Since the new collective bargaining agreement kicked in, the 10th round of the draft has become a curious one. While the last round of day two has an amount of money slotted to it in excess of $100,000 (amounts become public in early-to-mid-April), the player sought has a rather curious requirement, often: "Will you sign for cheap?"
Some teams tend to give out bonuses closely linked to slotted values. The current Cubs brass seems to negotiate out almost every deal. Some will be for an over-the-slot amount. Others will be for less than recommended. One thing I'm reasonably sure about. Quite a few teams will have 15 guys signed before the Cubs do in June into July. Team Theo likes to save a little here, chisel a bit there, and try to get that one extra guy signed in the Day Three group, which includes rounds 11-40.
To do that, some players are brought in as much for how little they will sign, as how much upside they have. In two of the three draft classes, the brass has dealt with Scott Boras, who represented Albert Almora and Kris Bryant. While the two sides have a seemingly amicable relationship, drafting a Boras client early means you likely will give pretty much everything left under your slotted amount to the top of your draft class. The current Bryant kerfuffle is merely saber-rattling. If "Best Available" is to be followed in June, a Boras client might be selected early, again.
Whether or not the top guy is earning major coin, or getting under-slotted like Kyle Schwarber, adding every last talented selection becomes rather important in the draft class signing period. Getting a guy in the tenth frame for very little can create wiggle room to get that one extra guy. That could be an action that could sign the two-percent likelihood that hits it reasonably big.
How have the Cubs 10th-rounders fared under Epstein? Let's take a look.
2012: Chad Martin, pitcher, Indiana University
I remembered the name, but looking at his statistical line, I can see why I don't remember anything about him. He pitched briefly for the Mesa Cubs, and the former Hoosier struggled in the Frontier League in a brief stint in 2013. Only three preps were selected that round, and nobody chosen in the round has played in the majors.
2013: Zack Godley, pitcher, University of Tennessee
Godley has had success as a professional, reaching the Advanced-A level with a WHIP of 1.413 for the Tortugas, I mean, the Daytona Cubs. (The Daytona team changed to Tortugas so as to not be blind-sided by another affiliate switch. Plus, Tortugas is a cool name for a team.) Not only has Godley done fairly well, he was traded (with Jeferson Mejia) for Miguel Montero. To get major-league value in trade for a 10th-round selection is a pretty neat trick. One of the reasons the Cubs burned $850,000 on Mejia pre-penalty is that other teams tend to like to trade for players who signed for solid bonus money.
Again, few teams signed preps in the round. Unsurprisingly, none of the players drafted there has yet debuted.
2014: Ryan Williams, pitcher, East Carolina University
The 10th-round class in 2014 had only one prep, the pick of the ChiSox. The Cubs selected Williams, who pitched rather well in Boise. He was, as expected, old for the level, though not by very much. He figures to have a decent shot at breaking camp with South Bend as a reliever. He had very nice numbers in Greenville as mainly a closer. If the Cubs can get Zack Godley value from Williams, that would be helpful.
2015. I'm guessing a pitcher. Probably one who profiles as a reliever and will sign for under $10,000.
If you want a mock draft round-up, this is one of the better ones.
Due to pitching injuries early, some scouts hate this draft already. Kiley McDaniel is queasy about another early aspect of it.
Already hearing crazy rumors on players being targeted for deals in the top 10, one is a 2nd round talent. Weak year up top = lots of deals.
— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) March 26, 2015
Not a problem here. The goal in a draft is to get talent that will help the big club in due time, one way or another. If none of the guys sitting in the nine range look to be college hitters with "possess the strike zone" approaches, or pitchers with good medical histories, go with option three: Grab a guy a bit lower who signs at a discount, and get a prep arm a bit later. Yeah, it's kind of my drumbeat these days.
Perfect Game makes its reputation running elite high school tournaments. They also do a nice job of tracking the guys who play at them. Many top-end preps (and collegians) have played at PG tourneys. Their fields in Georgia have served as the site for college games when weather happens.
Between now and the draft, they have decided to run rather in-depth looks at some of the key draft names. One will be free, the others will require a subscription. This week, they provide a complimentary look at college infielder Alex Bregman, who is one of my three early choices for the Cubs at nine, along with Cincinnati outfielder Ian Happ and Florida State's D.J. Stewart.
After the read, I'd still prefer Stewart, but whoever gets the nod will have survived some scrutiny in the vetting process. One of these weeks, I'll see a mock going 200 deep or so. I'll pull a few names from the ranges of the Cubs second or third picks. My projection remains the same as before. Hitter first, then two of the next three will be pitchers. One or two prep pitchers will get selected, with the upside improving immensely if the team inks an early pick or two below slot value.
This past week in the college ranks, I stumbled into a Friday pitchers duel between UC Santa Barbara's Dillon Tate and Long Beach State's Kyle Friedrichs. I think the teams had combined for two hits into the eighth, and Tate isn't harming his draft status at all. Both pitchers fanned in double digits, and the Gauchos announcer counted three balls out of play into the ninth. Hitters weren't even fouling them off well. Tate had three pitches going, in fast ball, slider, and change. His defense betrayed Tate, but he'll be gone long before nine if he stays healthy. Friedrichs is more of a change-up-style pitcher. Friedrichs would be a nice guy to add along the line, but it wouldn't be very early. College baseball has plenty of pitching. Both runs against Tate in the 2-0 game were unearned, and Friedrichs went the distance.
One of the arms I listened to last Friday had a bit of a curious Cubs-centric back-story. On the Tune-In app, I can listen to any game that is actually going that's available. What the app says is going, might not really be what's rolling. Around noon, I listened to Charleston Southern against West Virginia. The CSU starter was lefty Andrew Tomasovich, who mixed his speeds and worked the corners quite well. Tomasovich's brother Alex was the Cubs' 20th-round selection in 2014. (How very Theo Epstein to draft a pitcher's brother to take him for a test drive. Tomasovich was recently released by the Cubs.) The weather was brutal, and CSU wasn't used to the surface, but I was impressed by Tomasovich. Not Tate or Friedrichs impressed, but I'll chuckle if an all-in-the-family pick ensues in the June draft.
D.J. Stewart worked 3-0 counts in the first two trips I heard this weekend. He skewered one up the middle on the green-light pitch for a single the first time, and coaxed a walk the next time. That put him in the lead nationally for walks drawn. Still a fan.
Here is the almost-weekly inclusion of Ten Thoughts from Division 1 baseball. There really is not much need to over-spend on damaged-goods pitchers when so many good, healthy options exist already.
LSU's Alex Bregman, through Saturday action, has 110 at-bats, and 11 walks with four HBP. He has fanned three times.
Prospektniks will hate this draft. From now until forever, probably, due to injuries. There will be some good pros, and a handful of good MLB talent. As usual, the keys will be finding and developing said talent. This front office will do just fine.