This is an odd year in the draft in that the Cubs are in the 4th position. Odd because many feel this is a 3 player draft with all 3 players being potential top of the rotation starters. However, some doubt has been cast on that of late, perhaps because of the obvious risk in investing so much on a pitcher, but also because both Alex Jackson and Nick Gordon have climbed quickly in the last few weeks.
There are a lot of scenarios that can play out which could leave the Cubs with any number of players: Carlos Rodon, Tyler Kolek, Alex Jackson, Nick Gordon, Aaron Nola, or something way off the board.
No matter what happens, the "what if" stories will abound once this draft shakes out, but hopefully things will work out as well as last season, when many believe the Cubs had Mark Appel first on their board and Kris Bryant second. The Astros took Appel to make the decision easy for the Cubs, but it has been Bryant who has emerged as the top player in the draft, though Jon Gray may have something to say about that in the years to come.
The debate may continue as the years go on, but it's hard to be unhappy with how it turned out for the Cubs. That hasn't always been the case.
Chris Crawford of ESPN writes about the top prospects in the last 10 years of the MLB Draft (without the benefit of hindsight) and ranks Josh Vitters #15 overall while like Mike Trout is noticeably absent. On the other end of the spectrum is Kris Bryant, who comes in at #24. My guess is that no player this year would crack that list.
Anyway, I am reminded of the draft stories I'd heard and have alluded to in the comments section over the years, so I thought it would be fun to share them now where more people might read about it. Here are 3 stories that show you how fickle the draft can be and how circumstance can affect which player falls to you in the draft.
1. The 2007 Draft
The Cubs did like Josh Vitters very much in this draft and, in fact, were crossing their fingers that the Kansas City Royals would pass on him. Up until the day of the draft, it appeared that the Royals were all but set to take Vitters at #2. At the last minute, however, they got enough assurances to take the player they really liked, a then SS named Mike Moustakas. Moustakas was represented by Scott Boras and so the Royals were wary of not being able to sign him.
Had the Royals taken Vitters, the Cubs were set to take Indiana prep RHP Jarrod Parker, who is 25-16 with a 3.68 ERA over his two seasons before requiring TJ surgery this season.
But digging even a little deeper, the Cubs did not have Josh Vitters at the top of their draft board. That distinction went to C Matt Wieters, who was also represented by Boras and, at the time, the team was funneling money toward the MLB team with an eye toward raising value and selling down the road. Wieters went 5th overall to the Orioles.
But it doesn't end there. The Cubs also very much liked a prep LHP out of Florida named Matt Moore and had debated taking him in the mid-rounds, but they gambled that he would be available in the 8th round.
He wasn't. Moore is hurt now but emerged as one of the very top pitching prospects in the game with the Tampa Bay Rays. He went 17-4 with a 3.29 ERA in 2013 but recently had successful TJ Surgery and will miss the rest of this season.
As for who the Cubs decided to take and hope Moore would still be available in the next round? OF Ty Wright. Wright had a nice career as a minor leaguer but was never able to reach the big leagues. With Moore gone in the 8th round, the Cubs took 3B Marquez Smith, who developed as a fringe level, sleeper type prospect but topped out in AAA as well. He is currently with the Reds organization.
2. The 2009 Draft
Two years later, the Cubs absolutely fell in love with a toolsy prep outfielder from New Jersey, a talented player whom some feared would be behind from a developmental standpoint because he came from a cold weather state, meaning he wasn't able to play year round like other prospects.
If you haven't guessed by now. that outfielder was Mike Trout and the Cubs were heartbroken when the Angels took the risk with their 2nd pick of the first round, #25 overall.
Even when the Cubs win, they lose, they had won 97 games the year before and picked last in the draft, a pick they used to select Brett Jackson, a similar player athletically but one who had questions about his swing and ability to make contact.
3. The 2001 Draft
One more story while we're at it...
We all know the Cubs, like all teams at the time, were giddy about Mark Prior in 2001 but they picked 2nd overall, behind the Minnesota Twins. The Twins, however, were strapped for cash and Prior was said to be demanding a record bonus. The Twins instead turned to local product Joe Mauer, a catcher. We know what happened from there. Prior looked great, lead the Cubs to their near World Series run in 2003, then broke down physically shortly after and was never the same. Mauer, meanwhile, has gone on to make 6 all-star teams and won an MVP in 2009.
So the hindsight analysis bemoaned how the Cubs should have taken Joe Mauer but the truth is he would not have been their pick if the Twins had taken Prior. The Cubs would have taken slugging Georgia Tech 3B Mark Texeira, who went 5th to the Rangers.
Epilogue: The 2014 Draft
We have yet to see how this draft will unfold but once again, there are quite a few scenarios that could play out. Will fate favor the Cubs for the second year in a row?
Filed under: 2014 MLB Draft