After the first two days of the draft, teams will have selected (largely) 10 players. On the third day, they will select 30 more. Some of these won't be signed, but teams will make all of the selections. The purpose of many of these picks is to stock rosters of short-season teams. In the Cubs' case, this would be the Eugene Emeralds and Mesa Cubs. While many of them will be long-shots to get even close to playing a major-league game in Wrigley, they serve a purpose in the system, nonetheless.
After the first two days, people will look at the strays from a Top 200 list, and point out a few preps their team should seriously consider. Those players will, largely, be ignored for the next 15 rounds. They won't sign. Preps that are really good at baseball often have scholarship offers from many schools. They will generally pick one, and go to school there for the next three years or so.
TCU recruit Luken Baker has told MLB teams he wants to go to school as a two-way player. While the top 70 on the board player would be a nice add for any team, drafting him before the 30th round would likely be wasting a selection. If a team were to foolishly select him in a, say, 11th round, they still wouldn't be able to sign him. And the next 29 useful players would be off the board before they could select again.
The prelude to the 11th round figures to be comprising a quick and effective list. The list will be of the hundred or so best options to sign for the relative limit of $100,000, regardless of position. This list will be comprised almost exclusively of college juniors and seniors.
Many will be Friday night starters from second-line schools, or second- or third- starters from more elite schools. Contact with agents will come into play, as you do want to sign theses guys. Missing out on a player due to mis-projected bonus demands reduces your talent intake.
After that, a team probably has a couple of "lagniappe" selections. Perhaps, in negotiations, the player noted they really want to come to that team specifically. These will likely be prep choices. Like Baker above, they let other teams know he isn't interested in signing. Or, perhaps, he would, but only at a prohibitive signing amount. Then, rather early on day three (to avoid another team gunking up the plan), they sign a player that pretty much only they can sign.
The Cubs have done this a few times recently, with Austyn Willis and Kevonte Mitchell being last year's examples. While still long-shots, they are pretty much bargains for $100,000. The better a team can sign and develop these low-cost medium-upside picks, the better.
Around the 13th or 14th round, though, it becomes a bit of a slog. While exciting players with upside are what system followers want, after a fashion, you need positions filled. Mesa needs outfielders, pitchers, catchers, and infielders of all stripes. So do the Emeralds in Eugene. While the temptation might be to say that it's entirely guesswork here, that isn't really accurate.
Scouts watch games. Last weekend, they watched college games at regional sites. This weekend, they watched the Super-Regionals. Players on any of those fields on any of them weekends may be good pro ball players. Not necessarily major league caliber, but then again, players develop at their rate, not ours.
The good scout can watch a game, and tell who is not only the best player on the field (not that hard sometimes), but the one or two who might really improve over the next few years. Sometimes, negotiations (Never deny negotiations exist. That the league doesn't want them to has little bearing on anything.) don't involve money, but position.
Imagine most teams want to try a player as a pitcher, but he wants to play in the field. If he reeeeeeeeally wants to be an outfielder, it probably isn't wise to draft him as a pitcher. "But when has that ever happened?", you ask. The Cubs were willing to draft Bijan Rademacher as an outfielder, when other teams wanted him as a relief pitcher. He balked, the Cubs were willing to let him hit, and he is in Double-A now.
From the 2014 draft, Jeremy Null, Chesny Young, and Zach Hedges are working their way regularly into BCB's Minor League Wrap. Others figure to with the new season in Eugene. From 2013, Cael Brockmeyer is doing the same. Daniel Poncedeleon failed his physical due to a medical problem, but is doing well in the Cardinals system in the Midwest League now. While Rademacher heads the 2013 class, Ben Carhart, Rashad Crawford, Jasvir Rakkar, and Jacob Rogers are progressing through the system from June of 2012's third day.
Players at any level of organized ball might be good enough to contribute as pros. While many times, it will be as good team mates, if they develop enough, they can be useful trade pieces, or even major league players in their own right. The litmus test isn't signing bonus or round selected. It is, whether the kid can get it done on the field.
A scout who can see what might be in a game between two middling teams is of value. When he hits one right, people wonder why everyone else couldn't see it. Even though, of course, they weren't watching the game at the time. I'm satisfied the Cubs have a reasonable number of scouts, and a reasonable game plan for determining who is worth pegging on the third day. Hitters that know the strike zone, and pitchers that command said zone are a key part of it. Getting caught in the trappings of "big school" or "hype/reputation" is a good way to miss out on a Rogers, Young, or Rademacher.
We can all read statistics, and make judgments off of them. However, with later round selections especially, the here-and-now matters very little. Two things are of importance on third day selections. Is he a good team mate? Will he be of value in three or four years?
Draft selections on the third day can be considered to be three-year commitments. Either side can cut the commitment short. However, as little as the minor league players are getting paid, if they can be of use on a good pro team, they were probably a good selection.
While assuming things isn't wise, the Cubs may soften a bit on third-day pitching. Many of these types of arms, including Null and Hedges last season, are drafted to start in the Midwest League the next season. Some of those types of picks should, and will, happen in 2015. And beyond, regardless how the pitching looks. Ignoring the basics come at a rather needless cost.
However, with the draft from last season, the Cubs look to have three prep signees starting in Eugene this season. Carson Sands, Justin Steele, And Austyn Willis figure to hold three of the five rotation slots for the short-season Northwest League Emeralds. While Dylan Cease might not pitch there in 2015, he could be ready for South Bend in a year.
Two international signings in Alexander Santana and Oscar de la Cruz look to round out the rotation in Eugene. Some, or all, may be terrible. However, pitchers often follow "the schedule," and if most of these do, the rotation and bullpen in South Bend might get a bit crowded.
The third day of the draft is often for fans of the minor league experiment. So, I'm looking forward to Wednesday afternoon.