(CBS) As the Cubs prepare in their long view for rotation members Jake Arrieta and John Lackey to hit free agency after this season, senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod believes help is on the way.
The organization’s most promising young pitching prospects aren’t ready to contribute this season, but some could become factors in 2018 and certainly the years that follow.
“What I am happy about now is that we do have pretty good depth in the organization, and now there’s starting pitching to be excited about, pushing into Double-A now,” McLeod said on Hit and Run with Barry Rozner on Sunday. “When you look at that rotation with Trevor Clifton — who was our Minor League Pitcher of the Year last year — Duane Underwood in terms of someone who had what was a disappointing year last year, for him, he’s still very age appropriate and actually young for what will probably be another Double-A season this year. He’s still only 22 years old. But then you look at the guys coming up behind them, certainly with the Dylan Ceases and the Oscar de la Cruz and the Adbert Alzolays, Tom Hatch — who we drafted last year out of Oklahoma State — these are arms we can really be excited about in terms of major league starting potential. So we’ve got that built up.
With their crop of young, talented position players having already fueled a championship, the cultivating young pitching talent has been the Cubs’ focus for some time now. It’s had mixed returns, McLeod admitted.
“We haven’t had any of the high-profile arms get up there yet,” McLeod said. “Some of that is definitely on us. We haven’t developed some of those pitchers yet. Some of it is just the fact that we’ve taken position players with our first picks, our first-round picks the first four years we were here and then last year we didn’t pick until the third round. So when you look at major league rotations, the number is somewhere near 50 percent of major league starters that came out of the draft were taken in the first round. So when you don’t draft pitching in the first round, you limit yourself somewhat in terms of the upside. But that’s not an excuse by any means. We need to be better. We understand that.
“We have two first-round picks this year after not picking until the third round last year. That will still be determined with what we’ll do with those picks, but I think on the pitching side of things, we can definitely see much brighter days ahead for us. But it’s still our responsibility to go out and be better than what we have the last few years.”
Listen to McLeod’s full interview with Rozner below.