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Cubs focused on pitching in MLB Draft

MLB.com @CarrieMuskat

CHICAGO -- A year ago on the first day of the Draft, the Cubs front office, the scouting department and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder went to the Lake Michigan beach to play a three-man softball game called "Over the Line." The Cubs didn't have a pick that year until the third round at No. 104.

"We had nothing to do but pull magnets [of prospects' names] off the board that day," said Jason McLeod, the Cubs' senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting. "I know we won't be doing that this year."

CHICAGO -- A year ago on the first day of the Draft, the Cubs front office, the scouting department and Pearl Jam's Eddie Vedder went to the Lake Michigan beach to play a three-man softball game called "Over the Line." The Cubs didn't have a pick that year until the third round at No. 104.

"We had nothing to do but pull magnets [of prospects' names] off the board that day," said Jason McLeod, the Cubs' senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting. "I know we won't be doing that this year."

On Day 1, the Cubs will have two selections in the first round, choosing 27th and 30th. The No. 30 pick is compensation added at the end of the first round for losing Dexter Fowler to free agency. The Cardinals forfeited their first-round pick for signing him.

In 2016, the Cubs' first pick was right-handed pitcher Thomas Hatch, selected in the third round, who is currently pitching at Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach.

"Sitting there with [president of baseball operations Theo Epstein] last year and watching all these names fly off the board, he was like, 'We're not doing this again,'" McLeod said. "This year, having two picks, it's a lot of fun."

The 2017 Draft will take place through Wednesday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com today at 6 p.m ET. MLB Network will broadcast the first 36 picks (Round 1 and Competitive Balance Round A), while MLB.com will stream all 75 picks on Day 1. MLB.com will also provide live pick-by-pick coverage of Rounds 3-10 on Day 2, starting at 1 p.m. ET. Then, Rounds 11-40 can be heard live on MLB.com on June 14, beginning at noon ET.

Go to MLB.com/draft to see the Top 200 Prospects list, projected top picks from MLBPipeline.com 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 27th overall pick:

In about 50 words :: 2017 MLB Draft coverage ::

The Cubs have taken position players in the first round since Epstein's first Draft in 2012, and as much as they would like some homegrown pitching talent, McLeod said they will select the player who they feel will make the "most impact" in the organization.

The scoop

According to Mayo, the Cubs are interested in shortstop Nick Allen of Parker High School in San Diego. Mayo projects the Cubs will take right-handed pitcher Sam Carlson of Burnsville (Minn.) High School at No. 30.

"We're not going to try to invent a pitcher there," McLeod said of their first selection. "I'd love to be talking to you Monday night and say, 'Hey, we've got a pitcher who we're really excited about,' but I don't know if it's going to fall that way. We're going to take the two best players for the organization, and if one of them is a pitcher or both of them are pitchers, it'll be great."

First-round buzz

McLeod described this year's Draft as being possibly one of the "most volatile years."

"You maybe don't have as much top-end college position players as in normal years, there have been injuries to college pitchers, there have been high profile guys taken off their teams, so where does that slot them?" McLeod said. "I think it's more volatile in terms of what teams are going to do in front of us. It makes it a little harder for us to prepare."

Money matters

To ensure competitive balance, MLB's Collective Bargaining Agreement stipulates that each team has a bonus pool to spend based upon the number and position of their Draft picks. The more selections a team has and the earlier it picks, the larger the pool. Any club that overspends its budget is subject to taxes and, in extreme cases, a loss of picks in future Drafts.

This year, the Cubs have a pool of $7,454,900 to spend in the first 10 rounds, including $2,373,300 to spend on their first selection with the 27th overall pick and $2,184,300 to spend on the 30th pick.

Shopping list

While the Cubs' last four first-round picks are currently on the Major League roster, the team has yet to have a pitcher who was a Draft pick under Epstein make it to the big leagues for an extended time period. They're looking for pitching, pitching and more pitching.

"It's going to be a focal point," McLeod said. "We might be a little more focused on a particular type [of pitcher] rather than just casting a really wide net like we have the last couple of years. When you look up after Tuesday, and we've gone through a few rounds, you'll see a pretty good mix of pitching again."

McLeod said they have a specific wish list, although he wouldn't reveal the characteristics.

"I feel now we're going to look for something a little more specific -- body type, pitch type, how the arm works," he said. "A lot of that is learning what we've done since we got here.

"Pitching does come from all over the Draft, but your dominant starting pitching comes from the top of the Draft. "It comes from the top two or three rounds. There are areas of opportunity for later on, whether it's a [Jacob] deGrom or a college reliever who turns into a starter, we're looking at all those avenues. What is it that made this guy who he is now?"

The Cubs have taken their share of pitchers. In 2014 when they selected Kyle Schwarber in the first round, 10 of the next 12 picks were pitchers.

"More than anything, it's just us needing to be better, especially with the college pitchers, identifying them and developing them when they get to the organization," McLeod said.

Trend watch

The emphasis has been not just on quality players but quality people. Kris Bryant, Schwarber, Ian Happ and Albert Almora Jr. not only are talented, but good in the clubhouse and good teammates, and all contributed last year to the Cubs' World Series championship.

Video: COL@CHC: Bryant drills a solo homer to open scoring

Plus, the Cubs have used the talent in the system to help in trades. Last July, they dealt top prospect Gleyber Torres to the Yankees for Aroldis Chapman, a key piece to the Cubs' World Series run.

Rising fast

Chesny Young, 24, a 14th-round pick in the 2014 Draft, has done nothing but hit at whatever level he's at. He spent the offseason playing in the Dominican Winter League, and hit there as well. Young is versatile, a characteristic that Cubs manager Joe Maddon looks for. This spring, Young was invited to the big league Spring Training camp for the first time.

Video: Top Prospects: Chesny Young, INF, Cubs

Cinderella story

You never know where you'll find a big league pitcher. Carl Edwards Jr. was a 48th-round pick by the Rangers in the 2011 Draft out of Prosperity (S.C.) High School. This season, he's been one of the most consistent relievers on the Cubs, and the right-hander has been mentioned as a possible candidate to close down the road.

Video: NYY@CHC: Edwards Jr. fans the side in the 11th

In the show

With the promotion of Happ to the big leagues in mid May, the Cubs have five of their last seven first-round picks on the big league team, and one of the two who isn't, right-hander Pierce Johnson, who was taken 43rd overall in 2012, was called up May 19, then sent back to Triple-A Iowa.

Video: STL@CHC: Happ belts a three-run jack to right-center

The Cubs' recent top picks

2016: Thomas Hatch, RHP, Class A Myrtle Beach

2015: Ian Happ, OF, Cubs

2014: Kyle Schwarber, OF, Cubs

2013: Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs

2012: Albert Almora Jr., OF, Cubs

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast.

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