2013 mlb draftAfter three exciting, exhausting, and occasionally confusing days, the 2013 draft is in the books. Now comes the signing process, the assignment of new players to their various teams, the strategy critiques, the re-evaluation of the organizations, the re-ranking of the top prospect lists, and all those other aspects of minor league tracking and over-analysis from which so many derive such enjoyment. This is a great time of year to be a baseball fan, and particular a fan of the minors.

And that draft analysis begins today, in a small way. Until players have signed it will be tough to get an accurate sense of just how well the Cubs did this year, but this year, even with signing questions factored in, I think the only question be whether the Cubs did well or very well. This is a strong draft.

After a quick assessment of the four currently active teams we will take an early, high level look at the Cubs draft and start to figure out what it means for the farm system and the organization as a whole.

Iowa Cubs : 27-34

The worst team in the Cubs organization is in second place and just five games out of first. The Pacific Coast League does not declare first half division winners as a means of locking up postseason slots, so the Cubs have until the beginning of September to close that gap.

They should be getting some reinforcements. Junior Lake has finally arrived in Iowa after a long rehab stint in Arizona, and eventually the Cubs should promote Double A veterans such as Matt Szczur and Jae-Hoon Ha (currently injured) and Justin Bour (also injured) to Iowa. The large class of college pitchers in this draft might allow some bullpen pitchers to be promoted as well. Zach Rosscup, Tony Zych, Trey McNutt, and Frank Batista would all be candidates for relocation to a more northern bullpen.

Tennessee Smokies : 31-30

The Smokies are still over .500 and in second place, but they have fallen 7.5 games back of first. If Tennessee is going to enjoy postseason baseball, they’ll do it with a second half title.

In the meantime, the Smokies are running an online auction with proceeds going to support the Oklahoma City Red Cross. There are signed items from Cub greats like Fergie Jenkins on that list, as well as Message Board favorites like Tony Campana. Whether you are a serious collector, a casual  fan, or shopping for a loved one I think you’ll find something on that list worth bidding on.

That list does have some rare and unusual items. This might be your only chance to bid on a game used bat signed by reliever Frank Batista. I have to wonder, though, who used that bat? According to Baseball Reference, Batista does not have an At Bat this season. Or in any other season for that matter.

Daytona Cubs : 29-28

The Cubs are in a tough division, but despite that they are still lurking just four games back of the division leader. They are not out of contention for the first half title yet, but it would take some unlikely events to close that gap at this point in the season.

Kane County Cougars : 28-31

Believe it or not, the Cougars are not mathematically eliminated either. Sitting in sixth place and 8.5 games behind the leader, though, it is all but impossible that they can come back in the first half. The Cougars have more talent than their record indicates, though, and there is no reason they can’t rule this division in the second half.

The 2013 Draft – An Early Look

Mike Safford, the voice of the Boise Hawks, has compiled the available stats for nearly every player the Cubs took in the draft this weekend. After spending the weekend chasing down stats for a lot of these players myself, I can appreciate how titanic an effort this was.

The Cubs took 19 pitchers this weekend, three of them southpaws. That is an indicator just how rare left handed pitchers are. Rob Zastrynzy will become the best left handed starter in the organization as soon as he signs a contract. Tyler Ihrig and Sam Wilson both have some potential, but it will take some patience to see what they develop into.

That means the Cubs took 16 right handed pitchers, and many of them were from college. And many of them were tall. Very tall. Scott Frazier and Sean Johnson both stand in at 6’7″. Brad Renner is 6’6″, Tyler Skulina is 6’5″, and Daniel Poncedeleon and Trevor Clifton headline a cluster of hurlers who are 6’4″. Taller pitchers generally throw pitches at a steeper downhill angle and, as a result, are often tougher for hitters to pick up. By drafting a basketball team worth of tall, hard throwing right handers the Cubs likely stacked the deck in their favor a bit. Not all will sign, but even so the Cubs appear to have done a nice job injecting another wave of pitching talent into the system.

The Cubs also loaded up behind the plate. Six catchers were drafted, including some fairly high ceiling backstops like Jeremy Martinez, Tyler Alamo, and Cael Brockmeyer. It is unlikely that all of the Cubs catcher draftees will sign, but the Cubs knew that when they drafted them. We do not know just yet how large an infusion of catching talent the system is going to receive, but for the second year in a row the Cubs made an effort to shore one of the organization’s largest weaknesses.

The Cubs attacked the system’s other big weakness, outfielders, as well. With the big names like Jorge Soler and Albert Almora taking the headlines it can hard to remember that the Cubs are actually a little thin in this area, particular in the corners. After Soler, the next best corner outfield prospect in the system might just be Josh Vitters, currently playing third base. Reggie Golden and Bijan Rademacher have potential, but both are fairly far away. The Cubs needed some bigger bats to play left and right, and in this draft they may have found a few.

Kevin Brown, a left handed hitter from Bryant College, is one intriguing possibility. Third round pick Jacob Hannemann is another strong candidate (although he might be able to stay in center). And of course the Cubs snagged a fair assortment of speed-first outfield types as well, but they were already reasonably deep in that department. What the farm system needed was an infusion of big bats.

And in first round pick Kris Bryant, the Cubs drafted one of the biggest. Whether he plays third base or outfield is almost beside the point. Bryant’s value is primarily his bat. He is no liability on defense, far from it, but this guy put on a nearly unprecedented power showcase all season in college. Bryant was the best hitter in this draft and instantly joins the very top tier of Cubs prospects.

Including Bryant the Cubs drafted seven infielders (counting Tyler Sciacca who was announced as a CF and then re-listed as a 2B). Bryant easily outshines them all. I suspect we will see many of the other infielders playing in Boise and Arizona soon, but I don’t see any Top 40 list candidates among them.

Finally, I did notice three general trends from the Cubs that I think will end up defining this draft (other than the tendency to draft really tall pitchers, that is).

First, the Cubs stuck to the college ranks. An overwhelming majority of the Cubs players came from college, and most of those were drafted out of four year colleges. The Cubs are looking for more polished talent that could help out in the majors sooner rather than later. To me, that suggests that the Cubs can see the competitive window in the major leagues opening as soon as next season and they are trying to prime the farm system with the reinforcements they will need to build the Cubs into a consistent juggernaut. The lower levels of the system are already stacked with talent, but the middle ranks were somewhat lacking (particularly at pitcher). With the 2013 draft the Cubs tried to correct that.

Second, the Cubs did not forfeit any picks. While other teams were drafting the son of so-and-so and the brother of some-other-guy, the Cubs stuck to their rankings and drafted the players they wanted to draft. There were no wasted picks this year.

Third, it seemed to me that the Cubs were drafting from cold weather states more frequently than in years past. I know the two big baseball hotbeds (Florida and California) were both considered to be in down years talent wise, but I don’t think that completely explains it. The Cubs barely touched the other Southern states (such as Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi) at all. Instead, the Cubs were drafting from Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Oregon, Utah, Michigan, New York, and New Jersey.

There is a school of thought that says that players from these cold-winter states are often undervalued in the draft because they have shorter seasons, less time to practice outdoors, and are less frequently seen by scouts. Mike Trout is often cited as an example of a player who was badly undervalued in the draft because he hailed from the chilly North East. If this theory is true (and I personally think it is), then the Cubs might have focused on those states in an effort to find talent other teams would miss. Cold-state scouting could, in other words, become one of those inefficiencies that good front offices look to exploit. That does not mean they found another Trout in this draft, but it does mean they may have found a player or two who should have been drafted much higher than they were had their true potential been realized.

We will have plenty more to say about the draft and this draft class in the coming weeks, but now it is time to look a bit further down the calendar.  Now that the draft is over, the trade season can officially get underway. Rumor season has arrived, and just like the draft, I think it will prove to be both exhausting and a lot of fun.

  • X the Cubs Fan

    Top 5 farm system?

    • Kyle

      I haven’t tapped in to how the other systems are doing this year, but you’d have to think this is either top 5 or just missing out. Lack of pitching still a problem, but that collection of hitters is insane.

      • Timothy Scarbrough

        Yeah, it seems like other systems such as the Cardinals saw some pretty big graduations this year, while the Cubs don’t really have any serious prospects moving up, while adding Bryant and hopefully some more guys before the deadline.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Possibly the best farm system in terms of hitters (only Minnesota would be competitive, I think), but no better than middle of the pack on pitching.

      A lot will depend on how prospects like Blackburn and Underwood develop this season. Johnson is already do well, so if those two perform as or better than expected and Vizcaino comes back looking mostly like his old self, I think the Cubs will have the pitching to crack the Top 5 and be a candidate for No 1 overall.

      If not, like Kyle said, they’ll fall just short.

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor (no relation)

    Yeah, the big numbers that stood out on that stat sheet was:

    Rd 1 – Kris Bryant, .820 SLG (.329 AVG)
    Rd 9 – Charcer Burks, .828 SLG (.437 AVG)

    • Timothy Scarbrough

      I’d hope a high school bat could dominate his competition.

  • PJ

    Brett and Luke thanks for all that you do! This is fantastic work!

  • EricR

    Luke, I’ve really come to appreciate learning about our farm system. I’ll admit that I never paid it much mind, but your articles have really been informative. You and Brett did a great job covering this year’s draft. Now, let the trade season begin!

  • Kevin

    Great work Luke! Overall the draft was good. Lets hope we can sign the majority of them so our farm system gets the depth it needs.

  • john

    When does the international signing period begin? I’m guessing that is the next focus of our front office and then the ever-looming trade deadline.

    • Kyle

      July 2

    • ssckelley

      This will be another fun time for us Cub fans (since the mlb team is not offering much enjoyment). There are reports that the Cubs are involved with some of the top international talent available.

      It is good to see the Cubs are not letting the dismal 2012 season go to waste. They are taking advantage of the favorable draft position and international pool money.

  • Cheryl

    This appears to be a real good draft. Maybe the cubs will be a lot better next year. If the club does enter the trade market full force they may concentrate more on prospects as a return rather than established players.

  • Okie Cub

    Interesting theory about the northern states. I’d noticed a lot of schools I’d never heard of, but hadn’t put them together geographically. Makes sense though. Great work as always Luke!

  • YourResidentJag

    Instead of AA Southern League, I wish there was a AA Northern League. I think with places like Kane County, the attendance seen in Madison and Dayton, OH and a couple a mid-sized cities in Michigan, it could be possible. And currently it would benefit Cubs fans.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      On the other hand, I’d rather Double A be played in places that are less prone to snow-outs. I wouldn’t want a Double A league in Florida for the same reason – the weather is too unstable.

      The South has it’s share of rain outs, but on the whole Tennessee gets in more games a year than Kane County does, I think. And definitely more than Daytona, if not so many as Inland Empire (for example, in the California League).

  • cubchymyst

    I know it probably doesn’t have much meaning due to level of competition but looking through the position player stats it looks like all seem to be selective in their approach.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Yes. That tendency was also coming through loud and clear yesterday. Every hitter the Cubs took had either very respectable walk totals, very low strikeout rates, or both.

  • Whiteflag

    I’m watching the Indianapolis Indians play right now. Completely for got about Felix Pie. He looks like he lost so muscle/weight to me.

  • Jono

    Im guessing that im not the only cubs fan who went from anti-DH to pro-DH purely for Vogelbach. If he’s MLB ready before the NL goes DH, I imagen he’d be the focal point of a trade that brings back a nice pitcher. I expect at least one of their big 5 hitting prospects gets traded for an arm

    • ssckelley

      No player in low A minors should sway you on whether you want DH or not. I just want the American League to be playing by the same rules as the National League and I doubt the DH will ever be dropped in the AL.

      • Jono

        I bet he becomes an awesome DH. I get that he’s in a lower level, but you can still make a forecast

      • Jono

        And let me clarify: that’s not my main reason. My main reason is the increased amount of interleague games. Vogelbach is just the cherry on top, or tie breaker between the AL going no DH or NL going DH.

        • Jono

          Oops, I realize how contradictory that sounds to what I wrote before. I failed at expressing myself clearly. Whatever

  • Le Cubs

    Luke what can you offer about this years international free agents? I know the Cubs have the 2nd most to spend so are there any intriguing names who could be signed and help the farm?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      There are some interesting names out there, but I really have not started to brush up on them. Now that we’re through the draft that will be one of my next focuses.

  • http://Isa Voice of reason

    Because the cubs drafted a bunch of Pitchers who threw four years in college leads you to believe they think they will be competitive at the big league level next year?

    Drafting college arms that went for four years certainly means they should be on a faster track to the bigs, but you certainly cannot conclude that they expect to start competing at the big league level next year….. Thats ridiculous.

    • DarthHater

      Luke didn’t say that the pitchers drafted this year could be expected to start competing at the big league level next year. He said the FO may see the ML team’s competitive window opening as soon as next year and this year’s college pitchers were drafted to shore up pitching in the middle ranks of the farm system.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Darth hit the nail on the head.

        The Cubs are not going to compete because they grabbed college pitching, they grabbed college pitching because they expect to be competitive as soon as next year and want to make sure they have some pitching prospects in the middle levels of the system who might be ready to come up and help in Chicago once that competitive window arrives.

        • DarthHater

          That’s why they call me “Voice of nail hitting.”

    • jt

      Are the quality of college pitchers found in rounds 1 -10 the type that can get outs when facing a ML line-up 3 times in a game? Are there some with decent command of a plus pitch who could get 3 outs in game? I believe the former in no and the latter yes.
      Are there some HS kids that were available in those rounds capable of developing an array of plus pitches over the next 4 years who could possibly be good in the ML as running through ML lineups 3 times in a game? I’d guess yes.
      The Cubs went the route of the college kids with the lower ceiling who will get there more quickly.
      Even when I already agree with Luke, he brings up a point I hadn’t considered.

      • jt

        meant to say rounds 3 -10

  • http://bleachernation.com d biddle

    It is hard for me to believe the Cubs have a top 5 farm system when 2 teams are playing below .500 and 2 teams are 1 over? What makes them so good?

    • wvcubsfan

      Pretty sure team record as nothing to do with farm system rating. It makes about as much difference as a starting pitchers W-L record.

    • http://Isa Voice of reason

      The win loss record of the minor league teams has nothing to do with the talent at each level.

    • Kyle

      Frequently, the teams with the best records are the ones with the worst prospects. When you don’t have a prospect to fill a spot, you fill it with an older, more experienced player. That player will do better in the short-term but doesn’t have any long-term future.

    • ssckelley

      Honestly Kane County’s record has been surprising considering how much talent was assigned there.

      • nkniacc13

        they have had a really tough schedule their 2nd half is easier

      • Dynastyin2017

        Kane County is 2nd in Avg and OPS. That’s very good.
        Kane County is 3rd to last in ERA. That, not so much.
        Thus a .500ish record.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          They are also among the youngest teams in the league on offense, which is very good.

  • http://bleachernation.com d biddle

    Does not the best talent win?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Not in the minors. Experience counts for a ton in baseball (that’s why the minor leagues runs six layers deep). In most developmental leagues experience tends to correlate more readily with winning percentage than talent. Talent plays in there as well, but not as much as age and experience does.

  • http://bleachernation.com JY

    When could Almora get promoted to Daytona?

    • nkniacc13

      likely not until atleast Aug 1

  • Kramden

    Anyone in the order up for breaking thru a no-hitter ?

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Only taking 3 LHP out of a total of 19 is a troubling statistic when they basically did the same thing last year as well. Cardinals took 6 lefties and I’m currently watching another Pirate lefty no hit our Cubs.
    Tall guys who throw hard are always what the scouts look for but I wonder if the numbers were analyzed if that type of physique translate into more success. Greg Maddux anyone ? Or Travis Wood ? Both these guys barely 6′ tall.

    • wvcubsfan

      Sign all the Lefties so they can’t pitch against the Cubs

      • kenster

        Agreed! ^^ I hate the Pirates this year with Liriano Rodriguez and Locke

    • AB

      “Tall guys who throw hard are always what the scouts look for but I wonder if the numbers were analyzed if that type of physique translate into more success”

      Someone examined and published this information several years ago . Maybe Kyle or theh Doc know he reference.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Stats to follow when scouting for potentially successful ML pitching WHIP, K’s v. BB’s,solid mechanics, then velocity , physical stature.

    • wvcubsfan

      Where does being left handed fit in there?

    • hansman1982

      It’s been proven that stature makes no difference. A 6’0″ guy who is identical to a 6’4″ guy outside of height are just as likely to have success and injury.

  • Josh

    Does anyone know where Blackburn and underwood are pitching?

    • Dynastyin2017

      Slated for Boise, which starts next week.

  • DarthHater

    Hey, Ian Stewart hit 3 HRs yesterday! 😛

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Wv cubs fan I’m just looking for some balance in our drafting pitchers and on our rosters. Not every pitcher needs to be 6’4″ and 225 lbs. Currently Cubs have 2 lefties, Kane County 3, Daytona 3, Tenn. 4, & Iowa 4. Then we draft 19 pitchers with 16 righties and if memory serves me correctly the same ratio last year.

    • wvcubsfan

      It would be great if they had more LHPs I agree. I also agree with all the stats you listed as well. What I don’t agree with is drafting a pitcher based on handedness, I still think you evaluate the “stuff” and the “makeup” and you draft the best pitcher (player) available.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Yep. I want more lefties in the system as much as anyone, but more than I want lefties I want the best possible group of pitchers.

        • hansman1982

          For 95% of the guys who aren’t drafted in the first 2 rounds, they are all remarkably similar. Taking a lefty who is not a top-100 draft talent over a righty who is not a top-100 draft talent just because he is a righty is basically choosing the only remaining difference between the two.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Wvcubsfan, I’ ll give you three examples of the type of pitcher the Cubs could have drafted this week but instead our rivals the Cardinals chose. Petree, RHP Missouri St. Brookshire LHP Belmont, & Radziewski LHP Miami, FL. All college pitchers with great stats that I stated in previous post. All were taken in later rounds I believe Petree in ninth, Brookshire in 20th, & Radziewski in the 28th.

    • nkniacc13

      the ? is will they sign them

    • wvcubsfan

      You keep an eye on them and come back in 5 years with an I told you so post.

  • Ivy Walls

    Cold weather states personal experience. Back in the day `70’s, I played collegiate golf for IU and the then coach used to strictly recruit golfers from Canada, MI, MN, IL OH and WI where we in my home town we had shorter seasons than even southern IN but also because we knew how to play in the cold, wind, rain or even snow and didn’t complain about it. When we played in early spring or late fall and southern boys were having to deal with playing in the 40’s and wet/wind, we knew how to play.

    So other than undervalue is the value of how to play in Wrigley in April/May and Sept/ OCTOBER!

    • Big Daddy

      I live in Mississippi, but I have often wondered why the northern teams like the Cubs don’t look at cold weather players more. Guys who come from this sweat hole probably don’t play well in frigid weather.

      • mudge

        Has that been studied? Does the ability to hit or pitch in the cold have much to do with what weather you grew up in?

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Guess what these guys have in common? They are all ” undersized” Petree is 6’1″ and 195, Brookshire is 6’0″ and 195, & Radziewski is 5’10” and 190.
    What else they have in common is they were all NCAA leaders in WHIP & K to BB ratio.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    They will all sign as both Petree and Brookshire are seniors and Radziewski is already 21 and not likely to come back for his senior year at 22 years old.

  • http://Bleachernation Lou Brock

    Luke, Cubs drafted Zac. Blair in the 20th round yesterday a 23 yr old second baseman when both lefties I mentioned Brookshire and Radziewski were still there. Don’ we have enough second basemen in our system ?

    • hansman1982

      So what were their levels of competition, do the Cubs see Blair sticking at 2nd, does his glove play well at multiple positions.

      Just because a guy is a lefty and doing well, stats wise, in NCAA doesn’t mean his stuff will translate well or that the Cubs missed the boat on them. They may have like other players better.

      Also, the fact that they were drafted so low generally means they aren’t MLB talent, unless you think that 29 other teams also missed the boat on them.

      • wvcubsfan

        “Also, the fact that they were drafted so low generally means they aren’t MLB talent, unless you think that 29 other teams also missed the boat on them.”

        Quit with your facts and what not, it’s getting in the way of a good troll rant.

  • Kramden

    In the meantime, Junior Lake has been killing it at AAA in the short time he’s been back.

    At what point does he get called up, plugged into 3rd base and given a chance?

    Why wait until Sept?

    • hansman1982

      It’s 16 PA over 4 games. Simma down na…

    • nkniacc13

      exactly is just 4 games. He wont be in Chicago until the after the trade deadline. the 3rd base issue isn’t much of an issue right now

  • cub2014

    I liked the part of the article about Cold weather players. I to
    have thought about that but for another reason. Pitchers have
    less wear an tear on their arms since they have pitched less
    innings. Our college team would go on our southern trip and
    our first game would be our opponents 30-40th game.