Cubs' latest front office acquisition another steal from San Diego

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Cubs' latest front office acquisition another steal from San Diego

The Cubs continue to cull talent from San Diego while molding their front office.
The Cubs have hired San Diego Padres director of amateur scouting Jaron Madison to fill the same role in Chicago. Madison joins general manager Jed Hoyer and Jason McLeod, senior vice president of scouting and player development, who also left the Padres for the Cubs.
Jaron understands our systems and the processes, McLeod said Saturday. Hes a talented evaluator himself and a great manager of scouts, very organized and detailed.
The Cubs also promoted Tom Wilken, director of amateur and professional scouting, to special assistant to the presidentgeneral manager.
Tim is such a talented evaluator, McLeod said. His history speaks for itself. It allows us to utilize his strengths to reach more areas of the organization. I know hes really excited about it. It makes him feel, notre-energizedlike he needed it, but hes been in amateur scouting so long and done such a great job there, I know he feels like he was ready to contribute to other departments of the organization.
McLeod also addressed the progress of several prospects in the Cubs minor-league system, including outfielder Albert Almora, the sixth overall pick in the 2012 draft. Almora was hitting .262 through 15 games at the rookie level.
The two months off from his high school season ending, not signing till mid-July, certainly that set him back as far as his timing and seeing pitches, McLeod said. Hes really getting back in the groove of things. Right now there are no immediate plans other than keeping him playing down there and letting him get his timing back.
Jorge Soler, the Cuban outfielder who signed a nine-year, 30 million deal, recently made the jump to Single-A Peoria from the rookie level.
We dont have any big expectations for him this year other than to get professionalized, learn his teammates, get assimilated to the country and baseball in the United States, McLeod said. So far, hes handled that part of it very, very well.
First baseman Daniel Vogelbach, the Cubs 2011 second-round pick, has eight home runs in 16 games with short-season Boise.
Hes only played 40 games or so (this season), got 15 home runs, big, strong, McLeod said. Hes got a chance to really create some havoc. It remains to be seen (if he stays in Boise). If he continues on this pace, he might force the issue a little bit. Hes already hit his way out of Mesa and 10 games or so in Boise now hes doing the same thingthere.

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

Brett Anderson’s personality mixing well with Cubs: ‘I don’t hate anybody yet’

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. – Joe Maddon's T-shirt slogans can get a little old at times, but the Cubs manager found a new audience in Brett Anderson, who liked the idea of "Be Uncomfortable" after signing a one-year, prove-it deal with the defending champs.

"It's been awesome so far," Anderson said. "That's my running joke – we're a month into it now or whatever it is – and I don't hate anybody yet.

"That's a testament to the group as a whole – and maybe me evolving as a person."

Yes, Anderson's sarcasm, social-media presence and groundball style fits in with a team built around short-term pitching and Gold Glove defense. The if-healthy lefty finished his Cactus League tour on Saturday afternoon by throwing four innings (one unearned run) during a 7-4 loss to the Colorado Rockies in front of 13,565 at Salt River Fields at Talking Stick.

Anderson will open the season as the No. 4 starter after a camp that has been remarkably low-key and drama-free.

"I'm kind of cynical by nature, but it's a fun group to be a part of," Anderson said, "(with) young guys that are exciting and happy to be here. And then obviously the mix of veterans, too, that are here with intentions of winning another World Series."

To make that happen, the pitching staff will have to again stay unbelievably healthy. Anderson rolled with a general question about how he physically feels now compared to where he's usually at by this time of year.

"Obviously better than last year, because I was walking with a gimp and all that stuff," said Anderson, who underwent arthroscopic surgery to repair a bulging disk in his lower back last March. "No, my body feels good, my arm feels good and you're getting into the dog days of spring training where you're itching to get to the real thing."

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

Joe Maddon breaks down the Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella decision for Cubs

MESA, Ariz. – Matt Szczur vs. Tommy La Stella appears to be the final decision as the Cubs shape their Opening Night roster.

That's assuming good health – manager Joe Maddon sounded unconcerned about Ben Zobrist (stiff neck), Addison Russell (stiff back) and Albert Almora Jr. (stiff neck) – and the Cubs carrying an eight-man bullpen.

Maddon appeared to eliminate one variable, confirming that La Stella has signaled a willingness to go to Triple-A Iowa if necessary, which would normally be an obvious statement, except for last summer's "Where's Tommy?" episode.

"I haven't even thought about it," Maddon said during Saturday's media session at the Sloan Park complex. "It's not an issue. I thought we handled it pretty openly last year and there's been no blowback whatsoever from the players."

Beyond this – La Stella initially refused to report to the minors last July, moved back home to New Jersey and talked briefly about retirement – an American League scout and a National League scout tracking the Cubs in Arizona both agreed that Szczur looks like the superior player.

Plus Szczur – and not La Stella – is out of minor-league options now.

"When you get this kind of a talent, depth-wise, it's a wonderful problem to have," Maddon said. "And then, of course, the rules start creeping in. The rules in this situation would benefit Matt, which is a good thing, because he's a big-league guy that's been riding the shuttle. He's done it in a very stoic manner, and he's been great for us."

La Stella has allies in the clubhouse – Jake Arrieta got a Coastal Carolina tattoo on his right butt cheek after losing a College World Series bet – and goes about his routine in a quiet, diligent manner.

La Stella is not a distraction at all and can hit left-handed and play the infield – two attributes that Szczur can't bring to Maddon's bench.

"Matt Szczur, to me, is a Major League Baseball player," Maddon said. "You're seeing what Tommy can do from the left side of the plate right now. And then it's just a matter of balancing things out. We've already mentioned that some guys on the infield can play the outfield within this group, thus it presents differently regarding what you need."

[MORE CUBS: Javier Baez won’t change his style around Cubs after World Baseball Classic: ‘We’re not showing anybody up’]

Szczur is hitting .361 with a .994 OPS through 14 Cactus League games and can play all over the outfield. But that skill is diminished when the Cubs already have four established outfielders plus Zobrist and Kris Bryant able to shift from the infield.

Then again, defensive wizard Javier Baez should have the Cubs covered all across the infield in case of an emergency. With the defending World Series champs a week out from facing the St. Louis Cardinals at Busch Stadium, we're about to find out if Maddon made his recommendation or had a possible trade scenario or disabled-list situation in mind.

"I love Matt Szczur," Maddon said. "This guy as a teammate – you're not going to get a better one. Nobody's going to get a better one on any team for any reason.

"We haven't decided everything or anything yet. Stuff happens in a very short period of time. He is a major-league baseball player. So we'll just wait a couple more days, see how it plays out. But he's a benefit to any group that has him."