Every summer, when the dog days hit, we take a look in the rear view mirror at how Chicago’s teams drafted five years prior.
So today, two days before Major League Baseball begins their annual draft, let’s begin our 2016 series by looking back five years at the draft class of the Chicago Cubs.
NOTE: it is important to note that Theo Epstein did not leave the Red Sox to take over the rebuild of the Cubs until October of 2011. This draft is the last draft that is not on his resume.
Last year, when we looked back at the Cubs’ class of 2010, we hadn’t seen much from that class; the two best chances of making an impact at Wrigley Field were outfielder Matt Szczur and Justin Grimm. At that time, neither had seen much/any Major League action, so our comments were limited. Both have made the jump to the North Side this season, however, and they have been pieces of the Cubs’ incredible start.
MLB.com revisited the 2011 Draft earlier on Tuesday, posting a hypothetical redraft. Some of the stellar names in that class include Marlins ace Jose Fernandez, Pirates ace Gerrit Cole, A’s ace Sonny Gray and stud infielders Anthony Rendon of the Nationals and Francisco Lindor of the Indians. The highest WAR from a position player to date from the 2011 MLB Draft goes to outfielder George Springer of the Astros (9.0), which ranks behind Fernandez, Cole and Gray overall from 2011.
The Cubs had the ninth pick in the first round in 2011, and selected a highly touted infielder of their own. The Indians took Lindor eighth, and Rendon was off the board at six.
With the ninth overall pick, the Cubs selected shortstop Javy Baez from Arlington Country Day School in Jacksonville, Florida.
Chicago passed on the likes of Fernandez (14th), Gray (18th) and Padres starter Joe Ross (25th) to take Baez and immediately begin the “when do they trade Starlin Castro?” conversations all over Chicago.
In 122 career games at the Major League level, Baez has a -0.1 WAR with 14 home runs and a .619 OPS.
Baez’s road to the big leagues hasn’t been easy – or as fast as many felt it could be in 2011. But the addition of Addison Russell (who was drafted in 2012) and a couple injuries led to Baez waiting until the 2016 season to be a full time member of the Cubs’ major league roster. And, when the Cubs signed Ben Zobrist to lock down second base, Baez’s place in the lineup was a question when this season began.
Given the other talent that came off the board after Baez in 2011, is he a bust? Hell no! Even though it feels like he’s been part of the organization for a lot longer than five years, Baez doesn’t celebrate his 22nd birthday until August of this year.
Only four other players from the Cubs’ 2011 draft have appeared in the majors.
LHP Andrew McKirahan (pick #639 overall) is second from the class with 27 games in the bigs. McKirahan, who was drafted out of the University of Texas, was taken away from the Cubs by the Marlins in the Rule 5 Draft in 2014, and was claimed off waivers by the Braves before the 2015 season started.
McKirahan is the only other pick from that Cubs’ draft that has appeared in more than 23 big league games.
The Cubs’ second round pick from 2011 has been on the radar for a couple years now, and continues to be a fun player to watch.
Dan Vogelbach, who is listed at 6-0 and 250 pounds, is a big, left-handed hitting first baseman who has pounded 69 home runs in 464 career minor league games. He has a .949 OPS in Iowa this season but doesn’t appear to have anywhere to go at the major league level with Anthony Rizzo enjoying an MVP-caliber season in Chicago. He is on the Cubs’ 40-man roster right now, but might be a name you hear more in trade rumors this summer.
There were some intriguing, familiar names picked by the Cubs five years ago, however. Click here to see the rest of the Cubs’ 2011 draft class.
In the seventh round, the Cubs selected another high school infielder. But when Trevor Gretzky‘s name was called, there was more buzz about his last name than his baseball ability. The Great One’s son was part of the Cubs organization only through the 2013 season and is now playing independent league ball.
In the eleventh round, the Cubs picked an outfielder who made fans immediately think about the shortstop position. But high school center fielder Shawon Dunston took his father’s name, not position. Dunston, now 23, is currently playing with the Cubs high-A affiliate in Myrtle Beach.