Well, Theo has done it! After drafting in the top 10 in the last 4 seasons, Theo has thrown the system all out-of-whack. No pick until the third round? In the draft? After Cubs fans have become aware of just how important an amateur draft is with the success of their latest picks, what was he thinking??
Obviously this is tongue-in-cheek. Theo Epstein is the architect behind the healthiest organization in all of baseball. Around the all-star break we’ll be recapping all the moves that got us to where we are, but for now the moniker “In Theo We Trust” has never rung more true.
With that said, the draft and developing young and controllable talent is extremely important to long-term success of any organization. So while the Cubs lost their first and second round picks by signing John Lackey and Jason Heyward this past offseason, you can still rest assured that the Cubs scouting teams, cross-checkers, and Theo and Jed are all still looking at this draft as analytically and strategically as any draft in the last 4 seasons.
In this piece we will take a look at players drafted in the third round from 2006-2011 that have since contributed to a Major League Roster. Next week, ahead of the draft, we will take a look at some players who may still be available when the Cubs are on the board and what kind of strategy Theo and Jed may use to find their next potential steal.
Diamonds in the Rough:
The MLB draft is a little more complex than any other sport most fans follow. Unless you are really entrenched in baseball and the complexities of the minor league system, you may think that the MLB draft is similar in nature to the NBA or NFL. In reality, it’s a totally different ballgame (pun intended).
There are phrases thrown around like “compensatory pick”, “overslot”, “underslot”, etc. The reason for this is because, unlike the NFL or NBA, there are typically a significant amount of top-rated talents in the MLB draft that can be drafted and CHOOSE to not accept that draft pick and go play college ball. Because of this, there is typically top amateur talent on the board in rounds 4-10 (and even later) that teams pass on due to concerns in being able to sign the player. It is because of these concerns that the Cubs were able to draft arguably 3 top-100 players in the 2014 draft in rounds 4-6.(Justin Steele, Dylan Cease, Carson Sands)
In my opinion, it is hands-down the best approach to an amateur draft compared to any sport. (If you want, you can read through all the MLB rule 4 draft rules here)
Players taken in round 3 in the last decade:
Zach Britton, Cole Gillespie, Blake Wood, Chris Valaikia
Daniel Duffy, Jonathan Lucroy, Matt Harvey, Derek Dietrich
Jordy Mercer, Danny Espinosa, Vance Worley, Kirk Nieuwenhuis
Wil Myers, Kyle Seager, Jacob Marisnick, Benjamin Paulsen
Addison Reed, Jacob Realmuto, Cameron Rupp, Tony Wolters
Matt Andriese, Adam Morgan, Logan Verrett, Mike Wright
The Cubs themselves have found some great success the past few years in the third round. Specifically, Mark Zagunis is progressing incredibly well and was not an “overslot” pick. In fact, he signed for a little less than the total allotment for his draft selection in the same pick that saw the Cubs nab Kyle Schwarber, Dylan Cease, Carson Sands, and Justin Steele.
We did a piece specifically on Mark Zagunis here if you want to familiarize yourself with him.
Obviously the first name that will likely catch everyone’s eye is Matt Harvey in 2007. This is where strategy comes into play. At the time, Harvey was a top amateur pitcher with a full ride to play ball at North Carolina. The Angels offered him a 7-figure bonus to get his professional career started but, unlike the Cubs 2014 picks in rounds 4-6, Harvey passed on the money and went to Chapel Hill. Therefore, the Angels lost the player and the slot amount. It’s easier to see how they have such a putrid farm system now.
One position that jumps out to me is the Catcher position. Mark Zagunis was actually a catcher in college as well, and it appears that the Catcher position can thrive in the third round.
Jonathan Lucroy, Cameron Rupp, J.T. Realmuto, and Tony Wolters were all third round picks and contribute now as major league catchers.
Wil Myers played was the key piece for the Kansas City Royals to acquire James Shields and, thus, be one of the catalyst for the franchise turnaround. While he hasn’t reached the lofty expectations that were set upon him as a minor-league prospect, when healthy Wil Myers has been a solid MLB contributor the last few seasons.
Jordy Mercer has been starting quite a bit at shortstop for the division-rival Pirates so far in 2016 and as recently as 2014 posted a 2.0 WARP at a premium position, albeit with his defense carrying him at the time. So far this season his approach seems to have caught up a bit with his glove as he is posting a .350+ OBP through the first two months of the season.
Matt Andriese is a very interesting name that pops up as recently as 2011. Andriese was drafted by the Padres but then traded to the Rays in an absolute highway robbery of the Pads back in 2014. Andriese has been impressive thus far in 2016 in the rotation. While he hasn’t been missing too many bats, he is limiting damage by inducing weak contact.
Kyle Seager of the Mariners has become a 9-figure baseball player after signing an extension with the Mariners before the start of the 2015 season. He has been at least a 3.6 WARP since 2012 and is on pace to far exceed that number this season as he has already posted 2.2 through just over one quarter of the season. A gold glover and an All-Star, Seager is a perfect example of the types of diamonds that can be found in the third round rough. Signed with a draft bonus of less than $500K, no body will ever complain when you find results like Seager in the third round.
So while the MLB amateur player draft won’t be quite as exciting for Cubs fans this year as years past(don’t worry, the best team in hr MLB is more than making up for the “lost excitement”), don’t think that doesn’t mean there is the potential to grab a future big-time contributor when the Cubs name is called. In fact, if there is anyone in baseball that could find that diamond, it’s Theo.