Revisiting The 2008 Cubs Draft

Jonathan Daniel

On occasion it's good to look back at past drafts. Here's a check-in on the Cubs' 2008 draft. How did the front office do that year?

In 2008, I was beginning to get intrigued by the MLB Draft. I wasn't injecting it directly into my veins. Yet. I was, however, happy to have some on-line acquaintances to discuss it with. I remember asking something like... "Cashner. Yea or nay?" I had a bit of a learning curve to go.

What I will do is note the main selections, evaluate their progress, note a few that came off the board just before and after, and see if we can learn anything. Your contributions are encouraged, as usual.

Round 1. Pick 19: Andrew Cashner, RHP

Cashner's velocity was never questioned. People did wonder (as they still do) if he's a major-league starter or reliever. After a slow start in 2008, he crushed every minor league level the rest of the way. In the majors in 2010, his numbers were skewed by a couple of really bad outings. In 2011, his one start in the majors was a good one, but it effectively ended his season. He was then dealt for Anthony Rizzo.

It was a decent enough pick (the three before were Brett Lawrie, David Cooper, and Ike Davis; the three after were Josh Fields (the pitcher, not the third baseman), Ryan Perry, and David Havens) and I'm more than satisfied with it.

Round 1. Pick 41: Ryan Flaherty, IF

Finding a position defensively for Flaherty was, and still is, a challenge. He generally OPS'd over .800 up the ladder. He was one of the system's better tweeners, which is a bit of being damned by faint praise. That said, when a player outside the top 40 picks reaches the big time, someone did something well. The three before were (Jordan Lyles, Mike Lynn, and Brett DeVall) and the next three were (Jaff Decker, Wade Miley, and Jeremy Bleich). I think he was intended to be Theo Epstein's compensation, but Baltimore messed that all up.

Solid thumbs up here as well.

Round 2. Pick 65: Aaron Shafer, RHP

A big righthander out of Wichita State, Shafer never adjusted well to Double-A ball. It happens. He was good enough in Peoria in 2009, and represented well the next season in Daytona. Tennessee was not nice to him. (Thomas Adams, Kenneth Wilson, and Robert Stovall) were the prior three, and Dennis Raben, Cody Satterwhite, and Javier Rodriguez came next.

It wasn't a bad pick. It simply didn't work out.

Round 3. Pick 97: Chris Carpenter, RHP

You could rename this the "Theo Epstein Compensation Draft". Carpenter pitched well enough through Double-A, but seemed to struggle in Triple-A. Though he wasn't 'lights out' in A ball, he certainly earned his promotion. Carpenter ended up being part of Boston's rake for Epstein (along with Aaron Kurcz), and seemed to be a solid selection, and properly developed. Logan Schafer, Andrew Liebel, and yes, Craig Kimbrel came off just before Carpenter, who the Cubs expected to be gone at this spot. Ben Pribanic, Scott Green, and Kirk Niewenhuis were the next three to go.

Round 4. Pick 131: Matt Cerda, IF

An interesting book could be written about Cerda. A feature or two have been written about comparing him to his Little League World Series opponent Danny Almonte. Cerda's bonus saw the team get fined, as they didn't 'request permission' to get his bonus okayed -- it was required then to ask about bonuses higher than the slotted amount. He was a very Theo draft selection before it was remotely cool.

His hitting in Double-A last season was as good as at any level before, but that was only an OPS of .749. (He OPS'd .751 in Daytona the season before, but with less power.) I wouldn't be at all surprised to see Cerda coaching in the Cubs system in three years. Which is probably what some said about Jamie Moyer in the late 80's. Jason Kipnis went 4 picks later, and I don't recognize the other names.

Round 5. Pick 161: Justin Bristow, RHP

The 6-4 righthander was solid, though not spectacular, in Peoria in 2009, and then arm troubles hit. 2011 was his last year. Pitchers will get hurt, which is why you draft so many of them. His batch of picks was really good for late in Round 5. Tyler Pastornicky went before him by two, and Brett Lorin and Alex Avila followed him.

Round 6. Pick 191: Josh Harrison, IF

Another solid pick, even if he never made it to PNC Park. Harrison hit enough to get included in the Tom Gorzelanny trade, and any time a 6th Rounder helps bring in 2 big leaguers in trade, that is impressive. Harrison had too many people in the Cubs system to outproduce to worry if he was going to reach the MLB. Josh Satin went three picks later.

Round 7. Pick 221: Luis Flores, C

Flores has never managed fifty games for a team in a season. He is a back-up catcher type, and had one stretch in 2011 where he hit with power. I have few if any memories of Flores, a Oklahoma State Cowboy in college. Eric Thames went two before Flores, and Nate Tenbrink went next.

Round 8. Pick 251:James Leverton, LHP

Leverton is still, or, more precisely, back around. The Cubs released him after an adequate year in 2010. I remember moderate surprise he was released, but no major amazement. He had a 1.225 WHIP in Double-A for the Marlins last year. Evan Crawford and Andy Dirks sandwiched his pick by two apiece. Brett Oberholtzer went one pick before.

Round 9. Pick 281: Jay Jackson, RHP

Drafted as Randy Jackson from Furman, Jackson sprinted up the system ladder to Iowa, And stalled. I think he received a decent bonus. It's unfortunate that his command hasn't justified a call-up, but nothing else in that range has done much either. Scouting is a tough job. Jackson was a good gamble. It's simply one that hasn't paid off.

Round 10. Pick 311: Alex Wilson

Drafted as William Wilson (this apparently beint the player-to-be-re-named-later portion of the draft), he returned to school after not signing with Chicago. Epstein drafted him in 2009 in the second round. He is rumored to be in trade talks between Boston and Chicago, though the particulars escape me. James Hoover went the pick before to Atlanta. They seem to draft pitchers well.

Rounds 11-15: Tony Campana (13), Casey Coleman (15)

Even though they catch grief around here, that two from the early teens made it to Wrigley is a sign that... well, I'm not sure what it means. But they reached Wrigley, and that's pretty good for teen-round picks. Campana and Harrison played college ball at the University Of Cincinnati.

Rounds 16-20: Jeff Beliveau (18), David Macias (19)

We're familiar with Beliveau, but who, you ask, is Macias? He washed out as a player, but is in the front office as we speak. As a former infielder, he helped convince his former Vanderbilt Pitching Coach to come work for the Cubs. Not bad for a 19th-rounder.

Rounds 20-35: Vincent (Logan) Watkins (21), Rebel Ridling (25)

Watkins was a severe over-slot recipient. He had signed to play quarterback in college, but was offered enough of a bonus to play baseball. Tim Wilken guessed right there, though one wonders how his drafts would have been different if he were allowed to invest freely from the start, or at least earlier than 2011. Ridling is still able to hit, but has no real position other than first base.

Rounds 36-50: Mike Brenly (36), Tony Zych (46), Pete Levitt (50)

I thought Brenly would continue to hit better than he did. Though, for a 36th-rounder, he's done well. The other two were drafted and signed in later drafts.

Realistically, this was a very good draft, tempered by a lack of flash. That said, with as many signees will have reached the majors, there were no major snarls here. I may do more of these, but really don't feel qualified to do any earlier than this. I have no memories of some of these guys, and going back farther wouldn't help.

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