It may not have the fanfare of years passed, the Cubs may not make their first pick until the third round, and they might have the lowest bonus pool out of any team in baseball, but the 2016 MLB Draft is quickly approaching (like tomorrow, approaching) and the Cubs, believe it or not, still plan to participate.
With that said, you can check out the first Draft Primer from earlier today to get you ready with some details, and then look for the second installation tomorrow with a more detailed explanation of the draft and some bonus slot details. For now, let’s get into some final notes – from a completely Cubs perspective – about the upcoming draft. Cubs Senior VP of Amateur Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod has made his rounds and added his thoughts at Cubs.com, CSN Chicago and Baseball Prospectus, and they’re laid out before you alongside some thoughts of my own.
- At Cubs.com, Carrie Muskat previews the 2016 draft, which begins on Thursday at 5:00 p.m. CT for everyone but the Cubs. Well, it technically begins for the Cubs then, too, but unlike most teams, the Cubs won’t make a pick in the first or second round on Thursday (the only two rounds held that day), because they signed John Lackey and Jason Heyward and re-signed Dexter Fowler. The Cubs’ first pick will come in the third round and be #104 overall.
- And Jason McLeod is feeling the pressure to find some pitching. “We all feel the challenge,” McLeod said via Muskat at Cubs.com, “that we have to identify some guys and we have to develop some guys so there are pitchers that the Major League team can go down and get.” McLeod has repeated time and again that they really hope to find some pitching with their picks in rounds 3-10, and that has been his M.O. in previous drafts, as well. In fact, the bulk of the Cubs’ minor league pitching (that came from the draft) has come from rounds three and beyond. With the exception of a much smaller bonus pool this year, maybe the work won’t be terribly different in that regard this year.
- But it wouldn’t be a Cubs draft if you didn’t hear this at least once, so here it is: the Cubs will still take the best player available. “I think there will be a focus on pitching, but we won’t try to create it or invent something out of nothing,” McLeod said. For much more from McLeod and some of his previous draft tendencies and selections, check out Muskat’s article at Cubs.com.
- McLeod has continued to sing the we have to find pitching tune, all week, though. Via CSN Chicago, he mentioned that, the Cubs are “certainly not happy,” with where the organization (as a whole) is at with their pitchers. There are definitely some interesting arms in the lower minors, but nearly none of the many, many pitchers taken in any of this front office’s drafts (2012-2015) have risen to the level of the Major Leagues.
- Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein isn’t concerned, mentioning that the system is in pretty good shape overall, but added they are very clearly deeper in positional talent than pitching. The hope is that the few dice rolls they’ve made (like Dylan Cease, for example – a first round talent taken much later in the draft due to Tommy John surgery) will eventually hit and be a big boost to the system.
- Until then, Patrick Mooney writes (parenthesis are mine) the Cubs are content with putting money into the free agent market (Jon Lester, John Lackey Jason Hammel), identifying change-of-scenery candidates (Jake Arrieta, Hector Rondon, Pedro Strop) and gaining competitive advantages with their coaching staff (Chris Bosio has clearly been phenomenal). So far, that strategy has worked wonders for the Cubs who have had a top pitching staff for two years running.
- Lastly, at Baseball Prospectus, Tim Britton got into a Q&A with Jason McLeod, asking him a series of questions about this upcoming draft, how it differs from the drafts before the last CBA and during his time spent in Boston and much, much more.
- Among the most notable bits is how limiting the bonus pool allotments can be in a year like this for the Cubs. Not being allowed to pick in the first two rounds would have been far less impactful if the Cubs were allowed to spend as much as the wanted later in the draft (theoretically luring away first round talents committed to college with big money). Now, they’ll have to get creative, get smart to find the best available players at the level that fits the delineated budget.
- I hate to spoil the Q&A, by relaying every answer, so I’ll just strongly encourage you to check it out. Some of the other very interesting questions include how McLeod evaluates his evaluators, how far back to previous drafts he’ll look, how he utilized his pre-draft notes and area scout before completing the trade for Addison Russell (whom the Cubs passed on in the 2012 draft), and some other players the Cubs were big on in previous drafts (Carlos Correa, Brady Aiken, Tyler Jay and more). It’s a very interesting look into the process and I definitely think it’s a useful, fun read before tomorrow.