Results tagged ‘ draft ’

Cubs select Almora sixth overall in 2012 draft

As the Cubs brain trust will tell you, draft day is the most important day of the year.

The Chicago Cubs made three selections in the opening rounds of Monday’s 2012 Major League First-Year Player Draft, taking high school outfielder Albert Almora with the sixth overall pick. The team also selected two right-handed pitchers in the compensation round: 21-year-old Pierce Johnson with the 43rd pick (compensation for Aramis Ramirez) and 18-year-old Paul Blackburn with the 56th pick (compensation for Carlos Peña).

The Cubs’ interest in Almora, an 18-year-old out of Mater Academy Charter in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., might have been the worst-kept secret in the draft. Most experts expected the Cubs to take the high-ceiling outfielder, whom Baseball America named the best defensive player, second-best outfielder and the third-best high school player in the 2012 draft class

The six-foot-two, 180-pound Almora hit .603 (44-for-73) with 13 doubles, five triples, six home runs and 34 RBI in 25 games for Mater Academy last season. His 14 walks compared to just three strikeouts in 87 plate appearances helped him to a robust .677 on-base percentage.

The 2011 USA Baseball Athlete of the Year has also been part of six USA national teams and earned five gold medals. He is committed to the University of Miami.

“We scouted Albert extensively throughout his career, and he fit the criteria we were looking for,” said Jason McLeod, Cubs vice president of scouting and player development. “He has multiple tools across the board and an incredible work ethic. We are looking forward to seeing him start his career.”

Johnson, a right-hander out of  Missouri State University, led the Missouri Valley Conference with 119 strikeouts in 99.2 innings pitched  this past season. He was named the conference’s Pitcher of the Week twice, helping lead the Bears to their first NCAA Regional appearance in nine years.

Blackburn went 8-3 with a 1.27 ERA and notched 87 strikeouts in 77.1 innings of work for Heritage High School in Brentwood, Calif. He recorded his first career no-hitter this past May, striking out eight and walking two. Blackburn is committed to Arizona State University.

Five minutes with….Oneri Fleita

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for FIVE MINUTES LOGOThe story goes something like this:

George Halas, looking for a suitable name for his football club, the Staleys, saw that sportswriters were calling the Chicago National League Ball Club, the Cubs. Halas liked the name so much and wanting to keep some continuity to the city’s mascots, briefly decided he’d rename his Staleys the Cubs, as well. But then it occurred to him–if baseball players are Cubs, and his football players were significantly larger than baseball players, wouldn’t that make them Bears?

And the rest is history.

About a month ago, Cubs VP of Player Personnel Oneri Fleita (below) was in Indianapolis for the NFL Scouting Combine, the annual evaluation of college football’s top players. It is here where NFL teams put into empircal data the skills and physical attributes of players into whom they
FLEITA O 05180746.JPGmight be investing millions of dollars. It is also where Fleita saw first-hand the vast
disparity in just sheer size between his baseball players and these football players.

I guess Halas was right.

Fleita was there as a guest, a precursor visit to his real objective–the NFL pre-camp workouts. He was interested to perhaps glean some player development techniques, exercises or programs he could install into the Cubs farm system. With the NFL Draft on the near horizon, the Combine acts as a clearing house of scouting information and Fleita came away impressed.

Vine Line: I overheard at Spring Training that you had attended the NFL Scouting Combine. What was that like? 
Oneri Fleita: Well, the first thing I was thinking was I wish we could get some of these great athletes out on the diamond to hit a round ball with a round bat squarely. These guys were really impressive athletes. Elite. We have to get more of these kind of guys playing baseball.

VLWhat were the differences or similarities between scouting techniques used for baseball and those used for football?
OF: I’d probably compare the scouting methods comparble to what we do in the Dominican Republic in the sense that we really can’t go to see a lot of high school games or college games. It’s a lot more of open tryouts, physical tests like making guys run the 60 [yard dash]
bench.jpgand time them or put them through some agility drills like catching fly balls, ground balls, those kinds of things. Pitchers throwing a bullpen would be similar to what the Combine did with quarterbacks and having them throw to receivers running pass patterns or through targets.

VL: Are football scouting staffs smaller or larger in size than baseball scouting staffs?
Well, baseball staffs are much larger. Football guys are scouting mainly at college games because for them, college is like their minor leagues. But there aren’t that many games in a season. What, maybe 14, 15 games? Our guys easily see over a hundred games between minor-leagues, high school, college and the majors. So I think the Combine allows
jump.jpgthe NFL scouts to measure certain things using drills such as speed or strength. I mean, heck, we don’t ever have anyone see how many times they can bench 225 pounds! Seeing some of these guys who look like toothpicks fire it up and down was quite impressive. (Photos by But their scouting reports are very detailed. We don’t measure things like hand size or vertical leap. But they don’t do a lot of projecting like we do. Their guys have to go and step in and play, whereas we’ll try to project maybe a kid will develop a second or third pitch or he’ll get a little bigger. In the NFL, these guys often have to go straight from college to the NFL gridiron.

VL: I guess that’s the big difference between the sports, personnel-wise. The NFL teams don’t have that reserve of guys who have time to learn. Most have to be ready to play now?
In just listening and observing and understanding what many of the teams have to contend with, things are very tight. They have a salary cap, so their numbers are very tight to where you just can’t carry a lot of guys who aren’t ready to step in and contribute to winning a game every Sunday.

–Mike Huang

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Down on the Farm: Andrew Cashner

This isn’t the first time Andrew Cashner has been drafted, but it appears to be the last. The 19th overall pick has been drafted four times. First in 2005 out of high school by the Braves, then in 2006 by the Rockies, next in 2007 by the Cubs and then, finally, again by Chicago yesterday.

Cashner.jpg“It has been a long process,” Cashner said. “I’ve come a long way since high school, and I think this year is finally the first year I have grown into my body and matured in a baseball standpoint….I left high school at 5-9, and I left TCU at 6-6, 190 pounds so I have come a long way.”

Cashner has made tremendous strides physically in the past year, putting on weight and developing a 98-mph fastball and mid-80s power curve that has helped his stock rise from a 29th-round pick last year to a first-round pick 12 months later. The flame thrower attributes his success to a new diet and workout plan that awaited him after he transferred to Texas Christian University in the fall.

“[TCU] put me on a meal plan and a nutrition plan, and I sat down with our nutritionist and gained some weight. Then the strength coach helped me out a lot, and I put on a lot of muscle and got a lot stronger this year.”

Bigger and stronger, Cashner has electric stuff, but it didn’t fully translate into production until Cashner was made TCU’s closer after being a lifetime starter. TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle made the decision because of the lack of depth in the Horned Frogs bullpen.

At first, the move worried Cashner.

“To be frank, [Cashner] wasn’t so sure,” Schlossnagle said. “Most starting pitchers…feel that the pen is a demotion. We tried to convince him that if he can be really good at this, the elite college closers have done really well in the draft, and if they stay in the bullpen, they move to the big leagues real quick.”

It only took one outing for Cashner to be convinced.

“In his very first opportunity against Cal State Fullerton in our second game of the season…he was 97-99 [mph] and needless to say he bought in pretty quick.”

So far Schlossnagle has been right. Cashner was the first relief pitcher taken in the draft, and if he continues to grow as a pitcher, the green ivy of Wrigley Field could be on the horizon.

Tim Wilken, the Director of Amateur and Professional Scouting for the Cubs, couldn’t agree more, but he is biding his time to decide what role the big righty will take.

“I think we are going to let this one take its own pace,” Wilken said. “His delivery is pretty darn sound and is probably one of the better ones in this draft….He is comfortable in what he is doing…but he has started in the past.

“I think he’s got good versatility and can go either way. We are very happy.”

And what does the Texas native know of Chicago?

“I know that Wrigley Field is awesome and that they are in first place, and Lou Piniella is doing a great job with them.”

Couldn’t have been said much better.

Zach Martin