As you may have guessed from the first two days of the MLB Draft, the Chicago Cubs were pretty big on picking pitchers with high floors and room for growth. We discussed this in the past, and also on the Dreamcast, but with a team that had just come off the best record in MLB and winning the World Series, that means the Cubs can’t pick early in each round anymore, and thus will no longer be able to acquire the cream of the crop. So there will be an emphasis on scouting, and a lot of gambling on a diamond in the rough over pitchers with strong pedigrees.
We do know from experience and from the horse’s mouth that the Cubs are very committed to bolstering their pitching. Whether it’s at the big league level now…
Asked whether the Cubs are more likely to add to their starting rotation via trade or the free-agent market in the coming years, Epstein responded that they’ll “continue to do both.” The Cubs acquired Jake Arrieta and Kyle Hendricks via trade while signing Jon Lester and John Lackey in free agency.
…or perhaps several years down the line with the volume of the pitching the Cubs just acquired…
“We might be a little more focused on a particular type (of pitcher), rather than cast a really wide net as we have the past couple of years,” McLeod said. “But when you look up after Tuesday when we’ve gone through 20 rounds, you’ll see a pretty good mix of pitching again.”
“We’re not going to try to invent a pitcher,” he said. “I would love to be talking to you guys on Monday night and say, ‘Hey, we really have a pitcher we’re excited about,’ but I don’t know if it’s going to fall that way. We’ll take the two best players for the organization.”
With the 40 rounds of the MLB Draft done for the year, the Cubs can redirect their resources towards two main goals:
- Sign as many draft picks as they can;
- Scout and trade for pitchers to ride out the season, since the bats are in the organization already.
It’s no secret that the Cubs have had troubles developing pitching, particularly for the rotation, from the players they have drafted. Most of the impact pitching that went into the World Series champions came in the form of trade or free agency; the “drafting” was to get Hector Rondon, who came in via the Rule 5 Draft. So it made sense that the Cubs focused most of their picks in the “slotting” part of the draft towards pitching. Eight of the picks in the first ten rounds (including the compensatory pick for losing Dexter Fowler) went towards pitchers. The full slate is listed in MLB.com’s online tracker. The Cubs had the “honor” of picking last, so 1215 total players were selected in 2017, of which 41 will potentially get to wear home pinstripes at some point in their lives.
The breakdown of players was as follows:
- 21 right-handed pitchers
- 4 left-handed pitchers
- 1 catcher
- 9 infielders, most of whom should be able to play up the middle
- 6 outfielders, most of whom should be able to at least pretend to play center field
Of note among the 41 newly-drafted would-be Cubs:
- Of the first 11 picks, whom the Cubs must sign to protect all their slots, six were considered top 200 prospects, and Austin Filiere has a pretty impressive pedigree as a third baseman despite coming from Division III MIT. He’s at least very smart (duh) and might be considered a front office recruit someday.
- Outside the slotted rounds, the Cubs can spend a max of $125K per pick if they don’t want to incur overage penalties. The highest profile draftee was Bryce Bonnin, a high school pitcher who is committed to Arkansas (not injured, just wants to go t school). The Cubs don’t lose anything if they don’t sign him, so it was worth taking a shot to gauge interest anyway.
- In the final ten rounds, the Cubs took shots at several tough signs, including Hunter Ruth, RHP ranked 151st on MLB.com’s board, also coming off Tommy John. High school shortstop Ben Ramirez was also selected but is committed to USC, so don’t expect these guys to become Cubs just yet. Again, it’s always worth taking a shot with these guys.
- As expected, everyone who wasn’t a pitcher can at least play up the middle on the field on defense. This is important for figuring out who can hit first, then figuring out where to play them later. You can never have too many shortstops!
Andy will dig further into the Cubs’ haul later on, but my initial impression is that the brains did enough to address pitching depth and also to bring in plenty of able bodies to fill minor league rosters, with a few of them likely to make at least some noise.