Draft Strategy


There is an interesting article up on Cubs.com regarding the strategy for the Cubs heading into next week’s draft.

First of all, ignore the headline. Despite the Garza trade, and despite the number of players who have emerged from the farm system to play for the Cubs in the past year or so, the Cubs farm system needs restocking like the Missouri River needs more rain. There is a lot of talent deep in the system that is moving its way up, and it will not be long before the Cubs have to start releasing some players from Triple A to make room for the talent that coming up.

This is not a draft in which the Cubs are trying rebuild their farm system at all. It’s just another draft, one in which they will use the same basic strategy they have used for the past few seasons.

And that strategy is simple: take the best player on the board in the first several rounds, and worry about positional holes in the later rounds. That is really the only way to approach a baseball draft. When you consider that a fairly small percentage of the players drafted next week will ever reach the majors, it just makes sense to draft the best you can find regardless of where they play.

Of course there will be some factors the Cubs weight more heavily than others when considering who exactly is the best on the board at any given time. The article sheds some light on that as well. There are references to catching prospects in the middle rounds, the scarcity of middle infielders in the draft, and the Cubs need for middle of the order bats in the minor leagues, but the most interesting hints came from scouting director Tim Wilken himself. In particular, Wilken commented

"There are eight people in front of us. We have to see what they do."

That quote is a little more significant coming from him than from a lot of other scouting directors. Wilken doesn’t pay much attention to conventional wisdom regarding who he should draft. If he likes a guy, he takes him. In 2010 no one expected Hayden Simpson to come off the board in the first round, but the Cubs were not convinced he would make it to the second round (because of the Angels, according to rumor), and the Cubs took him early. That pick had less to do with what happened ahead of the Cubs and more to do with what happened in the Cubs draft room.

I don’t want to read too much into one comment, but if the Cubs’ first round choice this year is hinging at least in part on what the teams in front of them do, then that suggests there is at least one (probably more than one) guy they would like that they may or may not get a shot at, depending on what happens ahead of them. I think the guy they are most likely thinking of is Bubba Starling. If Starling gets past Seattle at #2 and Washington at #6, I think there is a good chance he’ll be on the board for the Cubs. Another guy they could be hoping will fall is Anthony Rendon. It is very unlikely that Rendon makes it down to #9, but not impossible. If the first two hitters off the board are high schoolers and Cleveland has decided to take a pitcher, I think there is an outside shot he could drop to the Cubs. And if the Cubs can land him at nine, it would be a steal.

I think there is no question that the Cubs will go over slot several times to sign players, and I am standing by my pre-season prediction that the Cubs will spend over $10 million on this draft. I’m tempted to raise that to $15 million, and given how deep this draft is, I would not be surprised if they broke $25 million. I can easily see million dollar signing bonuses being given as late as the tenth round by somebody, and this year that somebody might just be the Cubs.