Evaluating drafts days or months after in any sport is a terrible idea. Evaluating baseball drafts after the first day is an even worse idea, but the Cubs had a very interesting first day of the 2014 day. However, yesterday was an extremely interesting day in terms of the Cubs draft strategy. The Cubs clearly valued Kyle Schwarber differently than other teams. If you believe that he was truly number 2 on their board that is a ranking I think few other teams had. Jed Hoyer mentioned wishing that teams had the ability to trade down and this was clearly a situation they would have loved. Grab a few other picks to be able to take the guy they like most at the spot that other teams had him valued. This pick will be a real feather in their cap if Schwarber maxes out his offensive potential to the Brian Giles comp that was thrown out yesterday (as an aside people forget just how awesome Brian Giles was because he played on terrible Pirates/Padres teams for virtually all of his career).
I am not a draft expert. I rely on the information that is provided and available for free online. I'm not going to regurgitate scouting reports that you can find from people that actually do know the draft. However, I do want to focus on the career path ahead of Schwarber. Clearly the bat will determine the rate at which Schwarber moves through the minors.
McLeod on Schwarber (3/3): But we do feel, with his profile & the way that he handles himself as a hitter, that he can move pretty quickly.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) June 6, 2014
The question then becomes where does he play. Most experts seem to rule out catcher almost immediately, and there is real question if you want an impact bat taking the abuse behind the dish. However, the Cubs have as a rule left prospects at the most difficult position they can handle for as long as possible. The Cubs also have a critical need at catcher throughout the organization as John Baker and Eli Whiteside being the 2 active catchers shows. Developing Schwarber as a catcher would significantly delay his progress through the system. An interesting compromise plan that I like has been allowing him to catch a game or two a week in the minors. I have visions of Eli Marrero in my head.
The Cubs were clear that they didn't take Schwarber for signability reason, but it is a nice bonus to the situation. I believe Jake Stinnett is a similar situation. Stinnett drew praise from a number of places for his stuff and his command. This is the most enthusiastic praise that I saw last night.
Jake Stinnett is an outstanding pick in the 2nd. Fastball command to both sides, Great breaking ball. Big Fan
— Mike Ferrin (@MikeFerrinSXM) June 6, 2014
As a college senior though Stinnett has little leverage and probably should command his full slot bonus either. The 4th and 45th overall pick has a combined slot bonus pool of $5,871,600. The Cubs have spent aggressively up to the 5% cap before the penalties include loss of draft picks. Figuring in that amount of money makes the pool of money associated with those two players now stands at $6,165,180. It is impossible to know what each player will sign for at this point, but I think a safe estimate for Schwarber would be the slot bonus associated with the very next pick at 3.8 million. Stinnett is a college senior, but was rising on the draft boards expecting to be the first college senior drafted. To keep the math simple lets assume he gets a million dollar signing bonus. That would leave the Cubs with $1.36 million to over spend on the rest of the draft.
The Cubs have found themselves in the Houston Astros situation of the 2012 draft. They took the players they liked the best and should have a substantial pool of money to play with. The obvious question is does that leave enough money to roll the dice on Jacob Bukauskas. The right handed high schooler has told teams not to draft him because he is going to honor his commitment to North Carolina. Money talks and there has to be a point where it makes too much sense to begin his pro career at age 17. The question is what is that number. The number would have to be higher than a mid to late first rounder since he was likely to be draft there. Pick 15 was worth a little over $2.5 million. I am going to guess that the number Bukauskas needs is north of that and close to 3 million.
The Cubs total draft pool $8,352,200, which means that they can spend a total of over $8.7 million if they sign all of their draft picks round 1-10. Assuming my figure of rough 4.8 million is left that means the Cubs have $3.9 to spend on draft picks. The third round pick has a slot bonus of $714,000 attached to it. That means this would be the last pick the Cubs could go about slot to have the money left over to make a serious run at Bukauskas. That is why I expect the third round pick to tell us what the Cubs strategy for day 2 is going to be. If the Cubs take a player that is likely to command slot plus overages I think the odds of drafting Bukauskas move from slim to none. If the Cubs take a value pick for signability reasons I would expect the Cubs to nab Bukauskas in the fourth or fifth round.
Hoyer mentioned on @KapandHaugh that Cubs clearly have financial flexibility, but that doesn't mean they'll diverge from their board
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) June 6, 2014
With the above I think the odds of the Cubs making a run at Bukausas is low, but it would immediately improve the quality of this draft a ton if they did. I expect the pick in the 3rd round to be a guy like Brett Graves, and it is possible that they could grab him and still draft Bukauskas in the fourth round. Graves plays for Missouri and was teammates with Rob Zastrzyny. Graves is an athletic pitcher with a good fastball. He seems to check many of the boxes that the Cubs look for in pitchers.
The Cubs will likely follow their tried and true method of loading up on arms throughout day 2, but it is hard to shake the notion that the Cubs have an opportunity to steal a really good player in the middle rounds this year because of the way everything broke.