It's a fool's errand to review a MLB draft less than a week after it took place. That's probably why many of you think I'm the guy to write one. The draft is the absolute most critical element in building a winning team, yet it's such an imprecise science that if you get two quality major leaguers out of fifty draft picks, you've had a good draft. Get three, and they're calling you a genius.
Cubs Director of Scouting Tim Wilken is in charge of the draft. He consults with General Manager Jim Hendry and the rest of the front office on the early picks, but Wilken makes the final call on whom to take. Wilken built up his reputation as the scouting director of the Blue Jays, where he had 11 straight first-round picks make the majors, including Chris Carpenter, Roy Halladay, Billy Koch, Vernon Wells, Alex Rios and Aaron Hill. The other thing he's famous for is taking the guy he wants, not the guy other people think he should want. We saw that clearly with Hayden Simpson last season and Tyler Colvin a few years earlier.
Since coming to the Cubs, Wilken has favored athletic up-the-middle college players and college pitchers who throw hard. He's also picked a lot of guys with good all-around skills over riskier, high-ceiling players. He's not so doctrinaire that he won't take a guy he likes that's not like that and he will take a high school player like Josh Vitters, but he has clearly favored collegians.
This philosophy has given the Cubs a wide farm system with perhaps a sheer number of prospects greater than any other system, but a real lack of guys in the system who project to big difference makers in the majors.
I'd call this year's draft un-Wilken-like, except that would be a very Wilken-like thing to be. Tim Wilken continued to march to the beat of his own drummer by taking a lot of high-ceiling high school players in this draft and a lot of players who project to play on the corners. He's traditionally drafted a lot of starting pitching, but this time, he barely drafted any at all.
I don't know what Wilken's plan was. He doesn't talk to me and even if he did, I doubt he'd tell me the truth anyway. But to me, this draft seems like the end of a long-term plan. Looking at the past five drafts, it looked like Wilken was trying to restock the system after years of drafting a lot of risky starting pitching, very few of which panned out. Once the system got healthy and was full of prospects who could be used in deals like the Matt Garza trade, Wilken decided to go for risky power hitters. He also took several players who could be solid prospects, but they have strong college commitments that will make them tough to sign.
This is not a draft with a lot of immediate help in it. I give Wilken a lot of credit for taking a project like Baez over a starting pitcher like Taylor Jungmann or Sonny Gray who might end up in the majors next season. This was not a draft by a man trying to save his job. Before you read too much into that, I think Wilken simply did not allow the shaky status of the front office to affect his master plan. I believe he would have taken the same players if the Cubs were in first place. He's too much of a professional to do otherwise.
As always, there are many of you who follow the amateur game closer than I do. I encourage all of you to add what you know in the comments and correct me or agree with me as you choose. If you want to write about one of the draft picks that I did not write about, go right ahead.
After the jump, a look at the draft picks.
Let's be frank. Other than players who dropped for concerns over their signability, anyone drafted after the fifth round is a long-shot to make the majors. Anyone drafted after the tenth round is an extreme long-shot to make the majors. So I'm just going to go through the top ten picks and few guys the Cubs took late in hoping they could sign them anyway. Other than Gretzky, I expect all of the top ten picks will sign.
Javier Baez SS Arlington Day School (FL)
I've already written up a profile of Baez and there has been another fanpost giving a scouting report. I'll repeat what I said earlier: When none of the top names dropped to us at #9, Baez was the player I wanted. He's a talented athlete who can hit. Wilken called his power tool a potential 70 (on a 20-80 scale) and his hit tool potentially about 65. Even taking into account post-draft hype, that's pretty good. Of course, there is no guarantee he'll reach that and he's more of a long-term project than some might like.
Dan Vogelbach 1B Bishop Verot HS (FL)
We've talked about Vogelbach a bit in a fanpost. Not many guys in the draft can hit like Vogelbach. The guy has a clear 80 power skill, which is the rarest skill to have an 80 in. He's also got a sound approach at the plate that means he should be able to hit for average and get on base at a decent clip too. His defensive value is close to zero. He runs like a Molina carrying another Molina on his back. He's lost about 35 pounds over the past year and he still weighs 250 pounds. Vogelbach could end up as good as Prince Fielder. He could also eat himself out of the game before he gets out of A ball. A risky pick, but it's time for the Cubs to take more gambles like this.
Zeke DeVoss OF Miami
DeVoss is a more traditional Wilken pick in that he's a fairly safe collegiate player from a big-time program who could move through the system quickly, although as a sophomore-eligible, he is a little more raw than some. DeVoss has great speed and versatility, as he's played some middle infield as well. Most think center field is his best position, but hasn't played their much because Miami had an even better center fielder. He's got a line drive stroke and if he makes the majors, could be a valuable utility guy who could hit near the top of the order.
Tony Zych RHP Louisville
Zych is actually a local kid who went to St. Rita High before attending Louisville. Few throw as hard as Zych, who sits in the mid-90s and has hit 99 on occasion. He's also got a funky delivery that makes it hard for hitters to pick up the ball, although it also makes some scouts think he could have arm problems one day. He's pretty much limited to being a reliever, but he's got the stuff to be a closer if he can throw his slider for strikes more often. Zych could move through the system quickly.
Tayler Scott RHP Notre Dame Prep (AZ)
Scott is one of the better stories in the draft, as he moved to America three years ago from South Africa to pursue his dream of being a major league pitcher. As you might expect from someone from South Africa, Scott is still pretty raw. The stuff is there, however, as he throws 90-92 mph with a promising curveball. He needs to learn a changeup if he's going to be a starter. Scott was someone projected to go a few rounds earlier a month ago, but he got hit pretty hard in some showcase games against better teams from California. He's a project. He's apparently already told Arizona, where he had a scholarship offer, that he's going to sign with the Cubs.
Neftali Rosario C Puerto Rican Baseball Academy
I don't know a lot about Rosario except what I do know makes him sound like Welington Castillo. He's 5'11", 195 with a strong throwing arm and decent pop with the bat.
Trevor Gretzky 1B Oaks Christian HS (CA)
In case you haven't heard, yes, he's Wayne and Janet Gretzky's kid. He's got the kind of body that scouts say "you can dream on" and is already demonstrating good power. But he's got a lot of holes in his swing and defensively, he has a lot to learn. He'd probably be better off going to San Diego State and learning from Tony Gwynn, although there is something to be said for being able to play every day without all the restrictions on practice that the NCAA imposes. Usually with a kid like Gretzky, you make them a financial offer that they can't refuse, but Gretzky was set for life financially the day he was born. It's not impossible, but I'd be surprised if Gretzky was a Cub on August 16.
Taylor Dugas OF Alabama
Dugas is a scrappy 5'7" outfielder whose history teacher in high school is Jim Hendry's sister-in-law. Hendry met him back then. This isn't a nepotism pick, however, as Dugas was projected to go somewhere between rounds 6 and 10. He can hit for average with a good approach. He has drawn 100 walks over the past two seasons for the Crimson Tide. But his speed is only above average and his power is definitely below average. His arm is just fair, which makes people wonder where he'll play. He's got a chance to be an extra outfielder in the majors.
Garrett Schlecht OF Waterloo HS (IL)
Schlecht has a great frame at 6'2", 200 lbs and has a quick left-handed bat. He has a slightly open stance and hits the ball hard. His average speed probably limits him to left field. He's committed to Middle Tennessee State, but he's expected to sign with the Cubs. This is slightly embarrassing to him as he's a life-long Cardinals fan. But he was wearing a Cubs shirt when the St. Louis TV station did a story on him, so he'll get over it. Randy Wells did.
Daniel Lockhart SS Hebron Christian Academy (GA)
Danny Lockhart is the son of ex-Atlanta Brave Keith Lockhart. As a player, he's a lot like his dad: a left-handed hitting middle infielder. Danny might be a bit better with the glove than his dad and might be able to stick at SS. Keith Lockhart has been a scout for the Cubs, so I expect that Danny will sign.
Now for the kids who fell because of concerns over their signing. If the Cubs sign any of these players, it will be a good draft.
Shawon Dunston Jr. OF Valley Christian HS (CA)
Break out the Shawon-O-Meters. Despite a physical resemblance to his dad, he does have a few differences. For one, he's a left-handed outfielder. Two, he doesn't have his dad's arm (who does?) or raw athleticism. He's likely to be a more patient hitter than dad. He does have the plus speed his dad had. Dunston was projected as a late-first or comp round pick at the beginning of the season, but he had a poor senior year in high school and his stock dropped but his price tag didn't. He's got a strong commitment to one of the top baseball programs in Vanderbilt. He's going to be a tough sign, but the appeal of playing for the Cubs might convince him to sign. That's if the Cubs offer him something close to first-round money.
Dillon Maples RHP Pinecrest HS (NC)
Maples's dad was a second-round pick of the Orioles in 1979 who never made it above Double-A. He's considered a top 50 talent with a fastball in the 91-94 range and an above-average curve. He has a changeup, but it's raw and he never uses it in games. He's very athletic and scouts love his 6'3", 195 pound body. What they don't love is his delivery. He short-arms the ball and his mechanics leave him with questionable control. Everyone seems to think that it can be fixed and that he's a potential top-of-the-rotation talent. He has a very strong commitment to play baseball for North Carolina as well as punt for the football team. It will be very difficult to convince him to skip school.
Rock Shoulders 1B State Junior College of Florida
His name is Rock Shoulders! What else do you need to know? I don't care if he never plays a game in the majors. His name is Rock Shoulders! Sign him! Shoulders is committed to South Florida.
Ricky Jacquez RHP Franklin HS (TX)
Jacquez is a pocket-rocket who, pound for pound, was the hardest thrower in the draft. Although he's generously listed at 5'9", 160 pounds, Jacquez's fastball sits at 92-94 and has touched 97. Scouts think that if they clean up his mechanics a little, he could throw even harder. He's also got a nasty 12-6 curveball. He struck out 20 batters in a game this March. Jacquez has a very strong commitment to Texas. Maybe someone ought to mail him some stuff on pitch counts and Texas head coach Augie Garrido.