Chicago Cubs VP of Scouting opens up on the past, present and future of the MLB Draft

The Chicago Cubs have done an impressive job of utilizing the draft to improve their farm system over the last several seasons and the Dan Kantrovitz is a major reason for that.

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Earlier this offseason the Chicago Cubs had Marti Wolever awarded as one of MLB’s top Scouts of the Year. Earlier this week, their VP of Scouting, Dan Kantrovitz, was interviewed about the draft process for Fangraphs and he had some incredibly interesting things to say. 

The entire article is definitely worth the read and David Laurila’s work in the interview is absolutely worth the click, but there were a couple of things that stood out as worth sharing here. 

2023 MLB Draft Insights

The question was posed about whether or not front office personnel pay attention to mock drafts and subsequently, whether or not the Cubs were considering Nolan Schanuel (who Fangraphs had mocked to the Cubs but who would go on to be drafted by the Angels and make a historically quick ascension to the majors). 

Kantrovitz did his best to answer respectfully and said that

"It would be disingenuous for any scouting director, or front office, to say that they don’t pay attention to mock drafts by respected third-party publications — especially as you get closer to the draft. Now, do we rely on our internal data to make draft decisions? Yes, of course."

Dan Kantrovitz (via Fangraphs)

He went on to essentially say that due to Schanuel’s defensive limitations as a first-base-only option, he wasn’t as attractive of a prospect as Matt Shaw. 

He then differentiated Shaw from the other shortstops taken after him in the draft by saying that he has a “dynamic, explosive pass,” in his movement to the ball at the plate. 

Previous Drafts

Laurila didn’t pull any punches in this interview. He made reference to the Cubs drafting high-school shortstop Ed Howard with the 16th pick in the 2020 draft while their current top prospect, Pete Crow-Armstrong, wouldn’t be drafted for another three picks. 

More shocking than the question itself was Kantrovitz’s response. While he would go on to say that “we still believe in Ed,” he initially discussed the fact that due to COVID he didn’t see any of the players the Cubs drafted in 2020, and that “was a mistake [they] learned from,” with regards to not changing their decision framework from previous seasons to the odd 2020 season. 

That’s not a damning indictment of Ed Howard or of the pick of Ed Howard, but it’s about as close as you’re going to get less than four years after drafting an 18-year-old. 

He also talked about drafting Cade Horton and Jordan Wicks in the first rounds of 2022 and 2021 respectively. He was a little more glowing of Horton with this quote:

"We were impressed with the unusually steep trend line of improvement following his surgery and return to full health, though what stood out the most was just how loud his stuff was."

Dan Kantrovitz (via Fangraphs)

He also went on to say that the scouts were pretty much unanimous on their selection of Wicks based on his “makeup, aptitude and durability.” 

Future Drafts

Laurila closed out the interview by asking what Kantrovitz believes will be the future of scouting based on his time at the top of three different organizations scouting departments.

His answer essentially comes down to communication and consistency. 

In a world in which data has become so prevalent and available (especially in baseball), it can be very easy to make the numbers say what you want them to say to prove your point. It appears that the Cubs scouting department has consistent models that they have all of their scouts use so that when they communicate there is less gray in the discussions, making it significantly easier to get to a consensus and make the right selections.

If his track record over the last several drafts says anything, it says that the models they’re communicating right now are working. Hopefully, they can snag another top prospect in Arlington when the 2024 draft comes around in July.

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