MLB Draft: Cubs Recap, The First Two Days

In MLB Draft by GW

Cub Picks So Far

As in 2012 and 2013, the Cubs loaded up on pitching on day two. After taking catcher Mark Zagunis in the third, seven straight pitchers were selected, three out of high school and four from the college ranks.

1 4 Schwarber, Kyle C 6’0″ 235 L/R JR
2 45 Stinnett, Jake RHP 6’4″ 205 R/R SR
3 78 Zagunis, Mark C 6’0″ 205 R/R JR
4 109 Sands, Carson LHP 6’3″ 205 L/L HS
5 139 Steele, Justin LHP 6’1″ 180 L/L HS
6 169 Cease, Dylan RHP 6’1″ 175 R/R HS
7 199 Norwood, James RHP 6’2″ 205 R/R JR
8 229 Thorpe, Tommy LHP 6’0″ 195 L/L JR
9 259 Farris, James RHP 6’2″ 220 R/R SR
10 289 Williams, Ryan RHP 6’4″ 220 R/R SR

Draft Strategy

I think it’s fair to say that many of us were disappointed with the selection of college senior Jake Stinnett in the second round and then catcher Mark Zagunis in the third, as opposed to two of the highly-regarded high school arms. It was a relief when the team finally did dip into the high school ranks on day two, regardless of what you think of fourth-round lefty Carson Sands and sixth-round righty Dylan Cease. The two of them, along with seventh-rounder James Norwood are likely to require overslot money to sign. Had the team avoided those types completely, the most plausible explanation would have been that Ricketts told the front office to go cheap, and nobody would be happy about that.

On the other hand, I’m starting to hear more buzz along the lines of: “great strategy, great draft” by the front office after the overslot picks from day two. So far, this talk has stopped short of saying that everything played out exactly according to the plan, and it should stay that way. Invariably this sentiment seems to pop up among a certain portion of the fanbase at the conclusion of drafts, trade deadlines, and international signing periods. As is my wont, I’m going to try to cut that line of thinking off at the pass. The reader shouldn’t, however, take criticisms as meaning I think it has been a terrible draft. I don’t.

The main trade-off the front office made in taking Stinnett and Zagunis is that they were forced to take the high school pitchers that were left, rather than the ones they wanted. By my count, thirteen high school pitchers were taken by other teams after the Cubs took Stinnett in the second and before they made Sands their first high-school selection in the fourth. Those picks account for the majority of the remaining depth in the class, and were highlighted by standout Sean Reid-Foley, taken by the Blue Jays at 49. Lest it be claimed that these were all players the Cubs were not interested in, and they ultimately drafted players they wanted all along, see the following. Here is an article reporting that the Cubs wanted Angels draftee Joe Gatto in the spot that went to Zagunis. Derek Casey was apparently offered by the Cubs, and turned them down to go to school. And of course, as Keith Law originally reported and others have since corroborated, the team really wanted Jack Flaherty in the second. I’m sure there are many other unreported cases like these, and I shouldn’t have to point them out, but, unfortunately, I think I do.

Ultimately, the issue boils down to whether locking in an underslot pick that the team liked in Stinnett was worth the significant winnowing of their options from the high school ranks that resulted. I don’t know, of course, and none of us really will for some time. Generally, though, I think the various draft experts around the web are pretty good. There are many former scouts in the bunch, and they collect tons of knowledge about what other teams are thinking- moreso than in any of the other professional sports. Look no further than the Law report on Flaherty (“…if someone like STL doesn’t grab him first”), if you need a concrete example of this. In my opinion, teams could do a lot worse than putting together a weighted average of their own opinions with a consensus of the various big boards from around the web. The ultimate goal is to maximize your own acquisitions according to your ranks, and to do that, it helps to have an idea of the wisdom of the crowd.

Quick Player Observations

  • Third-round catcher Mark Zagunis has been touted for his athleticism, and I can’t argue with his production, but is it just me, or is that a pretty odd-looking swing? And what’s up with his running form here?
  • I noted in the comment section yesterday, but how often does a team pick not one, but two pitchers with fasteners in their throwing arms? Stinnett has a pin in his elbow, and fifth-rounder Justin Steele has a screw in his wrist.
  • Dylan Cease sounds like he is in limbo after a partial tear in his UCL. I found it interesting that Jeff Hoffman and Erik Fedde went in the first round despite both needing or having recently had Tommy John surgery, and I’m glad that the Cubs haven’t invested too much in those types of players. Teams know that the highly touted success rate is really only about 3 in 4, that recipients start to drop off a few years after the surgery, and that recurrence of elbow injury is pretty high, right? They don’t need some boor on a discredited blog to point these things out, do they? I find it particularly curious in the case of someone like Hoffman, who demonstrated a sharp increase in skills in the immediate runup to his injury. It sure seems like one led to the other. Of course there’s so many unknowns, blah blah… I’m going to be interested to see the evolution of teams dealing with these issues over the next ten years or so.
  • Check out this breaking ball from ninth-rounder James Farris out of Arizona. Maybe a little slurvy, but that’s just nasty. Of course, that’s probably the best pitch he threw in college, but still…

Signing News

Agreements on dollar figures are starting to leak out.

So there’s likely to be a little more money available to the team, in addition to the expected savings on Schwarber, Stinnett, Farris, and tenth-rounder Ryan Williams.

I’ll have a Day 3 thread up in a bit, so stay tuned.

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