Talented But Raw, Canada’s Owen Caissie Aspires To Be a Cub

Owen Caissie
Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

Owen Caissie has a high ceiling and a long way to go to reach it. Acquired by the Chicago Cubs from the San Diego Padres as part of the December 2020 Yu Darvish deal, the left-handed-hitting outfielder is 20 years old and has just 159 professional games under his belt. Moreover, he was drafted out of cold-weather Burlington, Ontario. As Eric Longenhagen noted when ranking the 2020 second-rounder No. 3 on last year’s Cubs Top Prospects list (and just outside of our overall Top 100), Caissie “had never played a night game in his life until the Arizona Complex League opener in 2021.”

Looking mostly at the raw numbers, Caissie’s future looks less sunny than it did prior to last season. Playing in High-A South Bend, he slashed an uninspiring .254/.349/.402 with 11 home runs in 433 plate appearances, and that was followed by an even more lackluster .220/.270/.356 line in the Arizona Fall League. Perspective is needed; Caissie was a teenager for the first half of the season, and his tools, originally crafted in Canada, are both projectable and loud. He simply remains relatively raw.

Caissie, who is listed at 6-foot-4, 190 pounds, discussed his early-career development during his stint in the AFL.


David Laurila: Let’s start with your development as a hitter. How have you evolved since entering pro ball?

Owen Caissie: “I feel like what has changed the most is… I mean, I did make some swing adjustments. When I got drafted, I was kind of bent down, and now I’m straight up. But what’s really changed is my approach, my pitch selection, my ability to kind of keyhole the ball in the middle. I’ve never read my scouting report. I wouldn’t even know how to get to it. But there are obviously holes in my game that I need to close up.”

Laurila: What type of hitter do you consider yourself?

Caissie: “I like to classify myself as a hitter over a power hitter. At least that’s what I try to be.”

Laurila: You do project to hit for power.

Caissie: “Yes, but I try to hit line drives. Whenever I try to hit home runs, I don’t hit home runs. When I try to just hit a line drive back at the pitcher is what usually produces the best results. That’s when I hit doubles and home runs.”

Laurila: Do you know what your highest exit velocity readings have been?

Caissie: “In the [Midwest League] championship this year, against the Lake County Captains, I hit one 114 [mph] at 31 [degree launch angle]. That was probably the hardest and farthest ball I’ve hit.”

Laurila: Can you elaborate on the mechanical adjustment you made?

Caissie: “It was basically about me being able to catch up to high fastballs and not getting blown up by them. That and seeing changeups all the way in and not just swinging at the ball out of [the pitcher’s] hand. But honestly, it’s mostly been about getting more reps, getting ABs and ABs, over and over again. That’s why it’s great to be here [in the AFL]. I’m seeing really good arms and making adjustments from game to game.”

Laurila: Outside of the more upright stance, what are you doing to handle elevated fastballs better?

Caissie: “I’m doing a lot of top-hand work. I’m righty-dominant, and being a left-handed hitter, that’s my bottom hand. So a lot of non-dominant, top-hand stuff. It’s kind of a punching-straight-to-the-ball type of thing.”

Laurila: Let’s jump to your background. How much baseball did you play growing up in Ontario?

Caissie: “We went down to the States to play, but nowhere near any of the southern states. Our season back home was about three or four months, so there would be a lot of hitting inside. That’s why all of these ABs are so important to me.”

Laurila: Where are you defensively?

Caissie: “My defense has improved, and I’m not sure that anyone has really picked up on that. I feel like it has been my biggest improvement this year. I shag a lot. They don’t force us to do it, but they encourage us to do a lot of live shagging during the season. It helps with things like reading the ball off the bat and getting a jump. Fungos are fine, but BP is the closest you can get to the game.”

Laurila: Defense is something you take pride in.

Caissie: “Yes. I want to be a well-rounded player. I want to be the best that I can possibly be, in all aspects of the game. If I give it my all and don’t make it, I want to be able to say that I tried my hardest. I did my best.”

David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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1 year ago

Nice interview! Thanks for sharing. Hoping for big thing from Caissie.