Epstein Balances Traditional And Advanced Approaches
CHICAGO—Theo Epstein's arrival will bring an increased commitment to player development and scouting. It could also change the kind of players that the Cubs seek through the draft and in Latin America, with an emphasis on strong fielders and disciplined hitters.
Epstein, who was named president of baseball operations, says he and his general manager, Jed Hoyer, will engage vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod and others on the staff in writing a "Cubs Way" manual for scouts and minor league coaches. It is likely to be introduced at the team's organization meetings, which were postponed from the fall until late winter, just before the start of spring training.
Epstein, of course, is a big believer in the value of statistical analysis. But he weighs that against traditional scouting and wants the Cubs to represent the best at both ends of that evaluation spectrum.
"Baseball is complex," Epstein said. "There's no one way to play the game. I do think a big part of the game revolves around the box right around home plate both for pitchers and hitters. So . . . the hitter's job is to know the strike zone . . . not so you can walk. That's sort of a happy symptom of the approach, not the end-all . . . Probably the most important thing to do (for a hitter) is not make an out. (If you) hit for extra bases, all the better. (Seeing more pitches) has an effect that builds."
Bryan LaHair, a 28-year-old first baseman who was the Triple-A Pacific Coast League MVP in 2011, could be one of the first beneficiaries of the regime change. He batted .331/.405/.664 with 38 home runs—along with 60 walks—at Iowa last season and was off to a torred start this winter in the Venezuelan League. LaHair was blocked by Carlos Pena, as the Cubs declined to trade Pena at the July 31 deadline and again in August even though he was a prospective free agent.
"He's an asset," Epstein said of LaHair. "We'll have to take a deeper look . . . There's more to this game, especially in the National League, than just swinging the bat. We'll dig deeper on that one. But, look, we're looking for assets . . . We're not going to look past one that might be sitting right there in our organization."
• McLeod and Hoyer did not displace anyone on the Cubs' staff. Randy Bush and Tim Wilken remain as assistant GM and scouting director, respectively.
• Shortstop Junior Lake and righthanders Trey McNutt and Chris Carpenter represented the Cubs in the Arizona Fall League's Rising Stars Game.