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Epstein eager to infuse more talent from Draft

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' mantra for the Draft in the first four years under president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has been to take the best player available. The past two years, they've picked pitchers with their first selections. What will happen during the 2018 MLB Draft?

Judging by the preseason projections, anything is possible. The Cubs will get two picks after the second round as compensation for Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, who both rejected qualifying offers and signed with other teams. That gives the Cubs five selections in the first 100 picks, beginning with No. 24 in the first round.

CHICAGO -- The Cubs' mantra for the Draft in the first four years under president of baseball operations Theo Epstein has been to take the best player available. The past two years, they've picked pitchers with their first selections. What will happen during the 2018 MLB Draft?

Judging by the preseason projections, anything is possible. The Cubs will get two picks after the second round as compensation for Jake Arrieta and Wade Davis, who both rejected qualifying offers and signed with other teams. That gives the Cubs five selections in the first 100 picks, beginning with No. 24 in the first round.

"We have a chance to have a really good Draft, and I think our guys are really prepared," Epstein said. "I look forward to infusing the system with more talent."

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

The 2018 Draft will take place today through Wednesday, beginning with today's Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com at 5 p.m. CT. MLB Network will broadcast the first 43 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 78 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, with a preview show beginning at 11:30 a.m. CT. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on Day 3, beginning at 11 a.m. CT.

Go to MLB.com/draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, projected top picks from MLB Pipeline analysts Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo, the complete order of selection and more. And follow @MLBDraft on Twitter to see what Draft hopefuls, clubs and experts are saying.

Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Cubs, whose first selection is the 24th overall pick.

In about 50 words

Besides their first-round pick at No. 24, the Cubs also will have a second-round selection at No. 62, plus compensation-round picks at No. 77 (for Davis) and No. 78 (for Arrieta). They then have a third-round pick at No. 98 overall. Last year, the Cubs selected left-handed pitcher Brendon Little 27th overall and right-hander Alex Lange at No. 30 in the first round.

The scoop

The Cubs have favored college talent in the first round but the motivation in the past was linked to stepping up the pace of the team's rebuilding efforts and the need to bolster the depth in the organization. Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ are all first-round picks out of college who reached the big leagues fairly quickly.

First-round buzz

In his recent projection, Mayo said the Cubs would take left-handed pitcher Ryan Rolison of Mississippi in the first round. However, Callis feels Rolison will be taken earlier and he projected the Cubs would take outfielder Trevor Larnach of Oregon State. Rolison is considered one of the most polished high school left-handers available. He was selected in the 2016 Draft but opted to go to Mississippi and became the Rebels most reliable starter in the second half of his freshman season in '17.

Video: Draft Report: Ryan Rolison, College pitcher

Money matters

Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an alloted bonus pool equal to the sum of the values of that club's selections in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The more picks a team has, and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. The signing bonuses for a team's selections in the first 10 rounds, plus any bonus greater than $125,000 for a player taken after the 10th round, will apply toward the bonus-pool total.

Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75-percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

This year, the Cubs have a pool of $7,491,700 to spend in the first 10 rounds, including $2,724,000 to spend on their first selection.

Shopping list

With the young position players currently on the Cubs' big league roster, the emphasis will most likely be on pitching. Last year, for example, the Cubs tabbed pitchers with their first five picks and took 10 hurlers out of the first 13 players selected.

Trend watch

As Callis has pointed out, the Cubs have had success taking the best college bat available in the first round. Examples include Bryant, Schwarber and Happ. They may focus on that again next week.

Rising fast

Duane Underwood's path to the big leagues has been slowed by injuries, but the right-handed pitcher may be getting closer. He's currently pitching at Triple-A Iowa and in his last outing May 23, he held Round Rock to one run on four hits over six innings, striking out six. Underwood was selected in the second round of the 2012 Draft (67th overall). One reason for the improved performance? Epstein talked to Underwood this offseason.

Outfielder Mark Zagunis, a third-round pick in 2014, was promoted in May to the big league team and saw limited action in five games, going 2-for-5.

Cinderella story

When David Bote was promoted from Triple-A Iowa to the Cubs, manager Joe Maddon said how much he liked players from Colorado. Maddon's theory was that they don't have a chance to play as much as the California kids because of the weather and tend to mature later in life. Bote could be a prime example of that. An 18th-round pick in the 2012 Draft, the Denver-area native made his Major League debut, appropriately enough, in Denver when the Cubs played the Rockies. And he hit a double in his first at-bat.

Bote, 25, was called up in early May to replace Ben Zobrist, who was sidelined with back problems.

"[Anthony] Rizzo said, 'You only get one chance to hit the first pitch of your career out of the yard,'" Bote said of his aggressive approach in his first at-bat.

He appeared in eight games with the Cubs and batted .263 (5-for-19) with five RBIs. A versatile player, who can sub at all infield spots and play the outfield if necessary, Bote most likely will be back if a need arises.

In The Show

Five of the Cubs' past six first-round Draft picks are on the Cubs' current roster, including Albert Almora Jr., who was the team's first-round selection in 2012 (sixth player taken overall). Also on the roster are Draft picks Javier Baez (first round, 2011), Bryant (first round, 2013), Schwarber (first round, 2014) and Happ (first round, 2015).

The Cubs' recent top picks

2017: LHP Brendon Little (27th overall) and RHP Alex Lange (30th overall)

2016: No first-round pick (Cubs selected RHP Thomas Hatch in third round)

2015: OF Ian Happ (ninth overall)

2014: C Kyle Schwarber (fourth overall)

2013: 3B Kris Bryant (second overall)

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat.

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