Well admittedly this years draft won’t be nearly as exciting, albeit for good reason. After picking in the top 10 each of the last 4 drafts under Theo Epstein, the Chicago Cubs won’t have a pick until the third round.
The common theme of late has been that the Cubs will try to attack pitching in the draft. A nice article was written with interviews with Jed Hoyer regarding the state of pitching since Theo and Jed took over. I found the insinuation that the Cubs brass has missed on pitchers in the draft to be a bit disingenuous, however. While Theo and Jed have not drafted a pitcher to yet make the big league roster, they have developed pitchers in the system nicely and scouted minor league pitchers in trade acquisitions that have made a significant impact.
I think we all know by now the Jake Arrieta thievery of Baltimore by the front office, and while he was already virtually a finished minor-leaguer by that time, the Cubs development brass certainly helped to reset him into the pitcher he is today.
Kyle Hendricks, who was acquired along with Christian Villanueva in exchange for Ryan Dempster, was not highly-heralded and seen as the “second” player or “throw-in” on the trade with the Texas Rangers. I don’t think anyone can argue on how he has been developed within the Cubs system.
Of course the Cubs have focused on high-floor college hitters in the draft and that has worked out quite well for them. However, when the mid-later rounds hit, the Cubs have invested in some high-ceiling amateur pitching.
Duane Underwood has come back from injury throwing pellets and hitting higher velocity numbers than he had pre-injury. Of course, he has to work on his control/command from inning-to-inning, however he is inching closer to big league ready. Additionally, the Cubs have had pleasant returns of late in watching the development of 2014 picks Dylan Cease, Justin Steele, and Carson Sands. Cease was profiled by Robert Killen here and I gave my two cents on Justin Steele here.
The Cubs also have Paul Blackburn and Trevor Clifton developing nicely while having over-slot Bryan Hudson getting his early work in.
All this is to say that the Cubs brass have done a fine job with pitching, however “controllable pitchers” from in the system were likely in the 8-year projection as opposed to the 5- year projection.
Now on to the draft which starts today.
The Cubs have the lowest slot amounts of any team in the draft with a total pool of $2.245 million. The Cubs may use a couple of different strategies.
They may look into signing some organizational depth that will likely sign for a bare minimum amount to allow them to go well overslot on one or, at most, two amateur players. Or, more likely, they will go with a “best-available” approach that they can likely sign. This means some collegiate players, in my opinion, who have graduated and have had some success and the Cubs scouting team believes they may be able to work some magic on them. Most likely, they will be drafting for character make-up mixed with talent. The last couple of drafts, the Cubs have stolen players because they were deemed to “not have a true position” in the big leagues. The Cubs feel this may be an area to expose as helping to teach defensive techniques to a player is easier than teaching a ML batting approach or command of the strikezone.
We will see what happens today. However, I for one am excited just to see what strategy the Cubs use. The Cubs may not have their first pick until the 3rd round, but don’t forget that’s where the Cubs nabbed Mark Zagunis below slot just a couple of years back, and he just got promoted to Iowa. We will see what happens. At least we know we have the smartest team in baseball at the helm when the Cubs comes on the board.
Linked below is a spreadsheet of the top-200 draft prospects going into today. If you want to see how any of them look on the field, each players name is linked to a youtube video. Enjoy.