The 2014 MLB First-Year Player Draft Preview

USA TODAY Sports

Today's the day we welcome new players to the Cubs family.

The 2014 First-Year Player Draft is tonight and the Chicago Cubs have the fourth pick in the draft. You can tune in to the MLB Network right now (5 p.m. CT) to watch the draft preview show and the actual picks start at 6 p.m.

The growth of the draft in recent years has been phenomenal as fans have realized that a strong farm system is the key to building a long-term winning team. For years, the MLB draft had been mostly ignored by fans. The NFL and NBA drafts had built-in publicity as those leagues were choosing from high-profile college programs. In contrast, college baseball doesn't have anywhere near the popularity of football and basketball. Additionally, a lot of draft choices come out of high schools, where the stars of the game are rarely talked about outside the back pages of their local newspaper sports section.

For years, MLB tried to take advantage of this anonymity by keeping the draft as low profile as possible, which was cutting your nose to spite your face. As late as the 1980s, picks after the first round were not revealed until weeks later, under the mistaken idea that the teams would be able to sign the players before they could hire an agent. The draft was first televised in 2007 and it was nothing more than a conference call before that. Broadcasting the event represented major progress in the evolution of the draft, although I have to admit the process went a whole lot faster when teams just made their picks and didn’t have to wait for a studio team to introduce the player and then take a commercial break. Incidentally, the very first player drafted on television was David Price, but Price was not in Orlando (where the first draft was held) because Vanderbilt had a game the next day. The second pick Mike Moustakas was also absent, thus the first player to ever be drafted in person and to hold up a jersey with the commissioner was the Cubs’ Josh Vitters.

The Cubs have the fourth overall pick in this draft. The first round order before them is:

  1. Houston Astros
  2. Miami Marlins
  3. Chicago White Sox

That the Cubs pick fourth has become a bit of a problem. Just a month ago, it looked like there were four pitchers that were the clear top four picks. There were two college pitchers, Carlos Rodon of North Carolina State and Jeff Hoffman of East Carolina, as well as two high school pitchers, Brady Aiken from California and Tyler Kolek from Texas. The Cubs were guaranteed to get one of those four pitchers.

Then Hoffman tore his ulnar collateral ligament and had to undergo Tommy John surgery. All of a sudden, the top four became the top three. In addition to that, several teams (including the Cubs) have reportedly soured on Kolek, who is very big and throws very hard, but there are real concerns that the human elbow is simply not able to handle the kind of stress that Kolek puts on it. Also, his control is, shall we say, less than ideal.

The Cubs are going to hope that Aiken (very unlikely) or Rodon (unlikely but possible) falls to them. If they don’t, the Cubs are expected to try to find a player who will accept an underslot deal and to use the savings to sign a player who falls to the second round. The name most often mentioned is Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto (pictured above), although Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentecost and Indiana University catcher/first baseman Kyle Schwarber have also been mentioned.

The Cubs will also have a second-round pick tonight, which works out to being the 45th overall choice in the draft. So stay tuned for that, especially if the Cubs take an underslot guy in the first round.

Use this thread to discuss your feelings and predictions on the draft. A "gameday" thread will post at 6 p.m. when the actual picking starts and an overflow thread will post an hour later.

Please respect each other and try to remember that whomever the Cubs take in this draft, he’s going to be a young man who is an extraordinarily good baseball player. Be respectful to each other and to the players chosen. Feel free to disagree, but insults and name-calling will not be tolerated. There have been incidents in the past.

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