The Chicago Cubs will sign a number of undrafted players this year, and I’m not going to be writing about all of them. But the lefty they just signed has an interesting story, and was worth a look.

Kyle Shepard, 21, was a lefty starter in 2012 at Stonehill College, who sported a 4.17 ERA in 49.2 innings with 53 strikeouts. Soon after the Draft passed, Shepard was contacted by the Cubs’ Northeast scout, Matt Sherman, and offered a contract. The Cubs had been following Shepard pre-Draft, and were undoubtedly pleased to be able to lock him down despite not drafting him.

While those are decent, if not overwhelming, numbers, why is Shepard notable? Well, he’s had a very interesting career track, and his results last year really don’t tell the full story.

It turns out that Shepard was a talented pitcher and outfielder in high school, who started focusing on pitching when he got to Stonehill. But after just a few innings, he heard the dreaded pop in his elbow, and he lost the next year and a half to Tommy John surgery. He came back his junior year … as an outfielder. The move was primarily to protect his arm, but his coach called him one of the best outfielders in his conference.

Then, senior year, Shepard returned to the mound and put up the numbers above. As with all undrafted players, the odds that Shepard becomes a relevant prospect are slim. But he certainly has the story of a diamond in the rough, no?

His coach describes it perfectly.

“The potential that Kyle has, considering he hasn’t been a pitcher for almost four years now, was what opened up the scouts’ eyes,” Boen told Boston Globe correspondent Craig Forde. “Once you could see Kyle getting comfortable on the mound, the scouts saw a left-handed pitcher with the right length and body type and a fastball consistently hitting 89-91 after not pitching for four years. It really opened up their eyes to what he could down the road.”

A 6’1″ lefty who throws in the low-90s? One who might have a whole lot more latent talent than a typical lefty college senior who goes undrafted? Why not take a chance?

  • Dan

    Theo and company are just taking chances. You never know, this guy might turn out to be the next Greg Maddux. Anyways, its about restocking the farm system now and forever. It’s going to be awhile till the Cubs prospects are in full bloom. I’d say that will take about 8 more years. Maybe the Cubs will become competitive in 3 years somewhat. Lets hope.

  • sdcoddi

    Typically undrafter players don’t mean much, but something we all need to remember is that in years past there were 50 rounds, not 40 like this year. That’s nearly 300 players that would have been drafted in the past and would have been considered players with a shot at making the majors. Wasn’t piazza a 44th round pick? Definitely worth a flyer on these guys. Wonder how that effects the minor league teams though. They can’t possibly have room for that many new players, can they?

    • tim815

      I’m a voice in the wilderness saying the Cubs should add a new affiliate in a couple years. They don’t have enough depth today, but those high school pitchers will need to pitch somewhere in two years.

      The Arizona League is great for teaching the basics, but when you understand the stuff Team Theo wants, you’d probably get better quicker on road trips through the North West or North East. There will be logistics involved, but I think a pitcher gets better with a six inning stint per week, and a hitter gets better with 15-20 ABs per week.

      • Brett

        I’ve thought your point on this has made sense for a long time.

    • ferrets_bueller

      Mike Piazza is one of the strangest stories ever…how a guy drafted in the 62nd round, as a favor to family friend Tommy lasorda, managed to become the greatest hitting catcher ever is just ridiculous.

      • KB

        This is why I chuckle when people say that steroids don’t work. Ask Mike; they work.

        • coal

          The story on Piazza – at least among several college coaches in the LA area in 1990 or so, was that yes, he juiced, to make it to the big leagues. I heard that story personally before I knew anything about steroids other than body building.

  • Kevin

    There are so many levels in the minor leagues, I would think the Cubs would not have any problems finding a place for all these players.

  • C. Pope

    They cost almost nothing…they’re all in that “if they turn out to be anything you win” group and there’s always the need for institutional depth. Sign ’em up. See if they can play.

    • tim815

      Boise started the season with 12 pitchers and 11 hitters. Yeah, depth can be added. If he’s a hard-worker, and has upside, bring him in.

  • C. Pope

    He’s already better than Hayden Simpson.

  • jim

    Then why draft sveums kid?

  • KidCubbie

    Hey Brett, or anybody for that matter, the write up on Jorge Soler says that he is left handed. Is this correct? Everything i read says hes right handed. Thanks.

  • #1lahairfan

    he bats lefty but is a righty

  • Cub Gone Wild

    Long ago the Cubs had a farm team in Pittsfield, PA. Don’t know why they got out of that league in the Catskills region. Might be a good place for them to back too. Gets them playing against NE teams.

    • David

      Seems like they had one in Geneva years back, also.

  • Deez

    These are nice stories to hear & see but too much emphasis on guys who may only see Wrigley if they buy a ticket. I would like to see stories or empahsis on Fast Risers w/in our Farm System.

    • Brett

      You’ll get one as soon as we find one …

      (But, in all seriousness, they are discussed almost daily, technically-speaking.)

    • Luke

      I call out the better prospects, breakout prospects, and potentially faster moving prospects fairly regularly in the Minor League Daily.  Logan Watkins, for example, was featured within the past day or two.

      • MightyBear

        Deez pay attention because Luke has been doing a fantastic job with the minor league coverage this year. It is outstanding on all levels including the draft.

  • Benny

    Theo Epstein may see something in the Shepard family. As general manager of the Red Sox last year, Epstein drafted oldest brother Brenden out of Stonehill in the 28th round, and now in charge of baseball operations in Chicago, signed Kyle as a free agent.

    • Cyranojoe

      Good catch on the family connection!! How’s the older brother doing for the Sox so far?

  • calicubsfan007

    Is Stonehill really even a high end baseball school?

    • Brett

      Given that his brother was the first Stonehill player taken in the Draft, I’d guess no.

  • Toby

    It is a shame that the Cubs couldn’t find a way to have an affiliate in Rockford, Illinois. I remember, as a kid, I used to go to the games when Montreal had an affiliate there and watched some talent that made it like Delino Deshields, Kirk Reuter, Mel Rojas, and Matt Stairs. It’s funny looking back, but in 89 they were managed by Mike Quade. Being so close to Chicago it would almost work as an incentive to have the kids work that much harder knowing they are only playing one hour away from the big club. Fans would also love it. The Rockford area are big baseball fans and mostly Cub fans. If the Cubs have an affiliate there then I am almost certain that the stadium would be sold out knowing that they might be watching players that might play with the main team.

  • Kevin

    Funny you mentioned Rockford, I was thinking exactly the same thing. Good post!

  • Jeff1969

    The older Sheperd brother has a similar story; a SS turned pitcher who blew his arm out, same college. He’s pitching in the low minors for Boston, is 6’0 and righthanded. Theo keeping an eye on the family.

  • Kevin

    The Cubs have a total of 8 minor league team affiliates which is pretty much the norm, teams usually have 7 or 8. That being said I’m not sure they would be allowed to add one more team.

  • King Jeff

    Is there a limit on how much a team can sign an undrafted player for? Is there any possibility that the Cubs can use this to circumvent the rules and give some heavy bonuses to undrafted kids that they wouldn’t be able to sign otherwise because of slot limits?

    • Luke

      It works just like rounds 11-40.  Anything over $100k comes out of the draft pool.

      • MichiganGoat

        Thanks Luke

      • King Jeff

        That blows. I really hate these new rules.

    • MichiganGoat

      I’ve been wondering the samething, I imagine there is something in the CBA so that undrafted players to slot over drafted players.