Day Three of the draft is over, and if you haven’t already, you really should read through Brett’s in-real-time account of the draft as it happened.
That was an aggressive Day Three, and it makes me wonder just how much money the Cubs have to play with after their first three picks. Before we get into that, though, let’s reset the scorecard:
College Pitchers: 20
College Hitters: 9
High School Pitchers: 5
High School Hitters: 6
If we had predicted how the Cubs would distribute their picks before the draft started, I suspect most of us would have predicted something about like that. This front office simply prefers to draft from the college ranks, and to a great degree that approach has worked out for them.
That doesn’t mean they played it safe on Day Three, though. Far from it. The Cubs took some gambles yesterday, and they took some players they may have difficulty signing as well. There is a lot of potential in the back half of the Cubs’ draft, much of in the form of players who are coming off down years or fighting injuries. If the Cubs can sign all their long shots they are going to bring in a ton of talent, but I suspect they will not have the dollars in the bonus pool to land them all.
Take 6’9″ lefty pitcher Russell Smith (38th) for example. The Cubs will need to sign him away from Texas Christian, but if they can they get a potentially good pitching prospect in need of some mechanical work.
Or how about high school shortstop Ben Ramirez (35th)? He will also take some signing away from a major college (USC in this case), but it sounds like his biggest problem might be that he is 6’3″ and only 180 lbs. Adding muscle should add some power to the bat, and that in turn could turn his weak bat into enough of an asset to draw some prospect attention.
And then we have Hunter Ruth (32nd), a high school right-hander who can pitch in the upper 90s and has a good changeup, but has been sidelined with elbow surgery. Baseball America indicated that, if healthy, he could have been a Top 50 prospect. If the Cubs convince him that the best way to rehab is with the resources of a professional baseball team, then Ruth could be a guy we are talking about a lot in a few years.
The Cubs didn’t just take gambles with high school players, either. In the 40th round they took Jeffrey Passantino, likely based in part on how well he had pitched in recent years in the Cape Cod League. He dominated for Lipscomb as well, despite a lack of velocity. Drafting lower velocity guys may not seem like a good idea, but if you take a look around the majors you will find plenty of pitchers who do very well pitching in the high 80s; if things break right, Passantino could join that number one day.
And on top of that, the Cubs took another double handful of college hitters who have simply hit while in college. That may sound obvious, but there are some teams who would pass on success in favor of flashier tools. Then the Cubs say “Thanks” and add players like Chesny Young (14th round, 2014 out of Mercer), Ian Rice (29th round, 2015 out of U of Houston), Zack Short (17th round in 2016 out of Sacred Heart), Jason Vosler (16th round, 2014 out of Northeastern) and plenty more to the organization.
This year, the Cubs will try to sign Austin Upshaw (13th), Jared Young (15th), Chris Singleton (19th), and Cam Balego (30th) as their newest edition to the unofficial Cubs College Performers Club.
Now that the draft is over, signing takes center stage. Probably the best way to keep track of who has signed … other than religiously reading Bleacher Nation … is to keep a close eye on the Draft Database over at Baseball America. The free version shows you who has signed and, if they know, for how much. The paid version (recommended) shows the BA scouting reports for those players who have them. And until we get real data from professional leagues, those scouting reports may be the only good info we get on some of these guys.
Keep in mind as well that a signing isn’t entirely official until the Cubs announce it, and that the Cubs generally tend to save up a number of signings to announce all at once. It is very possible that we will see rumors and/or credible sources indicating that the Cubs have signed a particular player several days before the official announcement comes out.
Once these players do sign, they will all pass through Mesa, Arizona for their introduction to life as a professional baseball player in general, and as a Cub in particular. Some will will remain in Mesa taking additional instruction, most will play for the rookie level AZL Cubs in Mesa, a handful will be sent up to Eugene to play for the defending Northwest League champions, and maybe if we’re lucky one or two will be advanced enough to get a late season cup of coffee in South Bend.
Those who play in a real league (Rookie ball or higher) will be covered in the Minor League Daily. The rest – especially the pitchers – we may not hear much from until next spring.
In the meantime, we’ll have plenty more to talk about. Some players from last year’s crop of draftees are about to start playing for Eugene and Mesa, and on top of that we are just weeks away from the start of the International Free Agent signing period.
And after that we’ll be into the heart of trade season, and after that we’ll be into waiver trade season and the second half minor league playoff chases, and after that we’ll be in September when rosters expand and the major league playoff chases heat up, and after that … let’s just say we’ll have plenty to keep us busy, even if the draft is now over.