Cubs looking to select best available in Draft
Holding the 9th pick, Epstein narrows list to nine players
CHICAGO -- Can the Cubs find another Kris Bryant or Kyle Schwarber in the MLB Draft?
The 2015 Draft will take place Monday, June 8, through Wednesday, June 10, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday at 6 p.m. ET. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 7 p.m., with the top 75 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesday, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at 1 p.m. on Wednesday.
MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 12:30 p.m. ET on June 9, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at 1 p.m. ET on June 10.
MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,700 Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.
Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Cubs, whose first selection is the ninth overall pick.
In about 50 words
"You've heard us talk about it being our Super Bowl," said scouting and player development director Jason McLeod. "It's the one day of the year we can choose the players who come in and hopefully impact the organization. We've never been a team that drafts on the need of the Major League team. We'll pick the best player for the organization, not the needs of the Major League club."
Less than two weeks before the Draft, president of baseball operations Theo Epstein said he'd narrowed his list of potential picks to nine, which is appropriate since the Cubs select ninth overall.
"It's not as clear-cut at the top of the Draft this year," Epstein said. "Some of the higher-profile talents got injured, and it's just one of those Draft classes that's a little bit all over the place, which makes it more difficult, but also creates opportunity.
"We surprised some people last year and we like who we got," he said. "I think it's an opportunity to do that again. When the sort of standout talents aren't as obvious, it frees you up to take some risks here and there, too, and trust your instincts."
First round buzz
In late December, MLB.com's Jim Callis projected the Cubs would take left-handed pitcher Koby Allard, while MLB.com's Jonathan Mayo thought they'd go for Kentucky right-hander Kyle Cody. In recent mock drafts, Callis said the Cubs are leaning toward Arkansas outfielder Andrew Benintendi, a left-handed hitter and Cincinnati native who ranked among the top collegiate home run hitters this year. The Cubs also have been following some prepsters, including outfielder Daz Cameron of Eagle's Landing Christian Academy (McDonough, Ga.), outfielder Kyle Tucker of Plant High (Tampa, Fla.), outfielder Trenton Clark of Richland High (Texas), and shortstop Cornelius Randolph of Griffin High (Georgia). Mayo projects the Cubs may be more inclined to pick Vanderbilt pitcher Carson Fulmer, who moved from closer to starter last year and was named the Southeastern Conference pitcher of the year. Fulmer was a 15th-round pick by the Red Sox in 2012.
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each team has an allotted 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 $100,000 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 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.
The Astros have the largest bonus pool this year because they are the first team in Draft history to possess two of the top five selections.
The amount allotted to the Cubs to spend on the first 10 rounds of the Draft is $7,236,100, which ranks 14th in the Majors. The value assigned to the Cubs' first-round pick is $3,351,000.
"It will always come back to how much talent we can bring into the organization," McLeod said. "Depending on what we do at nine and the pick, we're always going to try to maximize our dollars through the first 10 rounds."
The Cubs have talked about a need to get more pitching, but the trend has been to stock up in later rounds. Since Epstein joined the team, they've picked a position player in the first round each of the last three years. If you look at the next 33 players taken in the first 12 rounds over three years, 28 have been pitchers.
The goal, McLeod said, is to take the best player available with each pick, and if they feel it's a hitter at No. 9, they'll choose that hitter. They can load up on pitchers later.
"That has been the plan to bring in as much [pitching] as we can," McLeod said. "We'll line our board up that way. We'll always have an eye on getting stuff guys and guys we feel can be impact pitchers in the organization."
McLeod said injuries to some of the college pitchers projected to be top Draft picks has made teams think long and hard about the arms available. He added, "Going into the year, we knew it wasn't as strong a college position-player class."
Last year, the Cubs selected Dylan Cease in the sixth round even though they knew the pitcher had some elbow issues. Cease underwent elbow surgery after his selection. In the 2015 class, Brady Aiken and Mike Matuella both have had surgery.
McLeod said it's a matter of doing their homework, and having the Cubs medical staff do a thorough exam of each player.
The Cubs surprised prognosticators by taking catcher Schwarber last year. They may surprise again.
RECENT DRAFT HISTORY
C.J. Edwards was limited to 53 2/3 innings over 12 games at Double-A Tennessee and in the Arizona rookie league last season because of shoulder issues. He spent most of 2014 rehabbing at the Cubs complex but took advantage of that time to talk to other big league players on the mend. This fall, the slender right-hander could find himself in the Cubs' bullpen. He was pitching in relief for Tennessee as a way to monitor his innings and avoid any stress on the shoulder. Through May 27, he had struck out 36 over 23 2/3 innings. Edwards had also served up just three home runs in 260 2/3 innings at that point, too. The Cubs have noticed how well he is doing. On May 29, Edwards was promoted to Triple-A Iowa.
The Marlins chose Taylor Davis in the 49th round of the 2008 Draft out of Jupiter (Fla.) High School, but he wanted to get his education and went to Morehead State University. In July 2011, the Cubs signed him out of the Cape Cod League. Davis says the negotiations took about 15 minutes.
At the time, Davis was among the Cape Cod leaders in batting, and described his swing as "a concoction of things a hitting coach tells you not to do. I move my hands a lot, I have a really high leg kick, and I step out, so everything a coach tells you not to do, I pretty much do."
In high school, he batted .500 and compiled a 25-game hitting streak. He described himself then as a "chubby white kid."
Last year, Davis got more playing time at catcher because of injuries to other backstops in the Cubs' system, and he batted .319 at Double-A Tennessee. Now 25, he's batting .355 in 28 games with Triple-A Iowa, and starting at catcher and first base primarily. His nickname? "Crash" Davis, after the Kevin Costner character in "Bull Durham."
In the show
Bryant, the second player taken in the 2013 Draft, has been the starting third baseman for the big league team since he was called up on April 17. Bryant ranks among the National League leaders in on-base percentage, and was among the Cubs leaders in home runs and RBIs.
The Cubs' recent top picks
2014: Schwarber, C, Double-A Tennessee
2013: Bryant, 3B, Cubs
2012: Albert Almora, OF, Tennessee
2011: Javier Baez, 2B/SS, Triple-A Iowa
2010: Hayden Simpson, RHP, out of baseball