As most of you know, I'm a bit of form following function. Not just in baseball. If you eat well and exercise, you're probably more likely to be healthy than if you didn't. If you save a decent chunk from every paycheck, you'll probably be better off financially long-term than if you don't. And a baseball team that properly utilizes the amateur draft will have more chances at success than a team that doesn't. A really good way to put together a really good MLB team is to have the scouts and coaches functioning in a complementary fashion.
"Yeah. But how do the Cubs scouts and coaches make the 2016 Draft special, not ordinary?"
That's a tough task, and they might not. Their goal is to know the players as competitors, and people. Glean from their parents, friends, and associates. Do the best job possible, hope they stay healthy, and perhaps something works in the "over 10 wins above range", as the Cardinals did with Matt Carpenter.
However, the draft is "different" now than it was then. Teams have specified amounts the can invest in the draft. My source for draft-related news after-the-fact is the Cubs draft tracker. Wes does a great job chasing through news postings and Twitter to bring the latest on Cubs signing rumors. Feel free to drop him a contribution when you see him in action.
The Cubs money spent in the first 10 rounds can't exceed $2,357,355. It won't. Also, anything over $100,000 for anyone beyond the 10th round gets tacked on to the number. That's how it works.
It would be rather easy to keep it under that number, if the team leans almost entirely on college talent, many of them seniors. However, you want some panache added. You want some added intrigue. You want some interesting preps. With the current rules in play, that can be dangerous.
Any player not signed in the first 10 rounds, subtracts from the total that can be spent. If the number is exceeded, draft picks are lost.
I see three viable options during draft week. Years ago, I noted the Cubs could have two draft options. One was the "Kris Bryant" option, effectively. The other was the "Kyle Schwarber" one.
When selecting early, a team has four or five guys they can "negotiate" with. Drafting 104th, the potential first selections are a bit numerous. And a third option appears.
It won't be very clear which option will be up until the second day of the draft is underway. The Cubs will have, I'd guess, a dozen guys on their short list. They'll be good dudes, able to control the zone, and the rest. They'll be committed to making a solid effort as a pro, or they wouldn't be considered.
And now, I derail myself.
Going back to the Draft tracker, check on the Cubs' 2015 class. The two "intriguing" names from the prep ranks are D.J. Wilson and Bryan Hudson. Both have represented well so far. Here is where you get to break out the calculator. Hudson signed for $1.1 million. Wilson signed for $1.3 million.
Both are reasonable signing bonuses for decent prep options. Choices more impressive than Wilson or Hudson will probably be off-the-board or uninterested in signing.
Remember that the Cubs have a specified limit. To have that entire amount, they must sign picks three though 10. By not signing a pick, the slotted amount goes away as well. Perhaps you're seeing the two primary options clarifying.
One option is to lean almost entirely on college options. By putting aside prep bats, at least for the first ten rounds (or third to the tenth), some chances can be taken on the third day. Once the college guys are signed, try to coax a high school option or two to sign for what is left in the kitty. Or get a string of college guys. Yeah, kinda boring. However, that's what happens with tight draft limits.
(Incidentally, I'm good with draft limits. However, I'd prefer the basement to be closer to $5 million annually, with additions onto that for weaker teams.)
The second option is to try to figure out one prep, like Hudson or Wilson. Look to find some preps willing to sign in the $1.1-$1.3 million range. Maaaaaybe $1.35 or $1.4. But then, everyone else will have to be a "senior sign bonus type." If the guy works out, the Cubs get their high-end talent. If not, it's largely a lost draft. However, another option exists. There should always be a third way.
In this instance, the Cubs draft the ace-iest ace remaining on the board at 104. They provide him a nominal offer, and little else. And, they surrender their third pick.
If a team fails to sign their pick in any of the first three rounds, they get the pick back, one choice after, the next season. In that fashion, the Cubs would have the 105th pick in 2017. That year, with more picks, they could get a bit more creative. However, option three is a bit sloughing off a full draft class.
Which the Cubs used to do all the time.
As to which one, any of the three could make sense, depending on what the board looks like as pick 100 rolls around.
The scouts are going to do what they do, and research all the players they can that check most of the boxes. If you see college guys go early, it might be a high-floor type of draft. If it's a sign-able prep, he might be the key to the draft. If it's a big name prep, the rest of the draft might be an afterthought.
More so than usual.
I didn't say the three options were terribly exciting.
One possible "break" the Cubs might get is that people like to be in a winning environment.
Regardless the field or level, people like to win. That the Cubs are looking fairly solid early, some preps may be more inclined to sign with the Cubs this time around. That kid who, in most years, wouldn't give the Cubs a second thought, could possibly get caught in the warmth of the situation.
It boils to a scouting situation. Cubs scouts know who the "borderline" guys are. They're good enough to go to a good baseball school on scholarship. Or, they're good enough to be a solid "25 percent" chance prep draft choice. I could come up with a hokey name for it, but a good scout knows how to do his job well.
Regardless the region of the country, Cubs scouts are talking to preps about potentially signing with the Cubs in 2016.
"We'd love to give you $1.8 million. But, we can't. All we can offer you is (insert number the Cubs consider acceptable here). Would you be interested?"
Most will say, "Naaaah, but thanks."
With the record looking fairly solid through early May, a few more guys willing to seek a career as a pro-athlete, instead of pursuing an education as a student-athlete, may think twice this time.
The Cubs figure to have rather pointed discussions with quite a few preps about joining the system. If one or more remain available and interested come pick 104, the Cubs may be able to add quality on the third round, after all. Otherwise, look for a whole bunch of college players early.