By the fifth round of the Chicago Cubs’ 2012 Draft, it wasn’t too hard to divine the strategy: grab Albert Almora with the first pick, and then go nuts on pitchers. Indeed, seven of the Cubs’ first eight picks were pitchers, and most were of the big-upside-high-risk-high-reward type that the Cubs’ system is sorely lacking.
Team President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein recently spoke about the team’s draft, as well as two of the top pitchers they selected.
“Obviously, we went pitching heavy [in the Draft],” Epstein said, according to CSN. “There’s a pretty big void of pitching in our system, so beginning to address that issue with quantity, as well as quality, was something that was attractive to us, because there’s so much attrition pitching-wise.
“You need to draft numbers in order to withstand all the attrition that happens. We needed to stock the system with pitching, and we feel like we did.”
The Cubs didn’t just grab a quantity of pitchers in the Draft, but they also tried to take quality, particularly at the top, with their two picks in the supplemental first round.
“Pierce Johnson is somebody that we watched closely all year,” Epstein said of the Missouri State pitcher the Cubs took 43rd overall. “We didn’t think we were going to have a chance at him. The little forearm strain that he had probably played to our advantage, because he doesn’t get out of the first round if he had stayed healthy the entire year.
“He threw great right before the draft and looked really healthy and we were real happy to be in a position to choose him. He’s got a plus fastball and gets swings-and-misses and groundballs with it, and has a plus breaking ball as well. He’s a real competitor on the mound.”
Epstein was also impressed by the second pitcher the Cubs took in the supplemental first round (56 overall), high school righty Paul Blackburn.
“Blackburn is a more advanced, sort of polished high school pitcher who also has a chance to have three average-to-above pitches,” Epstein said.
The Cubs have officially signed Blackburn, but are awaiting physical results on Johnson before finalizing his deal (though he’s said he signed).