major league players may not have had in their past. It is an interesting concept to thing about!
It was a quick interview but I enjoyed the answers Dan gave. Unfortunately, Kantrovitz could not talk about specific players, if you were wondering. We will get to hear what he says tomorrow night when the Cubs have two picks and he can actually talk about why they selected who they did!