Cubs

Cubs believe in Chris Singleton — the son of a Charleston shooting victim — and what's next after MLB Draft

Cubs believe in Chris Singleton — the son of a Charleston shooting victim — and what's next after MLB Draft

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.”

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

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USA TODAY

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Jon Lester struggles against the division-rival Cardinals

It was a tough day for the North Siders.

The Cubs got obliterated by the Cardinals as Matt Carpenter had a three-homer, two-double day. Ben Finfer, Seth Gruen and Maggie Hendricks join David Kaplan on the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast to talk about the blowout.

Was Jon Lester due for this kind of terrible outing? And do the Cubs have enough to swing a big trade before the deadline?

Plus, the panel discusses Matt Nagy’s first training camp practice in the rain and Roquan Smith’s absence in Bourbonnais.

You can listen to the full podcast here or via the embedded player below:

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester saw a start like this coming

Jon Lester had easily his worst outing of the year, allowing the Cardinals to score eight runs on seven hits, the veteran All-Star only managed three innings before Joe Maddon turned to his bullpen. 

The Cardinals would take game two of the series by the score of 18 to 5, and while none of the Cubs pitchers could silence the Cardinal bats, Lester didn't shy away from his poor outing. 

"You know, I don't want to chalk this up as bad days happen," said Lester. "I think mechanically this has kinda been coming." 

Lester knew he was struggling to hit his spots, and while his ERA was a sparkling 2.58 coming into this start, his peripheral stats had him pegged as a potential regression candidate in the second half of the season.

His 4.35 FIP and 3.30 walks per nine innings show a pitcher who is relying heavily on his defense to get outs, which isn't surprising for a 33-year-old veteran but the walks are a concern. 

Cubs manager Joe Maddon was aware Lester had been working on his mechanics, but even he was surprised that Lester's start went downhill so quickly. 

"I thought he had good stuff to start the game, hitting [92-93 mph] and I'm thinking this might be a good day," said Maddon. "But you could just see from the beginning he was off just a little bit." 

Over Lester's last four starts his ERA has been an uncharacteristic 4.57, issuing 10 walks over those four starts, and only making it past the 6th inning once. At this point of Lester's career, he knows the best way for him to get outs isn't through strikeouts but by inducing soft contact and avoiding walks. 

And while both his hard contact rate and walks have increased this season, Lester's experience and high baseball I.Q. has allowed him to navigate his way through sticky situations. 

"I've been getting outs," Lester said candidly. "I just feel like when I've had that strikeout or I have a guy set up for that pitch I haven't been able to execute it." 

And while this outing was one to forget, it's at least a positive sign that Lester is aware of his issues on the mound. The veteran knows how to get outs and he knows what he needs to do to be successful in the latter part of his career. He just needs to get back to executing those pitches. 

Just don't expect Lester to dive head first into the analytics on how to fix his issues, he'll stick to hard work and baseball common sense. 

"I'm not too concerned with the analytic B.S., I'm worried about my mechanical fix for my next start."