Ready for impact: Cubs exec Jason McLeod is on the clock

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Ready for impact: Cubs exec Jason McLeod is on the clock

Jason McLeod checked into his new office at Clark and Waveland on Opening Day, knowing that he wouldnt be back for almost two months.

McLeod was on the clock, and planned to use his San Diego home as a temporary base while scouting the country. His job is to see the future, and envision what a 17-year-old high school kid might look like at the age of 27.

When Theo Epstein introduced McLeod and general manager Jed Hoyer at a stadium club news conference last November, the Cubs president delivered a line that still sticks in your head.

Jason McLeod is the rarest commodity in the industry, Epstein said. He is an impact evaluator of baseball talent.

At the podium that day, the new Cubs senior vice president of scouting and player development sat next to Epstein, literally his right-hand man.

McLeod was a lead architect of the pipeline that brought Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Clay Buchholz and Daniel Bard to Fenway Park. This is his time of year, what he calls our Super Bowl.

The Cubs entered Day 3 of their pre-draft meetings on Wednesday. They hold the sixth overall pick and four of the first 67 selections in the amateur draft that begins June 4. They have to get it right.

McLeod sees a draft thats rich in high school talent, particularly on the pitching side. The college class features some pitching depth, but is viewed as weak in terms of position players.

The Cubs will have to target pitching, because its the organizations biggest need. Team officials believe that you need power arms to get to the playoffs, and that they tend to show up more in the postseason. But you cant force it.

Its just straight impact, McLeod said. When we look up two, three, four years down the road, whos going to make the most significant difference on this organization? Thats the priority all the time.

The Cubs expect around 40 prospects to come through Chicago for final inspections, some local college players and some who might go first round.

Its not so much for the evaluation on-field, McLeod said. Its more to sit down and really look them in the face and ask some pretty pointed questions.

McLeod and Epstein did this years ago with the Boston Red Sox. On some level, its like the intense interview process that got Dale Sveum the managers job, where they want to see how you react and how you think things through.

The Cubs are going through thick binders filled with scouting reports on performance, personal background checks and medical records. This year they also gave their scouts cameras to create a video library.

Even Sveum has become another set of eyes and watched some video on certain prospects, to break down their swing mechanics and see what will play on the next level. Its all about information, which has been organized in the new Bloomberg computer system.

Back in spring training, when a reporter wondered where you can really make a difference Everyone talks to the coach and the parents, right? Epstein fired right back.

Do you talk to the equipment manager? Epstein said. Do you talk to the guidance counselor? Do you dig deep enough to find out when the kid has struggled and (faced) adversity? What (has been) his biggest failure? How (has) he bounced back from that failure?

Theres a lot of different ways to do it. Do you have a psychologist interview the kid? Do you have him take an objective test? Do you log your entire relationship with the kid, every bit of information that you get, so everyone in the draft room can share it and gain the insight?

The Cubs will have to exploit that advantage, because they cant just write checks to players who are perceived to be difficult to sign. The new collective bargaining agreement created a cap-and-tax system that assigns an aggregate signing bonus pool to each team.

Baseball America reported that the Cubs will draw from a pool of almost 8 million. One source suggested that it wouldnt have been unrealistic to think the Cubs would have spent three or four times that amount without those restrictions.

Id be lying if I didnt say everyones looking at: Is there a loophole in there somewhere? McLeod said. But really were not focusing too much of our attention to it. The CBA is what it is.

Were just trying to line up the board to get the best players we possibly can.

Epstein has compared his ideal vision of a front office to a think tank or a boiler room that argues everything out to reach a consensus.

There are around 20 staffers in the Chicago draft room now. A leading voice will be amateur scouting director Tim Wilken, a holdover from the Jim Hendry administration who once helped the Toronto Blue Jays draft Roy Halladay and Chris Carpenter.

The one thing I like to tell everyone is: Lets check our egos at the door, McLeod said. Tim Wilkens one of the most respected scouts, probably of all-time. Im going to disagree with him, even though he has 30-plus years of experience. Hell disagree with me.

Everyone should have disagreements. Thats how we feel we get the most information out of the players were talking about.

Who has the authority to make the final call?

Theo, McLeod said with a smile. Hes our boss. He trusts us to do our job, and ultimately I think Theos going to go with our recommendation.

Funky style has Todd Frazier leading White Sox in stolen bases

Funky style has Todd Frazier leading White Sox in stolen bases

It may not be very pretty, but it’s hard to argue with the effectiveness of Todd Frazier’s stolen base technique.

Despite employing a walking-lead style that his manager loves to harp on, Frazier swiped two more bags in Sunday’s victory over the Cleveland Indians. Frazier’s 14 stolen bases this season not only leads the team, it’s also the most by a White Sox third baseman since Luis Salazar also stole 14 bases in 1985.

“He’s got that sneaky little stolen base thing where he sneaks off there,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “He looks like a fan ran on the field. It works. I don’t know how to explain it, but it works.”

Frazier has learned how to make it work.

Successful only 58.5 percent of the time in his first three minor league seasons, Frazier adapted his style after he and Hall of Fame second baseman Joe Morgan discussed his leads. Frazier, who was successful in only 24 of 41 tries between Cincinnati’s Rookie League team and Double-A, said the talk resulted in an alteration and drastically improved results. Frazier’s success rate increased to 81.8 percent at Triple-A as he was successful in 36 of 44 tries.

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Frazier has converted 57 of 85 tries in the majors (67 percent), including 14 of 19 this season.

“Basically every time I stole a base my first move would be coming up in the standstill,” Frazier said. “(Morgan) taught me the walking lead, basically because the more you get your momentum going toward the base I have one or two steps ahead of somebody. We went over that a little bit, I started working on it in Triple-A and I’d get about 15 stolen bags a year. I’m not the fastest guy, but if I can a step ahead and get two or three or four when the guy throws it they’re not going to be be able to throw it. Sometimes I’ll get picked off and you’ll be like, ‘What is he doing?’ But I’ll take five or six of those a year to get to second base and get two big runs there for us.”

Frazier’s steals on Sunday led to two of three runs scored by the White Sox. Even more important (for the purposes of bragging rights), the stolen bases gave Frazier the team lead over Adam Eaton, who has 12 steals.

“I told Eaton I was going to get him, no problem,” Frazier said. “I told him ‘I’m coming for you,’ and I got two today so I took the lead, which is pretty cool.”

Ventura still isn’t quite sure how Frazier does it. But he’s impressed nonetheless.

“He’s not a normal looking base stealer, but he’s able to create some havoc when he’s out there” Ventura said.

Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites Week 6 Coverage

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Viewers' Choice: Vote for High School Lites Week 6 Coverage

Who wants it more?

We are putting High School Lites, Chicagoland’s top prep sports show, in the hands of area football fans in our “Viewers’ Choice Game of the Week.” Fans will get the chance to pick one game that the @CSNPreps crew will cover on Friday night. We will send our cameras to the game that gets the most votes; highlights of that game will appear on that night’s “High School Lites” broadcast at 11:00pm, just after White Sox baseball. The show also live streams at csnchicago.com. High School Lites will also have broadcast replays at 7:30am and 8:30am the following Saturday. This week, we spotlight the Metro Suburban Blue conference:

Riverside-Brookfield at IC Catholic Prep, 7:15 p.m.

St. Edward at Fenton, 7:15 p.m.

Wheaton Academy at Glenbard South, 7:15 p.m.

Polls open Monday at 12:00pm and close Thursday at 4:00pm. Fans are encouraged to vote more than once! Vote now right here!

Be sure to follow @CSNPreps for updates on the “Viewers’ Choice Game of the week,” along with other football news, scores and highlights this season.

Rules: official votes are tabulated exclusively on Twitter and Facebook via the link above. “Re-Tweets” and “Likes” do not count. Also, the original wording of the Twitter/Facebook voting prompt (including hashtags) cannot be manipulated in any fashion. However, feel free to add emojis, numbers, etc. at the end of an official vote’s text, provided there is a space after the final hashtag. Automatically timed-interval (“bot”) votes will also not count.