Theo Epstein and, to a lesser extent, Jed Hoyer tend to get all the credit for the Cubs’ success. But just as integral to the team’s growth has been the guy who joked about being able to get better seats when he sits with the team president. Jason McLeod, senior VP of scouting and development, is in charge of a farm system that has gone from afterthought to juggernaut over the last five seasons. That transformation has been about more than just drafting the right players, as the Cubs have also shifted all three A-level affiliates (short-season from Boise to Eugene, low-A from Kane County to South Bend, and high-A from Daytona to Myrtle Beach) over the last couple seasons.
Huge sums have been invested in brand-new facilities in Mesa and the Dominican and the organization has put countless amounts of time and effort into programs that help their prospects develop as both players and young men. As McLeod told me, it’s the team’s responsibility to make sure that the vast majority of minor leaguers who don’t make it to The Show will still learn how to comport themselves as productive citizens. The Cubs employ several mental skills coaches, one of who is specifically dedicated to young Latin players.
During the course of our conversation, McLeod spoke of the qualities the Cubs look for in draft picks and international signees and how players move through the system according to individual development plans. He also addressed some of the challenges the team faces now, like picking at the bottom of each round and dealing with stricter international signing limits. We even talked about maintaining a family atmosphere throughout the system and how that is fostered from the top down.
I knew going into this that McLeod was an incredibly intelligent and effective executive, but what really struck me was how normal he was. He reminded me of my uncle Al, just a grounded dude (not that my other uncles aren’t, mind you) who you’d never guess was in charge of a huge chunk of a multi-billion-dollar organization. There’s some good stuff here, folks.