The MLB Draft is such an enormously important piece of not only a rebuilding process, but also the ongoing health and sustainability of an organization, that the volume of useful information that pours out in the wake of the draft is borderline overwhelming. I’ll do my best to coordinate this first wave over the next few days (no worries, the initial “are they signing?” stuff is coming later today) in a way that’s useful and digestible.
Up first, I wanted simply to take a broad look at the Cubs’ draft, now that we’ve had a little time for the dust to settle. As was fair to expect going into the draft – like I said, this is what these guys do, man – it looks to have been a well-orchestrated, well-executed three days for the Cubs’ front office and scouting crew. You can, and should, judge a draft at three junctures: after the draft, after the signing deadline, and several years down the road. The latter two are of increasing importance, and far outweigh the first. But, here we are, just after the draft, so this is what we have.
Of course we all would have loved to have seen the Cubs get a clear, Kris-Bryant-like, enormous-impact talent in the draft. If that’s the baseline by which you judge a team picking fourth, regardless of the talent pool, then I suppose you would say this draft was not a success. To you I say: buy an umbrella.
That player simply wasn’t going to be there for the Cubs this year, and you could argue that there were only two players like that in the entire draft anyway. Both were off the board by the time the Cubs picked, and, in any case, the Cubs say one of those two – Carlos Rodon – wasn’t ahead of the guy they got at four anyway. For the Cubs, it was Brady Aiken (who went first to the Astros), and then it was the guy they picked.
When the Cubs took IU C/OF Kyle Schwarber with the fourth overall pick, and then followed with Maryland senior pitcher Jake Stinnett in the second round on Thursday, I’ll openly confess that I had just a touch of nervousness. To be clear, I really liked each pick on its own merits (more on Schwarber here, and on Stinnett here), but, because each was pretty likely an “under slot” pick, I had some concerns about the rest of the Cubs’ draft. No, I wasn’t afraid that they were “going cheap” (though I know that was what many folks feared, this is where the Cubs’ organization will *always* spend its marginal dollars) – instead, I was afraid that the Cubs were going to save up so many bullets from the first and second round, and then not be able to use them effectively later in the draft. There was a serious run on quality high school pitchers almost immediately after the Cubs took Stinnett, and I worried that the Cubs’ best-laid plan would be taken out of their hands.
… but I worried for nothing. Clearly, the Cubs had their ducks (and probably back-up ducks, and back-up to the back-up ducks) in a row, and, on Day Two, not only grabbed a quality catcher in the third round (reportedly signing him under slot, too), but went on a run, grabbing three straight high-upside high school pitchers in rounds four through six, another couple upside college arms after that, and then grabbed a whole bunch of over slot types on Day Three. The Cubs will have plenty of opportunities to use their saved bonus pool funds in meaningful ways thanks to their strategy on Days Two and Three, so I am very happy to see how this draft shook out in that regard.
I’ll go over some of the individual picks soon, but, in the interim, if you missed any of the picks, and want a little more on each, check out the draft posts from Day Two (Rounds 3 Through 10) and Day Three (Rounds 11 Through 40).
As for the overall shape of the draft, as it relates to the Cubs’ system, I was also very pleased. You don’t draft for need at the top, but you do like to address the overall health of the organization in the draft as a whole. The Cubs got an impact bat at the top (one that could move fast, and could help the system in the outfield), and got an advanced arm that could move quickly. The Cubs also got some potential long-term impact arms, something you can never have too much of (and something the Cubs obviously need). Lastly, the Cubs made sure to get a true catching prospect in Mark Zagunis, and then also draft a ton of potential catching options in bulk later in the draft. Not all of them will sign, but the Cubs have at least given themselves a chance to stock up on something the organization really needs. Many of the college arms the Cubs took may wind up future relievers, but they’re high upside guys with good stuff. That’s the right gamble in the middle rounds of the draft.
In total, the Cubs took 21 pitchers in their 40 picks. Only seven of those pitchers are high school pitchers (in a very deep draft for high school pitchers), but, as we’ll discuss, the Cubs have a fairly good chance of signing several of them – and that’s really all that matters. Of the Cubs’ first 12 picks, 10 were pitchers. On the positional side, the Cubs took just two shortstops, which is a rarity (a lot of positional prospects, especially in high school, start out at shortstop no matter what). The Cubs took two second basemen and two third basemen, five outfielders (but the first didn’t come until the 21st round), and seven(!) catchers. Of course, Schwarber falls into that catcher group, but he’s probably better characterized as an outfielder.
Cubs VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod told Sahadev Sharma, writing for ESPN, that he thought things went as well as hoped, too.
“It’s been a good couple days for us,” McLeod said. “We’re excited about the guys we were able to draft over these three days. We felt [Friday] we were able to get some high-upside, talented, young high school pitchers mixed in with the college group that we did. I said a couple days ago that we were going to make a run on pitching and certainly we’ve done that.”
That article and this interview of McLeod by Jordan Bernfield have a great deal more on the draft, and they’re worth checking out. As I said up top, I’ll have a great deal more on individual players in the coming days, and on the signing process.
Parting thought from Jason Parks on the Cubs’ draft, which I think you would find is the consensus industry opinion: