Results tagged ‘ Minor Leagues ’
It was a relatively quiet day for Cubs players in the Caribbean, but Junior Lake and Christian Villanueva stayed hot Monday. Here are some notes from yesterday’s winter league action:
- RHP Frank Batista pitched 2.0 innings in the Aguilas Cibaenas 5-1 loss to the Estrellas de Oriente. He gave up two hits and one unearned run, walked one and struck out one.
- LF Junior Lake went 2-for-4 with two singles and two strikeouts for the Estrellas de Oriente, raising his winter average to .455.
- 3B Christian Villanueva went 3-for-4 with an RBI and a run scored in the Yaquis de Obregon’s 7-3 win over the Naranjeros de Hermosillo.
- LHP Joseph Ortiz picked up his ninth hold of the winter campaign, pitching 0.1 scoreless innings in the Tiburones de La Guaira’s 6-2 loss to the Aguilas del Zulia. He is 3-0 in the Venezuelan League with a 2.89 ERA in 18.2 innings.
- 2B Luis Valbuena went 1-for-4 with a run scored and a strikeout in the Cardenales de Lara’s 7-3 win over the Caribes de Anzoategui.
Marty Pevey returns for his third season as manager of the Triple-A Iowa Cubs. (Photo courtesy of Iowa Cubs)
The Cubs announced their minor league managers and coaching staffs for the 2015 season on Wednesday. A majority of the managers are familiar faces, but many of the coaches are new to the organization or to their affiliate. Below are the staffs, broken down by club:
Manager: Marty Pevey
Pitching Coach: Mike Cather
Hitting Coach/Asst.: Brian Harper/Leo Perez
Trainer: Scott Barringer
Marty Pevey begins his third season as Triple-A Iowa’s manager after serving as Chicago’s catching coordinator for three seasons from 2010-12. Pevey was the manager at Single-A Peoria in 2009, his first season with the organization. He has a combined 31 years of professional experience (13 years as a player and 18 years as a manager, coach or coordinator), and was named the 2009 Midwest League co-Manager of the Year. Joining Pevey at Iowa will be newly hired pitching coach, Mike Cather, who spent 2014 as Triple-A El Paso’s pitching coach in the Padres’ system. Cather enters his 10th season as a coach after six seasons in the Red Sox system and three seasons in the San Diego organization. Originally drafted by the Rangers in 1993, he pitched in parts of three seasons with the Braves from 1997-99. Brian Harper returns for his third season as Iowa’s hitting coach after managing Double-A Tennessee in 2011 and Single-A Daytona in 2012. A former catcher, Harper played 16 seasons in the majors with seven teams. Rounding out the coaching staff is former Cubs farmhand Leo Perez, who begins his seventh season as a coach in the organization and his first with Iowa. Scott Barringer returns for his second season as Iowa’s athletic trainer and his third in the Cubs organization.
Manager: Buddy Bailey
Pitching Coach: Storm Davis
Hitting Coach/Asst.: Desi Wilson/Guillermo Martinez
Trainer: Shane Nelson
Buddy Bailey begins his fourth-straight season (and fifth overall) as Tennessee’s manager after guiding the Smokies to a 214-203 (.513) mark in the last three seasons. Bailey spent three years as Daytona’s skipper prior to joining the Smokies, compiling a 215-196 (.523) record, including a 2011 Florida State League Championship. This will mark Bailey’s 27th year as a manager and his 10th with the organization. Storm Davis begins his third season with the organization and his second as Tennessee’s pitching coach after serving in the same role with Daytona in 2013. The former right-handed pitcher went 113-96 with a 4.02 ERA during a 13-year big league career. Desi Wilson, entering his eighth season with the organization, returns as the hitting coach for a third year after handling the same duties at Daytona in 2012. The only new member of the Smokies’ staff, Guillermo Martinez, joins as an assistant coach after serving in a similar role last season with Single-A Boise. Shane Nelson rounds out the staff as the team’s athletic trainer for the second-straight year.
Single-A Myrtle Beach
Manager: Mark Johnson
Pitching Coach: David Rosario
Hitting Coach/Asst.: Mariano Duncan/Chris Gutierrez
Trainer: Peter Fagan
Mark Johnson, now entering his fifth season in the organization, takes over as manager of the Cubs’ new Single-A affiliate, Myrtle Beach. He spent the last two seasons as manager at Single-A Kane County, where he led the 2014 Cougars to a 91-49 record and a Midwest League championship after sweeping through the playoffs with a 7-0 mark. Johnson began his managerial career in 2011 with Boise after enjoying a 17-year professional playing career that included 332 major league games with four clubs. Handling pitching coach duties at Myrtle Beach will be David Rosario, who is entering his 11th year in the Cubs’ system and served with Johnson last season at Kane County. Mariano Duncan returns for his third season as the club’s High-A hitting coach after serving the previous two campaigns as Tennessee’s hitting coach (2011-12). The 12-year major league veteran (1985-87, 1989-97) joined the Cubs in 2011 after spending the previous five seasons (2006-10) as the Dodgers’ major league first base coach. Rounding out the coaching staff is Chris Gutierrez, who began his coaching career last season as an assistant coach with Single-A Kane County. Peter Fagan returns to Myrtle Beach as the athletic trainer.
Single-A South Bend
Manager: Jimmy Gonzalez
Pitching Coach: Brian Lawrence
Hitting Coach/Asst.: Jesus Feliciano/Osmin Melendez
Trainer: Jonathan Fierro
Jimmy Gonzalez begins his second season as a manager in the organization, taking over the Cubs’ new Single-A affiliate in South Bend. He made his managerial debut last season with Rookie-League Mesa after serving as hitting coach with the club in 2013. A former catcher, Gonzalez played 14 minor league seasons after being selected in the first round of the 1991 Draft by Houston. Brian Lawrence enters his first season as South Bend’s pitching coach after serving in the same role with Boise in 2014. Lawrence made his coaching debut in 2012 in the Independent Frontier League and spent 2013 as pitching coach of Single-A Lake Elsinore in the Padres system. The former right-hander went 50-63 with a 4.19 ERA during a six-year big league career with the Padres and Mets. Jesus Feliciano moves up to South Bend after serving as the hitting coach last season at Boise in his debut year as a coach. He enjoyed a 16-year playing career from 1998-2013 and saw action in 54 games with the Mets in 2010. Osmin Melendez will serve as an assistant coach after coaching with Mesa last season and managing the Cubs Venezuela rookie league team in 2013. Jonathan Fierro begins his third season as an athletic trainer in the organization after serving in Kane County in 2014 and Boise in 2013.
Manager: Gary Van Tol
Pitching Coach: Anderson Tavares
Hitting Coach/Asst.: Ricardo Medina/Terrmel Sledge
Trainer: Mike McNulty
Gary Van Tol returns for his third season as the club’s Short Season-A manager, but he’ll take over a new affiliate, the Eugene Emeralds. Van Tol guided Boise to consecutive 41-35 records in his first two seasons, securing a playoff berth both years. Prior to becoming a manager, Van Tol served as bench coach in Boise for five years and has extensive experience as a coach in the college ranks, including as an assistant at his alma mater, Gonzaga. Joining the staff at Eugene will be pitching coach Anderson Tavares, who spent the last two seasons with Rookie-League Mesa. Tavares played in the Cubs system from 2000-05 and worked as a pitching coach with the Cubs Dominican Summer League team from 2007-12. Ricardo Medina enters his first season as hitting coach with Single-A Eugene after two years with Mesa. He has been involved in the Cubs organization since 1999 as a coach, manager or scout. A new addition to the organization, former major league outfielder Terrmel Sledge rounds out the coaching staff as an assistant coach. Mike McNulty joins Eugene as the team’s athletic trainer after serving in the same role last season with Mesa.
Rookie League Mesa
Manager: Carmelo Martinez
Pitching Coach: Ron Villone
Hitting Coach/Asst.: Oscar Bernard/Ty Wright
Trainer: Toby Williams
Carmelo Martinez enters his 18th season in the organization and begins his second stint as manager with Mesa after serving in the role from 1999-2003, and again in 2006. He has a career record of 159-185 (.462) as Mesa’s manager. Martinez previously served as the Cubs’ Latin America field coordinator for six seasons and played in the majors from 1983-91 with the Cubs, Padres, Phillies, Pirates, Royals and Reds. Ron Villone begins his fourth season as a coach in the Cubs organization and his first with Mesa. A former left-handed pitcher, he played in all or part of 15 major league seasons from 1995-2009 with 12 teams. Oscar Bernard begins his first season as the hitting coach for Mesa after spending the previous two seasons as the Dominican Cubs hitting coach. Ty Wright joins the staff as an assistant coach after an eight-year playing career, seven of which came in the Cubs system. Toby Williams begins his second season in the organization and his first as Mesa’s athletic trainer.
Manager: Juan Cabreja
Pitching Coach: Armando Gabino
Hitting Coach/Asst.: Claudio Almonte
Trainer: Jose Alvarez
Juan Cabreja returns for a second-consecutive year as manager of the Dominican Cubs after previously managing the club from 2007-08 and managing the Cubs’ second Dominican club in 2012. He led the team to a 42-28 mark last season and has a 244-204 (.545) overall managerial record. Armando Gabino enters his first season as a pitching coach in the organization after a playing career that saw him pitch in seven games over two seasons with the Twins and Orioles. Claudio Almonte also joins the organization as the Dominican Cubs hitting coach after managing the Mariners Dominican Summer League team in 2014. Jose Alvarez begins his second season as the club’s athletic trainer.
Manager: Pedro Gonzalez
Pitching Coach: Eduardo Villacis
Hitting Coach/Asst.: Franklin Blanco
Trainer: Arnoldo Goite
Pedro Gonzalez begins his second year as the Venezuelan Cubs manager after going 28-40 in his first season. He will be joined by pitching coach Eduardo Villacis and hitting coach Franklin Blanco. Villacis enters his first season with the organization, while Blanco begins his ninth year with the Cubs and his third-straight season in Venezuela. Arnoldo Goite returns as the club’s athletic trainer.
The Cubs Thursday selected the contract of right-handed pitcher C.J. Edwards from Double-A Tennessee. Chicago’s 40-man roster now stands at 39 players.
Edwards, 23, is 14-7 with a 1.86 ERA (49 ER/237.0 IP) in 50 minor league outings (49 starts) covering the last three seasons. The right-hander has struck out 294 batters in 237.0 innings pitched, an average of 11.2 strikeouts per nine innings, and has allowed only two home runs, an average of roughly one per 119.0 innings pitched. Edwards has also turned in a 0.975 WHIP.
The Newbury, South Carolina, native was originally selected by Texas in the 48th Round of the 2011 Draft. He was acquired by the Cubs as part of the trade that sent Matt Garza to Texas in 2013 and went 2-0 with a 1.36 ERA (5 ER/33.0 IP) in eight starts with Daytona to help the club to the Florida State League Championship. Edwards was slowed by injury last season but returned to go 1-2 with a 2.44 ERA (13 ER/48.0 IP) in 10 starts with Tennessee and pitched in the Arizona Fall League, earning All-Star honors with a 1-0 record and a 1.80 ERA (3 ER/15.0 IP) in six starts.
Tennessee and Boise pitchers got the job done Sunday, while Kane County returned to its winning ways. Iowa was the only team in the loss column. Daytona and Mesa were rained out. Here are some highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (61-56)
2nd Place (-0.5)
Iowa fell out of first place with a 7-5 loss at Omaha.
- SS Javier Baez (.260) posted his first multihomer game of the season, going 2-for-3 with two walks and two solo home runs. After hitting a combined 11 homers in 72 games in April, May and June, Baez has 12 blasts in 32 games in July and August.
- DH Josh Vitters (.212) went 3-for-4 with his 13th double of the campaign.
- RHPs Arodys Vizcaino (7.62) and Armando Rivero (0.92) combined to toss three scoreless innings.
Tennessee Smokies (22-22)
2nd Place (-0.5)
Tennessee held on for a 4-1 victory over visiting Pensacola despite recording just four hits.
- SS Addison Russell (.293) went 1-for-3 with an eighth-inning, two-run homer.
- LF Lars Anderson (.351) went 1-for-3 with a double (4) and two RBI (5).
- LHP Andrew McKirahan (2.65) allowed one hit in two scoreless innings of relief.
- RHP Pierce Johnson tossed his third-straight quality start, giving up two hits and no earned runs over six innings. He’s holding right-handed hitters to a .181 batting average (26-for-144) this season.
Kane County Cougars (25-17)
1st Place (+4.0)
Kane County won its third-straight game, beating visiting Quad Cities, 9-5.
- C Cael Brockmeyer (.305) went 3-for-5 with a sixth-inning, solo blast.
- SS Dan Lockhart (.276) and 2B Chesny Young (.375) each recorded three hits apiece.
- RF Jeffry Baez (.258) went 2-for-3 with two runs, a double (14), a triple (1) and two RBI (3).
- CF Trey Martin (.253) went 1-for-4 with two RBI (28).
Boise Hawks (6-7)
4th Place (-3.0)
Boise limited visiting Vancouver to six hits in a 3-2 victory.
- RHP Trevor Clifton picked up the win, giving up just one hit over five innings and striking out six.
- 2B David Bote (.328) went 2-for-4 with a third-inning, solo homer.
- CF Rashad Crawford (.276) went 2-for-4 with two runs scored and his 12th stolen base of the year.
- RHP Brad Markey (2.84) struck out four hitters in two scoreless innings of relief to earn his second save of the season.
The Cubs minor league affiliates went 1-2 Tuesday, with only the Short-Season A Boise Hawks picking up a win, but the real news was two well-deserved call-ups. Last year’s first-round pick Kris Bryant is moving up to Triple-A Iowa after tearing up the Southern League, and 2014 first-round pick Kyle Schwarber is heading to Single-A Kane County after just five games. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s action:
Iowa Cubs (34-35)
3rd Place (-5.5)
After jumping ahead 2-0, Iowa surrendered eight runs to lose at home to El Paso, 8-5.
- SS Javier Baez (.219) hit his 11th homer, a three-run shot with two out in the eighth inning.
- 1B Chris Valaika (.294) recorded his third multihit effort in his last four games, going 2-for-4 with a run, a homer and one RBI (33).
- RF Matt Szczur (.243) added two more hits, going 2-for-4 with a run scored and a double (8).
- Jokisch’s 10 strikeouts were his most since he fanned 11 on May 7, 2012, with Daytona.
Tennessee Smokies (33-36)
2nd Place (-12.5)
Recently called up Tennessee Smokies 3B Kris Bryant, LHP Hunter Cervenka, and RHPs P.J. Francescon and Armando Rivero all made appearances for the North squad in the Southern League All-Star Game. Bryant went 1-for-5 at the plate, and the three Smokies pitchers combined to allow one earned run over 2.2 frames. Tennessee OF John Andreoli, 2B Stephen Bruno and RHP Corey Black, as well as Iowa C Rafael Lopez, had been named to the North Division team, but did not compete. Tennessee will resume regular season play tomorrow, hosting Chattanooga.
Daytona Cubs (25-42)
5th Place (-20.5)
Visiting Tampa scored the game’s only run in the top of the first to beat Daytona, 1-0.
- Daytona managed just four hits in the contest and went 0-for-10 with RISP.
- RF Bijan Rademacher (.289) was the only Cub to reach base twice, going 1-for-3 with a walk. Both times, he was retired on the basepaths, getting picked off at first and then thrown out stealing.
- LHP Rob Zastryzny threw his second quality start of the season. His first came in his last start on June 9 at Clearwater. He has lost both efforts, despite allowing just three earned runs over 13.2 innings.
Kane County Cougars (45-25)
1st Place (+6.5)
In the Midwest League All-Star game, the Western Division routed the Eastern squad, holding them to two hits and winning 7-0. 3B Jordan Hankins and RHP Paul Blackburn represented the Cougars. Hankins went 0-for-2 filling in at third, while Blackburn did not make it into the game. Kane County will return to action on Thursday at home against Cedar Rapids.
Boise Hawks (4-1)
T-1st Place (–)
Boise hit five home runs en route to a 12-3 victory over visiting Tri-City.
- 2014 first-round pick LF Kyle Schwarber (.600) extended his hitting streak to five games with his third three-hit game of the season, including his first double and two home runs (4). He is tied for the league lead with a .600 batting average and 12 hits. He was promoted to Kane County after the game.
- C Justin Marra (.417) went 3-for-4 with two doubles, a home run and four RBI (7).
- RF Jeffrey Baez (.300) led off the game with a homer, finishing 2-for-6 with two runs and two RBI (5).
- 1B Daniel Canela (.467) went 2-for-4 with three runs and a sixth-inning, solo home run.
The Cubs today completed the second day of the 2014 Major League Baseball First-Year Player Draft. The club thus far has selected 10 players. The third and final day of the draft is tomorrow with rounds 11-40.
The Cubs selected right-handed hitting catcher Mark Zagunis out of Virginia Tech with their third pick, and took left-handed pitcher Carson Sands out of North Florida Christian High School in Tallahassee, Fla., with their fourth selection. In the fifth round, the Cubs selected left-handed pitcher Justin Steele from George County High School in Lucedale, Miss.
Zagunis was recommended by area scout Billy Swoope, Sands was recommended by area scout Tom Clark and Steele was recommended by area scout JP Davis.
Zagunis, 21, batted .330 (69-for-209) with 10 doubles, two triples, two home runs and 39 RBI in 53 games for Virginia Tech this season, his junior year. He walked 32 times (compared to 20 strikeouts), which contributed to a .426 on-base percentage, and stole 16 bases. He was named All-ACC Second Team for the second time in his career and was a 2014 Johnny Bench Award semifinalist.
Zagunis owns a .338 (213-for-630) batting average in three seasons at Virginia Tech, recording a .430 on-base percentage thanks in part to 85 walks and only 74 strikeouts. He has recorded a .979 fielding percentage (17 E/797 TC) primarily at catcher, but has also seen time in the outfield. With 52 career stolen bases, he is just the second Hokie to record at least 50 stolen bases since the school joined the ACC.
Sands, 19, was 11-1 with a 0.58 ERA and one complete game in 14 outings, 12 starts, for North Florida Christian this past season. He struck out 100 in 60.2 innings, good for an average of 14.8 strikeouts per 9.0 innings, while walking just 24. At the dish, the left-handed hitting Sands batted .361 (26-for-72) with 12 RBI.
Sands, who posted a 1.28 ERA while going 7-2 in 11 games (nine starts) in his 2013 junior season, has committed to Florida State University. He pitched for Team USA for three summers, winning a gold medal with the 18-and-under team in 2012.
Steele, 18, was 5-1 with a 0.98 ERA in eight games for George County this past season. He struck out 92 in 43.0 innings, good for an average of 19.3 strikeouts per 9.0 innings. He walked just 12 and held the opponent to a .109 batting average while throwing two no-hitters. He was named 5A Player of the Year by state coaches.
Steele went 14-4 with a 1.62 ERA in three high school seasons at the varsity level, striking out 210 in 125.1 innings of work for an average of 15.1 strikeouts per 9.0 innings while issuing just 40 walks and allowing one home run. He has committed to the University of Southern Mississippi.
Through the first two days, the Cubs have selected eight pitchers (five right-handed and three left-handed) and two catchers. Additionally, the Cubs have selected seven college players and three high school players.
The Cubs Thursday made two selections in the opening rounds of the 2014 Major League First-Year Player Draft. With the fourth-overall pick, the team took left-handed hitting catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber out of Indiana University, a player many believe is the best college bat in the draft pool. In the second round, the Cubs selected right-handed pitcher Jake Stinnett out of the University of Maryland.
Stinnett, 22, posted a 2.65 ERA (33 ER/112.0 IP) and a 7-6 record in 16 games, all but one in a starting role, for Maryland this season. In his senior year, he struck out a school single-season record and Atlantic Coast Conference-high 130 batters, good for an average of 10.4 strikeouts per 9.0 innings, and walked just 27. Stinnett also led the ACC in complete games (four) and innings pitched, and became the seventh pitcher in program history to throw a no-hitter when he turned the trick in the first game of a March 1 doubleheader against Massachusetts.
Stinnett began pitching full-time in 2013, posting a 2.83 ERA (20 ER/63.2 IP) in 16 games (nine starts), after splitting time on the mound and in the field—primarily at third base—during his first two seasons with Maryland. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder was selected by the Pirates in the 29th round of the 2013 draft, but he did not sign. Stinnett is a graduate of Rancho Buena Vista High School in Vista, Calif.
The 2014 MLB Draft continues Friday at 12 p.m. CT with Rounds 3-10 and concludes Saturday with Rounds 11-40.
With the First-Year MLB Player Draft looming next week (June 5-7), ESPN Insider Keith Law updated the Top 25 players from his preseason Top 100 prospect rankings Friday. Despite the fact that three players from the initial group have moved on to the big leagues, there were no huge changes. The Cubs landed two players on the list, with third-baseman Kris Bryant—and his 16 home runs—moving up seven spots since the preseason, and Javier Baez falling two spots after a sluggish start.
Here’s what Law had to say about the Cubs prospects. The whole article is definitely worth a read, but you must have an ESPN Insider account to access it.
8. Kris Bryant | 3B | Chicago Cubs (age 22)
Current level: Double-A (Tennessee)
Preseason ranking: 15
Aside from a high strikeout rate (more than 25 percent of his plate appearances), Bryant’s season so far is unimpeachable, as he’s walking, hitting for average, hitting for huge power and improving the second time around the league. We’ll have to see what happens to that contact rate when he gets to Triple-A, though.
9. Javier Baez | SS | Chicago Cubs (age 21)
Current level: Triple-A (Iowa)
Preseason ranking: 7
Speaking of Cubs who don’t make enough contact in Triple-A, here’s Baez, owner of the fastest bat in the minors, striking out in a third of his plate appearances so far this year for Iowa.
When he does square the ball up, he hits it hard, but he’s got work to do to make more contact, especially cutting down on his aggressiveness with two strikes, before he’s ready to come up and take over any position in Chicago.
There were quite a few bright spots in an 0-5 day for the Cubs minor league affiliates Thursday. Top prospect Javier Baez continued his rebound with a multihit effort, Arismendy Alcantara hit his seventh triple of the season, and Kris Bryant clubbed his league-leading 16th home run. Here are the highlights from yesterday’s minor league action:
Iowa Cubs (27-24)
T-1st Place (–)
GM 1: Redbirds closer David Aardsma held the I-Cubs scoreless in the top of the seventh inning to close out a 2-1 victory for Memphis in the suspended game from Wednesday night.
- SS Javier Baez (.229) recorded Iowa’s lone multihit game, going 2-for-3.
- 2B Arismendy Alcantara (.282) went 1-for-3 with an RBI (26) and his team-leading seventh triple.
GM 2: Memphis LHP Tim Cooney still had a no-hitter going with two outs in the top of the ninth inningbefore Alcantara spoiled his bid at history with a single to left field. The I-Cubs fell, 4-0.
- Alcantara (.282) extended his hitting streak to five games with the two-out single.
- RHP Alberto Cabrera (5.48) struck out two hitters in 2.0 scoreless innings of work.
Tennessee Smokies (26-27)
2nd Place (-10.5)
Tennessee lost its fourth straight one-run game to host Huntsville, as they fell 4-3.
- 3B Kris Bryant (.347) went 1-for-4 and clubbed his Southern League-leading 16th homer of the campaign. Bryant has now homered in three of his last four games and is hitting .406 (41-for-101) with 28 runs, six doubles, 11 home runs and 33 RBI in 27 May games.
- 2B Wes Darvill (.232) and 1B Charles Cutler (.330) each had two hits apiece.
- RHP Joe Gardner has allowed just one run on three hits in two starts with the Smokies (11.2 IP).
Daytona Cubs (20-31)
5th Place (-17.0)
Visiting Palm Beach recorded 11 hits in an 8-1 victory over Daytona.
- DH Chadd Krist (.226) recorded Daytona’s lone multihit game, going 2-for-4.
- RF Bijan Rademacher (.315) went 1-for-2 with a walk and his 12th double of the year.
- LF Zeke DeVoss (.189) went 1-for-2 with a walk and drove in his sixth run of the campaign.
Kane County Cougars (36-18)
1st Place (+6.5)
Kane County had its four-game winning streak snapped in a 5-0 loss at Clinton.
- DH Ben Carhart (.297) reached base four times, going a perfect 3-for-3 with a walk.
- C Cael Brockmeyer (.350) posted his second three-hit game of the year, going 3-for-4.
- 1B Jacob Rogers (.246) went 1-for-4 and has now hit safely in five of his last six games.
Kris Bryant visits Wrigley Field shortly after the Cubs made him their top pick in 2013. (Photo by Stephen Green)
Major league scouting directors tend to be vague when asked about their draft strategies leading up to the big day in June. They generally offer some variation on the same theme.
“It is the simple answer of picking the best guy available,” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting. “We’ve made no bones about trying to get as much pitching as we can. But in the last two drafts, we’ve taken position players with our first picks, because we felt Albert [Almora] and Kris [Bryant] were the most impactful guys for us at those draft positions.”
The 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft will take place next week, from June 5-7. Though McLeod and his staff have consistently gone after the best available players with their top picks—regardless of need—they have shown a few common tendencies that might inform their decisions this year.
Since 2011, the year before the current front office took over, the Cubs have trended toward college selections. That year, 40 percent of the players the team picked came out of college. Last year, 55 percent of draftees played college ball. Meanwhile, the percentage of high school players drafted has decreased from 42 percent in 2011 to 27.5 percent in 2013.
Second, right-handed pitchers have dominated the draft board. Nearly 40 percent of the players selected by the Cubs in each of the last three drafts were righties. Under the Epstein/Hoyer regime, the Cubs have picked 38 right-handed arms, 20 of them from college and seven from junior college.
But the Cubs’ right-hander-heavy drafts may be less a function of preference than of consistent depth at the position. And this year is no exception. According to Baseball America, there are 19 right-handed pitchers among the top 50 draft-eligible players for 2014.
McLeod also added that pitchers in general are easier to project.
“You walk into a ballpark and see someone with fairly clean mechanics who’s throwing 90-94, and you’re pretty comfortable recommending him,” McLeod said. “Hitters, especially high school hitters, take more investment. You have to see them on multiple occasions and in the right circumstances before you can say that, yes, you think this guy will hit at the next level.”
Of course, drafting players is only half the battle. Signing them takes just as much work. A year ago, the Cubs signed just 60 percent of their draft picks. The prior season, the team had better luck, inking 81 percent of players selected.
The good news is the organization has gotten better at signing premium talent. In 2011, 17 of the club’s first 20 picks signed, followed by 18 of 20 in 2012 and 19 of 20 last year. Plus, the Cubs signed every one of their top 10 draftees in 2013—a crop that includes hot prospects Bryant, Tyler Skulina and Jacob Hannemann.
The team has also shown a knack for getting quick returns on draft investments. Seven of the organization’s top 20 prospects, according to MLB.com, were selected in 2012 or 2013.
“The last few drafts have had a few no-doubt guys,” McLeod said in late April. “This year, the draft is deep, but we’re still waiting on players to step to the forefront. We’re pretty wide open in terms of who we’re looking at for that top pick.”
History and the current talent pool may suggest the Cubs will take a right-hander with their top pick. But the only certainty is McLeod’s assertion that the front office will select the best players available when they are on the clock.