NEW YORK — Jason McLeod acknowledged “the national tragedy” and “unavoidable” topic after the Cubs selected Charleston Southern University outfielder Chris Singleton in the 19th round of the Major League Baseball draft.
Almost exactly two years ago, Singleton showed remarkable poise, sending the “love is always stronger than hate” message after his mother, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, died in the mass shooting at a historic African-American church in South Carolina.
But McLeod, a senior Cubs executive who oversees scouting and player development, doesn’t think that Charleston hate crime will completely define Singleton.
“First and foremost, he’s a talented player on the field,” McLeod said Wednesday. “We had him evaluated really as almost like a top-10-round-caliber talent. He’s very athletic, a plus runner, plus defender, base-stealer.
“We certainly understand the backstory there. But what I want to make sure doesn’t get lost is that this guy’s a really good baseball player. He’s talented. He’s athletic. There’s upside there.”
Singleton played in at least 50 games in all three seasons at Charleston Southern, putting up a .351 career on-base percentage, stealing 18 bases as a junior and ranking among the nation’s leaders with 10 outfield assists this year.
“Of course, you all understand what he went through when he held that press conference the day afterwards,” McLeod said. “Everyone you talk to around him — meeting him last week when he was working out at Wrigley — he’s a very mature young man. And one that we’re really looking forward to getting into the organization.”
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— All 41 players the Cubs drafted across the last three days have their own stories, but Austin Filiere is unique in that the third baseman developed into an eighth-round pick at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology while majoring in business analytics.
But Filiere also played with Cody Bellinger — a potential National League Rookie of the Year for the Los Angeles Dodgers — at an elite high school program in Arizona and made a good impression in the Cape Cod League.
“He goes to MIT, so he’s smarter than anyone in the room,” McLeod said. “Obviously, the kid is incredibly bright and intelligent and ended up at MIT. But he went out and played on the Cape last summer and held his own there. When you look at the competition level that he’s normally facing, he hit for some power and drove the ball and continued to rake this spring.
“He’s very strong and has sock in the bat. The kid really loves baseball. He’s all about baseball. We’re looking forward to getting him on board and hopefully getting him to (Class-A) Eugene this summer and seeing what he does.”
— With a bonus pool worth almost $7.5 million, McLeod sounded confident the Cubs would be able to buy sixth-rounder Jeremy Estrada out of his commitment to UCLA and make the Palm Desert High School right-hander part of their pitching-heavy draft class.
“We’re pretty hopeful,” McLeod said. “With the way the economics of the draft work — through your diligence and your communication — you have to feel pretty good if you’re going to spend the pick. So we do feel like we’ll be able to bring him on board. We’re excited about his future and the upside that he has on the mound.”