Toronto's Loss Could Be Cubs' Gain

Asked if he was still as impressed today by former first-round draft pick Miguel Negron as he was six years ago, former Toronto Blue Jays and current Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken readily replied: "Even more so."

The 23-year-old Negron is batting almost .400 through 27 games for Double-A West Tennessee. Originally a first-round draft pick by the Blue Jays in 2000, he was claimed off waivers by the Cubs in May. Since the change of scenery, Negron has 12 doubles and 14 RBIs in only 83 at-bats.

Having been with Toronto for six long seasons, Negron was placed on waivers after an inauspicious start with the Double-A New Hampshire Fisher Cats of the Eastern League this season. It took him five seasons to elevate himself above A-ball, and he managed just a .258 average in 124 games for New Hampshire last year.

The left-handed hitting outfielder came to the Cubs just five months after Tim Wilken (who oversaw the Blue Jays' 2000 draft) was named the organization's new Director of Amateur and Professional Scouting – a position previously occupied by John Stockstill, who left for a job in the Baltimore Orioles' front office.

When Toronto added RHP Ty Taubenheim to their 40-man roster in late May, they had to make room. Negron, batting .215 in 33 games for the Fisher Cats, was the odd man out.

And so, as a 27-year scouting veteran and someone who charted Negron's progress for four years with Toronto, Wilken believes there are different reasons why things never worked out between Negron and his former team.

"For one, in the beginning when Miguel signed, I think he thought early on as a hitter that he had to hit with power to be successful," Wilken said. "I think that shaded his swing. Our hitting instructor [at West Tenn], Tom Beyers, is very receptive. He's kind of changed Miguel's approach."

Since coming over to the Cubs' farm system, the changes have been obvious. Not only is Negron batting almost 200 points higher with the Diamond Jaxx, he has cut his strikeouts in half.

After whiffing 25 times and drawing only nine walks in 130 at-bats for New Hampshire, Negron has fanned only 10 times under Beyers' direction at West Tenn. He also has eight walks.

"He's run into a couple of tough lefties here and has had some good hits," Wilken said. "As you can see by his average, he's been swinging the bat very well. He also runs well in the field and is a solid defensive player. He's got a chance to play all outfield positions. He plays the game well."

Both Wilken and Jaxx manager Pat Listach agree that a fresh start with a new organization may have been just what the doctor ordered.

According to one Toronto scout, the Blue Jays grew tired of Negron's alleged stubbornness to favor the home run. The scout said they wanted to see him focus more on gap-to-gap power, and also questioned his work ethic.

"He knows he's now with an organization where people like him," Wilken said. "I think that's really helped bring a breath of fresh air to him."

Added Listach: "The change of scenery might have been just what he needed. We're just happy to have him over here with us."

Even more encouraging about Negron's turnaround is that he's doing it in a league well known for its pitching. With all but two of the league's 10 teams affiliated with National League club's, West Tenn currently leads the way in ERA at 2.61. They have allowed 34 home runs, fewest in the league.

"Negron's done such a good job since he got here," said Listach. "He got three more hits [Wednesday]. He puts the ball in play. He's got an above average arm. He can steal some bases and throw some guys out. He's a good all-around ballplayer. He's opened some eyes over here, that's for sure."

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