A write up on the Cubs draft from Cubs.com confirms what I had been talking about earlier: the Cubs will be trying to spend what it takes to sign the high-ceiling tough signs. The new owners have repeatedly said they were committed to winning the right way… through player development. For that strategy to work, the Cubs have to go after high level talent even if they will be tough to sign, and then get them signed. For example, some reports have the Cubs second round pick demanding $1.6 million. That would be one third of the Cubs total draft budget last season. This year, I think he gets a number close to that.
Before I head into a general draft summary, there are two more players I want to highlight right now.
The Cubs have a history of drafting good pitchers after Round 30. Randy Wells, Trey McNutt, Nicholas Struck, and Dallas Beeler are fairly recent examples of late picks that, so far anyway, are panning out very well indeed. In the 2011 draft the Cubs added two guys who I think have the potential to become Tim Wilken’s newest late round wonders.
From the article I linked in the first paragraph,
"There was another interesting selection taken on Wednesday. Left-handed pitcher Sheldon McDonald attended Northeastern in Boston for two seasons before transferring to University of British Columbia. He has played for Team Canada, throwing a no-hitter in last summer’s Grand Forks Tournament. This season, the lefty was 7-2 in 11 games (eight starts) with a 1.46 ERA and struck out 55 in 55 2/3 innings. The Cubs picked him in the 33rd round."
That’s not bad for a late round lefty. The one I really like came in the 39th round though. He’s a right handed pitcher that throws a good curve and can hit the upper nineties with his fastball. Most of the time that means a guy is going in the first five rounds. Not in this case. As Baseball America comments:
"The most interesting pick in the 39th round was the Cubs selection of Franklin High righthander Ricky Jacquez from El Paso, Texas. Nobody questions Jacquez’s stuff—he sits 92-94 mph with his fastball and touches 97, also mixing in a hammer curveball. It’s his size that has teams shying away. Jacquez is listed at a generous 5-foot-9 and 160 pounds. He is committed to Texas."
While many in baseball shy away from the undersized right handed pitcher, I don’t. In my book, if a guy has good stuff, let him pitch. If he has the stamina to pitch a starter’s innings, then let him start. Under Wilken, the Cubs seem to agree with that. Hayden Simpson was a surprise pick last year in part because of his size, but Ricky Jacquez is four inches shorter than even Simpson was. In the 39th round, I love this pick.
The Cubs made a run on community college pitchers during the third day of the draft, and that’s another area where the Cubs have had success drafting in recent years. When it was all over, the Cubs had taken 26 pitchers (out of 50 total picks). Only five of those were lefties, though, which is a bit of a surprise to me.
On the offensive side, 11 of the 24 were outfielders, and some of those outfielders are fairly advanced college bats who could move quickly and land in Iowa as soon as late next season. They took a couple of first basemen who project to have a ton of power, but they’ll need some time in the minors to see what comes of them.
At the end of the day, this draft did not shape up quite like I expected for the Cubs, but I like the idea that Wilken was able to ignore signing costs as he made his picks this year. If the Cubs can sign most of those high ceiling guys, they will finish off with a pretty good draft.
Working in their favor is the collective bargaining agreement. It is widely expected that this will be the last year that drafted players can negotiate their own deals. Hard slotting bonuses are expected to be part of the new CBA. So Daniel Vogelbach, their second round pick thought to have a high price tag, will have to sign this year if he wants to be sure of getting close to that amount. Extend that thinking all the way down the draft, the situation sets up for the Cubs to sign a large number of very high ceiling players… for a very large amount of money. Sounds like a good recipe to me.