The Cubs are shaking up their player development structure this offseason, announcing a host of internal moves Thursday while also teasing future news on outside hires in the player development and scouting departments.
In his season-ending press conference two weeks ago, Theo Epstein said the Cubs would be creating new roles within the organization — directors of pitching and hitting.
Those hires were announced Thursday, with Craig Breslow being promoted to the director of pitching role after serving as the director of strategic initiatives with the club in 2019 and Justin Stone getting the bump up to director of hitting after spending the last year working as a biokinematic hitting consultant for the Cubs.
"Scouting and player development are a couple of departments that we really started to build up eight years ago and we’ve been making adjustments as we go to try to modernize," Epstein said. "I think this is a good opportunity to take a look at how would we set it up if we were building it from scratch. How would we set it up not to adjust for the modern game, but to be centered around the modern game?
"We’ve already made some structural and leadership changes and we’ll continue to make more adjustments as well. [The director of hitting and pitching will] ensure that we are building these departments, teaching the game, evaluating players for where the game is now and where the game will be going to make sure we continue to be at the cutting edge."
Breslow, 39, will also work as a special assistant to Epstein and GM Jed Hoyer. He is an Ivy League product who studied molecular biophysics and biochemistry at Yale and also spent 12 years in the big leagues as a relief pitcher with the Red Sox, Twins, A's, Indians, Diamondbacks, Padres and Marlins.
Breslow will be tasked with developing and producing impact pitchers from within the farm system, a major weakness of this front office since they arrived to Chicago eight years ago. Part of his job responsibility will be to further grow and enhance the "Pitch Lab," which gained notoriety this season after helping the likes of relievers Kyle Ryan, Rowan Wick and Brad Wieck.
"We’ve been working for many years now with the most cutting edge technology to develop the ability to have great pitch design, pitch tunneling, pitch sequencing, velocity-building programs and certain areas; we’ve been really successful," Epstein said. "Other areas, we haven’t been and we need to continue to do better. I think the goal of someone in the role of director of pitching is to have real clarity on what our pitching philosophy is, what our separators are going to be as an organization, how we make the best use of the most cutting edge technology for the state of modern pitching and — most importantly — where pitching is going over the next several years.
"And then implement that from top to bottom of the organization, more on the minor-league side, but with a working relationship with the major-league staff so that we have the best possible methods with how we teach pitching, how we maximize pitching and how we evaluate pitching.”
In other words, the Cubs want to be more like the Astros, who have had a remarkable knack at acquiring pitchers and adding spin rate and more swing-and-miss stuff to their repertoire.
Stone has a long history of coaching amateurs in the area, with a stint at Indiana State University (1999-2001) and serving as the GM of the Chicago White Sox Training Academy (2001-11) before starting his own facility in Chicago — Elite Baseball Training.
Stone will oversee the offensive development of the entire Cubs minor-league system.
The first domino to fall in this "change" was Epstein transferring Jason McLeod from player development and amateur scouting to senior VP of player personnel, a lateral move designed to shake up the Cubs' minor-league infrastructure.
When that shift with McLeod was announced in mid-September, Epstein said it was part of an "audit" of all facets of the organization.
"Trying — at a very granular level — to figure out what we do really well, why we do those things well, how we keep getting better in those areas and what we don't do well, why we haven't been doing well enough in those areas and what different combinations of systems and people we can create to make sure we do better," Epstein said at the time. "...It's hard to take Jason out of scouting and PD, but it'll be good in the long run, too, because those departments were built almost eight years ago now and we've grown a lot, we've adapted a lot and we're doing a lot of cutting-edge things. But to fully modernize and embrace the speed at which the player development landscape is changing, sometimes it takes tweaking the leadership structure a little bit, too, just so you can get some fresh eyes and a fresh perspective, both from inside and outside the organization."
Thursday's announcements are just the tip of the iceberg, with more outside hires to offer that "fresh perspective" coming to augment the player development and scouting departments.
In another pair of internal shifts announced Thursday, Matt Dorey and Jaron Madison are moving to different roles.
Dorey is now the Cubs' senior director of player development after serving as the organization's director of amateur scouting since 2014. He came up as a scout with the Boston Red Sox before joining the Cubs scouting department in 2012.
Madison was named a special assistant to Epstein and Hoyer in a player evaluation role with an emphasis on scouting. He has worked closely with McLeod for the last eight years, with the last seven seasons coming as the director of player development. Madison's first year with the Cubs came as the director of amateur scouting and he served in the same role with the San Diego Padres.
Under Dorey, Bobby Basham was promoted to director of player development after spending the last year as the assistant director of the department. Basham has been with the Cubs for the last seven years working in scouting and minor league operations.
The Cubs also named Jeremy Farrell the assistant director of baseball development, where the team says he will "maintain the club's organizational philosophy with respect to fundamentals and competitive standards."