Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Minor matters

The biggest move that the Cubs have made so far this offseason could be the bullpen help, it might be acquiring the leadoff man that they have needed since Kenny Lofton left, it may even be a move that is yet to be made. I won't call it a move of the level of a possible Prior/Tejada trade, but the Cubs made a very significant move the week before Christmas.

Last week, the Cubs made a change at the top in their scouting department. While John Stockstill is off to Baltimore to assist Mike Flanagan, the Cubs hired Tim Wilken from Rays. This page and this writer in particular has taken a bunch of shots at the Cubs scouting and player development system. Let's face it for years it has not been up to snuff. Hopefully things will begin to change in that area. Wilken's track record with the Blue Jay's was very impressive. This from the Cubs Official Release:

During his 27-year career, Wilken has seen a distinguished list of players signed and ushered into the big leagues, including: Derek Bell, Chris Carpenter, Carlos Delgado, Ryan Freel, Shawn Green, Roy Halladay, Steve Karsay, Billy Koch, Josh Phelps, Alex Rios, Vernon Wells and Michael Young. While with the Blue Jays, he contributed to the club's streak of seeing 11 straight first-round draft picks reach the major leagues.

Wilken does not come from the Moneyball school. This from Phil Rogers column on Christmas:

The Cubs made a great hire by getting Tim Wilken from Tampa Bay to replace departed scouting director John Stockstill. Wilken made his reputation with Toronto in the days when the Blue Jays won the old-fashioned way, through
scouting and player development. . . .

Well, at least it wasn't Phil playing armchair GM again--making up trade scenarios. The hiring of Wilken is significant for this organization. As Arizona Phil over at the Cub Reporter states:
Wilken is known for drafting high school players (although he claims to have no real preference for high schoolers over college kids, that is his tendency) and believes in building a draft the same way you build a team, with “strength up the middle”

This from Bruce Miles article in the Daily Herald:

“We’re thrilled to have him,” said Cubs GM Jim Hendry. “He’s obviously well respected in the industry. He’s one of the top guys in the game. He built quite a reputation for all these years with (former GM) Pat Gillick in Toronto.

“He was a national guy for years. He ran drafts for the Blue Jays and did well. In back-to-back years, he took (Roy) Halladay and Vernon Wells. So his reputation speaks for itself. He’s a great leader. He’s very well organized and a tireless, tireless worker. He’s done a lot of major-league scouting also.”

Hendry added that he talked with in-house candidate Brad Kelley about the job. Kelley will move from being a cross-checker to advance scout. Hendry also praised Cubs cross-checkers Sam Hughes, Mark Adair and Scott Pleis, all of whom he said were on the right track to becoming scouting directors.

Wilken’s chief duty will be to run the June amateur draft. The Cubs will have a first-round pick, but they lost their second- and third-round choices with this off-season’s free-agent signings of pitchers Scott Eyre and Bobby Howry.

There really is only one direction Wilken can take the Cubs scouting department. If he can get anywhere near the success the had in Toronto, he'll be the toast of this organization. He'll also save Andy MacFAIL's job. (It might be too late for the Baker/Hendry two-headed monster)

Stockstill's Legacy

What is Tim Wilken inheriting? Let's take a brief look back at the Stockstill era. John Stoctskill took over the Cubs Scouting Department in 1999. How'd he do? Here are his first round picks:

1999 Ben Christensen
2000 Luis Montanez
2001 Mark Prior
2002 Bobby Brownlie
2003 Ryan Harvey
2005 Mark Pawelek

Stockstill's two best picks were Mark Prior with the first round pick in 2001 (we all knew that was the choice after the Twins took Joe Mauer) and a lefty with a high leg kick named Dontrelle Willis in the eighth round of the 2000 draft.

Back in May, Bryan Smith at Baseball Analysts took a look at all of the NL Scouting Directors. Take a look at what he said about Stockstill:

The longest tenured NL scouting director, John Stockstill has both success stories and blemishes on his resume. Most consistent in his ideology is the tendency to draft players that have slipped due to economic concerns, using the Chicago market to his advantage. Stockstill also tends to spend late-round picks on players generally seen as hard to sign, and many are names that tend to pop up again: Khalil Greene, Taylor Teagarden, Jeff Larish, etc. Stockstill was unfortunate to come right before the Corey Pattersons and Kerry Woods were drafted, and also is likely bummed that Jim Hendry chose to include Dontrelle Willis in the Matt Clement trade. I'm not sure that Stockstill will have a lot more drafts with the Cubs at this pace, but expect more of the draft-the-undraftable strategy to continue in 2005.

It's hard to find anything bad to say about this move for the Cubs organization. How successful this move is won't be known for 3-4 years. The proof will be over the long haul when we see Wilken's department select players and turn them over to Oneri Fleita's minor league system. The Cubs have to do better developing their talent, of course that whole process starts with the selection process.

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