(CBS) Everything is rolling on the North Side.
The Cubs are an MLB-best 47-20, holding a 12.5-game lead over the second-place Cardinals less than halfway through the season. Every rotation member has a sub-3.00 ERA. The offense is deep, patient and full of power. The degree of the roll the Cubs are on is such that prized rookie catcher Willson Contreras drilled a homer Sunday evening on the first pitch he ever saw in the majors.
Cubs senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod knows this, and yet it doesn't take him long at all to identify an area of need that he and others in the baseball department must improve on: cultivating homegrown pitching.
In the team's current rotation, Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks were acquired via trade, while Jon Lester, John Lackey and Jason Hammel were free-agent signings. The hope for Chicago's future starters resides mostly at the lower levels, with McLeod saying that the arms at Triple-A and Double-A mainly project as power relievers.
"On the pitching side of things, that's where we need to be a lot better," McLeod said Monday morning while on with Mike Mulligan and David Haugh on 670 The Score. "That's our challenge. We've made really good trades and major league signings that have helped the major league club, but I think that's the area (of need). If you just look at our draft a week-and-a-half ago, we spent 13 of our first 14 picks on pitching, especially college pitching. That's certainly one area of the organization we need to shore up and be better at."
In this most recent draft, the Cubs used 27 of their 38 picks on pitchers. The highest-profile pitcher they took was Oklahoma State right-hander Austin Hatch, who they selected in the third round. The Cubs didn't hold a pick in the first rounds rounds because of their offseason signings of outfielder Jason Heyward and Lackey.
McLeod had high praise for Hatch.
"With Hatch, we didn't have a pick until the end of the third round, which made it kind of different for us going into the draft this year. We just really love the competitiveness of him. He's not your typical 6-4, mid-90s power guy. You're not really going to find that much in the back end of the third round. He's a guy who missed time last year, he had an elbow issue, so this is the most he's ever thrown in college and now he's pitching in the College World Series. He's been on quite a run, especially in the past month or so. I don't think he's given up a run in the last 25, 28 innings or something. Super competitive, big-time sink(er), slider, a lot of strikes, very good athlete.
"We feel really good about that pick. We were able to spend so much time in those mid-rounds this year on pitching that we normally wouldn't get to spend as much time with when we have our first- or second-round picks. So we're pretty excited to see how we did in that area of the draft."
Listen to McLeod's full interview below.
Jason McLeod with Mully and Haugh
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