Are you sure you want the Cubs to select a pitcher with their first pick?

Are you sure you want the Cubs to select a pitcher with their first pick?
Everybody hopes for the next Clayton Kershaw, but is that realistic?

A lot of us, including yours truly, would like to see the Cubs draft a top flight arm with the 4th pick in the upcoming June draft.  It makes sense.  That is where the strength of the draft lies and it just so happens to be the greatest weakness in what is a very strong farm system overall.  After all, the Cubs have plenty of hitters, right?

Well yes...but..

The Cubs have already shown they aren't afraid to take a hitter when they feel that is the best player available.  The new FO has done it both years now.  They selected Albert Almora over the best available LHP prospect, Max Fried, in 2012 and last year they took Kris Bryant over the fireballing Jonathan Gray.  Both pitchers were high on the Cubs list, but the Cubs ultimately went with the hitter.

We have also seen the extreme risk involved when it comes to investing a lot in pitchers -- even young ones, over the past few weeks.  Cubs fans will remember what happened to their own promising young staff in 2003, particularly in the case of Mark Prior and Kerry Wood, two pitchers who were taken among the top 4 picks.  The Cubs once again have a chance to grab an impact starter at #4, but if he is less likely to stay healthy and/or effective, is it worth the gamble?

In the brief history of this front office with the Cubs, the teams has instead attacked the area with depth.  We'll have a couple of pieces that exemplify that this strategy this week.  Later today or early tomorrow, we'll have our next installment in the Cubs prospect countdown and it will be pitcher heavy, which helps illustrate that very strategy.  By the end of the week, we'll do a piece on some arms that may be available in the 2nd round of this year's draft, which could see the Cubs follow the same plan of drafting pitching volume after the first round.

The question I'm asking right now, though, is this:

Are you sure you want the Cubs to select a pitcher with their first pick?

Let's take a look at recent history.  I decided to go back and take a look at all the pitchers taken before the 10th pick over a 5 year period -- from 2006-2010, which gives us enough time to evaluate how much the pitchers have progressed since the draft.  We'll also compare it to the best hitters available at that point in the draft.

2006

Luke Hochevar
Greg Reynolds
Brad Lincoln
Brandon Morrow
Andrew Miller
Clayton Kershaw

Considered a pitching heavy draft, Kershaw, the 7th pick overall in this draft is by far the best player on this entire list. Top pick Luke Hochevar was one recent casualty to injury but never really lived up to expectations anyway.  2nd overall pick Greg Reynolds is heading off to Japan at age 28 after .  Brad Lincoln immediately encountered injury problems, including Tommy John surgery in 2007.  He's 9-11 with a 4.66 ERA lifetime over 4 seasons.  Brandon Morrow has all kinds of talent but has yet to pitch 180 innings.  His most healthy year was in 2011 when he pitched 179.1 innings and went 11-11 with a 4.72 ERA.  His career ERA is 4.22.  Some considered Miller as the most talented pitcher in this draft and a potential #1 pick but he slid because of signability issues.  Injuries and ineffectiveness made him a bust in his first years but he has found a new lease on life as reliever with the Red Sox, being worth about a combined win over the last 2 seasons.

  • Top college hitter available: Evan Longoria
  • Top high school hitters available:  Billy Rowell, Travis Snider

2007

David Price
Daniel Moskos
Ross Detwiler
Casey Weathers
Jarrod Parker

Jarrod Parker had a strong season in 2012 and followed up with a solid one in 2013, though the FIP was a less impressive 4.41 that season.  Parker, who was reportedly the Cubs favorite after Josh Vitters that year, is the latest to go down with an elbow injury and and potential TJ surgery.  Price was a no-brainer here and he's proven to be worth the pick while Detwiler has turned out to be a talented but merely serviceable back of the rotation starter since 2009.  4th pick Daniel Moskos got 24.1 innings as a reliever in 2011 in which he posted a respectable 2.96 ERA despite striking out just 4 batters per 9 IP while walking 3.3/9 IP.  Cubs fans know all about Casey Weathers who became the throw-in in the Ian Stewart deal, which tells you about all you need to know.

  • Top college hitter available: Matt Wieters
  • Top high school hitters available: Mike Moustakas, Josh VItters

2008

Brian Matusz
Aaron Crow

Matusz was considered a polished and talented pitcher and was nabbed 4th overall by the Baltimore Orioles out of the University of San Diego.  Matusz had an encouraging 10-12, 4.30 ERA in his first full season but has since struggled to find consistency.  He has a career 5.13 ERA and is now relegated to the bullpen.  Aaron Crow slipped to 9th in the draft and wound up not signing with the Nationals.  He re-entered the next year and was drafted 12th overall by the Royals.  He has found his niche in the bullpen and had his best season in 2012 before falling off to a replacement level reliever last year.  The Royals unsuccessfully looked for a team to take Crow off their hands this past offseason.

  • Top college hitters available: Pedro Alvarez, Buster Posey
  • Top high school hitter available: Eric Hosmer

2009

Stephen Strasburg
Matt Hobgood
Zack Wheeler
Mike Minor
Mike Leake
Jacob Turner

Top pick Stephen Strasburg was another no-brainer at the top of the draft and has generally been dominant when healthy. Last year he put up a career high 183.1 innings, though it wasn't a great season by his own lofty standards/expectations.  Matt Hobgood pitched just 36.2 innings between 2011 and then missing the entire 2012 season after rotator-cuff surgery.  Zack Wheeler became one of the top pitching prospects in baseball before inexplicably being dealt for 2 months of Carlos Beltran.  Wheeler is expected to be a big part of the Mets rotation as early as this year but was shut down late last year and has struggled with an oblique injury this spring.  Mike Minor had a breakout season with the Braves last season (13-9, 3.21 ERA, 3.4 WAR) but he has struggled with his own nagging injuries.  He's experienced some shoulder soreness and won't be ready to start the season.  The team says he is progressing nicely.  Mike Leake was a polished pitcher coming out of the draft and has been a solid 4th starter type for the Reds.  He put up career numbers last year at 14-7 and a 3.37 ERA, but there was quite a bit of luck involved there and his peripherals were pretty much in line with the rest of his career.  Jacob Turner was considered by some to be the second best pitcher in this draft after Strasburg but he's had some shoulder issues of his own and has lost a little velocity and mostly sits in the low 90s now.  After looking like a certain top of the rotation starter, most see him now as more of a back of the rotation type, as his 4.71 xFIP, 0.3 WAR season would attest.  It's that kind of risk that makes it understandable now why the Cubs wanted Nick Castellanos in addition to Turner when the Tigers inquired about Matt Garza a couple years back.

  • Top college hitter available: Dustin Ackley
  • Top high school hitter available: Donovan Tate

2010

Jameson Taillon
Drew Pomeranz
Barrett Loux
Matt Harvey
Karsten Whitson

Matt Harvey had TJ surgery in October and is just now beginning to throw back to back days and will likely miss the entire 2014 season, but if he's healthy, he can be an absolute beast.  Taillon is one of the better pitching prospects in the minors but as of yet unproven at the MLB level.  Drew Pomeranz was once a top prospect with the Indians and Rockies and is now trying to win the 5th starter spot with the A's --  a rotation spot opened up, ironically, after the A's learned that they will lose Jarrod Parker.  Karsten Whitson was a former pick of Cubs current VP of Scouting  Jason McLeod with the Padres, but did not sign.  He has since had trouble staying healthy and has seen his velo drop in college.  He's a flyer type prospect at this point.  Cubs fans should also be familiar with Barrett Loux, who was acquired for catcher Geovanny Soto and pitched at AAA Iowa last year.  Loux was actually selected the previous year but had his original contract voided because of concerns found in his physical.  He projects as a middle reliever at best these days.

  • Top college hitter available: Bryce Harper
  • Top high school pitcher available: Manny Machado

So, of the 24 pitchers listed in this sample, we can say that 2 of them are relatively healthy, top of the rotation starters (Kershaw and Price), a few more have top of the rotation stuff if they can get and stay healthy (Harvey, Wheeler, Strasburg, and Tallieson) and a couple more look like they can be solid 2-3 starters if they can stay avoid the injury bug from this point forward (Minor, Parker).

Even the talent rich 2011 draft already has some question marks.  Dylan Bundy has had TJ surgery, Trevor Bauer has struggled with consistency, and Danny Hultzen has had shoulder surgery.

Even in a strong draft, it's obviously no sure thing that the guy you'll pick at the top of the draft will stand the test of time when it comes to the stuff and workload that is required of an ace.  Still, it's a chance you have to take sometimes to get that one pitcher who can truly make a difference at the top of your rotation.  One thing seems certain, if the Cubs do pick an arm at the top of the draft, we'll be holding our breath until he shows he can be consistently healthy and effective -- so no matter what the Cubs do with that first pick, the Cubs should probably continue to attack the draft with volume when it comes to pitching.

It seems you can never be sure and you can never have enough.

 

Filed under: 2014 MLB Draft

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  • The thing I struggle with is that I personally feel that the biggest difference-maker in the game today is a TOR pitcher, especially when it comes to the playoffs.

    We've seen how those guys have been treated in recent years -- pretty much like gold. Salaries are only going to increase for TOR guys for a little while, and to hit on a guy like that in the draft gives tremendous, tremendous surplus value. I think in order to get a stud pitcher, 90-95% of the time we're going to have to draft them or trade for them. We've all seen what's happened with this great upcoming free agent pitching class.

    I can appreciate attacking pitching with volume, but I'd be curious to see how many pitchers after 1-10 (and in later rounds, etc.) have gone on to become TOR guys. I think that's probably even less frequent, especially now that the CBA has changed.

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    And that is why you consider taking that big risk despite the historical red flags. It really is tough to get a TOR these days if no through the draft or IFA process.

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    Sale was the #13 pick in the 2010 draft. He was divisive among scouts. You had the Kevin Goldsteins who said he was the best college pitcher and maybe best pitcher period in the draft, and the Keith Laws who thought he was just a reliever. Org strengths in development might also be a tiebreaker when you're drafting. Sox weren't scared off by Sale's odd delivery because they've done work with those types before, Cooper is a wizard. They can trade Addison Reed types for useful hitters because they can develop another Reed. The Cubs seem to be developing their hitters well. End up with a bunch of good hitting prospects and you can always try to use them to trade for TOR-type pitchers becoming unaffordable for their team (like a David Price) and use the Cubs' considerable financial warchest to pay them. More than one way to get to the end goal.

  • Loved the article, John. I think Beede or Hoffman wouldn't be terrible picks but aside from them, I like Alex Jackson. Even if he ends up in a corner OF or 3B.

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    Thanks. I would certainly take Beede and strongly consider Hoffman if they're there. I just wanted people to look at it from a historical perspective. Sometimes things aren't so cut and dry as they seem.

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    You build through pitching. Do the Braves ring a bell?

  • In reply to Dave Cookfair:

    ITA, pitching is the foundation of any good young team. To shy away just because it has not always worked is silly.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I think you shy away from it if it's not a guy you are very, very sure of or to shy away from a hitter because you feel you have too many. There isn't much doubt that it's a higher risk proposition to draft a pitcher than a hitter, especially a college hitter. You cannot take a pitcher just because you think you need one if you have qualms about the guy who's available to you.

  • In reply to Dave Cookfair:

    I think the Braves are an ironic choice right now considering their problems with keeping Medlen, Beachy, and Minor healthy this year.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Agreed John. Plus, a quick reminder, Tom Glavine was picked 47th overall, Greg Maddux was picked 31st overall (Kent Merker picked 5th overall in that draft and never pitched over 144 innings). They traded for Smoltz and Maddux. Avery certainly was good in their heyday but didn't pitch past 29. I get your overall point but the Braves weren't this pitching producing machine like we are led to believe.

  • In reply to Break The Curse:

    They traded for Smoltz, Maddux was a free agent signee. Minor detail aside, your point is still valid.

    I believe that Theoyer is all about building through pitching, but it seems the MO is to take the best player available (and position players carry less injury risk, obviously), and build the pitching by stockpiling power arms in later rounds and through other avenues that we have seen as well.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Indeed. Have you noticed that the Braves have said they are going to review there rehab process, with Medlen and Beachy both likley to undergo there 2nd TJ. And lets not forget Vizciano came out of there system and had 2 years of rehab essentially.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    I did not see that, but that makes sense.

  • In reply to Dave Cookfair:

    I still wonder why Leo Mazone, credited with keeping his big 3 healthy all those years, is no longer in the game ...

  • In reply to DropThePuck:

    The Braves have just said they are reviewing there rehab process, in light of the fact that both Medlen and Beachy are undergoing TJ for the 2nd time. Dont forget Vizcaiano had 2 years of arm problems after coming thru there system also. Maddux and Glavine stayed healthy, niether of them were power arms. Smoltz had arm and off arm problems his entire career, Avery didnt last very long, Denny Neagle developed arm problems there. Maddux and Glavine were the products of good pitching fundementals. Sort of like how the late Mets staffs under Rube Walker had Seaver, Ryan , Koosman and McGraw all last over a decade in the majors. One thing they all had in common, none of them threw sliders early in there careers.

  • Sobering look and it makes a strong case for pursuing advanced pitching via trade /free agency. Spending millions on established pitching may be a better gamble then losing the chance to draft an everyday contributer.

  • In reply to rsanchez11:

    Yes, I think it becomes a question of balance. And is it better just to stock up on position player assets so you can get that proven, healthy pitcher? That's a question the front office will have to consider.

  • In reply to rsanchez11:

    I agree. This list shows how much risk is involved when drafting pitchers. I'd rather identify those who have already shown they can pitch at a high level and spend on them through FA or trades. The list also shows me why it is better to resign JS than trade him for pitching prospects who haven't made it yet. What if they don't make it or get injured when their arm is stressed at the major league level.
    JS is a known pitcher with a floor of a #3 and maybe, if he develops, a ceiling of a #1. Overpay him if you have to, in my opinion.

  • In reply to David23:

    Right, if he's pitching like a #2 this year or a strong #3 let's overpay a bit to retain him. He's shown durability and that is in short supply. On the other hand, if he's regressing or injured maybe we gamble on a sort-term 'make good' extension with incentives. My bottom line is that high draft picks are finite and MLB salaries are less so. (it's not my money!)

  • In reply to rsanchez11:

    I think the problem with simply resigning shark is the window for the Cubs to become a winning team. Although he doesn't have a lot of miles for his age, he will still be easily on the wrong side of 30 by the time we have a shot at the playoffs.

    If you consider his +/- to be #1 to #3, and I would agree, then trading for 2 players with similar projections would make sense (stroman/Sanchez or Bradley/someone). Anything lower than that type of deal wouldn't be worth the risk.

    I think we have to remember that comparing the success rate of draft prospects to system prospects are two different animals. Same species, but different animals. With every level of baseball they play, the risk goes down a little more.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    His unwillingness to resign has to also be taken into account.

    I don't think he resigns. He has shown he wants to maximize his potential in order to receive top dollars. He doesn't even have to be a top pitcher to get a great deal in free agency, the money that the Cubs won't pay, someone else will.

    If he has a great season the way he's been acting it wouldn't surprise me to see him play off his final year to try to duplicate it and get a $100 million contract in free agency.

    If he has a mediocre season the same song and dance could happen where he wants to try to get that great season right before free agency in a contract year. And even if he has another mediocre season after that, he'll still cash in Edwin Jackson style in free agency.

    He might be more willing to sign if he has a poor season but at that point, will we still want him?

  • In reply to David23:

    Everyone likes to cite Pryor and Wood when drafting pitchers is the topic.
    I would remind you all that we no longer have Dusty Baker in the dugout which is the main reason for the cataclysmic failure of these two pitching prospects that were destined for HOF careers before Baker destroyed their arms. The farm is littered with high potential position players The system's first priority should be pitching.

  • In reply to BLOOMIE1937:

    Baker didn't help but it was more than just him. Riggleman may have overused Wood, not to mention his high school coach. Early poor mechanics didn't help either. As for Prior? Lots on Baker but I've heard stories about much of it being his (and Tom House's) own doing.

  • You continually post and write things that no one else does. Can't thank you enough for this massively informative and eye opening article!

  • In reply to kissitgoodbye:

    Thank you! Much appreciated. We try not to follow the crowd too much.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Completely agree kissitgoodbye!!! A creative topic and well written article. It's sobering and refreshing, esp. in light of the Grantland piece recently on the rebuild and the differences in Boston and the Cubs.

  • There is a reason the Cubs drafted Bryant. They had scouting reports of him from years before his standout campaign in college. If the Cubs are going to take a pitcher, they better be very familiar with his stuff. That is why most of the names John brings up these days as guys shooting up the draft board will probably still be available come 5th pick in June. John, what pitchers would the Cubs be most familiar with past Rodon and Beede?

  • In reply to elusivekarp:

    Agree with your thoughts here. At this point, I'd say they're very familiar with those two and Hoffman. And they are dilligently scouting Kolek this year as well, in much the same way they started scouting Gray much more closely during last season. Other guys like Aaron Nola and Luke Weaver also have track records but ceiling may not warrant a #4 pick.

    Rodon and Beede are no brainers to me if they're available and healthy. And I think Kolek, despite being a high school pitcher is pretty close because he's physically mature and I think there may be less injury risk there. Hoffman is a big question mark because of his command but the stuff is top of the rotation quality. I think it becomes a decision with either Kolek or Hoffman at this point for me over a proven, polished h.s. hitter like Jackson (or a college guy if Turner bounces back and shows he can hit consistently).

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John, what does Kolek throw, just his 3 digit FB and a change, or does he also throw a breaking ball? Im not an advocate of kids throwing breaking balls in there teens, Kerry Wood saw his career hampered by it, Josh Beckett had years of blister problems because of it, even Adam Wainwright has had several arm surgeries likley due to throwing lots of breaking pitches. Steve Stone literally saw his career ended by throwing too many.

  • In reply to mutant beast:

    Does throw a slider but it lacks consistency -- but that's partly because he really doesn't need to throw anything else right now other than the FB. I like that he isn't depending on it at this age.

  • John, this front office is a shrewd group of guys who seem to be ahead of the curve in many cases(international signings). Is there a chance that they are content to continue stockpiling top bats-then ultimately flip some for pitching after those pitchers have had a couple years in a minor league system where they can monitor/scout to eliminate a bit of the risk? That's not to say if a pitching prospect truly is the best player available they wouldn't grab him.

  • In reply to Upstate NY Cubs Fan:

    Absolutely. Remember that power hitters are also becoming a scarce commodity and if they have a surplus, that's a great asset to have in your system.

  • Great article john, I was just thinking to myself a couple of days ago about this same subject,but you articulated it better of course. I struggle with the idea of trading everyday players for pitchers and this article shows why feel that way. I'm not saying I would never do it but pitchers have a lot of risk.

  • In reply to seankl:

    Thank Sean. I'm saying the same thing -- not that I wouldn't do it -- but I'm going to go above and beyond with my homework on this if I'm going with a pitcher. I do think the Cubs would have taken a pitcher in certain situations the past few years, most notably they seemed ready to take Appel, but even that may not have been as certain as it seemed at one point.

  • interesting.. and its very important you "dont miss" with your first round pick. so taking a position player seems to be alot safer than taking a pitcher.. than following up with volume of pitchers after the first round pick seems like a very good strategy imo.. I say stick with it.

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Stick with it if you have serious doubts about the pitcher available -- but I think if it's a guy you like, you go with the arm.

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    It seems like you just can't go wrong(for the most part) with a college bat.

  • In reply to Jon81:

    True -- unfortunately that appears to be the weakness of this particular draft.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Right! Thats what I keep thinking. Tend to agree with you John that all things being the same the Cubs will take a hitter unless the pitcher is significantly higher in Thedson's eyes to make up for the injury risk. But I'm not sure i see a college bat that fits that scenario. I'd love to see a left-handed Bryant or Baez clone at 4 but there just isn't even a right hander fitting that description. I'm hoping that someone surprises this season but with Beede seemingly leaping up the board this year I'm not sure how the pitchers shake out. We may not be happy if Beede and Kolek are tearing it up and leave us with a couple falling knife pitchers (if Rodon and Hoffmann keep slipping) or a speed mostly guy in Turner or a high school bat like Jackson. I want to hear some more interesting choices as the year progresses.

  • Great article... I agree that picking a pitcher is a risky proposition but I don't believe that Wood and Prior are good examples to prove your point. The majority of teams in those drafts that picked pitchers did far worse. No doubt Wood was exceeded by Halladay and Prior had a shortened career of disappointment, but in hindsight they were good draft picks relative to the other choices that were out there, in the first round. I think they strike a chord with us because of what might have been and they are a good argument for volume.

  • In reply to Jason Diedrich:

    Thanks -- and I do agree taking Prior or Wood don't prove anything other than a reminder that nothing is a sure thing.

  • Great piece. What that goes to show more than anything is these guys fail at alarming rates.

    That's why I'd be all for taking Kolek. He's going to take several years to develop instead of taking one of the three college arms and they have the expectations of being an ace in a future 2016 mock rotation that people love to do.

    It would taper expectations, BPA but I don't think it's a big deal if the Top 3 college arms go 1-2-3. Can't teach 102.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Thanks -- and I can definitely see your argument for Kolek. If you're going to go big, go really big. Don't shy away from the upside.

  • In reply to Jimmie Ward:

    Actually I think Kolek is very advance for a HS arm. He will beat a lot of the college arms to the majors I think.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I'm not sure how fast Kolek makes it, if he does; but he has a better chance if a major league teams is controlling his workload rather than college or high school coaches. They are well meaning but don't have the additional financial obligations.
    I loved the article and how informative it was.

  • All things being equal from a talent evaluation standpoint, I take the hitter over the pitcher every time. Unfortunately, according to what I read, there isn't a hitter this year that stacks up to the top pitchers. Jackson and Gatewood have power but seem to have some questions regarding their hit tool.

  • If the cubs see enough in Trea Turner I believe in their track record to make the right choice. The college arms just don't seem to stand out this year (besides Rodon) which is why I like the idea of going for a homerun with Kolek.

    John, do you think the CBA has made highschool players more attractive now that each draft slot has an amount assigned to it? I haven't really researched it in depth but they seem to be going early more often the past couple years.

  • Hey John, Jim Callis and Jon Mayo from MLB came up with their top 20 prospects for the Cubs... There are some interesting new names... Including Eloy Jimenez at #12... They also think Tyler Skulina has the ceiling of a #2 starter if he can throw strikes consistently, you should check it out if you haven't.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I've heard that about Skulina from others. I think what hurt him post draft was his velocity dipped from the mid 90's he was throwing pre-draft.

    Do you have a link for their new rankings?

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Never mind, I found them. Here's the links"

    http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article/chc/chicago-cubs-have-loaded-farm-system-with-javier-baez-kris-bryant-and-albert-almora-in-top-20?ymd=20140318&content_id=69513600

    http://mlb.mlb.com/mlb/prospects/watch/y2014/#list=chc

    Also of note, Professor Parks mentioned that based on Tseng's ST performance and increased velocity that he would rank him in our top 10 prospects. While that seems pretty aggressive, he's clearly on the rise. Kevin Gallo went on record with me here on Cubs Den last fall and said he viewed Tseng as a TOR impact arm....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Some more prospect love from Jim Callis #21-25 (all pitchers too)

    http://jimcallis.mlblogs.com/

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thank you and sorry for any delay, I was away.

  • In reply to Caps:

    Thank Caps. You'll hear about Skulina tonight or early tomorrow.

  • something to think about.. if we go with Kolek there is that signability aspect of a high school kid..and if he doesnt sign for whatever reason.. we get the pick the following year.. 2 possible top ten picks in 2015?

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    He'd be a fool to be drafted #4 and turn down the money.

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    There is a great article on Grantland (published yesterday I think) regarding Epstein and Hoyer. It touches briefly on draft strategy, how the CBA has killed the Cubs, BPA, and selecting a pitcher vs. hitter and how the Cubs have positioned themselves for constant competitiveness going forward.

    I do not think the Cubs will draft a pitcher at #4. A case could be made for Hoffman, Beede, Rondon, Kolek, etc. however and pitching is the strength of this draft but it also seems almost too obvious that a pitcher HAS to be selected. I think the Cubs are looking to add speed, power or both.

    I've never been a believer in Trea Turner. I just don't think he will hit at the major league level. I could see the Cubs taking Jacob Gatewood or Alex Jackson. But I admit it would be hard to pass up any of the four potentially stud arms that might be available. Gatewood's raw power is too exciting for the Cubs to pass up I think.

    I will add the caveat I add every year: I only see videos of these guys and most videos show only "highlights."

  • One idea I can't shake is the idea that I might rather have the top bat in the draft rather than the fourth best pitcher. Of the drafts above only 2009 would be the draft where this thinking didn't work out. Maybe this draft mirrors that one, I don't know.

  • In reply to CubsML:

    CubsML,

    What if the 4th best pitcher is better than the best hitter?

    One of the factors I would consider (NOT the main one) would be ETA.
    Players with the ability to move quickly tend to be stars more often than the guys that our in the minors longer. For example, if the Cubs thought Kolek needs 5 years of development, he wouldn't be worth the 4th pick. Disclaimer: I'm very impatient, so.......

  • I think their plan of attacking the lack of pitching in volume is a solid one. Look at how many Aces and other TOR pitchers were taken after the top half of the 1st round... Plus scores of #3 & #4 types. Those guys have questions, but you just never know who will step up and develop beyond expectations.

    One recent example is 2013's IFA class. We signed Tseng who is getting all kinds of love from scouts now and is projected to make his pro debut in either Boise or KC. From all the buzz he's creating in ST, he could rocket up prospect rankings. Then they signed an 18yo Dominican named Jefferson Mejia, who Ben Badler is now reporting to be 18yo, 6'7", and 220lbs, throwing mid-upper nineties and projected to start at AZ rookie level. This kid was listed at 190lbs and throwing 89-93 when we signed him.... Talent comes from everywhere and we just don't know who will, who won't, who gets hurt, etc... so the more we have in the system the better our odds of hitting on one. As the cream rises to the top, so to speak, and graduates to the upper minors, we have some valuable assets.

    For this draft, it looks like the top 4 "best players" are all pitchers, so hooray! regardless of what they do at #4, I'd still expect them to attack pitching in volumes in later rounds.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Mejia might be one to watch. Thganks for the info, I havent been paying mujch attn to him. 6,7"" 220? Sounds like a young Rick Sutcliffe.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    HD I have a question about Jefferson Mejia. Was he in that car fire with the other prospects this last offseason? But if Badler says he is throwing mid-upper nineties he must not have been hurt. Thanks for the info.

  • In reply to John57:

    I believe he was, but was not seriously hurt. He participated in Fall instructs. Also of note, he is already 18. most of the IFA's were 16-17yos. But he apparently had some birth certificate issues last year. That's why he was available this year. Anyways, with these kids the scouts put a lot of weight into projection. But it appears he's filling out as he's already gained 30lbs and added a few ticks to his FB according to what I've read.

  • In reply to John57:

    John wrote about the Badler Article here: http://www.chicagonow.com/cubs-den/2014/03/cubs-news-and-notes-2013-international-class-gets-raves-mlb-draft-prospect-talk-and-a-first-hand-spring-training-look/

    There's a link to the BA article. Thats subscription content and I don't want to get John in trouble, so I'll limit it to what I've seen shared on other blogs: "His fastball has explosive life down in the zone, with downhill plane and hard sink. It’s an uncomfortable at-bat for opposing hitters, who also have to deal with a solid upper-70s curveball that Mejia has added some power to over the past year with late, sharp action at times."

    Meija got some of the best reviews of the bunch. But now with them at ST, him & Tseng are really getting a lot of attention. I saw a tweet from someone yesterday that said Meija hit 97.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Thanks Hoosier...Mejia could be another beast. That IFA class was a clever way to invest in top young arms.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Mejia hit 97? Holy Cow! Holy Cow!

    Between Tseng, Mejia, G. Torres and Jimenez it sounds as if we arguably got the top 4 prospects in the IFA class. That is like getting Rodon, Hoffman, Kolek and Beede in the regular draft. What were the other GMs thinking?

    Holy Cow!

  • In reply to John57:

    97 is unconfirmed though.... I believe Parks & Badler both said he was mid 90's. Still, he's a teenager and I originally thought was all projection. Obviously if he's 6'7" and 220lbs and throwing 90+ he doesn't need any projection for us to be excited.

  • In reply to John57:

    I took specific note of who was involved in that crash/car fire when it was reported on this site. From the DSL was RHPs Jeferson Mejia and Jose Zapata plus sh ss Frandy Delarosa and from Boise is sh of Kevin Encarnacion.

  • In reply to rickmonday:

    Thanks Rick.

  • I think one thing to keep in mind with some of the guys on the lists are that they were stupid or signability picks. Moskos in particular was out of left field. IIRC most teams like Hobgood better as a hitter than pitcher and no one expected him to go that high either. Weathers was a reliever who went top10, stupid. Hochevar, like Bullington before him, was a signability first overall pick.

  • John, do we have enough pitching prospects in the minor who
    could be the 3-5 pitchers in the rotation. If not draft a pitcher.
    I don't what us to spend 10-12 million a year on a .500 pitcher

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I think they're covered 3-5 and that's important as well. Agreed you don't want to spend big on those guys.

  • By the way, John... Not trying to nitpick your post, but you may have Jameson Taillon's name crossed up here, unless there's another prospect named Tallieson I have yet to hear about.

  • In reply to Caps:

    I think I blended his name with the Frank Lloyd house in Wisconsin ;)

    Thanks for the heads up!

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Haha! Well, with this kid's talent, one day he may be able to own Taillon Estates.

  • "One-third of current (2013) MLB pitchers have had Tommy John surgery."

    http://bleacherreport.com/articles/1699659-the-alarming-increase-in-mlb-pitchers-whove-had-tommy-john-surgery

    http://camdendepot.blogspot.com/2011/10/how-has-pitching-velocity-changed-in.html

    The 1996 Yankees had Mariano Rivera as the setup man and John Wetteland as the closer. Opposing teams had 7 innings to score enough runs to win and the Yankees had 9 innings.

    In the World Series the Yankees scored 6 runs in the 8th and 9th innings while the Braves scored only 2 runs.

  • In reply to ucandoit:

    They can thank Mark Wohlers and whoever called for hanging sliders to Jim Leyritz.............

  • So TINSTAAPP.

  • I think this post also underscores why Samardzija is potentially so valuable. If my memory serves, he has had a clean bill of health throughout his career. Even if he's only a #3 pitcher, having a high likelihood of those innings with the potential for some really high-quality games can be a real asset for a team. I still hope the Cubs keep him, but if they don't then they'd better get a really good haul (which I expect).

  • In reply to Matt Mosconi:

    ^^This!^^

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    over the decades MLB has moved more and more to using bullpen specialists and closers, while limiting the innings of starters. Complete games are a rarity now. Given how fragile pitchers are, while at the same time so crucial to a team's success, do you see a completion of this trend to the point where we'll see the disappearance of ''starters," and managers will plan on having the game pitched by 4 or 5 guys from the start? That day's starter (who might be available to close or be the setup guy a few days later) goes 3 innings, then a series of fresh arms through the rest of the game? Could this be a new market inefficiency?
    Starters will complain because they won't be credited with wins - but the win statistic is being marginalized by sabermetrics anyways. Good pitchers will still be recognized by K/BB and FIP, but their careers will be prolonged by not having their arms punished for 80-100 pitches (plus warm-ups) every 5 days. Seems like most of the TJ's we hear about are starting pitchers (or former starters), not relievers - maybe there's a lesson there, and a way to avoid it.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    saw a thing on Clubhouse confidential. talking about taking a relief pitcher, and have him pitch the first inning. then have your "starter" come in and pitch from the second inning on.

    the reason is. typically hit starting pitchers the best when they see him a third time. by putting a relief pitcher to "open" the game. if the starter goes through the lineup twice.. you should typically be at the 7th. then you bring in your setup and closer or whatever pitcher according to the situation.. it boosts run prevention

  • In reply to SKMD:

    It's definitely an interesting thought. That sort of process has been used in the minors, mostly for rehab situations but it seems workable.

  • In reply to SKMD:

    I think the next fashion in pitchers will be a "piggyback" system similar to that many teams use in the minors. The starter may only pitch 5 or 6 innings, but will be followed by a predetermined reliever that takes it through the eighth inning. They may have a closer that does the ninth. One big problem that presents is that there is usually not enough decent pitchers on a staff. Especially power armed pitchers.

    If only someone would draft a number of power arms, even those who are projected to "only" be relievers.

  • Am I sure I want the Cubs to take a Pitcher?

    Yes. I'm sure. Ha. Seriously though, I have been calling for Tyler Beede for the last year before the Cubs even had the 4th pick, and if anything I am more convinced now than ever. I think now, as I did then, that Tyler Beede will end up being the best player to come out of this draft, and I think 5 years from now people will look back on this draft as a monster.

    First of all their is the Derek Johnson connection which shouldn't be understated. Beede said in a past interview that DJ was a big reason why he came to Vandy in the first place. So their is the great familiarity with the person (DJ) that you want most to have a good relationship with your top pitching prospect.

    Like John has said in the past, the Cubs won't pick a flyer in the draft (like Gray), they want a ton of information, and years of scouting to make the decision. Beede fits this mold. He's been a top prospect since being drafted in High School....and again the DJ connection who knows him very well.

    Besides that if the Cubs were to take a pitcher, he needs to have a high floor, like Appel did last year. A solid, athletic, durable body that can at the very least give you innings.

    Beede is a horse at 6'4" - 215 Lbs, with an athletic build which scouts say can easily add another 10 lbs of muscle without losing flexibility. Beede has always had the "stuff". i.e. Great mid 90's moving Fastball, a lights out power curve, and a Changeup which might be his best pitch with "dive" and drops 15 mph from the Heater. The knock on Beede has always been his command and control. He's had success because HS/College hitters just can't hit his stuff/movement/velocity but you can't do that in the MLB. Well ever since this summer Beede has found his release point and hits it each time with consistency. He has become a pitcher.

    From Anchor of Gold - (Vandy)...

    "In the past, Beede was more an arm talent learning to pitch-one with an obvious mechanical flaw and the propensity to completely lose control from time to time. This year, I've seen a different Young Beedah, one that's fixed his one flaw and is completely locked in. Still, even though I could see this seismic shift in his previous four starts, the duel with Aaron Nola was always going to be his first real test of the season. He aced it. Tonight, he was the best pitcher in the country. He's locked in. He'll lead the staff. He will not lose again all season."

    "Quick story: Tyler Beede was born a lefty. His older brother, who Tyler idolized as a kid (like most younger brothers do until they grow old enough to have their own lives, and then they're dead to me), was a right-handed catcher. As young Young Beedah wanted to follow in his brother's footsteps, and no catcher in the history of catchers has thrown with what the Italians call "il sinistro," he thought, screw you, dominant hand, I'm switching. A few year's later, he's firing 96-98MPH fireballs, hard to pick up change-ups, and knee-buckling curves and generally befuddling batters everywhere. (*Author pauses, takes ball to his backyard, throws Carl Lewis-esque twenty foot dying duck with his left hand, almost tearing his other rotator cuff. Dream crushed.*) Again, HE'S DOING ALL OF THIS WITH HIS NATURAL NON-DOMINANT HAND?!?!?! WHAT KIND OF FAUSTIAN BARGAIN IS THIS?!?!?!

    The Good: He's our best pitcher since David Price. We've had multiple first rounders since the big lefty, such as Mike Minor and Sonny Gray, but the way he's throwing, he's clearly ahead of them all, and just a tick below David "Mr. Cy Young" Price, himself. He's been sitting 94-96mph on his fastball, with the ability to kick it up to 98mph when he wants. He's throwing his change and curve for strikes, and, while in past years, he had the tendency to hang on too long to his curve and spike it at or before the plate, or have his hips fly out and yank a fastball so far outside the catcher had no chance at it, he's commanding everything this year. Scott Brown's tweaked his wind-up from a full wind-up to a more controlled, half-step wind-up which is keeping him completely balanced, and he's been hitting his spots with precision now, rather than just blowing people away. He's a pitcher now. He's dangerous."

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I wasn't aware that he was a natural lefty. Interesting.

    I remember Kevin Gallo saying Beede would be the best of this draft, if he could command his stuff consistently. It appears he's made that adjustment. But Rodon & Hoffman have TOR stuff too. They're just struggling a bot so far this season. They may make an adjustment as well. depending on how Kolek does, he could potentially leap frog them as well. One of those 4 will be available for us at 1.4, but it might be whichever one is struggling the most with his command currently...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Billy Wagner was a natural righty. Weird.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    RE: "But Rodon & Hoffman have TOR stuff too"

    I agree, that's why I said people will look back on this draft as a monster. Rodon has started with a "dead" arm the last 2 years where he loses a couple ticks off his velocity after 4-5 innings in the spring and has to rely more on his dominant slider. Barring injury, Rodon absolutely will not get past Florida with the 2nd pick. The only reason I could see Houston going another way with #1 is because they have looked for "bargain" picks in the past that will sign under slot, i.e. Correa instead of Buxton. Also they love Texas products, (I think the hometown connection was the deciding factor with Appel last year). Tyler Kolek fits both these requirements as he really has no intention of going to college, and will sign under slot to go #1 and still make more money than he would have lower and he is from Sheperd, Texas (a suburb of Houston). The other wild card is that Houston was rumored last year to be in love with Alex Jackson, to the point a scout said that if Jackson was in last years draft as a junior in HS the Astros would have taken him over the pitchers.

    If Houston takes Tyler Kolek or Alex Jackson as underslots then Florida will jump all over Rodon. He will not fall in my opinion (again barring injury). Hopefully the pale hose then go after the Verlander clone in Hoffman or A. Jackson (if he's their) as they love "tools". That would leave Beede for the Cubs...at least that's the way it goes down in my dreams. Turner is a "no" for me. He has zero power and his defense is above average not plus in my opinion. He should end up hitting enough to use his speed in the majors, but he's not worth the 4th pick in this draft for me.

  • fb_avatar

    Great article, John. I say, as do most of us, simply just take the best player available. I also say when deciding between a hitter and a pitcher for BPA, take the hitter, due to the lesser risk involved.

    That being said, the BPA this year will almost certainly be a pitcher. So far it looks like Alex Jackson has a chance to be that hitter BPA at #4, but it's hard for me to imagine any hitter other than him breaking the current big 4 of Rodon, Hoffman, Beede, and Kolek. And, frankly, I still have Jackson at a quasi-distant #5 on my big board.

    As of now, I certainly don't see Gatewood being breaking that top 4, and if you recall any of my previous posts, you know how overrated I think Trea Turner is... I'd even consider putting Nola, Finnegan, Newcomb, Weaver, and Ortiz over Turner.

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Thanks Chris. I did leave the question open for you guys and there have been some really good responses on both sides. You guys are hitting on all cylinders today.

    I think Gatewood is too high a risk for my tastes, but he could make some team very, very lucky if he slips.

  • fb_avatar

    Also agree that I want one of the pitchers this year but worth noting that Theo's curse-breaking team in 2004 had Pedro Martinez and Curt Schilling atop the rotation. Hardly home grown. 2007 -- perhaps a fairer comparison -- was headed by Josh Beckett, Dice-K, and Schilling. Theo's draftee -- Jon Lester -- was a second rounder. The theme here seems to be trading for or signing arms that survive the minors weeding process.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Theo also never had a pick this high... He made his bones, in part accumulating supplemental picks, and then drafting impact talent there. If you look at their most recent WS champion team (which still bore his prints all over it) you'll see that 2 of their 4 SP's were drafted by him. He selected Clay Buckholtz as a supplemental 1st rounder.

    We discussed this on previous posts, but this FO has a knack for finding quality starters in the supplemental & 2nd rounds. He drafted Justin Masterson in the 2nd round as an example.

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    In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    HoosierDaddy,

    Great point. And from a Cubs perspective, Pierce Johnson (2012 supplemental round, #43 overall), Paul Blackburn (2012 supplemental round, #56 overall), and Rob Zastryzny (2013 2nd round, #41 overall) all appear to be pretty solid starting pitching prospects.

  • In reply to Chris Trengove:

    Yes and Pierce Johnson was thought to have been a top 15 pick before his forearm injury. So how awesome would it have been if we had KC's supplemental pick (#34) last year and could have landed a proverbial top 2 rated future Ace before minor injuries sent his stock down? i.e., Sean Manaea.....

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    At the convention, Epstein told the story that he did NOT want to draft Buckholtz, and when Hoyer insisted, he told him he was a crazy SOB.

    A few years later he told Hoyer how glad he was that he was a crazy SOB.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    One of the reasons he hired Hoyer -- one of the few guys willing to challenge him consistently.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    John and Mike,

    I think that's a great point. There's a great article at Grantland (http://grantland.com/features/chicago-cubs-boston-red-sox-theo-epstein/) on the Cubs rebuild, and it highlights how this FO is exploiting one inefficiency in the baseball market by valuing hitter prospects more than pitching prospects, while most teams still value pitching prospects over hitting prospects. Given the steep attrition rate of pitching prospects, there is merit in this strategy.

    It was great to read today the Grantland piece and John's article above in tandem, because they further underscore the precariousness of pitching prospects. The strategy of growing hitters and buying pitchers has worked for the Epstein Braintrust in Boston, as Mike points out, and that seems likely what they'll do again with the Cubs. Mike, I think that theme is becoming increasingly pronounced.

    ....but again - that all said, I still see a pitcher being the BPA at #4 in June.

  • Excellent article as usual, John. Can I make a request? How about a future article providing some background/scouting reports on the top hitting prospects in the coming draft: Gatewood, Jackson, Turner, others. We've spent so much time talking about the pitchers, I really don't have as much info and discussion as I'd like about the hitters in the draft.

  • In reply to notcarlosdanger:

    Thanks. We can do that. Next on the agenda is the 2nd round arms, but we can certainly hit up the hitters such as the ones you mentioned, plus maybe Gettys, Gordon, Pentecost and others.

  • Good way to stir the pot John. Great Article.

    To anyone out there with the answer, if we made such a huge splurge in the IFA this year and are suffering future penalties because or it (which is fine by me considering who we got this year) how did the Rangers outspend us? Who did they get if we go so many top IFA's? Just curious what the brain trust go in return for less money than what the Rangers got for more money.

    Also, I am drooling at the thought of Beede being there are #4

  • Alot of really valid points made by this article. However my main concern is that without seeing a comparison of the hitters drafted in the same drafts beside them, it's hard to know whether this data indicates that A.) Pitchers are a much riskier draft proposition, or B.) The draft is risky in and of itself. If the top 10 picks of each of the last 5 drafts were put side-by-side with MLB WAR beside each name, we might be able to derive whether its A or B.

    Again, good data- just don't want to draw the wrong conclusions from it.

  • In reply to Nateisnotnice:

    Thanks. Didn't really try to draw any conclusions on this, just left it as open-ended for debate among readers. Some really good conversation as good points made by a lot of people with different viewpoints.

  • I'm hopeful that we take a pitcher and I think Hoffman will still be there. If we take a pitcher first then we can take the best available in the second round and then pound pitchers again.

  • In reply to CubsBuck22:

    Best available more appropriate for first pick. If that's Hoffman then I'm all for it but you take best available player when you have the most certainty of who that is -- and that comes with the highest picks. You can finesse a bit for need as the draft goes on.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I agree, what I tried to say,,, was if we take a pitcher first I'm not against taking a position player second and then pound pitchers. There should be a hidden gem in the second round. They just need to find it.

  • In reply to CubsBuck22:

    2nd round should be rife with pitchers too, but a couple of interesting bats may fall, including a good HS catcher named Jackson Reitz.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Nice. Thanks for all the hard work.

  • Damn, John- you sure have me nervous about our #4 pick after this article. But then again, Vitters was taken third overall and it appears he's headed for a role as a career 4th or 5th OF at best, so no prospect is a sure bet to make it.

    That being said, I believe Theo has to role the dice and take the best pitcher left standing in the first round, unless someone like Jackson has a monster year. The best way to tackle the lack of impact pitching is with volume, and another top draft pick would certainly enhance the probability of growing one.

    Levine also reports the Braves might be interested in dealing for Shark and I think getting someone like Lucas Sims would be the beginning of a good return. If the Cubs could do that and draft a pitcher such as Beede or Kolek, they conceivably could have (along with C.J. Edwards) 3 of the top 30 overall prospects in the league as pitchers next year. Someone will eventually emerge as a #1 or #2 with those kind of odds.

  • In reply to Paulson:

    Yes, there's always risk and without a good college hitter or a high school player as polished as Almora was, I still think it's a long shot they take a hitter, but taking a pitcher early is risky, so it's food for thought.

    I disagree with Levine here. I don't think the Braves are at all interested in dealing for Samardzija, I think they like him, but I don't think they're going to trade away prospects at this point.

  • Yes. If the draft were held today, the four best prospects are all pitchers. While pitchers are riskier than position players, it's time to cross our fingers and draft one with TOR potential. There are very, very few TOR pitchers available through either trades or free agency, and you're always forced to pay dearly for them.

  • In reply to cubsin:

    I tend to agree even though I posed the question of whether it's worth the gamble. In all honesty, unless things change from here until June, I see the Cubs taking a pitcher.

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