2012 Draft Review: Cubs among draft's winners. Who are the best picks, steals, and toughest signs?

So it's a day after the draft and I've had time to reflect on the Cubs picks, here are my thoughts now that everything has soaked in...

The Cubs appeared to have a 3-tier plan here and they executed extremely well.  On the first day, they wanted to make as sure as possible that they added impact major league talent, so they specifically went for players who had both a high ceiling and a high floor.  They wanted players with tools, polish, and mental makeup. That isn't easy to do, but the Cubs nailed it, nabbing two advanced high school prospects who still project with a lot of upside in CF Albert Almora and RHP Paul Blackburn.  To reiterate something I said in the miCubs podcast on Tuesday, makeup ensures that a player will have a better chance of reaching his ceiling because that player will make the most of the tools he has.  In the case of Almora and Blackburn, those tools are at the high end of the scale, so adding mental makeup to the equation gives them a better than average chance of translating tools into usable MLB level baseball skills.  Almora, in fact, was considered the best combination of tools, polish and makeup in the draft.

In between they took a college arm in RHP Pierce Johnson who was power stuff in a mid 90s fastball and nasty slider.  At worst he's a reliever on that alone, but Johnson also has a good change-up and solid command so some think he can be more than that, as much as a #2 starter, according to ESPN's Keith Law.  His colleague Jason Churchill called the pick a potential "steal".  With Johnson, it's all about staying healthy.

On the second day, the Cubs concentrated on pitching, specifically pitching with upside.  They preferred pitchers who were more about projection than polish, but combined with the mental makeup to fulfill their potential.  No where was this more evident that with RHP Duane Underwood, who has both the talent and the makeup to become another steal in the 2nd round.  If you haven't seen it already check out this article on Underwood.  He's hard not to like. The Cubs also took gambles on pitchers with talent and projectabilty, but had some big question marks, whether it was  mechanics, health, or lack of polish and/or experience in pitchers like RHPs Ryan McNeilJosh ConwayTrey Lang, as well as undersized lefty Anthony Prieto.  The Cubs didn't go for a lot of guys who figured to be good pictures who figured to top out at AA in these rounds.  They went upside or bust.

On the third day, the Cubs were looking at gambles.  They went for high talent tough signs like RHP Blake Hickman, who can reach the mid 90s and CF Rhett Wiseman, a toolsy outfielder.  Both OF'ers are intelligent with strong mental makeup...and both have strong commitments to good universities in Iowa and Vanderbilt, respectively.  They also took gambles on raw, strong-armed projects like RHP Mike Hamman and 3B-RHP Damek Tomscha.

Was it sucessful?  I think they nailed it.  I'm hard pressed to find a pick I didn't like.  I did like Kyle Twomey and Kieran Lovegrove for that 3rd round pick, but I don't know as much about O'Neill, so considering the immense information the Cubs have on all these players, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.

I'm not the only person who feels this way, two of the industry's top draft experts liked it as well. Keith Law liked the Cubs draft and MLB's Jonathan Mayo called the Cubs one of the draft's winners.  Law also said that Almora would be his top Cubs prospect...yes, even over Anthony Rizzo.

Here's the skinny version of the draft review...

Best Offensive Player:

High School: Alberto Almora, CF, who else?

College: Stephen Bruno, 2B-3B.  Although 3B Derek Tomscha may be the better hitter, he'll probably wind up a pitcher if he signs.  Neither is an impact player with the bat, though Bruno's defensive position, small stature (5'9") and surprising pop will tempt people to label him as another Dustin Pedroia.  Pedroia, however, is a rare player.

Best Defensive Player

High School: Alberto Almora, CF

College:  Carlos Escobar, C

Best Pitcher

College: Pierce Johnson, RHP

High School: Nick Blackburn, RHP, Duane Underwood (RHP)

Biggest Steal

College: Pierce Johnson, RHP. Could have been a mid first rounder if he'd stayed healthy all year.  Josh Conway (4th), could have gone in round 2 if healthy

High School: Duane Underwood, RHP.  Some of the best stuff in the draft, but inconsistency cost him. Boom or bust type.

Best Late Round Pick

College: RHP: Nathan Hamman (16th).   All about projection. Coming off of shoulder injury. Needs to add weight and strength (6'3", 165 lbs) but has hit 95 mph when he's right.

HIgh School: CF Rhett Wiseman (25th). Great athleticism, intelligence, and makeup

Toughest Sign:

College: 3B-RHP: Damek Tomscha. Community college guy who wants to hit but scouts like long term potential better on the mound. Has offer for Auburn where he will be allowed to do both.

High School: Rhett Wiseman and RHP Blake Hickman, both smart kids with high value for education. Late round money may not be enough.

Quickest to the Majors

College: Josh Conway has 2 plus pitches and may move quickly if he's a reliever.  Pierce Johnson has the pitches and command to make it the quickest as a starter.  Justin Amlung, RHP, Louisville has a lower ceiling than Johnson but also has the repertoire, command, and pitchability to make it quickly as a back end starter.  Of the hitters, Stephen Bruno has a good bat and is versatile on defense, so he could make it quickly in a utility role.

High School: Albert Almora, easily, though Paul Blackburn may move the quickest of the pitchers.

As for signing all of these players the new deadline is July 13th, though I'm hearing from a source that the Cubs are close to signing a few mid-round picks already.  Top pick Carlos Correa has already signed, as has 5th pick Kyle Zimmer, who was one pick ahead of Almora.

Filed under: MLB Draft

Tags: 2012 MLB Draft, Cubs


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  • Thanks for all your leg work keeping us informed. I am so much more relaxed and optimistic with this management group.

  • In reply to 44slug:

    Your welcome 44...definitely a labor of love for me.

    The more I read other's opinions on the Cubs draft, the more optimistic I am. I'm a fan as well as a writer, so to hear neutral guys like Law confirm my thoughts is great.

    I think the first 4 picks are outstanding and I really like the Conway pick as well. I put 2nd round talent, but just read he could have even been a supplemental first rounder. To me that's 5 great picks, a lot of guys with some raw talent, so maybe one of those guys pan out. Then if you sign Wiseman (or Hickman), I don't think they can get both, then we could look back on this draft (and the last one) as a turning point.

  • Law is aying Almora will be the new Cubs #1 prospect . As for Boras ,, Theo needs to tell Him the Cubs are a large market team and if He hinders the Almora signing that the Cubs will refuse to negotiate or sign any of his clients, and stick to it, Boras already has some teams that wont deal with him and He cant afford to lose big markets as clients, put him on the old non approved vendor list . Players will start defecting too if Boras starts getting more big market teams to take this stance.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Thanks. I just added that link. Also added one on Underwood -- that kid's going to be hard not to root for.

    Almora will sign. He's just saying what Boras trains his clients to say but it's all about negotiation. This is really his best chance to make the most money and he's going to try and get as much as he can...but he'll sign.

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    I have a feeling Boras is going to make Almora's signing as difficult as possible.

  • Guys...Boras and Almora will lose money if they don't sign now. Even if he winds up being a higher pick in 3 years. He'll sign. It may be at the deadline, but he'll sign.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    It would be interesting to know how many other 1st round picks Boras represents and to watch how their negotiations go.

  • I think the Appel negotiations will be really interesting. He reportedly turned down $6M and now the value for his pick is just 2.9. I'm sure Boras will try and get them to reallocate as much money as they can, but it won't reach 6M

  • Boras lost leverage with Correa signing , Hard to get more than what Correa signed for, Worst case is 7th pick next year in a better class , But boy would I hate to not get Almora signed, I would make it very painful for Boras if that transpires, Teams have the wallets and thus the power and need to start using it .

  • John , which teams presently wont deal with Boras? Just interested How many are boycotting Him already.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Well, we know the White Sox are one of them. I don't really know how many other teams are actively boycotting him, but there are many that avoid him right now. It's a good question. Would take some research.

  • Would Fontenot be a fair comparison for what Bruno tops out as?

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    I'd say that's a much more likely bet than Pedroia. I think he'll perform well in the minors and become something of a fan favorite but as he gets higher up competition will catch up.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Every time i hear fan favorite I think of Augie Ojeda. Please don't be like Augie Ojeda....

  • In reply to Larry H:

    Ha..I don't think he's like that. Bruno looks to be a pretty good hitter.

  • John, your draft coverage was second to no one. It was quite amazing how you targeted some of the players to look for after the first round, and you nailed some of them.
    I had assumed that the new rules would cause a lot of high school players to go to college. But now I am not so sure, espectially for those with say top 4 or 5 round talent. The reason I say that, with the limit on what teams can now spend, it is obvious that the most leverage a high school player is going to have is right now. If he goes to college and waits, most of them will not get any where near the money then. Look at Toronto, they just paid their 6th round pick a $5,000 bonus, and their 10 rounder a measly $1,000 bonus. It was take it or leave it. And this was to save money so they could pay their compensation round pick Moral, double what his bonus slot was.
    Like Almora, the money to be had is right now. Same thing with their 3rd and 4th round picks. Financially, it makes no sense for them to go to college and wait three years to be drafted again.

  • Thanks Cubbie Ron!

    Good point. I hope that's true. I'm interested to see how teams shift money around to sign the guys who are looking for bigger bonuses.

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    Non-thread related: According to Juan Rodriguez of the South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Marlins, who most expected to be the Cubs main competition for Jorge Soler, didn't submit a bid.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    That helps. Now if the Yankees and Red Sox would back out, I'd feel a little better.

  • This is how the Cubs will get better, by scouting and trading for young talent. With Hoyer/Epstein and Macleod at the helm, I feel very confident. It's going to be tough for a while but it will be worth it.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I think this draft has a chance to produce some good prospects. Depending on how they perform, a bunch of them could become part of the Cubs top 20 prospects or so.

  • Count me in as a big fan of Underwood. Kid sounds like a whatever it takes kind of guy, got to love it!

  • In reply to Bilbo Baggins:

    I liked reading about that. Good kid, good stuff...sounds like he's going to be very coachable and will do whatever it takes to reach that tremendous potential.

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    We won't really be able to judge this draft for a few years, but we have reason to trust this regime's judgement more than we have any other since the Dallas Green era. We know that these picks were scouted thoroughly for all factors. We also can also see that there were no reaches in the early rounds as in the past, though I'm willing to give Wilken a pass due to mitigating circumstances. I really think he was just trying to stretch his budget as far as he could, and the hope was that some of the guys he was drafting would turn out to be pleasant surprises.

    One thing I would like to know is what exactly went on in that draft room in the days leading up to the draft. What was the interaction like between the leftovers from the old front office, namely Tim Wilken, and the new guys? We've all heard stories about what Boston's draft room was like under Theo.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Wilken's a pro, I'm sure he was able to adjust easily. And there are some picks that you have to think he had a big influence on -- Paul Blackburn comes to mind for me.

    I hope they keep the Wilken, McLeod tandem. With the new CBA the way it is, you have as many great talent evaluators as you can.

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    In reply to John Arguello:


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