When Theo Epstein assumed the helm of the Chicago Cubs front office this past off-season, it became a foregone conclusion that one of his first tasks would be rebuilding the team’s depleted minor league system. Having just completed his first Chicago draft, many are anxious to see how his picks pan out. Despite the anticipation, it can’t be forgotten that the Cubs already have some interesting prospects who are hoped will develop into solid major league players. Right-handed pitcher Ian Dickson is one of those players, and just started his professional career this past month.
Dickson graduated from Northport High School in New York in 2008 and enrolled at Lafayette College, where he also joined the baseball team. The big (6’5) right-handed pitcher showed a lot of promise during his collegiate career, going 1-4, with 3 saves and 40 strikeouts in 45 innings. He suffered a severe knee injury that caused him to miss his junior season in 2011 and put his draft status in doubt. He was thus pleasantly surprised when the Cubs came calling and took him in the 35th round of last year’s draft.
The Cubs have decided to take things easy with Dickson in light of his past injury. He was assigned to the Boise Hawks in short season ball and recently took a little time to answer my questions. You can also stop by on Twitter to say hello to Dickson or see what he is up to this season. Don’t sleep on this Cubs prospect!
Ian Dickson Interview:
Who were your favorite team and player growing up and why?: Living in New York, I grew up a Mets fan. My earliest memory of baseball is my dad watching a Mets game on TV when I was about 4 or 5. I remember wanting to play because at the time it was something I had never seen or done before. My favorite player growing up, strangely enough, was Roger Clemens. I always admired how he attacked hitters and commanded the strike zone. He was definitely my favorite pitcher to watch.
What pitches do you have in your arsenal, and which one do you think you need to improve the most?: Currently I throw both a two-seam and four-seam fastball, a split change, and slider. There are aspects of each pitch I want to improve upon, but right now I’d say I’m spending the most time trying to get a sharper break on my slider.
Can you run through what your 2011 draft experience was like?: Leading up to the draft I wasn’t really sure what was going to happen. I had high expectations coming off a solid summer season in the Valley League of Virginia, and hoped to continue that into my junior year at Lafayette College. Unfortunately I was sidelined for the year with a torn left ACL and meniscus. I made it clear to the teams I was in contact with that I would be red shirting my junior year, but luckily there were two teams who were still interested in talking with me. As the draft drew closer I was in contact with the Cubs and Marlins, neither of which had told me any definitive plans, but merely stated there was still some interest.
On day three of the draft, I had just gotten back from lunch and sat down to watch on my computer, when, seemingly out of the blue I noticed my name pop up and I realized the Cubs had selected me in the 35th round. Then my phone starting buzzing with all of my friends and family calling to congratulate me. It was quite literally a dream come true.
What was your injury in 2011 and how do you think it impacted where you were drafted?: As previously stated I tore my left ACL and meniscus during one of our final days of fall conditioning. Originally I had thought it may eliminate my chances of being drafted in 2011, but luckily enough I was, and I couldn’t be happier that I was given this opportunity.
What are your personal expectations for this year?: When spring training broke I had high hopes of possibly moving up to Peoria to start the season, but instead I was placed on the Extended Spring Training roster. At first I was a little disappointed, but I understood the decision. Extended has been a great experience; it has been fun to play with a bunch of the guys from the 2011 draft class and learn from all the extra instruction we receive here. I’m very eager to start the season in this upcoming month. I expect to break camp with Boise, with our first game kicking off on June 15th.
After you signed your first contract, did you do anything to treat yourself or celebrate with friends and family?: After signing I got together with friends and family to go out for a nice dinner to celebrate the news. We also had a family party before I came out to Mesa, Arizona for rookie ball and instructional league.
How much instruction/advice have you received from guys in the front office or on the big league roster during your time with the Cubs?: During spring training we were lucky enough to hear from a few guys on the big league roster. One day they had Kerry Wood, Ryan Dempster, and Rodrigo Lopez come down to speak with us; not to mention they were accompanied by Cy Young winner Rick Sutcliffe. The main thing I took away from the discussion was that talent isn’t everything, and it’s really the daily hard work that carried these guys to the big leagues and has helped to keep them their over the years. It was a terrific experience to listen to these guys talk about their journey to the bigs and get to learn from a few pitchers who have had very successful careers.
If you could get an hour to pick the brain of any current major league pitcher, who would that be and why?: If I had the opportunity to pick the brain of any current major league pitcher I’d have to go with Roy Halladay. I really admire Halladay’s work ethic and I would love to get my hands on his daily routines. There is definitely a reason why Doc Halladay is one of, if not the best and most consistent pitchers in the game today. If I could talk with him I would pick his brain on his preparation for starts, as well as his pitch sequencing and what works best for him on the mound.