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An update on the Cubs’ two 2018 compensation draft picks

These are the players the Cubs selected with the extra picks they got for Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis leaving via free agency.

Paul Richan
Paul Richan
Cameron LaFerle/Eugene Emeralds

About a year ago, much of the Cubs offseason ado revolved around Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis. Both had successful stints as Cubs, and were on the open market as free agents. The front office went another way in both cases, and Arrieta/Davis went to Philadelphia/Colorado for the 2018 season. As compensation, the Cubs received two draft picks at the end of the second round. This is a look at Cole Roederer and Paul Richan, the players the Cubs selected in June with those compensation picks.

The unlikely thing about the two is that they both attended the same high school, Roederer, selected 77th, was a senior at Hart High School in Santa Clarita, California a year ago. Paul Richan (78) was drafted out of the University of San Diego, but had prepped at Hart. A rather decent baseball factory, Hart has produced Trevor Bauer, James Shields, Mike Montgomery, and plenty of others. USD is Kris Bryant’s alma mater.

Before I get to the principles, I’ll look a bit before and after. This way, you see real names of actual players, with some useful guidelines, instead of vague terms like “an ace,” which eventually come out in the wash, or not.

With pick 74, the Padres opted for “fire-starter” outfielder Grant Little, from Texas Tech. A bit of a traditional lead-off man type, the left fielder had eight doubles in the Northwest League (Eugene’s league) for Tri-City among 39 hits. He stole nine bases, and figures to be in the Midwest League this season.

75 saw St. Louis draft behemoth first baseman Luken Baker from Texas Christian University. Baker reached Peoria quickly enough to hit three homers in 2018 in the Midwest League. I’d expect Baker to spend much of the 2019 campaign in the Florida State League, and eventually reach MLB.

76 was Mitchell Kilkenny, a right-handed pitcher from Texas A&M, which means the three choices before the Cubs choices were college selections from different Texas universities. Something, something, fish in a barrel, something. In 97 innings in 2018 in the SEC, Kilkenny fanned 92, and allowed only 89 hits. Does that qualify him as a future ace? While you’re deciding that, I’ll note that Colorado shelved him for the entire 2018 season, saving his pitches for 2019 and beyond.

After the Cubs made their selections, the next four names selected were names I was familiar with, unlike Richan or Roederer. The Tigers nabbed Kody Clemens (Roger Clemens’ son), the Giants opted for Jake Wong (a pitcher from Grand Canyon University), the White Sox took Konnor Pilkington from Mississippi State, and the Reds grabbed Bren Spillane. Pilkington, who had been quite successful in the SEC, would have been among my choices at the time.

After being drafted, Richan and Roederer were extended in a mildly aggressive fashion, considering the Cubs standard development paths. Roederer was a primary outfielder for one of the Cubs two Arizona League teams. Having an additional affiliate helped the Cubs last season. It allowed Roederer to get 33 outfield starts last summer (28 of which were in center) without compromising anyone else’s earned time very much. Roederer slumped a bit down the stretch, but finished with a .275 average, 18 walks (to 37 strikeouts), and 13 rather evenly distributed extra base hits. Five were homers.

It doesn’t take a heavy dose of optimism to place Roederer in the Cubs top 10 prospects. That he’s not played a game off of the compound might temper that, but lists prefer players with believable upside. Whether it manifests or not, Roederer has that. It should come as no surprise that the Cubs added an outfielder at home in center field. It’s what they do.

With Richan, a college option, a look at his numbers in school are protocol. San Diego plays in the West Coast Conference. That tends to be a good bracket for plucking quality pro talent. Local kids tend to like the “hometown discount” for tuition, so pro level hitters and pitchers are both peppered around the league. Warm weather schools are like that. While not as prestigious as the PAC 12 on balance, the WCC is one that all 30 teams had better be well-versed in every June.

The Terreros (70 name on the 20/80 scale, by the way) were 12-18 in the WCC in 2018, and 23-32 overall. Richan was one of two Terrero arms with a WHIP below 1.4 last season, with his at 1.26. In 89⅔ innings, Richan fanned 101, while walking only 13. If your expectation is that the Cubs would grab someone who limited walks in college, you’d be correct.

As for Richan’s pro stint in 2018, he tossed 29⅔ regular season innings for the Eugene Emeralds, allowing 19 hits, five walks, and striking out 31. Coming off a college season that was about winning and getting draft publicity, those numbers seem perfectly acceptable.

Velocity numbers at the short-season level are a bit sketchy, especially if your assumption is that the television screen will magically display accurate velocity numbers. Richan’s velocity was fine for his first season, especially a partial one.

Realistically, Richan could start in South Bend or Myrtle Beach. The Cubs have been rather aggressive recently, bumping Tom Hatch, Alex Lange, and Keegan Thompson directly to Advanced-A Myrtle Beach for their first full seasons. As long as a strategy works, it make sense to try again. Richan was, largely, better than the Northwest League. If that is the starting point, moving him directly to Myrtle Beach will provide him a firm challenge.

The prognosis? Both Roederer and Richan had productive first campaigns. Neither will likely jump into national Top 150 lists. If that’s all you base prospect pools on, the Cubs largely aren’t there yet. However, with Richan and Roederer, you’re assessing expected returns on compensation selections. Anything involving draft picks outside the top 15 in June is generally poorly represented in written discussions of expectations.

I’d lean toward putting Roederer and Richan both in the 60 percent range of an MLB career. If both reach Wrigley, or get traded for someone who contributes there, it seems a reasonable win. I have nothing to worry about with either one, yet. That’s where you want to be after the partial season. Roederer will get every chance in spring training to play for South Bend in April. The Cubs pipeline outfielders haven’t hit much recently. Richan’s velocity should be fine, long term. He won’t be 98, likely, or he’d have gone far earlier. Conversely, he won’t peak at 92.

Letting Arrieta and Davis go by way of free agency were a way of upgrading the pipeline. That likely infuriates some of you. It’s a delicate balance, shuffling the importance of “now” and “then”. If Roederer and Richan become useful MLB pieces (along with Alex Lange from the compensation portion of the 2017 draft), letting players go might become more tolerable. Which requires patience, as do all draft choices, which remain among the best bargains in the game, if developed well.