Cubs Minor Parts: Jacob Hannemann

Justin K. Aller

Next in a series profiling Cubs minor leaguers.

Jacob Hannemann, center fielder, 6'1", 190

Drafted in the third round from Brigham Young, 2013

Projected Stop in 2014: center field in Low-A Kane County

Possible Cubs Comp: Doug Glanville

When assessing down-the-list draft picks, there are a few ways of assessing success. The popular way is to await the player's career to end, judge his WAR value against similarly drafted players, then defend the GM you like, or criticize the GM you don't like. While I'm pushed into playing the game on occasion, it's a silly exercise mostly. Players succeed or fail for actual reasons. Assessing reasons for success or failure can educate the fan far more than a raw number can.

Hannemann was a bit of a reach in the third round. From what I've been able to piece together, someone really liked him with the second pick on day two of the draft. It took the Cubs about thirty seconds to deliver the name to the desk, and teams usually take far more than that for early picks.

Hannemann is an athlete. (Yes, I saw your eyes roll.) He played defensive back for BYU in college, and cornerback skills would seem to translate well to baseball defense. He spent two years on a mission trip, as is expected of BYU students. In his first year back to baseball, he started slowly, but was obviously really solid late.

Hannemann is a center fielder. That he is a lefty hitter is of moderate note, as so many Cubs in the pipeline hit right-handed. He OPS'd .780 in Boise while battling the bumps and bruises of two seasons in one year. There seems to be one over-riding concern with Hannemann, though.

His age.

He is 22, and turns 23 in late April. And that makes no difference at all.

But, but, but, age-appropriate blah blah. Inexperienced blah-blah.

Hannemann was a third-round pick. Go to any year in baseball history since the draft started. Peruse the third round picks. Whichever year you select, I'll tell you what you won't see. A litany of long-term major-league contributors. When the Cubs, or any other team, select a guy in the third round now, there is a reason seventy-some-odd selections came off the board before him. The other guys are more likely to turn into MLB regulars than third rounders.

If it sounds like I'm creating a gaping loophole to justify the pick if he whiffs, that isn't the point. I'm attempting to put parameters on expectations. Hannemann is a very good athlete with CF skills. He will likely be the every-day CF in Kane County. If Hannemann can't track a fly ball, he was a bad selection. If he can't hit with some sort of authority at the Low-A level, he probably was a bad pick.

If you wish to accurately critique Cubs draft picks, which I wish others would have been doing for the last forty-odd years in a publicly accessible forum, you need to have a bit of realism plugged in. My least favorite Cubs draft pick ever was Earl Cunningham. Cunningham was a high-school 1B/corner OF type. His high-point for an OPS was in the Appalachian League, which is about like Boise (maybe a half-rung below) in the Northwest League. His OPS that year was .759. When he tried the Midwest League thrice, he OPS'd over .700 once. He walked 42 times -- total, in three seasons in Peoria.

When assessing a center fielder picked in the third round, what is a reasonable expectation? It would be really nice if he plays in Wrigley. Obviously. However, if you are assessing the system from a historical perspective, Hannemann is a piece of a puzzle. Likely an edge piece, but not a corner piece. In 2003, which I selected as a ten-year-ago sample, not for any knowledge about said draft, here's what I see. Four guys had a career WAR over 5.0, out of 30 players taken. Shaun Marcum has been the best, with Matt Harrison, Sean Rodriguez, and Drew Stubbs the others.

***

If Jacob Hannemann has a decent year or two, and reaches Double-A by 2015, that's about the near-range goal. Maybe he'll out-perform, or maybe he won't. And scrutiny of picks in this section is encouraged. However, barking about his age and experience-level seems a bit pointless, unless you can convince me otherwise. If Hannemann plays well, he'll be contributing when he's 26 or 27 years old. That might be a bit old for a guy selected second in the draft, but Hannemann isn't that. If Hannemann has 10 WAR in his career as a third-round pick, that's a huge success. If he doesn't, the question ought to be why, not whether.

The bat is what to mind with Hannemann. Regardless the ground he covers in the outfield, he won't be much more than an occasional fill-in, even in center, if he doesn't hit like an outfielder. A potentially curious non-Cub comp could be Michael Bourn, who had a quick rise to the bigs after having a standard college career at Houston. When he reached the majors, I remember his bat being mocked. However, once he hit around .700 OPS, patrolled CF well, and led the league in steals, he started getting paid.

If you can hit, and play CF, you can make good money in baseball. Will Hannemann OPS .700 + in the show? That would be a decent path to success. Regardless what age he is when he's dong that.

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