Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

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?

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