For whatever reason or reasons, Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts took a more active role in his second June draft. He was in the war room for all or most of the draft, and has been reported as saying numerous times, "Take the best player" quite often. To even say that indicates that, in the past, that hadn't been the case. Until proven wrong, I will hold to the premise that the process of drafting to a low budget has been a bigger problem historically than any curses or farm animals.
Another set of problems, which seems to be getting cleared up, were possible sub-standard coaching and ignoring current techniques, including technology. With Jim Hendry's firing, after seeing the draft class through to the signing deadline, and the Theo Epstein cadre taking over, the change was made official. How long it will take to get the ship righted is still, and will be, debated -- until such time as it is.
The 2011 draft, then, was led by Tim Wilken and Jim Hendry, but largely developed by Epstein's crew. While volumes could be written on which portion mattered more, the variance starts rather early.
First Round: SS Javier Baez
With the ninth pick in the first round, the Cubs took the talented and sometimes enigmatic Baez. In his first season, he had a cup of coffee in Boise, which is a rapid progression. By my recall, he was overmatched, and wasn't a key performer in the postseason, which he would have been if he were playing to the competition. In his first full season with the organization, he was held back from going to full season ball in April. The reason seems to be maturity issues, but that's just a guess.
After getting called up to, and accustomed to Peoria, he shredded the Midwest League. He earned a late ticket to Daytona in High-A, where he struggled. The same happened in April with the D-Cubs, but he rebounded, keyed by a four-homer game. He homered in his first Tennessee at-bat, then struggled for four games, before figuring the league out. He will be among the game's top prospects when the lists come out in January.
Baez swings at too many bad pitches, and misplays too many routine chances on defense. He punishes pitches in the zone, and makes the spectacular play look routine. He looks to have been a solid selection, but his skills have been honed by solid tutelage.
Second Round: 1B Dan Vogelbach
Mocked some for his size on some YouTube videos, it took some money to get Vogelbach out of his college commitment. That had rarely happened before, and is a reason why this draft will be positively remembered. Vogelbach is a good hitter, in terms of patience, power, and contact. He is a work-in-progress at first, and may be best suited as a designated hitter. Left field or third base are largely out of the question.
He had a very good half-season-ish in Boise in 2012, and his Kane County stint the next year earned him a call-up to Daytona for the D-Cubs' title run in September. He represents a potential fifth or sixth hitter, and looks to make the jump to Tennessee in April.
I wouldn't be surprised at all to see Vogelbach dealt this off-season. If he is, I will wish him well. What a team should do in the June draft is grab the best player for the round within your salary structure. Then, develop him into the best talent he can be. In this instance, the Cubs seemed oblivious to his position. Get the best there is, and figure out other things later.
Vogelbach will be a big leaguer -- whether with the Cubs or not is immaterial. As a high-school pick, he jumped the median, reaching High-A this season. That is the production you expect from an early pick. This draft has already dwarfed the prior year's, and we're just starting.
Round Three: 2B/OF Zeke DeVoss
DeVoss has contributed at every level, but appears to be a CF-only type now. He flashes the leather there, but some would want more flash than a .747 OPS from him. He walks, steals bases, and has a bit of pop in his bat. He has provided a lead-off type mentality the system ignored for too long. Next year, he hits Double-A, where many questions get answered.
Round Four: P Tony Zych
A reliever who attended high school at Chicago's St. Rita, Zych was twice drafted by the Cubs. The first time, he went to college at Louisville. By his second season as a pro, he had reached Double-A. His second try there was better than his first. Zych falls under the category of 'if he cleans up his command, he could be dangerous'.
Round Five: P Tayler Scott
Scott grew up in South Africa. He is still somewhat new to pitching, and had somewhat middling results at Low-A Kane County last season. Somewhat a sinker-slider type, he is a pitch-to-contact sort. I will be intrigued if he responds to Storm Davis next season.
Round Six: C Neftali Rosario
Rosario played at three levels last season, amassing four singles and a walk.
Round Seven: 1B/3B/OF Trevor Gretzky
Gretzky has gotten lost a bit behind some better talent. Not good for him, but that players aren't being pushed along due to pedigree is a good thing. Gretzky won't embarrass himself at Low-A, but I'm not sold on him going much further up the ladder.
Round Eight: OF Taylor Dugas
Did not sign. He OPS'd .799 in the Florida State League (High-A) keyed by walk numbers. He has little power, and is a coin-flip stealing bases.
Round Nine: OF Garrett Schlecht
Schlecht was a prep pick who hasn't gotten out of Arizona yet.
Round Ten: IF Danny Lockhart
Son of a scout, he played for short-season Boise this season as their starting shortstop.
Round 11: OF Shawon Dunston, Jr.
Round 14: P Dillon Maples
Round 16: C Rafael Lopez
Round 25: 1B Rock Shoulders
Synopsis: When compared to prior drafts, I can see why this one had me so enthused. Instead of drafting toolsy guys with more questions than answers, this draft added some patient hitters, some strike throwers,and Javier Baez. As usual, most won't be contributors at the upper levels. That said, some will make a mark in the big leagues.
If this had been the standard draft over the last 30 years, even aside from Baez, the team would be in far better stead. The pitching in Maples, Scott, and Zych has under-represented a bit, but some of the pieces are still young. That this is among the best drafts in team history is an indictment on front offices back to the mid-1960s that flagged far too many drafts. Those that did their homework and had quality drafts are exempted.
There weren't many, though.