Kanzler joins ‘awesome situation’ with Cubs

February 19th, 2024

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian's Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

MESA, Ariz. -- As lefty Jordan Wicks worked through a live batting practice session on Sunday morning, top pitching prospect Cade Horton looked on from a row of metal bleachers behind the Field 1 backstop. The pair of first-rounders represent a snapshot of the future for the Cubs’ rotation.

Before Horton -- Chicago’s first pick in the 2022 MLB Draft and MLB Pipeline’s No. 26 overall prospect -- went back into the complex, the righty stopped for a chat with Jason Kanzler, Chicago’s new director of player development. Kanzler joins the Cubs at a time when the club boasts one of the top farm systems in baseball, as evidenced by having the most players (seven) on Pipeline’s Top 100 list.

“It feels like an awesome situation,” Kanzler said. “I'm excited.”

Kanzler, who came to the North Siders after most recently serving as the Major League assistant hitting coach for the Astros, spent some time chatting with reporters on a recent spring morning. Here are some highlights from that conversation.

Q: Why was the farm director job with the Cubs appealing to you?

Kanzler: It was a great opportunity for myself, personally, and my family. And the Cubs are an incredible organization -- a storied franchise in a great spot with great infrastructure and great people. It was kind of a no-brainer.

Q: How do you think your coaching background will help you in this new role?

Kanzler: I think it provides me with a lot of empathy and perspective with all the staff that I'll have. I've been in their shoes and know what it's like. I think they will appreciate it. The things I'll have to learn are actually the front-office things.

Q: What do you see as the most important aspect of preparing a player for the path to the Major Leagues?

Kanzler: The most important thing is having everyone aligned with the vision of what is needed for them individually. So the player knows exactly what they need to do to become the best version of themselves and maximize their chance of being valuable Major Leaguers, the staff that are working with them knows it, the support staff knows it, the organization knows it. Very clear lines of communication and a clear vision per player on what exactly needs to be done.

Q: What is the approach when you join a top farm system that has players who could steadily impact the MLB team this year and over the next few years?

Kanzler: I think in some ways, it takes some pressure off of me. But in other ways, I actually think this is the exact type of situation where you need to double down and really make sure player development is operating extremely well, because the Major League team is in a position to be very competitive for a while in the future, which means that the farm is going to be getting depleted with trades. We’re going to have to bolster the Major League team from within. We won’t be able to just acquire, acquire, acquire from the outside. So in my opinion, I love where the farm is at, but I want it to be better. And I think the organization’s health as a whole will rely, in some ways, on making sure P.D. is really awesome.

Q: What did you hear externally about the Cubs’ system before taking this job?

Kanzler: This farm system has a lot of excellent players. The support surrounding the farm system -- and by that I mean all the processes in place, all the departments that are collaborated with -- from everyone I talked to that knew the Cubs' inner workings, it was nothing but positive things. I kept hearing about how great the people are here and how much of a class act the Cubs are. So, even though it's not directly related to the farm, when you have an environment like that, culturally, it improves everyone and it makes everything better and it makes everything more hopeful.