Checking In On The Draft


We are now just days away from the deadline for 2011 draft picks to sign. There are a lot of high draft choices and high profile prospects who have not signed yet, and some fans might be getting nervous. Unfortunately, this is exactly how the draft usually plays out. The higher profile prospects tend to receive more money than MLB recommends, and that means the league office strongly encourages teams to not announce deals that involve lots of extra dollars until we are on top of the deadline. As a result, many of those high profile draft picks are just now starting on negotiations. Why make a deal in July if you can announce the deal and start playing until August?

It is a very strange and badly flawed system. International prospects sign multi-million dollar deals as sixteen year old kids and the league yawns, but if a 20 year old college player signs for half a million over slot, the deal can’t be announced until the last minute. That player is now effectively sidelined for two months, and that does not help anyone. The system needs to be reformed, but that’s a different topic for a different day.

So how is the Cubs’ draft shaping up as we head into the final weekend?

Fortunately, the Cubs had money to spend on this year’s draft and I think there is a good chance they will blow past my predicted $10 million in total draft spending. Some of that will depend on how many of their top guys they can convince to sign. For most of the players who are on the fence, it has nothing to do with money. Their decision is between going to college now and turning pro later, or turning pro now. The decision between college and the minor leagues is a tough one, and some of these guys could go either way.

So let’s run down the list of some of the Cubs’ choices and we where we are.

1. Javier Baez, SS – Unsigned – 99.99% chance he will sign
Baez may wait until just minutes before the deadline to join the Cubs, but there is no evidence this deal will not get done. It is going to be a large contract, so it would not be announced until the last minute anyway.

2. Dan Vogelbach, 1B – Unsigned – 99.99% chance he will sign
There were reports earlier in the summer that the Cubs had all but reached a deal with Vogelbach. It will be another of those large, over slot bonus deals that won’t be announced until the last minute, but things look good for Vogelbach joining the Cubs.

3. Zeke DeVoss, OF – Signed

4. Tony Zych, RHP – Unsigned* – 99.99% chance he will sign
Zych may already have signed by the time you read this. There are unconfirmed reports the deal is done as I type this up, but I’m playing cautious and listing him as unsigned for now. Zych is a reliever who could rise quickly in the farm system.

5. Taylor Scott, RHP – Signed
Taylor Scott came from South Africa to play baseball, and now he can do it professionally. Scott is a rare phenomenon… a high school pitcher taken by the Cubs under Tim Wilkens in the early rounds.

6. Neftali Rosario, C – Signed
FanSided’s own Seedlings To Stars had a bit to say on Rosario and where he stacks up among the other catching prospects for the Cubs.

7. Trevor Gretzky, 1B – ??? – 99.99% chance he will sign
There were reports a few weeks ago that the deal was done, but something happened. It appears that the league office is sitting on this one because the contract was too large to be announced at that time, but that is only speculation. Regardless, there are no signs this deal will not go down. I think Gretzky is a Cub.

8. Tony Dugas, OF – Unsigned – 60% chance he will sign
Tony Dugas has piled up a nice list of accolades as a junior with the University of Alabama, but I can’t find any good information on where his contract talks stand. As a college junior coming off a Gold Glove season, I think the odds are in the Cubs’ favor that he’ll end his college career on a high note and turn pro. He would likely be able to finish up his college degree, and then report to Boise next summer. On the other hand, with a very good senior season he could go higher in the draft next season. I think Dugas is the highest draft choice that the Cubs may not get signed.

9. Garrett Schlecht, OF – Signed

10. Daniel Lockhart, SS – Unsigned? – 99% chance he will sign
Two weeks ago it looked like this deal was done, but it apparently has not quite happened yet. There is no bad news, but there isn’t an official contract either. I’m pretty sure this one gets done.

There are plenty of other notable draft picks out of the Top 10 I’m keeping track of as well.

11. Shawon Dunston Jr., OF – Unsigned – 50% chance he will sign
It looked this one was a signed and sealed, but it wasn’t. We always knew that Dunston was strongly committed to Vanderbilt, and now it is looking like that might be where he is heading. This one comes down to his decision. I think the deal is there if he wants to turn pro now, but he may choose to wait. We probably won’t know until after the deadline what he decides.

14. Dillon Maples, RHP – Unsigned – 40% chance he will sign
Maples might be the best pitcher the Cubs took in the draft, and I imagine prying him away from North Carolina is a major focus of the Cubs’ draft team this week. The North Carolina football program has gotten into trouble recently and just fired their head coach. Maples was intending to kick for the Tar Heels. With chaos on the gridiron, Maples might be more receptive to joining the Cubs than he would be otherwise, but it will still be a tough signing. I hope he joins the Cubs. There is a nice stash of football talent in the Cubs organization already. Maples would probably feel right at home.

25. Rock Shoulders, 1B – Unsigned? – 99.99% chance he will sign
Reports are that the best name in draft will now be the best name in Cubs’ farm system. As hundreds of wrestlers around the world kick themselves for not thinking of that name first, Shoulders looks to be the fourth first base prospect to join the Cubs’ system from this draft. The deal is apparently not official yet, but there is no bad news to report.

39. Ricky Jacquez, LHP – Unsigned – 50% chance he will sign
Ricky Jacquez is an excellent high school pitcher trapped in a 5’9″ frame. His decision is between turning pro now or going to the University of Texas. Personally, I really hope he joins the Cubs. No matter how good he could be at Texas, his size is always going to hurt his draft stock. In some organizations I think his size would automatically relegate him to nothing but middle relief duties. That would be unfortunate. I think Jazquez has the makings of a starter, and a pretty good one. With the Cubs, I’m pretty sure he would be developed as a starter until he pitched his way out of that job. If he goes back into the draft in a year or two, there is no telling where he might wind up and what that organization’s philosophy might be. Between Jacquez and Maples, I think the Cubs have two promising prospects for their future starting rotation… if they sign.

41. Austin Urban, RHP. Unsigned. 50% chance he will sign
I’m really not sure what to think of Urban. Some reports had him pegged to go in the first ten rounds, but all the way to the 41st round is a very long way to fall just because of signability. He has already bounced around a little since he choose not to sign after being drafted by Baltimore, so I’m not sure how much leverage he will have. On the other hand, he has also shown a willingness to not sign for less than what he is looking for even if that means he has to bounce around a bit. If he doesn’t sign this year, he might be headed for the independent leagues. If he does sign, he would definitely be a quality addition to the Cubs farm system. I hope the two sides can reach a deal, but I really don’t know how to rate this one. I’ll put it at 50/50, but I could be way off.

All in all, this looking like a very, very good draft for the Cubs. Baez will be one of their Top 5 prospects as soon as he puts down the pen, and I think Vogelbach, Maples, Jacquez, and Scott could join the Top 30 alongside a few other 2011 picks who are already in the system. I would not be surprised to see this one go down as one of the best drafts in baseball this year. If the Cubs can sign everyone, they will have done far better than anyone expected. If this is what we can expect from the new owners, the future of the Cubs is extremely promising.