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Lost in the proliferation of tacky “WTF” articles and blog posts about the Chicago Cubs’ first round pick this year – relative unknown pitcher Hayden Simpson out of Southern Arkansas – is the fact that this is a 21-year-old kid who did nothing but pitch tremendously. Try to keep that in perspective. More on that later.

And pitch tremendously he did – in just under 100 innings this year, he struck out 131 while walking just 35, and compiled a 1.81 ERA. The impact of pitching in Division II cannot be glossed over, but he was clearly very good.

For his part, Simpson was just as surprised as we were at being selected in the first round. But by all accounts, he sounds thrilled to be a member of the Cubs, and eager to sign early. Chicago Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken is very excited about the kid.

“I got to see a pitcher with a four-pitch mix that I thought were at least plus-average pitches to plus pitches, and he had a very good feel for pitching,” Wilken said. “I think you can see that by his record, albeit in Division II school. I saw a pitcher that a very good feel for pitching, very athletic, and I saw someone I thought could be a starter in the major leagues eventually.

“This guy just made sense. They can say what they want to, the prognosticators. You say, ‘Hey, wait a minute, this is almost too good to be true.’ “…

Simpson said his slider is his best pitch and that he also has a four-seam fastball, a circle change and a “12-to-6 curveball.”

Wilken described Simpson physically as reminiscent of Roy Oswalt and Tim Lincecum, a pitcher “with a fast arm.” Wilken said Cubs minor-league pitching coordinator Mark Riggins graded Simpson “100 percent” on his delivery. He also said he had indications clubs with extra picks after the Cubs had their eyes on Simpson. Daily Herald.

I keep reading that the Cubs were foolish for drafting Simpson in the first round when he was rated as a 5th/6th round talent. Surely that means they could have waited to draft him in the second or third round at least, right? The Cubs are so stupid!!!!1!!!!drool!!!!11!!!!

I would hope that you would all know by now that I am anything but a Cubs apologist – when the Cubs screw up, I call them on it. But here, the criticism strikes me as laughably off base. If the Cubs thought there was a good chance they *could* wait to take Simpson in the second or third round, do you think maybe they might have waited? Do you think they just like picking guys early for fun? Clearly, the Cubs had it on good authority that Simpson might not be around by the time they picked again at number 65 – that’s not only the most logical explanation, it’s the only explanation. There is literally no other explanation for picking a guy at 16 if “everyone knows” he’ll be around at 65.

If you want to criticize the Cubs for picking a 6th round talent in the first round, by all means go ahead. I’ll take Tim Wilken’s track record at evaluating talent, but you’re entitled to that criticism. Criticizing the pick for being too early, however, is nonsensical. If you’re fine that the Cubs picked this kid, I promise you that they picked him no earlier than they felt they had to. To believe otherwise is to presume that the Chicago Cubs’ drafting personnel are collectively dumber than every single individual on Earth. I’ll give them that tiny benefit of the doubt.

Back to Simpson. If the Cubs can get him signed quickly, he could be pitching for a minor league affiliate as early as July, after no doubt needing some time in Mesa. The Cubs may not want him pitching that early, however, as they may seek to limit his innings this year following a full baseball season.

For your reading/viewing pleasure:

Baseball America calls the Simpson pick the biggest shock of the first round.

If you want to watch some video of Simpson.

ChicagoCubsOnline gathers thoughts and links on Simpson.

  • rylan

    Let’s hope Bryan plays as well as little brother Bryce…

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