Thoughts On The First Round


I am not going to attempt to do draft grades, and especially not first round grades. The meat of the draft comes Tuesday and Wednesday, and even then it will be tough to grade the teams until we see who signs and who doesn’t. The true value of a draft is often not seen for several years. Remember that very few of the players taken this year will see the majors before 2013, and most will arrive after that if they ever arrive at all. The baseball draft is a long term affair, it has to be evaluated when its firmly in the rear view mirror.

And in the case of the Cubs, the odds are good that they will take excellent players in the middle rounds that are flying under the radar, just like they have the past few years. Javier Baez is a great pick up for the Cubs, but he’s only the beginning.

Despite the lack of any grades, I do have some thoughts and observations, and maybe even a few criticisms. In no particular order, and subject to change, here are my comments on the first round of the 2011 draft.

First, Why Javier Baez?
I like the pick. He has a very high ceiling, great bat speed, should have enough power to play third, and projects as being pretty good defensively at that position. I expected the Cubs to take a safer pick here, and was pleasantly surprised when they took Baez. There is a lot of potential there, but we will have to wait awhile to see it.

But why did the Cubs not take a pitcher? This draft has a ton of great pitching, and the Cubs clearly need pitching, so they should have taken a pitcher… right?

Not so fast. The 2011 Cubs need pitching. How about the 2013 or 2014 Cubs? Besides, the Cubs wanted to take the best available player, and the second best bat on the board is an awfully tempting target. The Cubs will be able to pick up some very good pitchers as late as the seventh or eighth round. When this draft is all said and done, I think they’ll still have added at least one or two pitchers who crack their Top 30 prospects… and in the Cubs system that’s saying a lot.

Hats Off To Arizona
I did not think the Diamondbacks would go for a tough sign at #7 since that pick is unprotected, but they went for one of the toughest signs in the draft. I like the way Arizona is thinking. It may not work, but they had a chance to draft two potential aces and they took it. I can’t fault them for trying.

Beware Falling College Hitters
When Seattle took a pitcher at #2, I knew we were in for an odd first round. I did not expect Kansas City to pass on Rendon to take Starling. Starling has a very high ceiling, but Rendon was the best bat in the draft and could have been in the majors three years ahead of Starling. Washington got lucky when Rendon fell all the way to six (I thought he had a shot to come to the Cubs).

The biggest surprise, though, was that Mikie Mahtook fell clear to Tampa at #31. The Rays have to be very excited about that pick.

Boston Steals Barnes
I don’t think Boston ever dreamed they would get an advanced college arm like Matt Barnes at #19. Barnes would easily be in the top five in almost any other draft. He was expected to go somewhere between 7 and 15 this year. I would have been happy to see the Cubs grab him. Barnes to the Red Sox at #19 might just be the steal of the draft.

Milwaukee’s Pitchers
In Jungmann and Bradley the Brewers are getting two solid arms that can move through their system quickly. Bradley, in particular, I think has a chance to start 2012 in the Milwaukee rotation, and Jungmann may not be far behind. If the Brewers can hang onto Greinke and Marcum, they have the potential for a very nice rotation. I still like the Cubs’ future of Cashner, McNutt, Garza, and Simpson a little more, but the battles between the Cubs and Brewers could be low scoring affairs starting in 2013 or so.