Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

cubs azl spring training logoFirst, the bad news. My usual practice over the past few years has been to try to cover as much of the draft as via Twitter as I can while the draft is taking place. Unfortunately, this year the draft falls during a period in which I just can’t take any days off work to do that live coverage. That means that during the day today and tomorrow, when the picks are flying in fast, I’ll probably be largely silent. It won’t be until evening that I’ll be in a position to start to study and break down the Cubs’ draft.

Now the good news; the Cubs had a good day yesterday. Not a great day, I think, but a good  one. This was not a 2013 draft by any stretch, but the Cubs walked away with two quality college hitters who could move through system fairly quickly. It was a smart draft, but not a franchise changing one.

The surprising part is that they took a hitter in each of the first two rounds. The Cubs’ pattern of late had been to spend that second round pick on a college pitcher, but I think they took advantage of an opportunity in the second that they did not expect to have.

First Round: Ian Happ. Switch-hitting Mr. Everything.

Brett wrote up Ian Happ last night. Be sure to read that piece if you haven’t already.

The name Ian Happ may have sounded familiar to regular readers of Bleacher Nation. A little over a month ago, in the first draft preview article I wrote (as part of a Sunday This Week In The Minors), Happ was the guy I settled on, along with Carson Fulmer, as a likely target for the Cubs.

And for good reason. If there was any player in this draft tailor made for Joe Maddon, it was Ian Happ. He is a patient, disciplined hitter with good power from both sides of the plate (and particularly from the left). He has enough speed to cover left or right, and probably enough to handle center in a pinch. His arm may keep him out of right field long term, but it should be good enough for him to fill in at third or short over a limited stretch if the Cubs needed him to. His best position, outside of left field, is probably second base.

I suspect the Cubs fell in love first with his bat. Patient hitters who understand the strike zone, draw lots of walks, tend to avoid strikeouts, and drill line drives off the walls and over them are very attractive to this front office. They’ve taken that sort of hitter in the first round three years in a row, and I strongly suspect they will continue to do so in future years.

But once the bat had caught their eye I suspect they liked the versatility as well. Happ’s bat was on par with all but the very best college hitters in this draft (hitters who were gone before the Cubs picked), but his stock was hurt by his lack of a clear position. The Cubs, I think, saw that lack of a clear position as a strength. They like players who can play more than one position, and in Happ they are getting a guy who can be pretty good in two spots (LF, 2B), good enough for part time work in a few more (3B, 1B, CF), and probably passable in a couple others if need demanded it (SS, RF). That versatility plays nicely with the flexibility already on the roster and appears to fit perfectly with how these Cubs are built.

I suspect he will sign quickly and head to Arizona. A few weeks in Extended Spring Training and a few games in the Arizona Rookie League should be all he needs before setting off for Eugene. With his polished approach to hitting he should have little trouble with the Northwest League and by the end of the summer he could be in A ball. If South Bend is in the playoff hunt that may be where he stops, but if not I wouldn’t be shocked to see him make it all the way to Myrtle Beach for that post-season experience and additional at bats. If all goes well he could finish 2016 in Double A and be ready for a trip to the majors after a few weeks or months in Iowa in 2017.

I think he is a fairly safe bet to get to the majors, and I strongly suspect he will get there as a LF/2B who can placed just about anywhere for a few innings as part of a double switch. Once there I see him as a fairly high OBP guy who will offer a fair dose of power (15-20 HR a year) and a good balance of speed (15-20 SB a year). I’m not sure he has mega-star potential, but he definitely has the makings of a quality, reliable major league player.

Second Round: Donnie Dewees. Left-handed hitting outfielder.

Brett wrote up Dewees last night. Be sure to read that article as well.

Dewees put up Division I college numbers comparable to one very notable player this year, and that player was the outfielder Andrew Benintendi. DeWees was playing in a weaker conference, but the Atlantic Sun is not a terrible place for baseball. In other words, Dewees’s numbers are mostly legitimate.

And those numbers are insane. Eighteen homers against sixteen strikeouts. Thirty walks. A line of .422/.483/.749. Yes, that .749 is his SLG, not his OPS. And he hits left handed. And he steals bases. And that power display came despite suffering a wrist injury last season. He may have more power to come.

He has some good speed in the outfield, too. The range is there for him to play anywhere in the outfield, but his biggest weakness is his arm. I suspect his arm will keep him out of right; we’ll have to see about center.

His bat, though, should move about as quickly as Happ’s. I suspect Dewees will also be a quick sign, enjoy a short stay in Arizona, and then be given a chance to hit his way as far up the system as he can. He should start in Eugene. That means the Eugene outfield, at least for a time, could be DeWees, Happ, and Eloy Jimenez. That would be a very impressive collection of outfield bats for any level of the minors.

Dewees is actually a better hitter than I expected to have available in second round, and think that may have been a result of the run on shortstops in the first round. There was a stretch in which it seemed that every team that wanted a bat was taking a shortstop; a team that was taking a shortstop was not taking an outfielder like Dewees. As shortstops went of the board, and teams stretched further and further to draft them, Dewees slid. The Cubs formula for draft success is to look for polished, disciplined hitters who project well in both OBP and SLG, so I think they were all too happy to find a good fit for that formula ready and waiting in the second round.

Looking Ahead to Day Two

In recent drafts pitching has been the story in Day Two of the draft, and I think that will be the case here as well. The Cubs may not have the budget to splurge on million dollar arms like they did last year, but they should be able to land at least a couple high ceiling guys early in the day.

Last year the Cubs also had some unexpected success picking late on Day Two when most teams are taking signability seniors. Ryan Williams, one of their most surprising prospects of this season, was a Day Two guy last year, as was 2015 Midwest League All-Star James Farris. If the Cubs can find that kind of value in rounds nine and ten again today, they are likely to walk away very happy.

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