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2013 MLB Draft Prep Considers Relievers

Relievers are largely ignored in the June draft. Does that provide an opportunity for the Cubs? Someone's got to answer the call to the pen, after all.


Normally, my article's poll question is a bit of a one-off: a post-script mood-lightener. This time, it is to be considered a part of the article. So, if you wouldn't mind, I'd appreciate it if you would fill it out now. Whether you take it seriously or not, it eventually comes into play with the editorial content. Which year do you next expect the Cubs to next be buyers at the deadline? It's a rather simple question, and it will come into play later. I'm trusting most of you have filled it out by now, but for the last few holdouts, I'll comment on the weather. It sure is sunny out. So much better than... there, now you're ready.


Relief pitchers are somewhat mocked in the June draft. While a raw prep starting prospect is prone to getting a hefty signing bonus on potential, many quality, proven college relievers are left waiting until the good bonus money has already been committed. This is understandable, to an extent, as starters are much bigger payoffs when they strike. A solid big-league reliever will rarely have a 10+ WAR. For instance, even Hall Of Famer Bruce Sutter's WAR was under 25.

Part of the reasoning behind early draft picks ought to be expected production. If the Cubs' top draft pick nets the team a 25 or higher career WAR rating, I will be very happy. Regardless who it is, or how they get it. If the team's choice at 41 gets them over 10 WAR, I will be similarly happy. Those numbers aren't guaranteed. I would happily take them, though. The expectation for the third- and fourth-round selections are lower still, and when you hit rounds 5-40 (plus undrafted free agents), a field score of over 10 is really good.

Relievers are generally considered fungible. Roll with a hot reliever, until he runs cold, gets hurt, or you can trade him for something you really want. For clarity, in this article, a reliever is considered to be a two-pitch pitcher (often fastball/slider) and a starter represents the possibility of three pitches (usually including a change-up). Fortunately, this year has two very comparable pitchers. One is a starter, one a reliever. The younger is a recent high school grad, the older is a college veteran. Why are they comparable? They are brothers.


Nick Burdi is Louisville's closer. Not eligible for this year's draft as a sophomore, Burdi is no stranger to triple-digit fastballs. Nick's brother Zach is Illinois' top high-school prospect, an Iowa commit, and likely to be off the board by the Cubs pick at 41. Zach has the potential of throwing three pitches, so he will likely be drafted top 20. As long as Nick remains a closer, his bonus will be much smaller.

The usual timeline for a top high-school pitcher is as follows. After signing, he will get a few very short starts (in the equivalent of the Cubs Summer League team in Arizona). The next year, if all goes well, he will start in the rotation in short season ball (Boise) after time in extended spring training. Only in the following year (2015, in this instance), will he reach full-season ball (Kane County). This is a best-case scenario.

For college relievers, since their arms aren't usually considered as fragile, they can usually jump straight to full-season ball (after they pass their drug screen and learn who provides the corporate 401K). Since working on tertiary pitches isn't that much of a concern, by the second season, they can be in Double-A (Tennessee), or maybe higher. Actually, Paco Rodriguez (second-round 2012 pick by the Dodgers) debuted in the majors last September.


I would be completely fine with selecting a few relief pitchers somewhat early in the 2013 draft. Not Paco Rodriguez early, but in the fourth round on, adding a few relievers would help in a number of different ways. First, as with any major-league system, a few relievers in the pipeline could use a little bit of competition. Adding quality to the (High-A) Daytona or Kane County pen isn't important for reaching the Florida State League/Midwest League playoffs, as that is immaterial. Adding quality to any squad is important because a more talented team is a team with a higher system upside, if egos are controlled. Secondly, they can provide a quick adrenaline boost for the next pennant race the team participates in.

So which year do you think the Cubs will start being deadline buyers? My guess is 2015, though a justified 2014 would be fun as well. In either case, a nice little pen-ready arm would make a nice piece to swap to Houston, Miami, or whatever deadline seller is seeking a piece. Or, the high-leverage college reliever might be playing in Wrigley before the high school starter reaches the All-Star break in the Midwest League.

Of course, many drafted pitchers will be college starters, who will have a timeline more similar to the college reliever, but also spend time developing the all-important change-up. This will slow the process, but increase the likelihood of double-digit WAR values. As with everything, balance is usually a good idea. However, balance should include quality relievers, as well.


How to annoy Tim during the week of college tournaments? Tap into and wreck the site, so I can't follow the scores when it would be most useful to follow. Nonetheless, the games continued.

Oklahoma shut out Baylor 2-0 as Jonathan Gray returned to form. Gray fanned 12, and surrendering only three hits. He walked one hitter, the first one of the game. Mark Appel's Stanford squad bested UCLA 2-1. Appel fanned nine over eight innings in probably his last college start. San Diego's Kris Bryant was walked on four pitches in the Toreros tourney opener. He was walked on four pitches shortly thereafter as well. At least, when he gets paid for playing, some of the pitchers might throw him periodic strikes. On Thursday, he homered in a win over BYU with some of the Cubs brass looking on.

In two weeks, we will have different mysteries to confront, and wonder about. I'm looking forward to it.