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Cubs Draft History: Not Stellar (Until Recently)

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Since the Theo Epstein regime came to be, the Cubs have drafted well. Before that? Read on, if you dare.

Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports

During the Wrigley ownership of the Cubs, they were known for making poor No. 1 picks. Of all the No. 1 picks during that era, only Joe Carter had a significant major-league career, and four of those picks never played in the majors at all.

That changed, a bit, during Dallas Green's tenure as general manager, then declined again. Only in the last few years have the Cubs made solid top picks.

Here's a chart you probably don't want to read. These are the top 10 players drafted No. 1 (more correctly, in the first round; that eliminates Josh Donaldson, who was technically a No. 1 pick, but in the supplemental round, 48th overall) by the Cubs, ranked by career bWAR:

  1. Rafael Palmeiro, 71.6
  2. Kerry Wood, 27.7
  3. Jon Garland, 22.4
  4. Joe Carter, 19.3
  5. Mark Prior, 16.5
  6. Shawon Dunston, 11.5
  7. Doug Glanville, 10.9
  8. Corey Patterson, 9.6
  9. Mike Harkey, 6.3
  10. Andrew Cashner, 5.2

That's a pretty sad list. Wood and Prior, of course, had their careers derailed by injury, or they might have ranked higher. It's a telling story that there is one active player (Cashner) on that list, who will certainly jump higher. That's all right, actually, because they used Cashner to acquire Anthony Rizzo, who already has more than twice as many bWAR (12.9) as Cashner.

Here's an even sadder list. As you likely noticed, several of those players played much of their careers for other teams. Here's a list of the top 10 Cubs first-round picks, ranked by how much bWAR they accumulated while playing for the Cubs:

  1. Kerry Wood, 25.5
  2. Mark Prior, 16.5
  3. Shawon Dunston, 9.6
  4. Mike Harkey, 4.5
  5. Corey Patterson, 3.7
  6. Randy Martz, 3.4
  7. Doug Glanville, 2.0
  8. Kris Bryant, 1.6
  9. Kevin Orie, 1.4
  10. Derrick May, 0.9

Did you notice one thing about the second list? There's an active player on it. Not only an active player, but one who has played only 47 major-league games. By the end of this year Bryant could be fourth on that list, and could break into the top 10 on the first list.

That's both bad news and good. It's bad that the Cubs have had such poor luck or skill making No. 1 draft picks. On the other hand, they've made a great choice with Bryant and it looks like down the road, Kyle Schwarber could provide some value that will put him quickly on that list.

Because in the future, I'd rather not see Kevin Orie and Derrick May on it.