Photo by Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com

Photo by Mark LoMoglio/MiLB.com

At the end of the day, it is all baseball.

Hayden Simpson is likely to go down in history as one of the worst first around picks in Cub history, but he should hold a near unshakable claim to being the unluckiest. The Cubs reached for him in the first round in 2010 in no small part because they had watched his fastball hit 97 MPH (and for a variety of other reasons we have discussed endlessly elsewhere, so I won’t rehash them here). And then he came down with a devastating case of mono, lost a lot of muscle mass he never really had to loose, and was started on a downward spiral.

At the start of the next season, in a move I still do not agree with or even understand, the Cubs rushed him back from that mono case and slotted him as a starter in the Midwest League. I was at one of his best starts that season, and I saw enough to convince me that Simpson was a potential No 3 starter. I also saw the thinnest pitcher I have ever witnessed in a professional game. He had not regained the weight he lost to mono, and it showed. He wore out quickly and was essentially done by mid-season. He was never consistently effective over any prolonged stretch as a professional starter again. The new Cubs front office finally cut him loose this spring.

But the story does not end there. Simpson did not retire from baseball, he joined the independent leagues instead. According to The Southern (a prominent regional newspaper in Southern Illinois), Simpson is a strong candidate to join the starting rotation of the Marion Miners. His velocity is back into the low nineties, and his breaking pitches have never been in doubt. With any luck Simpson can relax out of the spotlight in Southern Illinois and get back to what he had with Southern Arkansas.

Odds are good that he will never again pitch in a major league organization, let alone in the majors… but he might. This is baseball, and baseball has a way of finding surprising endings to the strangest stories.

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – There was a pitching duel in Iowa yesterday, and the Cubs came out on top. Iowa won 1-0.
Tennessee – The bullpen bailed out the Smokies in this one. They won it 6-4.
Daytona – Lackluster pitching and three errors cost the Cubs in this 12-7 loss.
Kane County – The Cougars took Game One 5-0, but they lost the second contest 8-2.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Matt Garza was very good in his rehab start, but Brooks Raley was also very good in relief. Raley threw three innings of two hit ball, walking one and striking out three.
  • [Iowa] The lone run for the Cubs was scored by Dave Sappelt. Sappelt has not had an easy time transitioning back to Triple A. Hopefully finally playing a few games in Iowa will help get him going.
  • [Tennessee] Matt Loosen struggled with the command and walked 6 in 4 innings (while also striking out 5), but A.J. Morris had no such issues. Morris shut down the Jackson offense with 3 perfect frames, striking out 3 in the process.
  • [Tennessee] Frank Batista picked up his fifth save with a hitless ninth.
  • [Tennessee] Four of the Smokies’ six runs were driven in by Ty Wright. Wright hit two home runs, each of them a two run shot.
  • [Daytona] Chadd Krist did his part. Recently promoted from Kane County, Krist was the DH in this game. He finished 3 for 3 with 2 doubles, a walk, and 5 RBI.
  • [Daytona] Also giving fans their money’s worth was Dustin Geiger. Playing first base in this game, Geiger went 3 for 5 with a double and a solo home run.
  • [Kane County] Game One was patched together from the bullpen, and the Cougars had the prefect candidate to spot start in Brian Smith. Smith pitched four no-hit innings while walking two and striking out two. Eddie Orozco and Jeffry Antigua finished off the shutout.
  • [Kane County] Gioskar Amaya doubled as part of his 3 for 4 performance in Game One. Jeimer Candelario one-upped him by doubling twice in his 2 for 3 performance in Game Two.
  • [Kane County] Credit Steve Perakslis with some nice work in relief in Game Two. He pitched three scoreless innings, allowed three hits, and struck out two.

Other News

  • If you watched the Tennessee game (you did know you can watch minor league games on MiLB.TV, right?) you may have noticed Rubi Silva playing in center with Matt Szczur slotting over into right. Normally I’d say that Szczur is the better defensive outfielder of the two and therefore would be in center, but I have to admit that Silva looked pretty good out there as well. I don’t think we should read anything into this configuration, though; it looks like the Cubs have been moving Szczur around all over the outfield this season. And that is probably a smart move. I still think Szczur profiles best as a very good fourth outfielder, and those guys need to be able to read the ball off the bat from all angles. A little practice in the corners certainly won’t hurt.
  • The Cougers have been gradually stretching Brian Smith out lately, so I would not be surprised to see him take a permanent spot in the rotation soon. He is currently riding a streak of 10 scoreless innings.
  • In many ways, Dillon Maples career may have almost paralleled Hayden Simpson. Maples, as I’m sure you recall, was held back by the Cubs for nearly all of last season due to conditioning and some minor injuries. Despite the big signing bonus, the new front office did not rush him the way the old front office had rushed Simpson. How would things have played out differently if Theo Epstein had not taken over the Cubs the winter after Maples was drafted? Hard to say. I tend to think Maples would have been rushed into a rotation and would have struggled badly, but we’ll never know. That’s probably a good thing.
  • Idaho Razorback

    Southern Arkansas Muleriders, great nickname. It’s also the alma-mater of college football coach Tommy Tuberville. He may not be THE worst Cubs 1st round pick of all-time, but he’s up there. Here’s a link to all their 1st round picks. It’s terrible except for Joe Carter, Shawon Dunston, Rafael Palmeiro, Kerry Wood, & Mark Prior. As for the recent draft picks, we can’t make a decision on them. It’s too soon.

    • twinkletoez

      I think I would add Andrew Cashner to the list of “good” picks. He is a MLB starting pitcher and we turned him into Rizzo.

  • Robby

    Great post Luke. Thanks for the minor league info. In regards to Hayden Simpson, I met him on Wednesday. I live 10 miles from Marion in Carbondale, IL. The team called the “Southern Illinois Miners” actually just made their final cuts Wednesday morning and he made the cut. However, he is not slotted as one of their starting 5. I guess that means he will start the season in the pen.

    Anyway, the reason I was able to meet him was that the Miners organization had a Spring Training Finale/Team building event at my place in Carbondale – WIFFLEYFIELD . It is Southern Illinois’ version of Wrigley (a scale down version of Little Cubs Field up north). I started the field 10 years ago when i was 15 and it has turned into something pretty cool. Anyway, the guys broke into teams of 5 and did a roun robin tourney. It wa actually pretty cool.

    HAYDEN SIMPSON did really well at the plate. Hit from both sides and had a few bombs (for what wiffle stats are worth – haha!)

    Anyway, BNers should check out WiffleyField on Facebook or YouTube…I think they would enjoy it!

    Thanks again Luke! Keep up the great work – we all appreciate all that you and Brett do.


    • http://www.bleachernation.com Thompsonville, Il_Cubs

      Lets not forget these southern Illinois minors are the defending frontier league champs! Good baseball at rent one park in marion

      • Rich H


        • Sarah

          My boyfriend and I are both graduates of SIUC and met at a Miner’s game a few years back. I’m glad to see there are others here that are familiar with the team and the area.

    • JBarnes

      Nice a Carbondale resident…spent 4 years down there at SIU. I’ve worked with the Peoria Chiefs the past 3 seasons and got to see Simpson as well and gotta say I don’t think the guy has a chance to make it back. Such a small frame already and lost velocity due to being sick, I don’t see him being able to last…add in the fact that he seems to have a real attitude problem and I don’t see good things for him in the future.

      • JBarnes

        A lot of “seeing” in that paragraph. Lol my bad.

  • miggy80

    Luke maybe you can help me. I been trying to figure out what song is played before Brett Jackson comes to the plate for the I-Cubs. Anybody out there know?

    • Cubbie Blues

      “Hit the Road Jack”?

      • miggy80

        Ha, he did strike out twice.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I don’t know, but if you hit up @iowacubs on Twitter, I bet they’ll tell you.

      • miggy80

        Thanks for the tip Luke. I guess I’m gonna have to venture into the twitterverse.

  • RoughRiider

    I think Lance Dickson could be right up there with the unluckiest. He was drafted by the Cubs out of college in 1990, rushed and overworked through the minors to make his ML debut that year. He started 3 games, injured his arm and was never the same and never made it to the majors again. I’m hoping Hayden gets well, in shape and over the mono, it can take years to fully recover, and have a good career in MLB.

    • ssckelley

      Before the injury Dickson had awesome stuff.

      • Stinky Pete

        I bought into the hype, big time. I still have Dickson’s debut recorded on VHS. You know, so when he gets inducted into the Hall, I can just pop that game back in the VCR and remember when…

  • Idaho Razorback

    What’s with Bijan Rademacher?! He’s hitting .337 this year and playing pretty much everyday. He’s also pitched twice in the last week. He’s only 21, still young.

    • Timothy Scarbrough

      He is 22, but I like the .423 OBP. The .400 is probably too low for an outfielder though.

    • cms0101

      What’s with Rademacher pitching the 7th inning in game 2 last night? He was bringing a 90 mph fastball. That was harder than what Heesch, the starting pitcher, threw all night.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Rademacher was scouted heavily as a pitcher. He is said to have turned teams down who wanted to take him as a pitcher higher in the draft, and agreed to sign with the Cubs because they would let him try to stick as an outfielder first.

        He’s the garbage innings spare-the-bullpen guy for Kane County now. When they need a position player to take the mound, it’s Rademacher.

  • Edwin

    I would think it’s unlucky for any player to be drafted by the Cubs.

    • RoughRiider

      There you go. Thinking again. I thought your therapist told you to stop doing that.

  • ETS

    Where is Concepcion? Last I knew they cleared him through waivers so he is no longer a 40man guy, but I didn’t think he was cut entirely.

    • Cubbie Blues

      Didn’t he get Mono as well?

      • ETS

        He did. That’s what made me think of him, but that was last season. I’d think he would be working out somewhere, trying to get back into throwing shape.

        • Cubbie Blues

          RotoWorld has him at Kane Co.

          • Rcleven

            Doesn’t show up on KC roster. I think I heard something about him going back to AZ.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              Last I heard he was rehabbing in AZ. I think he’s on the Boise roster, but that doesn’t mean much right now.

    • marc

      he is in ex spring training i believe

  • Idaho Razorback

    Born on June 15, 1991 would make him 21.

    • Cedlandrum

      Age 22 season though.

  • On the Farm

    Speaking of Maples, is he pitching again this weekend, or did I already miss his second start?

    • Jp3

      I’m guessing he’s going to start the next game since his last start was may 12th. It’s his turn I believe but I don’t know if they play tonight or tomorrow…

      • On the Farm

        They have a three game series against Cedar Rapids starting tonight, I was just curious because KC’s website has TBD for all three starters for the weekend. Thanks

        • Jp3

          Yeah I’m anxious to see how he does going every 5th day now too. Here’s to hoping he’s the real deal.

          • On the Farm

            He’s going to face Buxton this weekend then (#2 in last years draft for those who don’t know), he has been absolutely mashing Midwest league so if Maples can find ways to get him out a few times I would be ecstatic.

      • On the Farm

        **4 game series.

        So it looks like Maples and Johnson will be taking the ball this weekend series, that’s some good baseball.

        • Rcleven

          Can’t catch Johnson at home. Seems his turn comes when their on the road.
          Met and talked to him at meet and greet. Told him I was a fan and seemed to make his day.

  • dash

    lose, not loose.

  • JulioZuleta

    Those 97 mph readings were something of a joke to most scouts. If I recall, it was basically one game where 97mph readings were recorded, but for some reason, that’s what fans, and apparently the Cubs front office, stuck with. A few months back when he was released, Law answered a question about him in his chat, basically along the lines of “What happened?” He said that he basically sat 87-90 and touched 92 a few times, no where near what some reports said. I know the mono thing is what everyone falls back on, but that was the worst first round pick that I’ve seen in any sport. Sometimes you’ll get a controversial first round football player, but usually analysts will say the team reached by 1 round (as in, he was really a second rounder).
    Simpson was ranked 191st by Baseball America, which makes him a 6-7th rounder basically. MLB didn’t even have a nameplate for him to put up on the board at the draft. I remember an interview with Wilken said “I think he has the potential to possibly be a major league starter…” Not exactly a ringing endorsement for the 16th pick.
    I’ll count this as one of my bi-annual Simpson rants. The mono didn’t help, but it also was just an absurd pick either way. I know the money-saver argument, but even if they only had $1M to spend on the first pick, they could have done a hell of a lot better than the 191st ranked player. I just sat here trying to come up with a comparable player for Simpson’s skill set in the majors…then I laughed at myself because players with that skill set don’t get anywhere near the majors.

    • Edwin

      Agreed. From the start, it was a terrible pick, even as a “money saver”.

    • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

      I agree. I don’t know why he’s still talked about and why there is a need to defend the pick. It’s over and it sucked.

      • JulioZuleta

        This isn’t exactly fair, but the pick was so bad it doesn’t deserve to be analyzed fairly. If you look at the guys that signed for under $1M, just in the top 40 something pick, you see names like Aaron Sanchez-775K, Noah Syndergaard-600K, Taijuan Walker-800K, Mike Olt, 717K. Aaron Sanchez, who is a pretty damn pitching prospect right now, was ranked 17th pre draft by Law. We passed on the 17th ranked player who signed for $775K in favor of the 191st ranked player who signed for $1.06M. There are a few dozen other examples that look equally bad in hindsight. There were about 100 others that signed for less that were superior prospects even on draft night. It has all the looks of a guy thinking he’s the smartest guy in the room…thinking he knows something that no one else does, and then looking foolish for acting on that. It’s frustrating because absolutely burning a first rounder like that is inexcusable and puts the organization in a huge hole. He had zero trade value from the minute he was drafted, and it only went down from there.

    • BT

      There’s no justifying the pick now, but at the time (actually a bit later), I remember reading Simpson was rising on many draft boards, was actually seen as a 2nd or 3rd round pick, and there were at least a couple of other teams that saw him as a first rounder, including the Rays, whom everyone seems to think is at least competent at drafting. Yes, Wilken was hampered by some $$ limitations, but he didn’t pick Simpson’s name out of a hat, and my guess is that he was able to scout at least as well as the people on this board. Simpson simply didn’t work out, for a multitude of reasons, and it’s magnified because it was a stretch.

      • JulioZuleta

        All those “stock rising” stories and “other teams interested” stories seemed to come out after the pick was made.

        • ssckelley

          Reminds me of a fantasy football draft where someone reaches for a guy way to early, at first we all make fun of him and then someone always tries to stick up for the pick.

          • On the Farm

            Its called being a classy GM and hope that someone returns you the favor if you are ever in a bind.

        • BT

          Why in the world would it come out before he was picked? There are not an infinite amount of draft stories written. There is not a narrative written about the rising or falling stock of every prospect.

          Which is more logical? That Wilken saw a guy who he could get cheaply and whose stock was rising, or he randomly grabbed a shitty pitcher that should have gone in the 6th round? I promise you Wilken had at least as much information available to him as you guys did.

          • JulioZuleta

            In the past week I have read probably 50 articles about players’ stock rising in the weeks leading up to the draft…

            • BT

              Sure, but the absence of one concerning a specific player doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

              The Rays considering Simpson for the first round is easier to believe than Wilken deliberately taking a stiff. Since that scenario is nonsensical. Simpson still signed for 1 million, under-slot, but more than 5-6th round talent would warrant. If Wilken truly wanted a 6th round talent he could have taken one and signed him for 400k. If Simpson was truly regarded by EVERYONE as a 6th round talent, the Cubs could have offered 500k, stuck to it, and dared Simpson to go back into the draft next year, where he clearly would have gone much lower, since in your mind, that was the consensus.

              Or he could have drafted him in the 3rd, 4th, or 5th round.

              Over-drafting a sub-par talent, then overpaying him, ON PURPOSE, makes no sense.

  • JungleDrew

    I was at the Daytona Cubs game last night and I felt like I should point out that Ben Carhart made quite a few nice defensive plays over at third, and had a run both times he was on base. Jorge Soler was hitting the ball hard but the outfield just kept (barely) getting to his hit, very easily could have been 3 for 5 with a couple of doubles…. And PJ Francenscon was every bit deserving of the loss in this game; I don’t remember seeing him hit a fast ball over 90, he lacked control, and his pitching style doesn’t have any wind-up or follow thru (he barely lifts his lead leg, and his back leg ends even instead of ahead, he pretty much ends in a standard fielding position), if he added one or the other he could easily add a few mph and possibly be a better pitcher.

    And on the other team, despite lot of runs there was only one player that really stood out to me: Alejandro Segovia, this guy looked like an absolute beast… He crushed a home run at one point and was very patient at the plate (drew a walk) and was another victim of hard hit balls right at outfielders that easily could have been doubles. I don’t think we need him in our system but he seemed like the only player on the opposing team that would be a future major leaguer.

    All in all this game really could have gone either way as neither starting pitcher was very good, but the Cubs errors came back to hurt them. Regardless of the outcome I was drunk, had great seats, was sitting with two beautiful girls in Prior jerseys (I was wearing my Kenny Powers Jersey), and got to seem one of the 2 future Cubbies cornerstones play. Great Night

  • @cubsfantroy

    Hard to pick who was the biggest first round bust for the Cubs. From what I remember Ty Griffin, Earl Cunningham (who I thought was going to be HUGE when they drafted him) and Ben Christiansen I think were bigger busts.

    • @cubsfantroy

      Holy run on sentence, Batman.

    • Kyle

      Hard to beat Luis Montanez in this category. No. 3 overall pick, negative career WAR as a late-career roster-fill guy who got a generous call-up.

      • BT

        The Montanez pick is evened out by the fact that there are exactly 3 guys with a WAR higher than 1.0 that were picked after him in the first round that year. 5 guys picked in the top 10 that year never made the major leagues, of the other 5, three of them had a negative WAR (according to baseball reference). Of the remaining 2, one amassed all of his value in a 3 year span (Baldelli) and the other was picked first overall (Adrian Gonzalez). In short, while Montanez was a terrible pick, with the exception of the Gonzalez and Wainright, every first rounder pretty much disappointed that year.

  • JT

    Where is Gerardo Concepcion? Checked all the minor league rosters….nowhere to be found.

  • Kyle

    Yeah, I don’t care what Miners manager Mike Pinto tells the Southern, Simpson is not throwing in the mid-90s. I’d be surprised if he was touching 90.

    • JulioZuleta

      Yeah, I’d be shocked. But hey, now you’ve heard of the Miners, and you hadn’t before. Probably trying to get scouts there on some level and just overall PR.

    • DarthHater

      mid-90s in km/hr, perhaps

  • ssckelley

    The unluckiest draft of them all was in 2002 when the Cubs had 4 first round draft picks and they all busted. Only 14 of the 41 first round picks failed to reach the majors and the Cubs drafted 4 of them. The toughest was drafting of Brownlie at #21 right before Guthrie, Francoeur, Blanton, and Cain.

    They had 2 more picks in the 2nd round and both of those never reached the majors either. That made 6 picks in the top 62 overall in the 2002 draft. Dopirak was drafted right before Jon Lester and Justin Jones was selected 2 picks ahead of Brian McCann. They had 2 more picks in the 3rd round and at #93 overall they picked their first player that would at least play in the majors, Billy Petrick. Rich Hill (4th round) I believe is the only player from that draft still playing in the majors. The other stars from that class include Micah Hoffpauir (13th round) and David Wells (38th round).

    • David

      Oh my goodness is that bad. Someone should get fired.

      • ssckelley

        I don’t think there are many left from the staff that drafted that 2002 class, if any at all.

  • http://ehanauer.com clark addison

    As bad as the drafting record was, minor league instruction was worse. Players the Cubs got in trades invariably had better fundamentals than those who came through the Cubs’ system. It seems that was one of the first factors addressed by the new regime.

  • TomDettore

    Was Drew Hall a first-rounder?

  • jwcoop23@gmail.com

    you know, you people should talk what you know, essentially you do not know what the hell you are talking about. You have taken plenty of time to blast the hell out of a kid who has worked his ass off and accomplished great things. YES, he is small, YES he is an anomole. And YES there are a great deal of other things you need to know. He was drafted by one of the worst organizations in baseball, time has proven that, with the most ravenous fans, you guys have proven that. The mono was devastating to him but he felt that it was his obligation to the Cubs to do what he could as quickly as possible even though it turned out to be his own demise. To lose over 30 lbs off his 170 lb frame, almost 20%, is simply more than most people could ever handle, especially if your trying to compete at the highest level of his sport.

    Now, the facts, he was a 170 pound kid with lightening in his right arm. The brilliant people in the Cubs minor league organization immediately changed his workout routine which bordered on the ridiculous, but was necessary to be an anomole. They were to damn stupid to see that. They wanted to change his throwing motion from a big tilt to a tall and fall like a guy who is 6’7” and it simply would never work…..never. As for the Miners, folks he was throwing 90 in high school so yes he is throwing in the 90’s, why would Mike Pinto lie about that? That would be absolutely ignorant because that is something that can and I am sure will be documented. He is in the starting rotation, not sure where the wiffle ball guy got his info but as far as i know he is throwing Tuesday, the 21st .

    so you guys just keep on talking the BS that you have been talking for 2 years, but I assure you, this kid is far from the reason your beloved Cubs are the scurge of baseball. It is however, this kind of belittling kids like Hayden Simpson and whomever else you can find that will keep you in the cellar, where, in fact, you deserve to be. As far as his performance , velocity or whatever You guys are close, go see for yourself.

    • TWC

      Ha. Hahahahaha. Hahaha. Heh.

      What a lovely meltdown you’re having here. Really, it’s brilliant. Made my day. It’s nowhere near as entertaining as when Ben Klafczynski’s aunt posted her long series of raging diatribes a few years back, but it’ll do.

      There’s really so much to pick from here, but the one that really stands out to me is your use of the “word” animole. What is that? You used it twice, so it’s not a typo. Are you trying to write “anomaly”? Or is that really how you think the word “animal” is spelled? Because, oddly, it works either way.

      Anyway, tell your nephew Hayden that we all wish him well and that you truly embarrassed yourself here. Perhaps we can all have a laugh about this when the hurting stops.

      • MichiganGoat

        I wanted to point out the animole anomaly but then I thought that the Matrix might be involved so I left it alone.

    • MichiganGoat

      Alright I’ll bite here. I’m not sure why you’d use your email as your username (it smells kinda of trollish) but you seem to have a real horse in the Hayden Simpson race. So are you mad because people are mad that the Cubs wasted their #1 on him or are you mad because the Cubs ruined him?

    • Kyle

      Coaches exaggerate. I’m sure, in a bullpen session, with a running start and a hot gun, he might have touched 90 at somepoint.

      Well, I’m not sure about that. He probably still didn’t.

      Thanks for stopping by, guy who presumably knows Hayden Simpson personally. You should compare notes with Ben Klafczynski’s mom.

  • jwcoop23@gmail.com

    I am not a bit embarrassed. And he isn’t my nephew either. I am sure i could continue this grammatical jousting for ever, but it matters not, you have proven my point for me. Thanks.

    • MichiganGoat

      That’s fine we’re just bustin chops here, but I’m still curious if you’d answer my previous questions?

    • TWC

      “I am sure i could continue this grammatical jousting for ever…”

      You should have capitalized the second letter i in that sentence.

  • jwcoop23@gmail.com

    Time will tell…..

    • Anonnifan

      No TWC is right, you should have capitalized the I. Also, this website underlines misspelled words so there is no excuse for the spelling errors. We all have favorite players who are busts. It happens. When you respond to a series of extremely poignant arguments describing the reasons that your pet player sucks, you have to respond with poignant arguments that he doesn’t. You failed to do that even a little bit. It was a bad draft pick. Even if you like Simpson, or know something about him, it was a bad pick. Perhaps had he come up with a different team, or a different staff, there would have been a different outcome. Perhaps if he had been drafted lower (which seems to be the consensus) and received a lower signing bonus he would have had less impetus to go out and prove himself, and he would have developed into a serviceable major league pitcher. Perhaps. I think you will get nothing from posting on this site in the manor you posted. You will not get a sense of vindication because no one is going to take you seriously. We are all Cubs fans, and its not an easy thing to be. There is no use in insulting the Cubs, because these people insult the Cubs more than anyone who hates them ever could. Hayden Simpson sucks. He’s a bust. That’s baseball. Get over it.

  • Cheryl

    Luke, Thanks for the info on Simpson. If he went from 170 to not quite 150 pounds and tried to come back at that weight its no wonder he was unsuccessful. I don’t know how many have said on this blog that it takes years to recover from the type of mono he had, but it is testament to the bad farm system and coaching that they didn’t just shut him down for a year. He may never make it to the majors but there’s not many who have had to face what he faced. I’d like to hear about him from time to time. At least he didn’t just quit. Give him some credit.

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