Classic experience: Prospect Caissie getting MLB taste with Canada

Cubs' 20-year-old OF learning from elite veterans, while performing on world stage

March 9th, 2023

MESA, Ariz. -- Building a routine was one of 's priorities during his early teen years while training with the Fieldhouse Pirates. He found drills he liked for tee and cage work. He came in after school and on the weekends. He wanted every swing to have intent and purpose.

"I might coach the rest of my life," Jimmy Richardson, the vice president and director of baseball operations at Fieldhouse, said last spring, "and never run into another kid whose ability to understand his swing is there at 15, 16 years old to the level that Owen's was."

Owen Caissie takes BP prior to Team Canada's exhibition game vs. the Cubs.(Marquee Sports Network)

The drive and work ethic Caissie displayed back then in the batting tunnels in Burlington, Ontario, has carried over to the cages at the Cubs' complex in Arizona. And it should come as no surprise that the young outfielder continues to crave feedback and insight into how to keep building a Major League-caliber routine.

Suiting up for Team Canada in the World Baseball Classic this spring, Caissie found himself in the batting cage this week with , one of baseball's elite hitters. Caissie used the opportunity to pick Freeman's brain about his own daily routine and what facets are most important.

"It's cool," Caissie told reporters prior to the Cubs’ 11-7 exhibition win over Canada on Wednesday at Sloan Park. "Not many 20-year-olds get to play for their country. I'm just very, very grateful for the opportunity that I can actually be around these guys, and just know that I can ask questions and not be kind of scrutinized for it."

Caissie had the chance to be around some of Chicago's big leaguers during the Cubs Convention in January, but the prospect -- ranked No. 13 on MLB Pipeline's Top 30 list for the club -- is in Minor League camp this spring. With Team Canada -- which plays its first Classic game against Great Britain at Chase Field in Phoenix on Sunday at 3 p.m. ET on FS1 -- Caissie will get an early-career taste of a Major League atmosphere.

Born on July 8, 2002, Caissie is the second-youngest player on Canada's roster. One of his teammates, pitcher , was drafted by the Orioles 34 days before Caissie was born.

Against the Cubs, Caissie got the start in right field with Cardinals slugger next to him in center and Freeman in front at first base. At the plate, Caissie went 0-for-4 with one potential hit snagged by a sliding catch from Gold Glover . To end the sixth, Caissie showed off his arm, throwing out from right field when the runner tried to hustle from first to third.

Fellow Cubs Minor Leaguer got a start as Canada's designated hitter and contributed a two-run double in the first inning.

"It's fun to see some of those guys over there," Cubs manager David Ross said. "I'm excited they get to get into this environment that they're about to be in and play against some of the best in the world. There's no real substitute for that until you get to playoff-type baseball."

Caissie's international profile grew in 2019, when he took part in the Tournament 12 showcase for Canada's top amateur talent. He launched 11 shots in a home run derby at Rogers Centre in Toronto, which is a little more than an hour's drive along the Lake Erie shoreline from Caissie's hometown.

In March of '20, Caissie was suiting up for the Canadian junior national team in an exhibition game against the Blue Jays. He belted a homer off reliever . The outfielder's stock was rising, but his chances of proving he was worthy of a first-round pick in the Draft ended with the pandemic.

The Padres selected Caissie in the second round of the '20 Draft, and traded him to the Cubs the next winter in the blockbuster deal for .

"If that year hadn't gotten shortened for him on the amateur side," Richardson said, "he's a first-rounder. He's not getting to the second round."

Last season, the Cubs were aggressive in starting Caissie with High-A South Bend, where he was more than three years younger than the average player in the league. He struggled early (.435 OPS first 20 games), but got hot in the middle of the summer and finished with a .751 OPS overall.

Over 105 games in '22, Caissie hit .254/.349/.402 with 11 homers, 21 doubles, 58 RBIs and 124 strikeouts against 50 walks. Through the ups and downs, he said he trusted his swing, focusing more on approach and not overloading himself with data and information.

Those are also the types of things he can ask players like Freeman about during this Classic experience.

"I'm in a great spot right now," Caissie said. "And I feel like I can do great things this season."