MLB Draft: Day 1 Review: Thoughts, opinions on Cubs picks. It's not about underslot, it's about undervalued players

MLB Draft: Day 1 Review: Thoughts, opinions on Cubs picks. It's not about underslot, it's about undervalued players

I have had a good night of sleep and have had time to think this over.   The Cubs surprised us by going with 2 potential underslots in Kyle Schwarber and Jake Stinnett.

But should we really have been surprised?

Maybe underslot is the wrong word here.  Maybe the right word is undervalued.  The draft gets caught up in certain players and certain types of players at the top.  We become obsessed with ceilings and finding the next Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper.

But the draft can be about value too.  Last year while everyone fawned over Mark Appel and Jon Gray and their potential to be classic power pitching aces, the Cubs focused on Kris Bryant, who for awhile somehow managed to quietly mash HRs seemingly everyday at the University of San Diego.  Appel has struggled while Gray has been inconsistent, nobody doubts who would be the first pick in the draft if there was to be a do-over.

But guys slip through all the time because they don't fit the mold.  Why draft a guy with a below average slider high?  Why draft a high school kid from a cold weather state who doesn't play year round?  Why draft a big-bodied kid who can mash but hasn't taken to catching?  Why take a college senior with underdeveloped secondaries?

This year the focus was on 3 more power pitchers: Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek, and Carlos Rodon.  And while Kyle Schwarber may not become a superstar on the level of Michael Wacha and Mike Trout, who is to say he won't be a star in his own right?  Both Trout and Wacha slipped into the 20s because they didn't fit the mold.  It seems crazy to think now that each wasn't rated as the best player in their class.  It seems crazy now that teams passed on them to take high ceiling guys like Donovan Tate or Tyler Matzek (2009) or Courtney Hawkins and yes, Mark Appel again (2012).

In a world where guys go according to rankings based on what players "should" be, maybe Kyle Schwarber should have gone in the 20s.  But maybe the Cubs just cut through the nonsense and ignored the mold -- and just picked the best player available, and in so doing capitalize on what might be a draft inefficiency -- instead of getting the guy with the best tools and widest range of skills, maybe you should just get the best baseball player.  The Cardinals seem to have caught on to that -- they did it with Wacha and now they ignored the rankings and picked Luke Weaver, whom some thought might slip into the 3rd round, and picked him at #27 overall.  One scout told me he thought Weaver had top 10 talent.

Get the best ballplayer.  Now that is a novel idea, isn't it?

It extends to the second round as well where the Cubs picked a kid with great size (6'4", 215 lbs), a great fastball (mid 90s, touches 97), plus to plus-plus command, and success at the collegiate level.  So why not the first round?  Well, again, he doesn't fit the mold.  Jake Stinnett is a college senior whose slider is average and has never really had to throw a change-up.  He lacks experience as a pitcher.  But the low miles (new to pitching, started as a closer) could be seen as an advantage in an era where pitchers break down like used up Edsels.

And as Derek Johnson told us a while back, get me an athletic guy who can throw and we can teach him skills.  Stinnett can already locate his fastball with precision and though the slider is average, he can locate that as well.

Don Olsen, who is a former scout with oodles of experience, tweeted to me early today about Stinnett.  Here is what he had to say,

Stinnett is a great choice. He must hone that last pitch, but command and vigor in his game should push him quickly.  At worst he could provide value in the bullpen next season...floor is 4A and swing, but I could see 3-5 rotation w/ developed break.  Depth on break and change are both average at best, but can spot fastball. Good 3-5 type in NL. Solid pick.

Mike Ferrin of SiriusXM MLB Network Radio -- and a very knowledgeable baseball mind - chimed in as well,

I think there’s a number 3 ceiling there. I like the breaking ball command. Change needs lots of work. Hasn’t needed it.  Low miles is a great point. Full time pitcher for 2 years only.  Lots of people see conversion, even at college level, and instantly think reliever.

That last line is a great way to end this piece - people see a certain type and instantly cast him in a certain role.  It is where mistakes are made as sometimes organizations get caught up on what players should be and forget about the guys who are already good ballplayers who still have room to grow.

Let's not think of this as underslot, though that will be a nice benefit to all of this as the draft unfolds.  This was about getting players that were vastly undervalued because they didn't fit a certain mold.  Players like Michael Wacha and Mike Trout have rewarded their teams for being clever enough to see through the old stereotypes.

This year the Cubs felt the 2nd best player in the draft was Kyle Schwarber, and they weren't about to let him slide into the 20's where he "belonged" just so they could take somebody else's version of what  great player should look like.  They weren't about to let another team take Schwarber later and look like the geniuses.




Filed under: 2014 MLB Draft


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  • totally agree. this FO has a good track record. for me to the think I know more than they do would be asinine

  • Great point, thats what our scouts are paid for. Just look at all
    the great players who were not draft high in the draft because
    they did not fit a certain type. Lets hope the same is true with
    our other high draft picks.

  • I agree. When you combine talent, risk and value, I don't think there are picks that could have been a lot better.

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    Great commentary on the first day, John. It's a testament to how efficient the FO is, and working in a similar way the Cards' does. I have faith in the scouting department.

  • In reply to Luke Slabaugh:

    "working in a similar way the Cards' does".... as much as it pains the Cubs fan in me at some level to state this,....

    But I only hope that the Cubs FO can reproduce the level of Farm-system success that the Cards have seen the last decade or so.

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    In reply to drkazmd65:

    Me too, brother. It's no crime to acknowledge they're one of the best of the business in stocking and developing impact talent. One might say they are the best. I would love to be in their position one day very soon.

  • Plus, Harold Reynolds doesn't like the picks. They'll be super stars!

  • John, I think you're analysis is spot on. Its about undervalued players and demonstrates what we hope is this FO's ability to see what others can't see.

    But I also submit that so far, this draft also arguably demonstrates the fallacy of losing, and losing badly for three or four years, just to gain better draft position. I'm excited about Schwarber, but there's little doubt we could have gotten him if we were picking 15th in the first round. And we definitely could have gotten Stinnett anywhere in the 2nd round. We'll see what happens today, but it sure looks like it did us no good to be picking 4th this year.

    It is true that we likely never would have gotten Bryant if we not picking 2nd (maybe 3rd) last year. So OK, one year of really sucking might be justified, but you will never convince me that its a good strategy to suck year after year after year just to be picking higher -- especially given the crapshoot (see Appel) that is the MLB draft.

    And especially given the fact that I love the Cubs and just can't stand to see our guys -- no matter who it is wearing that uniform -- get their brains beat in and lose 100 games year after year.

    And there is where I depart from many of the guys who regularly comment on this site. We all love the Cubs and that's why we're all addicted to this site. But I take every loss hard, very hard. No matter how bad everyone says we're going to be at the start of the season, like they said we were gonna suck going into, for example, the 1984 and 2003 seasons, I'm a dreamer and an optimist. I think we can turn it around with just a little more help. I was practically doing cartwheels when John posted that story a few months ago entitled something like, "Why can't 2014, be like 2003 all over again?"

    Because it hurts when the Cubs lose, whether its in first game of the season or the last. It really hurts when they lose continuously. The hurt worsens and builds and turns into anger and great frustration -- emotions I end up expressing here from time to time. Every major league game is special. Every season is, or should be, sacred. So its infuriating when my Cubs lose by design, when our FO doesn't even try to win. Its a breach of trust, a slap in the face to so many die hard fans who live and die with every pitch, every at bat, every win and loss, every season.

    Of course, reading John's and everyone's comments about patience and more patience, and about how progress is not linear and reading about the minutia of the our prospects and their daily exploits and continued development -- all of that is therapeutic. It certainly helps. It allows me to dream and to hope.

    But, by golly, we gotta focus a little more on the here and now. We gotta focus more on what it means when Shark goes out there and bleeds and spills his guts for us and for for the other guys in that clubhouse, but knowing he's going into battle with half a major league team. He's a warrior and I can't express how much I appreciate his fight and competitiveness. And then after a game, someone here comments, "Great, now we can we get more for him in a trade." Nooooooo!

    And if I see one more guy bemoan the fact that we beat the crap out of the Sox last year, my head is going to explode. I loved beating the crap out of the Sox. I was at that 7-0 whitewash at the Cell when Shark went the distance and 2 hit the ChiSox. Oh, what fun! I went to Wrigley three days later when Wood battled and beat Peavy for the 4 game sweep. That was my playoff series. And I was at those games with my best friend who is a die-hard Sox fan and it was glorious and meaningful and great. Cubs sweep Sox! I just don't see how any Cubs fan can't thoroughly enjoy that. I just don't see how any Cub fan can ever regret that. Oh, and guess what, if McCleod is to be believed, we would have taken Schwarber even if we were picking second ahead of the Sox. The FO got their man and looks like we could've gotten him picking 2nd or 15th.

    Please don't misunderstand me. All the post here about the possibilities leading up to the draft were interesting and informative. And as I said, I gobble up everything written here about our prospects. But I hope that John and others will focus a little more on the hear and now, or least on next season and what can be done, not for 2016, but for next month and the rest of this season, and certainly for next season, to lessen the pain and the hurt and the anger and the frustration. Whether it's pushing -- just a little please -- to get Bryant up here in September if not sooner, or trading for MLB ready players who can actually make THIS SEASON, this summer more enjoyable. Yes, playing even .500 ball means the world to me. Because I'm a Cubs fan and I cheer for the boys in blue every year, every day, every game. Just like my man, Felzz.

  • In reply to TTP:


    You, sir, are exactly the type of Cub fan that we (Cubdom) need.

    And, yeah, let's hope that not too much more patience will be required of us.


  • like his bat but zero chance he sticks at catcher , I have seen 6th graders with better arms , no way he can control a running game, he is VBomb redux, which I am fine with if he signs well, I mean well below slot . Some good arms available and the catcher for the 3rd rd pick , hope the next pick justifes the perceived slot savings the Cubs should get .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    "Selected as the best catcher in the country by Perfect Game and the National Collegiate Baseball Writers Association, earning First Team All-America honors from both entities ... "

    Yeah, he sucks...

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Yeah I'm sure that was because of his defense.

  • In reply to The Way I Am:

    He threw out 37% of base runners this year. Not too shabby of an arm. Oh and he seems to hit OK too.

  • In reply to John57:

    And yet he won that award because of his offense. He could have thrown out 10% and won the award.

  • In reply to The Way I Am:

    haha but he didn't throw out 10%... he threw out 37%...

  • In reply to MashBrotherMania:


  • In reply to The Way I Am:

    Why don't you go and look up his stats and get some info on the kid before you start arguing regarding things you know nothing about?

  • In reply to Cliff1969:

    Not saying he sucks but he doesn't have the arm to control a MLB running game its that simple, He is all about the bat. See him throw in person or on tape, I have done both .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    not every mlb catcher can either.. everyone has their niche.

  • This is very good point. I think Nola fits in the same category, and unfortunately I think Philadelphia is gonna come out looking really good with that pick.

    I'm happy with Schwarber, and would have been equally happy with Nola.

  • As with any draft in any sport we have to let it play out a few years to make final judgments as fans. We can see what they did and from their words why they did what they did.

    Both picks put faith in their development system in place. There are some fundamental truths. Power and Plate Discipline translate from amateur to pros for hitters. For pitchers, command / control is what translates. So these selections make sense. The Cubs FO put faith in their development team by giving them projectable player with the necessary tools and framework to become successful.

  • Hope it turns out to be ok, but it sounds to me more like none of us dares to think that maybe the FO over-reached or made a bad choice.

  • In reply to nilrem:

    I think everyone is hesitant on the picks, but hoyer and epstien happen to instill quite a bit of faith in their decision making. I would dare to admit the front office made a mistake, but at the same time I would dare to believe I am smarter than anyone in the cubs FO when it comes to baseball decisions.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    Simple example why mobile devices won't take over the world.

    I would dare to admit the front office made a mistake, but at the same time I wouldn't dare to believe I am smarter than anyone in the cubs FO when it comes to baseball decisions.

  • This is a FO that prides itself on working parallel fronts. Thats what the Schwarber pick means to me... its an extension of their core process and function. Yes, he may be undervalued and maybe the best baseball player at #4 according to their evaluation as this post alludes to but equally important and in parallel, Schwarber is an underslot signing candidate and that holds significant value for what it will allow the Cubs to do later on. In parallel and as important is also the fact that Schwarber exhibits qualities that this FO places a premium on - power, ability to working counts, drawing walks, understanding strike zone and approach, great makeup. It also fulfills potential areas of need since he provides a power left handed bat and especially if he can can stick at Catcher.

    The pick makes sense to me because it fulfills the totality of what the Cubs were looking for and it fulfills checkboxes on multiple, parallel levels - especially since a no-doubt, generational pitcher was unavailable to them to select.

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    Kiley McDaniel saying Bukauskas won't sign at any price, so that may be out.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    No source incited by McDaniel. Maybe he's wrong.

  • John,

    What are the chances the Cubs go after Bukauskas at some point in the mid-rounds?

    Hearing anything on other players in the mid-rounds??

    thanks for the recaps!

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    VBomb Redux? Sure, except that he has three years of college experience, more athletic, will move very fast through the system, and will likely never play 1B. He will have no issues converting to LF and those that say so have obviously never actually seen him play. They just see his height and weight and think "oh well, he's got no chance to play anywhere other than 1B". With all that said, I would be surprised if he sticks at catcher but he did improve his caught stealing percentage from 19% (2013) to 33% (2014). His arm strength isn't the issue though, it is more his mechanics, which seems to me to be a potentially fixable issue, particularly with his work ethic. However, I think it will be the improvement, or lack thereof, of his receiving skills that will ultimately determine whether he sticks at catcher. He'll be just fine in LF though if he can't.

  • I think with Schwarber we have to be cognizant of the trends of baseball. This is not the 80s when Whitey Herzog ran his teams all over the basepaths. Stolen bases are down. Yes there are a handful of players who steal bases but not enough to go after a cannon arm catcher every draft. Jason Varitek and AJ Perzynski both played a long time in the league with candy arms. If Schwarber can develop his defense laterally and continue to have his advanced feel for calling a game, he can stay behind the plate. Pundits want Benito Santiago / Yadier Molina clones because that was how they were conditioned to think based on a style of play that is not as important now.

    This will be the first time that Schwarber will have coaching for being a catcher by a long time position coordinator/ roving instructor. He has the athleticism. Lets see if he can polish his game. My guess is the FO gives him every opportunity to develop his game as a catcher before they willingly move him to LF. I was fortunate, when I was young lad, I had a beer with Steve Trout, and from that one 30 minute conversation, I learned so much about catching. I was a scrub learning that from a pitcher. Imagine what a real catching coach could provide. Give Schwarber the benefit of the doubt.

  • Bravo. This article is why I love this place. I was trying to explain this to a couple of friends last night, and they did come away happier about the Cubs picks afterwards, but I wish I would have just had this article to let them read as it says it perfectly. The Cubs don't care where the prospect websites & talking heads rank the players. They take the best player available according to them, which has nothing to do with where the collective has "slotted" the player to go. The underslots are gravy, although if they get JB Bukauskas with the 78th pick, a 1st round talent, then it's grandma's homemade gravy...poured over thanksgiving dinner.

  • I'm laughing at all the consternation the Cubs' first two picks have caused. It's as if every team is supposed to dutifully follow some national ranking list in perfect order. The Cubs, with the 4th pick, didn't pick whomever was 4th on "the list," so we've got big trouble!

    Until proven otherwise, I'm OK with the system Theo and Jed have put in place.

  • So would the Cubs really had not taken Rodon if he was available at 4?

  • Is Keith Moreland a fair comp for Schwarber?

  • In reply to cubsin:

    Schwarber has more power. Hat tip to Mike Moody, he threw out a comp yesterday that upon review seems like a good one, i.e. left handed Mike Piazza...below to fringe average defensive catcher, with 30 HR potential, 270-280 avg, solid walk to strike out ratio. Throws out about 33% of runners.

  • Hoyer on Kap and Haugh today: "Jeff Luhnow called me about ten minutes before their pick and told me they were drafting Aiken, and at that point we knew we were taking Schwarber."

  • prime example of why MLB needs to allow trading draft picks, would make this whole draft a lot more exciting to follow. No doubt the Cubs would have moved back some, might not have gotten a lot with the amount of talent that was so closely ranked, but you know it would have been discussed. They trade back, pick up a player or future pick, and then get Schwaber and everyone hails it as genius!

  • With the investment in people and technology our FO has made in the scouting/farm system, I expect them to "out-scout" everyone else. I love both picks, the difference this year is we don't have a known and respected opinion (K Gallo) beating the Schwarber drum leading up to the draft. The reality is "if" he can play an average Catcher at the MLB level, he's the steal of the draft! This guy clearly marks all the boxes for this FO, I'm surprised more of us didn't see this as a possibility. But like I said, it may have been because so many 'public opinions" on the guy say LF, not catcher.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    A big problem with out-scouting is it takes a long time to build your scouting infrastructure, and learn your scouts tendencies. This doesn't happen when a new FO takes over. It takes years to establish.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    And if he doesn't stick at catcher it's not like the Cubs don't need outfielders.
    Especially outfielders who can actually hit.

  • I'm curious to think of what this means about Tim Wilkin's voice with the organization. Schwarber seems like an complete anti-Wilkin pick who prefers up the middle players SS, CF, C. So I would think either Schwarber has an actual shot of sticking at C or Wilkin is on the outside looking in.

  • As usual, great piece John. I get really sick of the mock drafts and all that hype because I find it annoying but mainly I find it ridiculous. Once all the "experts" decide who the "best" talents are at the top, then all the mocks are simple exercises in shuffling the order of the same top 5, 10, even 25 guys.

    Since I don't pretend to know squat about any of these players I wait to read reports AFTER they are drafted. That way you can get actual info on the Schwarber's etc. Case in point, of all the mock drafts did how many times did the experts put him in the top 10? I think a poster put up a list last night and the answer was twice. (Not counting Mike Moody of course).

    At any rate, I find it refreshing that this FO's drafting philosophy led by McLeod breaks the convention. The conventional wisdom is boring, and with risk comes reward.

    And lastly a trivia question: in 1984 the Cubs had the 3rd overall pick. In that draft they took Greg Maddux in the second round (who btw in terms of today's convention would not even be looked at as a HS pitcher because he didn't throw 98mph), but who was the pitcher they took 1.3?

  • In reply to JohnCC:

    Drew Hall (I'll admit, I had to look it up). The Cubs had a fantastic draft that year: Maddux (2nd round); Dwight Smith (3rd round); Jaime Moyer (6th round). Not bad at all.

  • Here we go...

  • Schwaber considered a good handler of pitchers as well. Maybe he sticks at catcher. I like the idea above of drafting the best baseball players rather than those with the most tools and athletic ones. Cubs have seen plenty of the latter come and go.

  • Another college catcher, if he and Schwarber start at the same level, I think we know who's actually going to be catching..

  • John, assuming the Cubs didn't sweep the white sox last year and had the third pick, and assuming we take the Cubs at their word and they would've drafted Schwarber over Rodon, what you have written a similar column? Hypothetically of course...

  • These picks have me scratching
    my head. All we have heard is it is okay to be bad cause we will get a better pick or why win 7-10 more games, it will cost us a good pick. Then when time comes we go after undervalued guys?? Is that wise to do with the 4th pick? Then to draft 2 catchers that high up???

  • In reply to WaitTilNextYear:

    well if we sucked more, we could have had our choice of aiken/Kolek/Rodon... but sucking to get high picks doesnt matter.

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    Stinnett totally dominated Rodon when they faced each other. He is a power-arm with great control and low mileage on his arm. Only one season as a SP, a converted 3b.The only one season, is why the Cubs were able to chpick him up in the 2d rd. If Schwarber doesn't stick at C it does not matter. He was the best college bat in the draft. He has great approach which equates io low K's and high OBP. that is something the Cubs are trying to instill into all their up and coming hitters. Looks real good on both accounts. Go Cubs.

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    I will give them the benefit of the doubt as well. Dustin Pedroia with as 2nd round pick...undersized pick. Paplebon in the 4th. The Cubs were terrible before Theo and company started drafting. I won't even name all the busts. My favorite being Hayden Simpson! Overall, the minor leagues did well last year and the top prospects took steps forward. If you look at the talent level from an organization it is has improved significantly. More importantly he has a plan unlike the front office before.

    The bigger question should be is Ricketts going to pony up and let Theo and Co spend big market money? Are these underslot deals because we have a small checkbook? No new stadium deal yet?

  • If Schwarber can stay at catcher like he wants to and can be at least average there, nobody would be second guessing this pick. An OK catcher who can hit and hit for power is easily a #4 pick any year. I guess we will just have to wait and see how bad Kyle is willing to work in the next few years. The FO knows him better than any of us and thinks he can do the work. And so they made the pick.

  • Were they really going to pass on Rodon if the Sox went in another direction?? Yikes. I remember asking you a while back, John what the chances were of the Cubs passing on Rodon. Your response was, "I'd say zero." I agreed. What an ambush. I still like it though. Really nice picks through 7 rounds.

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    Stinnett on ESPN 2 right now!

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