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Cubs Rethink Pitching Development With New Hires

For everything that went right during the rebuilding years at Wrigley Field—and that unforgettable 2016 World Series run—the Cubs still admit that they have a problem. The organization assembled an impressive young lineup, but their issues with developing pitchers led to an organization-wide reboot.

Even the Cubs admit it can’t all be written off as bad luck and injuries and the cost of using four straight first-round picks on Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ.

"The important thing is that we recognize we haven’t been good at it,” president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said. "We’re kind of back to the drawing board.”

After firing big league pitching coach Chris Bosio—one of the franchise’s biggest influences during the rebuilding years—the Cubs hope Jim Hickey’s new voice and different personality can help recreate some of the elements that made the Rays so good at incubating young arms.

The Cubs viewed Jim Benedict as a key free agent after the Marlins fired the executive involved in so many success stories with the Pirates. Chicago hired him as a special assistant in Epstein’s front office. The Cubs also hired Brendan Sagara to replace minor league pitching coordinator Jim Brower, who left for a big league coaching job with the Mariners.

"It’s just a huge investment in pitching and our pitching infrastructure,” farm director Jaron Madison said. "It’s something we’ve obviously identified as an area where we can continue to get better.

"Theo made it a goal this past offseason. And all through last season, we talked about pitching: What can we do better as an organization—in the minor league level, at the big league level—to make sure we’re marrying our ideas at both places and getting pitchers up to the big leagues to help out?”

The Epstein administration has so far gotten just 30 big league innings out of six draft classes. Granted, a few others have been used in trades and pitched elsewhere in the majors.

But a new wave is coming, with righthander Adbert Alzolay potentially opening the season at Triple-A Iowa and a promising group of righties slated for the low Class A South Bend rotation. That group includes 2017 first-rounders Brendon Little and Alex Lange and 19-year-old Mexican sensation Jose Albertos.

Cory Abbott Photo By Nuccio Dinuzzo Getty Images

Podcast: How The Cubs Scouted Cory Abbott

Cubs area scout Tom Myers joins the podcast to discuss scouting and signing Cory Abbott.

Patrick Mooney covers the Cubs for The Athletic Chicago

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