The 2016 Draft is upon us, and yet, us fans and the scouting department are at an unfamiliar place. Rather than having a top 10 pick, which the organization has had since 2011, the Cubs will be on the sidelines throughout Thursday. Due to their signings of John Lackey and Jason Heyward over the offseason, the Cubs first selection will now come at pick 104 in the third round. Perhaps even more detrimental to their plans, the Cubs also have the smallest draft pool, at $2,245,100 (almost equivalent to pick #18’s bonus pool.) So what does this mean in terms of their strategy?
The MLB draft is the best way for talent to flow into your system. In past drafts, the Cubs have spread out their money, such as when they signed Kyle Schwarber underslot. Because of this, the team had more money to spread around the rest of the draft, which allowed them to sign pitching prospects Justin Steele, Carson Sands, and Dylan Cease to overslot deals. Due to their above-slot bonuses, all three elected to forego college en route to the minors. This year, the Cubs will have very little money to play with, which makes predicting their draft strategy a little difficult. From having talked to draft experts and exploring options myself, I honestly don’t think the Cubs have a trick up their sleeve. Instead, as Jason McLeod (senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting) alluded to, the Cubs are going to continue to stockpile pitching, a weakness in the system. If you can believe it, in all four drafts that the current regime have conducted, they still have yet to produce one major league pitcher. Obviously the likes of Pierce Johnson, Duane Underwood Jr., etc. are on the horizon, but due to the promotion of Albert Almora Jr. today, all four 1st round hitters under this regime have made it to the Majors.
With the Cubs 3rd round pick, I expect them to go for a high-upside, sign-able arm. Due to the depth of the high school pitching crop this year, I wouldn’t be surprised if they went with a high schooler, similar to the Bryan Hudson pick last year. The Cubs are going to use the best player available approach, but because of the makeup of this year’s draft I expect that to be an arm. One thing us fans can know for sure is that the entire scouting department have done their due diligence on this year’s class. The one benefit of not having a high pick is that your team’s scouts can skip over likely top 50 players, and peruse the rest of the country looking for the next gem. Hitting on later round picks is very difficult to do, but the scouting department will have a better read on later round players than most other teams. Although it is likely a futile effort, look for our piece on possible players the Cubs could draft tomorrow.
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