Why Cubs selected 'deluxe athlete' Wiggins with pick 68

July 10th, 2023

This story was excerpted from Jordan Bastian’s Cubs Beat newsletter. To read the full newsletter, click here. And subscribe to get it regularly in your inbox.

CHICAGO -- Jaxon Wiggins was poised to be the Friday night starter for Arkansas this past season. The big right-hander impressed in preseason scrimmages and looked very much like an overpowering collegiate ace with the potential to fly up teams’ boards ahead of the MLB Draft.

“Unfortunately, he had his injury in the fall,” Cubs vice president of scouting Dan Kantrovitz said. “And then we didn't really get a chance to see that. But we were really impressed with how he looked prior to that in the fall.”

Wiggins, 21, missed the entire 2023 season due to having Tommy John surgery on his right elbow, but the Cubs saw enough to select him with the No. 68 pick in the Draft on Sunday night. That selection was given to Chicago as compensation for catcher Willson Contreras’ exit via free agency last winter.

The pick comes with a slot value of $1,101,000, and it gives Wiggins something to think about while he works his way back from injury. Kantrovitz acknowledged it is “tough to handicap sort of what the odds are” of Wiggins signing with the Cubs, but the team will take the calculated risk given his upside.

“The unfortunate reality is that it's not uncommon,” Kantrovitz said of Tommy John surgery. “To that end, it's not something that we shy away from -- when a pitcher is recovering. We do want to make sure that we've reviewed the surgery notes, that our team doctors have looked at that ahead of time, that we're familiar with where he is in the rehab and the recovery process, and that he's on track, which we are confident of, at this point.”

When healthy, the 6-foot-6 Wiggins showed off a fastball that registered around 94-97 mph, touching 99 mph at times. He featured a slider and a changeup, and the Cubs’ pitching group was intrigued by a curveball that had some “untapped” potential, according to Kantrovitz.

Wiggins’ numbers with Arkansas show room for development, though. In 89 career innings for the Razorbacks, he had a 6.17 ERA with 110 strikeouts against 57 walks. In ‘22, Wiggins logged a 6.55 ERA with 82 strikeouts and 43 walks in 66 innings before the injury.

Numbers aside, Wiggins is also the type of athlete the Cubs would love to add to the system.

“Some of the stuff he was doing in Arkansas,” Kantrovitz said, “was just literally off the charts when it came to strength and conditioning, and just sort of what kind of deluxe athlete he is. From that perspective, it's definitely something that we put a premium on and appreciate.”