Now that we're past the Super Bowl, it feels like 2012 is allowed to officially begin. The sports calendar has rolled over, and fans of both hockey and basketball can now enjoy a few weeks of dominating the sports landscape until pitchers and catchers report.
Over the coming days, we're going to employ 20-20 hindsight and look back five years at how Chicago teams drafted in 2007. Five years is usually a good benchmark to look for quality and return on investment, so we'll begin looking there.
In this first installment of the series, we're going to look back at the 2007 Major League Baseball Draft by the Chicago Cubs. How did they do, and what could have been?
To examine how the Cubs did, we won't be too naive in our analysis. While we might mention players selected prior to the Cubs' pick to provide a frame of reference, we'll only truly grade the Cubs' pick against players that were available to be picked at the time, and that were picked between the Cubs' selections in that draft.
Round One - Pick 3: Josh Vitters, 3B, Cypress High School (CA)
The top overall pick in 2007 was David Price, who has become the ace of the Rays' staff and impacted a World Series run. Clearly, Tampa didn't miss by much that year. But did the Cubs make a mistake when they took Vitters?
Consider Vitters professional career to date. He hasn't played higher than Double-A, where he has 21 home runs in 192 games. In his five seasons of minor league baseball, Vitters has a .319 on-base percentage, a .758 OPS, and 47 home runs in 419 games.
Now consider some of the other players selected after Vitters in that first round:
Pick 5: Matt Wieters, C - Baltimore Orioles
Pick 7: Matt LaPorta, 1B - Milwaukee Brewers
Pick 10: Madison Bumgarner, P - San Francisco Giants
Pick 14: Jayson Heyward, OF - Atlanta Braves
Pick 27: Rick Porcello, P - Detroit Tigers
These are five players who have made an impact on their big league organizations since the 2007 Draft. Wieters, Bumgarner, Heyward and Porcello have been important pieces of the major league rosters of their respective teams, while LaPorta was a central piece in the trade that sent CC Sabathia to Milwaukee from Cleveland. The Cubs could have received more of a major league impact with the third overall selection if they had used it on someone else.
Supplemental Round One - Pick 48: Joshua Donaldson, C, Auburn
Donaldson's right were dealt to Oakland in 2008. He is now 25, and despite putting up relatively decent numbers in Triple-A, he hasn't cracked the majors yet.
There were two players the Cubs could have selected here, both of whom were a second round picks.
Pick 67: Jordan Zimmerman, P - Washington Nationals
Pick 76: Mike Stanton, OF - Florida Marlins
Zimmerman has already been through a Tommy John surgery, but he's seen as part of the upper-half of an emerging young rotation in Washington, and returned to the Nationals effectively this past year. Stanton is a beast who is hitting the cover off the ball for the Marlins already.
The Cubs did not have a second round selection in 2007.
Round 3 - Pick 97: Anthony Thomas, 2B, Florida St
Round 3 - Pick 101: Jonathan Lucroy, C - Milwaukee Brewers
Lucroy was a solid every day catcher for the Brewers this year, while Anthony Thomas is getting autograph requests more from University of Michigan and Bears fans than baseball folks.
Round 4 - Pick 127: Darwin Barney, SS, Oregon State
Not a bad pick considering his play in the last year with the big league club.
Round 5 - Pick 157: Brandon Guyer, OF, Virgina
Round 5 - Pick 175: Marc Rzepczynski, P - Toronto Blue Jays
Rzepczynski was an effective pitcher this year, and part of the trades that ultimately landed the Cardinals in the World Series. Guyer is a good-looking outfielder putting up solid numbers in the Rays organization; he was part of the trade that ultimately brought Matt Garza to the North Side.
Round 6 - Pick 187: Casey Lambert, P, Virginia
Round 6 - Pick 204: Anthony Rizzo, 1B - Boston Red Sox
Lambert has put up decent numbers in four minor-league seasons, but the Cubs missed out on a guy that became one of the best hitters in minor league baseball in Rizzo. The Red Sox dealt him to the Padres as the centerpiece of the Adrian Gonzalez trade, and he has since been traded again... to the Cubs this winter. So ultimately, the Cubs might have the best player from the sixth round of the 2007 Draft at Wrigley Field after all.
Not many picks from after the sixth round that year have matriculated all the way to the major yet. The Rays found a gem with the first pick of the eighth round in Matt Moore, who is now part of the future of their rotation. There were 50 rounds in the 2007 Draft, but we can see that the Cubs appear to have missed on every selection except Barney. We'll see if Rizzo eventually becomes the jewel of the class, though.