We put a few questions to Tim about this year’s draft, which is still about four months away.
BCB: How would you characterize this year’s draft? Are there any particular strengths that stand out to you?
TH: This is a rather deep draft at the top, keyed by an impressive group of preps that rolled through a summer tournament in Canada, shutting out almost everyone. The high school arms were already valued, and that showing didn’t hurt at all. RHP, LHP, velocity, curves. The whole shebang.
Which helps the Cubs, because they likely want none of the preps early.
If over half of the teams go preps early (it’s normally a near-split of pitchers/hitters and prep/college), the Cubs will be looking at one of their top 10 or 11 choices with pick 24.
The college arms sound solid well into the third round, which helps if the Cubs lean bat early.
BCB: Most amateur baseball talent comes from warm weather areas, but are there any Midwestern players that have caught your eye that you’d like to see the Cubs draft?
TH: If Wichita, Kansas counts, start there.
Alec Bohm is a third baseman with pop, and the determination to get better at third. If he can stay at third as a professional, he won’t have to move to left field or first base. Which makes the bat play better.
His first base partner is Greyson Jenista, probably the best bat in the draft. However, with him, it’s first or left, so I doubt the Cubs take him.
Missouri State has shortstop Jeremy Eierman, after having Eierman and Jake Burger (top pick of the White Sox in 2017). Eierman figures to be gone by 24. Bohm will go about there, pending how his defense looks.
BCB: Why is it important that we be paying attention to draft prospects in early February?
TH: Three answers on this, and for some, none will work. Which is absolutely fine, and expected.
Back in December, the Cubs signed Tyler Chatwood to a three-year contract at just under $13 million per season. Like the deal or not (I kind of did), it’s the biggest pitching contract of the off-season so far. And, most Cubs fans would be about ecstatic with a 3.0 WAR campaign from Chatwood in any of the seasons.
$13 million getting you three wins is phenomenal.
In the June draft, the Cubs will have a bonus budget of around half what Chatwood will make for a season. Logic would then indicate that a return on investment on the draft should be about 1.5 WAR.
However, in reality, that would be such a horrific flat tire that Theo Epstein and crew would be questioned for mailing in the draft with that little coming back.
Yeah, there are a few reasons for it, but that is a severely skewed and inverted expectation curve.
The $6 and change million on the draft had better produce eight or ten wins above, or somebody’s going to write some angry articles about the pipeline in the future.
Yes, there will be a lag, but there’s been a lag with every draft. And the returns have been coming in from the draft and international arenas rather regularly.
Secondly, I’m getting about it early because by April and May, I have minor league games to monitor. Rather closely. My best “unobstructed view” is in February and March. I can mind what I need to in April and May, but a few of my questions (“Can Bohm play third?”, for instance) ought to be answered earlier.
For others? College baseball games in February and March matter. They determine the rankings. They help teams get home field advantage in May. A Clemson versus South Carolina grudge match not only draws fans, but helps one get a leg up in the Road To Omaha.
I like to know what’s coming. What’s developing.
Many will disagree, but the starting pitcher in a key inter-region Goliath matchup isn’t likely to toss three innings, shower, answer a few questions, and make his dinner engagement scheduled for when the eighth inning was scheduled to start.
If you want to know the difference between a Pilkington (lefthanded pitcher from Mississippi State) and a Swaggerty (South Alabama center fielder), you might as well start in February.
ESPN is running hundreds of games, which are more compelling to me than college football or basketball games, because I much prefer baseball.
We’ll have more draft coverage here as the high school and college seasons continue. This year’s draft begins on Monday, June 4.