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Cubs Draft Primer

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Matt Swain

Illinois engineering student, way too emotionally invested in the Cubs.

This year's MLB draft begins June 7th, and now that we're nearly within a month of that date, it's time to kick off our Cubs draft coverage here at Wrigley Bound.

Our own Dan Cupples will be doing a majority of the heavy lifting, and we should have some really cool stuff to come, including player profiles and interviews with draft experts, so check back over the next month to keep up to date.

I thought a good way to kick-off would be to do a primer reviewing some past drafts and identifying the types of guys Tim Wilken and the Cubs scouting department typically pursue. 

Unfortunately, Andy Seiler of MLBBonusBaby.com not only beat me do it, but also did a much better job than I could have. I strongly encourage you check out this link, and come back when you're done.

There is one thing I can add though, and that's looking at what positions could use some help within the Cubs system. 


Unlike the more popular NFL and NBA drafts, typically MLB teams will draft for talent and not for need, since players are so far away.

However, a team with a glut of legitimate prospects at a certain position may avoid further stocking that spot, and instead focus on areas that are thin.

With that said, let's look at the Cubs system to see where they need and where they don't need reinforcements.

Organizational Strength: Shortstop

With Starlin Castro knocking on the door of the big leagues and Hak-Ju Lee's impressive ceiling in the low minors, the forseeable future of this position would appear to be in good hands. And that's not to mention Logan Watkins, who has the chops to field shortstop if he's not on a team with Lee; or nearly ready Darwin Barney, a defensive wizard. It's hard to imagine the Cubs going shortstop in the first round, especially with the lack of impact bats at that spot.

The Cubs could use...

High-ceiling pitchers:

The three top pitching arms in the system are already in AA or higher, and while the lower levels have some interesting names, there isn't really anybody with ace caliber. Typically the Cubs look at safer college pitchers (in fact all of Cashner, Jackson and Carpenter are college pitchers from the '08 draft), but at this time a high school guy could add some more balance to the system. It's not about the pick being a high school guy though, I'd just like to see a guy with some velocity who can rack up strikeouts and have the possibility to be a star, even if he's not as safe as you'd like.

Powerful bats:

In the offseason, Baseball America named the Cubs best power hitter as...Brett Jackson. Now certainly B-Jax does have above-average or even plus power, but the fact that he's the best power hitting prospect in the system by such a long way is not a good thing. The Cubs just don't have any hitters who straight up rake. Obviously those guys are few and far between, but I'd be thrilled to see a high school bat with big power potential or a polished college third baseman (see Josh Sale and Zach Cox, though Cox probably won't fall nearly that far).

The moral of the story

The Cubs are in an enviable position at this point. Tim Wilken has drafted very well over the last three years to allow the system to get back not only to respectability, but to the point of being counted among the top 10 in the game by most experts.

Having some excellent prospects as well as a measure of depth in the system, they can go in pretty much whatever direction they want. History tells us that the first round pick will be a high upside but raw college player in the mold of Colvin, Cashner, Jackson, LeMahieu and others.

I'd love to see impact power or plus velocity added in the first round, but most of all I hope they take the best player available. The Cubs are not a cash strapped team. It may feel like it sometimes, but they have plenty of dough. They have the facilities to be a top-spending team in the draft, and need to do it. That's right, they NEED to.

With huge contracts constricting flexibility at the major league level, the only way they can consistently compete is to get what is essentially free talent from inside the organization. That requires a relatively small initial investment, but if Tom Ricketts and co. know as much about business as they purport to, they'll realize the opportunity available in the draft.

For an extra 5 million dollars now, the Cubs could add what would amount to 3 extra first round picks in the later rounds of the draft. Just do it, boys. If you can validate giving 4 million dollars to Aaron Miles, you can certainly see the upside of giving that same commitment towards building sustainable success for years to come.

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6 Comments

ningximin said:

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That's right, they NEED to

Dan Cupples said:

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Great post Matt. I agree we really need to spend a few million more and take a page outta the Red Sox, Pirates (LOL), Phillies etc to get some later round high end talent.

WearShades said:

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I think if baseball america was asked who's the best power hitter in the system now, it would probably be Vitters given his 3 HRs to Jackson's 0, however I strongly agree more all around hitters are needed to round out the system. A name that you didn't mention for hitters is Bryce Brentz. Unless I'm mistaken he lead the NCAA in home runs as a sophomore and has played pretty well this year as well. He could be there at 16. He's an outfielder, of which we have several, but he could be that plus-power guy we've been looking for.

Dan Cupples said:

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We have a pitchers preview of who will possibly be aorund at 16 that will post in the next few days as well as a hitters preview after. And yes Brentz will be on it.

tim815 said:

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One of the keys for my assessing new ownership will be seeing how much gets invested in the system through minor league bonuses. Without a top end pick, we've been spending about 4.5 mil per year. I would be happy with a steady mid-5's. Beyond happy with over six.

I'd take Josh Sale first (over Brentz, who I have an inexplicable non-desire to draft), because his bat could play at first, but his glove can play in right. I would then load up on pitching (with an eye toward upside over safety), but swing back and get a clubbing first baseman (third round?) to run quickly through the system, giving Rebel Ridling, Matt Spencer, and Justin Bour some competition.

Don't be afraid to offer decent coin to people slipping on scholarship concerns. This draft, in any number of ways, will send a message or two.

Matt Swain said:

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Great comment, Tim. I agree with everything you said.

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