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tea leavesIn the age of instant information, social media, and – let’s be honest – draft obsession, there are data points out there about whether a young man is going to sign with the Chicago Cubs that fall short of a clear “yes, he has signed or is signing, and I have a clear source that informs me of that fact,” but are definitely worth highlighting as we try to estimate how the Cubs’ draft class is going to shake out.

That’s where we do some tea leaf reading, so long as it can be done respectfully, and with an understanding that these are young men making a huge decision. And when they don’t choose to put the information out there very publicly, we should respect that. It’s obviously OK, as a fan, to be excited to find out whether the Cubs will be adding another exciting prospect to the fold.

With all that in mind, we did some of this earlier in the week with a huge number of Cubs draftees, and I won’t rehash them here. Check out that previous iteration here if you missed it.

Today, I’ll just look at three Cubs pitching draftees who are putting out some signals that they’ll be signing with the organization soon.

  • The Cubs took high school lefty Justin Steele in the 5th round of the draft, as part of a string of three high school arms that are expected to require over slot funds to sign. There have been some positive signals already about whether Steele would be signing, including comments from Cubs VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod about the likelihood that the Cubs would sign all of their picks in the top 10 rounds. The latest comes from Mississippi sports writer Creg Stephenson, who reports that Steele flew to Arizona today to start his professional career with the Cubs.
  • That tends to confirm Steele’s own Twitter profile, which now reads that he is a “LHP for the Chicago Cubs Organization.” There may yet be the matter of a physical and/or other formalities, but it sounds like, barring a surprise, Steele is in the fold. Now we just wonder about his signing bonus.
  • In the 8th Round of the Draft, the Cubs bucked the trend of what most other teams were doing at that point in the draft – that is to say, rather than take a senior, they took Oregon junior Tommy Thorpe. On the radio with KXTG, Thorpe indicated that, after a physical he anticipates signing with the Cubs (h/t Yags). Although he was not a top-ranked draft prospect, Thorpe was the top starter for a major college program. I’m not sure that he’s going to be much of an under slot signing at that point in the draft, if at all, but I find what the Cubs did in this range very interesting: rather than taking seniors in the 7th and 8th rounds (they did take seniors in the 9th and 10th), the Cubs opted for college junior starters – guys who were more traditional picks for that range in the draft. By those rounds, senior signs can save you about $100,000 under slot for your bonus pool, but the Cubs had already saved (expected) nearly $2 million in the top two rounds. Having done that, might as well grab some guys you actually really like in the 7th and 8th rounds.
  • Austyn Willis was not a top-ranked draft prospect, but he is a 6’6″ righty who was signed on to head to UC-Santa Barbara (a solid college program) after his senior year of high school. It sounds like that won’t happen, as the VV Daily Press reports Willis has agreed to sign with the Cubs, and is headed to Arizona┬ánext week to take his physical and formally sign on.
  • You can read more about Steele and Thorpe here, and more about Willis here. Once a handful of official, top ten rounds (11 through 40 over slots) roll in, I’ll start keeping track of where the Cubs stand on their bonus pool.

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