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Cubs focus on talented college players in Draft

Special to MLB.com

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have had success in recent years drafting college players who could ascend through the system quickly and reach the Major League roster. That was a focus again for the Cubs in the 2018 Draft.

Draft Tracker: Follow every Cubs Draft pick

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have had success in recent years drafting college players who could ascend through the system quickly and reach the Major League roster. That was a focus again for the Cubs in the 2018 Draft.

Draft Tracker: Follow every Cubs Draft pick

President of baseball operations Theo Epstein's goal in his first few Drafts with the Cubs was to stock the farm system to hurry the rebuilding process along. Now, with most of the key players from his first few Drafts on the big league roster, the Cubs are attempting to replace them in the Minors and continue adding depth throughout the organization.

:: 2018 Draft coverage ::

They drafted Stanford shortstop Nico Hoerner 24th overall with their first pick. The Cubs liked Hoerner because of his high-contact ability at the plate. He batted .345 in 57 games this season, with 25 extra-base hits and 40 RBIs.

"He's a multi-tool athlete with incredible makeup," Cubs scouting and player development director Jason McLeod said. "He's a leader on the field, he's a leader in the dugout. He's incredibly passionate and all about winning. He's exactly what we're looking to bring into the organization."

Duke center fielder Jimmy Herron, a third-rounder, hit .338/.443/.481 in 42 games last summer in the Cape Cod Baseball League. MLB Pipeline reported Herron will need Tommy John surgery.

Second baseman Andy Weber, a fifth-round pick out of the University of Virginia, brings a model of consistency that most big league teams look for in prospects. This season, the left-handed hitter reached base in 32 consecutive games. His .344 average ranked second in the ACC.

The Cubs also took two college right-handed pitchers in the first five rounds, Paul Richan (78th overall) from the University of San Diego and Ethan Roberts (128th overall) from Tennessee Tech.

Richan's fastball consistently reaches 94 mph, and he throws two breaking balls that generate a lot of swings and misses. Roberts, primarily used as a multi-inning closer, uses a five-pitch mix to command the zone and generate strikeouts.

Video: Draft 2018: Cubs draft CF Jimmy Herron No. 98

In all, the Cubs took 16 college players with their first 20 picks, and nine of those 16 college players were on teams that made it to the College World Series.

Of the four high school kids selected among the Cubs' first 20 picks, two were taken on the first night: outfielders Brennen Davis (Round 2, pick No. 62) and Cole Roederer (Round 2C, pick No. 77).

Video: Draft 2018: Cubs draft RHP Paul Richan No. 78

Right-handed pitcher Kohl Franklin, the third high school player the Cubs selected, comes from a baseball family. His uncle, Ryan Franklin, played 12 years in the Majors and was an All-Star in 2009 with the Cardinals. His father, Jay Franklin, also a pitcher, played three MLB games with the Padres before going on to be a MLBPA-certified agent. As an agent, Jay represented Ryan and 2011 first-round selection Archie Bradley, a reliever for the Diamondbacks.

Franklin's coach at Broken Arrow (Okla.) HS, Shannon Dobson -- who also coached Bradley at Broken Arrow -- said he has no doubt Franklin is ready for the professional lifestyle, considering he's been around it his whole life.

"I think he could play now," Dobson said. "I don't know exactly what his plans are, but I feel he could sign now."

That's the big question for the high schoolers taken early: Will those players -- many of whom have significant scholarship offers to play college ball -- actually sign?

Video: Draft 2018: Cubs draft RHP Kohl Franklin No. 188

As of now, Franklin is still weighing his options: signing with the Cubs on for something in the neighborhood of $250,000 or sticking with a baseball scholarship to play at Big 12 powerhouse Oklahoma.

Davis, a second-round outfielder from Arizona, has an approximate pick value of $1.1 million. Roederer, meanwhile, has a pick value at about $775,100.

Aside from Franklin, the Cubs also selected Cameron Sanders, a right-handed pitcher from LSU, whose father, Scott Sanders, played seven seasons in MLB. The elder Sanders spent his final year with the Cubs in 1999.

Matthew Martell is a reporter for MLB.com based in Chicago.

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