Cubs install heads of hitting, pitching in restructuring of player development department

In an announcement Thursday, the Cubs named Justin Stone director of hitting and Craig Breslow director of pitching. Matt Dorey, the club’s director of amateur scouting for the last six years, now heads the player development program as its senior vice president.

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At his end-of-season postmortem with the media at Wrigley Field, Cubs president Theo Epstein looked to the future in a broader way than simply focusing on identifying the team’s next manager.

It was time for change in the organization’s scouting and player development departments, too. Eight years after taking the reins on the North Side, Epstein recognized that this was as urgent as anything else.

“It’s a good opportunity to think about how we would set it up from scratch if we were doing it today,” he said.

He specifically mentioned adding directors of hitting and pitching, moves that are now official. In an announcement Thursday, the Cubs named Justin Stone director of hitting and Craig Breslow director of pitching. Breslow will also serve as a special assistant to Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer.

Matt Dorey, the club’s director of amateur scouting for the last six years, now heads the player development program as its senior director. The former college coach was an area scout with the Red Sox when Epstein was running things in Boston.

Bobby Basham, with the club since 2012, is the new director of player development.

Jeremy Farrell has been named assistant director of baseball development.

The goal for all will be, as Epstein put it less than three weeks ago, to be more “centered around the modern game.”

“[It’s] to ensure that we are building these departments, teaching the game, evaluating players for where the game is now or where the game will be going, and make sure we continue to be at the cutting edge,” he said.

Stone, who was a biokinematic hitting consultant for the Cubs starting in 2018, is at the center of the Cubs’ tighter embrace of technology. He started the Elite Baseball Training organization in Chicago in 2011 after a decade in the White Sox organization.

Despite the 2016 World Series title that came in the second of four straight trips to the postseason, the Cubs’ efforts in to identify and develop prospects since Epstein’s arrival in 2011 have been spotty.

First-round picks Albert Almora Jr. and Ian Happ have exemplified some of the dissatisfaction on the part of Epstein that, in part, led to the breakup with Joe Maddon. Kyle Schwarber remains in prove-it mode, although his 2019 second half was highly encouraging. Kris Bryant is, needless to say, a superstar.

Beyond those hitters, the Cubs have produced promising infielder Nico Hoerner — an emergency contributor down the stretch last season — and little else. Javy Baez and Willson Contreras were inherited by the Epstein regime.

Pitching has been a far tougher nut to crack for the Cubs, who haven’t had a homegrown pitcher throw a pitch in a playoff game or even break through in a lasting way at the big-league level.

When it comes to both hitting and pitching, the Cubs have struggled to — again, in Epstein’s words — “own the strike zone.” That has led to a long list of coaching changes, with Maddon’s staffs in near-constant flux, and an upcoming managerial change that will have to play out before it can be judged.

The moving of Jason McLeod, who ran the scouting and player-development departments from the beginning of the Epstein regime, to the big-league side of the operation was only a start.

“When we fail to make the playoffs, especially with the second-highest payroll in baseball, that is not something that is on the manager,” Epstein said. “That is not something, especially, that is on ownership. When we fail to accomplish any of our goals, that is my responsibility as the leader of the baseball operation. So, as the leader, it’s really important to be accountable and it’s really important to take a really honest look at things that we can do better.”

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