Before I begin my wrapup of the just-concluded 2013 draft, I'll start with a bit of general thanks to my readers for my recent run of appreciation. I've enjoyed writing about the draft, and I hope you continue to push me into being a better resource and a higher-quality writer. Looking to the future is what I enjoy doing, and having a dedicated readership is a blast. I will probably take a few months off of talking about draft prep for 2014, but the draft class next June will have quite a bit of talent to help in stacking the next run of quality Cubs teams. Tyler Beede and Carlos Rodon, college pitchers, will presumably be near the top of the board next year, as we all thought Ryne Stanek and Sean Manaea would be this year.
Nobody likes it when a team's starter drags a solid lead to the seventh, only to see the bullpen give the lead away in about eight pitches. None of us are happy that our next reliever is likely the guy that some other team just lost patience with. Roster jenga, while amusing on occasion, makes for a bad long-term plan. I'm glad to say the 2013 draft should help lead to a better Cubs bullpen, probably by next year's Opening Day.
How, you say, can one draft that has no players signed yet, help a problem that has plagued the Cubs for decades?
I'm so glad you asked.
In the recently completed draft, the Cubs followed their threatened plan of attack. It was the same plan they followed last year, with a bit of a twist. In 2012, the team took the best player available (Albert Almora), and followed that with a steady diet of pitchers. Many of them last year were prep starters, as the pipeline was stretched very thin on starting pitchers with upside. This time, the club selected the best player available (Kris Bryant), and started pounding away again with more pitching. Since the 'starters with upside' problem was addressed somewhat last season, college starters were in vogue this time around.
First, one from (states only, check this link for specific schools) Missouri, then Ohio. It's not a draft without Texas and California checking in. Michigan and Colorado came next. One from Tennessee was followed by the start of the rush on players from Franklin Pierce College (You think I'm kidding?) Texas and California checked in again, before the obligatory run through other positions to fill the Boise Hawks' (short-season squad) roster with hitters. After that, West Virginia and Florida got called. Even the Ivy League earned a mention; then New Jersey, Iowa, and Oregon ended the state race.
Most of the college pitchers were starters. Many of them topped out at near 93 miles per hour, and most displayed decent control in school. What that means is, all the pitchers in the system are on notice. "Throw quality strikes with consistency, or we'll replace you with someone who will." Competition can be a great thing. Some will develop quality three-pitch mixes, and begin the rise through the system as starters. Others won't master a change, and will bolster the system's bullpens. Some will get hurt. Some will whiff entirely. But by adding 11 college starting pitchers in the first 15 players, a few of them figure to make the Wrigley bullpen reasonably soon.
"Reasonably soon?" you say. I want the bullpen better next year.
Cool your jets, I'm not done yet. As you may have heard, there may be another rummage sale starting next month. Scott Feldman, David DeJesus, Matt Garza, Alfonso Soriano, Kevin Gregg, and Dioner Navarro may all be dealt. Last year's purge seemed to have a pre-condition; send us pitching help. With the draft restocking the system with arms that may already have as much upside as Marcelo Carreno or Barret Loux, this year's returns may be more concerned with reasonable upside potential than distance from the rosin bag. Maybe Feldman can net the team a catcher? Maybe? Please?
So you respond, "Okay, so the returns might be better in upcoming trades. Especially since Ryan Dempster won't need to wake up and sign off on his. But how does that help the 2014 bullpen?"
Wow. You're impatient today. When Team Theo entered, they needed pitching, outfielders, and infielders. Basically, the whole shebang. They dealt for Travis Wood and Anthony Rizzo. They rolled the dice on Ian Stewart, David DeJesus, Paul Maholm, and plucked Luis Valbuena off the scrap heap. After last year's purge, they needed more pitching, third base was still a problem, and the outfield was unfinished. Edwin Jackson, Scott Feldman, Kyuji Fujikawa, Nate Schierholtz, and Carlos Villanueva were plugged into roster spots. Kevin Gregg was added by waivers.
After this year's (likely) purge, what will be needed to make the Cubs a near-.500 team? Third base is less problematic. Another starting pitcher or two, on team-friendly deals, would help. The gaping holes are disappearing. With the pipeline being restocked with potentially capable arms, Rule 5-ing seems unnededed. (Yes, I said that, and mean it. Scott Frazier from the sixth round or Daniel Poncedeleon form the 14th might already be better than a Rule 5 add, without the roster rules. And all of the draft picks are Rule 5 exempt until December 2016.) When Theo goes shopping next off-season, because of the 2013 draft, he will be looking for relievers.
While success in relievers isn't guaranteed, it's easier to succeed if you're actually trying. Below is a complete list of all 40 amateur players chosen by the Cubs in this year's draft.
Round (Pick No.) Player, Pos., School, Birthday 1 (2) Kris Bryant, 3B, University of San Diego (CA), 1/4/92 2 (41) Rob Zastryzny, LHP, University of Missouri (MO), 3/26/92 3 (75) Jacob Hannemann, CF, Brigham Young University (UT), 4/29/91 4 (1O8) Tyler Skulina, RHP, Kent State University (OH), 9/18/91 5 (138) Trey Masek, RHP, Texas Tech University (TX), 1/9/92 6 (168) Scott Frazier, RHP, Pepperdine University (CA), 12/3/91 7 (198) David Garner, RHP, Michigan State University (MI), 9/21/92 8 (228) Sam Wilson, LHP, Lamar Community College (CO), 7/3O/91 9 (258) Charcer Burks CF, Travis High School (TX), 3/9/95 1O (288) Zachary Godley, RHP, U. of Tennessee (TN), 4/21/9O 11 (318) Jordan Hankins, C, Austin Peay State (TN), 2/18/92 12 (348) Trevor Clifton, RHP, Heritage HS (TN), 5/11/95 13 (378) Trevor Graham, RHP, Franklin Pierce U. (NH), 11/21/91 14 (4O8) Daniel Poncedeleon, RHP, U. of Houston (TX), 1/16/92 15 (438) Michael Wagner, RHP, University of San Diego (CA), 1O/3/91 16 (468) Cael Brockmeyer, C, CSU– Bakersfield (CA), 1O/8/91 17 (498) Kelvin Freeman, 1B, North Carolina A&T State (NC), 1/25/91 18 (528) Giuseppe Papaccio SS Seton Hall U. (NJ), 6/8/91 19 (558) Will Remillard, C, Coastal Carolina (SC), 9/18/92 2O (588) Zak Blair, 2B, Mercyhurst College (PA), 12/19/89 21 (618) Joshua McCauley, RHP, Shepherd College (WV), 9/24/89 22 (648) Kevin Brown, LF, Bryant University (RI), 1O/3O/9O 23 (678) Tyler Ihrig, LHP, Marin Community Col (CA), 9/17/91 24 (7O8) Tyler Alamo, C, Cypress High School (CA), 5/2/95 25 (738) Marcus Doi, OF, Mid-Pacific Institute (HI), 1/29/95 26 (768) Carlos Pena, C, Southwest Miami HS (FL), 7/8/94 27 (798) Tyler Sciacca, 2B, Villanova University (PA), 11/2/9O 28 (828) Brad Renner, RHP, Florida State College (FL), 5/15/91 29 (858) John Garcia, CF, Denbigh HS (VA), 12/11/95 3O (888) Zak Hermans, RHP, Princeton University (NJ), 6/21/91 31 (918) Sean Johnson, RHP, Iowa Western Community Col (IA), 7/6/94 32 (948) Keaton Leach, RHP, Glendale College (CA), 4/14/95 33 (978) Chris Madera, CF, Northwest Florida State (FL), 8/23/92 34 (1OO8) Jake Thompson, RHP, Siuslaw High School (OR), 9/22/94 35 (1O38) Ramsey Romano, SS, Valhalla High School (CA), 5/1O/95 36 (1O68) Derek Campbell, SS, U. of California (CA), 6/28/91 37 (1O98) Jeremy Martinez, C, Mater Dei HS (CA), 12/29/94 38 (1128) Zack Brown, RHP, Seymour HS (IN), 12/15/94 39 (1158) Josh Greene, CF, Forest HS (FL), 8/25/95 4O (1188) Patrick Riley, LF, Delgado College (LA), 8/25/92