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2017 MLB Draft Prep And Seeking Relief

Can you draft relievers and have them succeed?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

People tend to be very “today” oriented. Those that aren’t today oriented, tend to be very “yesterday” oriented. Instead of planning for the future, they’re about fixing the mistakes of yesterday. Those who prioritize the future tend to be looked at as rebels, or something. Creating an MLB bullpen tends to be a Future Thinking premise. The best way to think of the future in crafting a team is through the draft.

I often frequent MLB Trade Rumors. For better and worse.

My assessment of people is ramped up a bit, there.

Buy this veteran in free agency. Trade valued prospects for this guy who’s having a five week hot stretch. Completely disregarding that those are often followed by cold spells.

And, by all means, disregard that overusing a reliever (as per their current standard usage), could send them to see Dr. Andrews.

The best way to put together a bullpen is to have young players doing well in the minor leagues, so that they can be summoned to MLB to fill in for a few in injury situations.

But, on MLBTR, mention that, and get ready to have scorn tossed in your face.

“We don’t have time to wait to do that.”

Today thinkers. Or yesterday thinkers.


To be clear, putting together a proper bullpen is difficult. Quality relievers today are getting pounded for two-run doubles in three weeks. And their pitches aren’t necessarily any different than they were before.

Reliable veterans get old and inconsistency rears its head. Getting a two-pitch pitcher to stay effective makes being a pitching coach a chore.

When a reliever finally does hit a solid groove, he might get injured, and you still need to replace him.

Relievers tend to be inconsistent. Some that are positively consistent aren’t appreciated, due to “other factors.” Which could be a case of denying their consistency, despite their numbers. Or, simply disliking the player for whatever reason.

That pitchers don’t send out press releases when they’re about to become bad values doesn’t help.


Fans prefer the familiar players. At a point, the familiar player gets expensive, Or, at least, more expensive that the younger guys. Or less experienced ones.

When Travis Wood gets paid, he’s no longer the affordable value he was pre-free agency.

Thus, bullpens are a revolving door.


Not just for the Cubs. For every team. For many of the above pointed out reasons.

The Cardinals spent over $30 million to sign Brett Cecil for four seasons. Despite his rather ordinary season in 2016, most people were good with it.

“He was okay, except for the home runs.”

His ERA is back down to 6.75 this season after the hurt the Cubs put on him. Will he live up to the quality presumed from his contract? Nobody knows.


In the draft run-up, some will suggest, only half-jokingly, to “draft relievers.” While that isn’t a horrible strategy (it’s one the Cubs have been ramping up a bit, recently), it likely is a terrible early strategy.

I can think of three guys drafted “relatively” early that were taken “as relievers” to one extent or another.

Tyler Jay was a reliever for Illinois, and pushed himself into the sixth pick of the 2015 draft. His first season saw him relieve exclusively. In 2016, he was a starter in the Twins pipeline.

He hasn’t pitched this season.

Jay was drafted as a starter, and relieved until he could get his arm “extended” in the off-season.


Brandon Finnegan was a first-round pick of the Royals in 2014. Used in a variety of roles in his first season, he was hurried to MLB. He appeared for the Royals in all four rounds of the post-season.

Given an off-season, he was treated more as a starter in 2015, and fetched Johnny Cueto in trade, as such.

Drafted as a starter. Used as a reliever, briefly. A long-term starter.


Paco Rodriguez is the closest, purest example of drafting a reliever, as a reliever, to be a reliever, and rushing him. The Dodgers drafted him in the second round (2012) from the University of Florida, where he had been a leverage guy.

He debuted with the parent club that season, and was very good down the stretch.

In 2013, he appeared in 76 games for the Dodgers.

By 2014 and 2015, he started getting squeezed out of innings, for whatever reason. Traded in July 2015 to the Marlins, he hasn’t re-surfaced in the major leagues since. The Marlins have since released him.

Rodriguez notched a career bWAR of 2.0, and gave up two runs in two-thirds of a post-season inning with a home run.

Carson Kelly and Alex Wood went in the next five picks.


In baseball, it’s almost always best to take the “best available” on the board with early choices. By the third day of the draft (around Round 16), it makes sense to prioritize positions. By then, filling out short season rosters is the expectation. If the Emeralds or Mesa Cubs need a third baseman, draft a third baseman is atop your list. Preferably, one that will be signed.

However, early on, taking the best available makes sense.


I’m enjoying the recent mock drafts, with this being among them. A few newer names are popping up into the middle of the first round. Logan Warmoth (SS, UNC-Chapel Hill)) and Adam Haseley (OF, University of Virginia) are two of the main ones.

As they climb, others (previously out of reach) tumble into the Cubs range.

My current expectation is the Cubs get a pitcher and a hitter, one college and one prep, between 27 and 30. Quality and balance.


From the link, notice that the Marlins are noted as a team that tends to undervalue “makeup” in the draft. Also, their farm system is a trainwreck. I’d still like to trade for their competitive balance pick, which falls at 36.

However, I have no idea if the Marlins consider themselves a contender. And, if they do, the Cubs aren’t in the best shape to send them a starting-pitcher option to add the 36. Nonetheless, the Cubs could add quality there.


On my site, I’m ramping up draft coverage. I have a top eight (or more) on prep pitchers, prep hitters, college pitchers, and college hitters.

Next up, stand-alones on eight or 10 players that make quite a bit of sense.


What do you expect from this draft?

If you want to go with the “an ace” comment, describe to me how I can recognize (before or after) what an “ace” is. Was Tim Lincecum an ace? Matt Cain? Even more helpful, what traits of young pitchers pre-dispose them of being more like Clayton Kershaw or Madison Bumgarner than Jacob Turner?


A way to project out expectations is by WAR projections.

I would hope to have one of the two early picks represented as a 10 WAR player, whether they reach the plateau or not. (Gleyber Torres was represented as around a 10-win player. Regardless what he does for the Yankees.)

I’d like one player (outside the one represented in trade talks as a 10 WAR player) to get at least 5 WAR as a Cub, in his cost-controlled seasons.

I’d also like at least one third-day player included in a MLB trade, one second-day player traded in a MLB deal, and two wins above from both categories.

I have high expectations. However, the more I listen to college ball, the more I know that the baseball talent runs deep.

The Cubs are rather good at getting quality out of reasonably good talent.

Which is a forward-thinking thought.


No specific homework this week. So many series going on with talent that makes sense in the first half of the draft.

Maybe they’ll develop, or maybe not. However, they should be reasonable additions to Mesa/Eugene/South Bend. With potential for well beyond, the next three or more years.


What do you see as the Cubs biggest draft need?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    A slugger that could get traded
    (12 votes)
  • 67%
    A rotation-type starter, potentially a three
    (92 votes)
  • 16%
    A prep arm with upside and washout potential
    (22 votes)
  • 1%
    A prep bat
    (2 votes)
  • 2%
    A quick guy up the middle
    (3 votes)
  • 4%
    OPS type to keep for his cost-controlled time
    (6 votes)
137 votes total Vote Now