The 2011 MLB First-Year player draft took place last week and the Cubs selected players in all 50 rounds. The Cubs made Javier Baez their first round pick with the ninth overall selection in the draft.
In all, Tim Wilken and his staff selected 29 college players and 21 high school players … 29 pitchers (five left-handers and 21 right-handers), 10 infielders, 11 outfielders and three catchers.
Here is look back at Cubs drafts of the past, the current state of the Cubs system, along with depth charts and each one of the Cubs picks in the 2011 draft … I asked longtime reader and contributor, Aaron, to provide the analysis of the Cubs most recent draft. A big thank you goes out to Aaron for taking the time to provide this excellent, extremely detailed report on the Cubs system and draft.
The Cubs 2011 First-Year Player Draft
It’s that familiar time of year again … where the Cubs are hopelessly out of contention, and the only thing left to keep most fans interested is the prospects in the minor league system, and the recently completed amateur draft.
But before I discuss the draft, I wanted to point out the past, present, and future with regard to player development.
In the past 30 years, the Cubs have drafted just 13 guys in the first round that have made it to MLB: Shawon Dunston, Rafael Palmeiro, Derrick May, Mike Harkey, Doug Glanville, Brooks Kieschnick, Kerry Wood, Jon Garland (*traded), Corey Patterson, Luis Montanez, Mark Prior, Tyler Colvin, and Andrew Cashner. That’s a very pathetic track record in case you were wondering.
What makes matters even worse is the fact that despite having some of the worst records in the game during that period, they not only failed to draft well, but they also failed to give a lot of their prospects a chance in otherwise lost seasons. Instead, they opted to fill almost all of their holes with veteran free agents, and most of the time, they would be veterans on the last leg of their respective careers. I firmly believe we wouldn’t be talking about 103 years and counting if they’d just given their own prospects a chance during those terrible years, but I digress …
If you’ve been a lifelong Cubs fan, you’ll note that the Cubs had a particularly difficult time developing pitchers in their farm system in the 1990s, often relying on veteran stopgaps that, like the hitters they went after as well, seemed to be on the downside of their careers. When Jim Hendry took over the scouting department in the late 1990s, it became a focal point of management to pursue power arms in the draft and international free agency. In fact, they came right out in the media and said exactly that if you’ll recall. They drafted/signed such pitchers as: Kerry Wood, Mark Prior, Angel Guzman, Carlos Zambrano, Juan Cruz, Todd Wellemeyer, Kyle Farnsworth, Michael Wuertz, etc. during the time period prior to Hendry becoming GM.
Even after he became GM, the Cubs stuck to the philosophy of drafting power arms early and often in the drafts, and injuries burned them. It wasn’t until the Cubs brought Tim Wilken on board that they started placing a focus on offense in the draft, and NOT the offense that Hendry and John Stockstill drafted prior to that with predominantly one-dimensional players. The past five years, we’ve seen the Cubs draft or sign internationally very athletic players that are versatile enough to play multiple positions.
For once, we’ve seen an influx of young offensive talent on the Cubs roster. The current roster includes the following players came up through the system: Geovany Soto, Luis Montanez, Darwin Barney, Starlin Castro, Tony Campana, D.J. LeMahieu, Tyler Colvin, Carlos Zambrano, Randy Wells, James Russell, Jeff Samardzija, Kerry Wood, Sean Marshall, Carlos Marmol, and even Brad Snyder has been in their system a few years, and while he was not drafted by them, he made the show with the Cubs. In case you’re counting, that’s 15 players that came up through the Cubs’ system. Obviously, with Reed Johnson, Jeff Baker, Alfonso Soriano, and Marlon Byrd on the DL, that number will drop to 11, but it’s still a very impressive number. Cubs’ teams in the past simply didn’t have that homegrown talent. In fact, the last time a true youth movement happened, which was 1989, the Cubs made the playoffs, and they had 17 homegrown players on that roster, including five in the everyday lineup.
I created a four-deep depth chart listed below. I decided to include Tyler Colvin, Darwin Barney and Starlin Castro, because they have less than two years of service time, and figure to factor heavily into the future. If you research their ages, keeping in mind that the most productive years of most MLB players come around 26-31 years old, then you will understand why they drafted the way they did this year, selecting a lot of high school talent.
It takes most rookies about 1-2 years to adjust to MLB. Most of the Cubs top prospects are 23-25 years old. This means that by the time they’re 25-27 years old, the Cubs should have a good idea if they can be everyday MLB players. If not, there’s a whole second wave of talent in the minors, such as Reggie Golden, Jae-Hoon Ha, Junior Lake, Matt Cerda, Matt Szczur, etc. ready to showcase their skills, and if they can’t handle it, then the wave of high school talent they just drafted should be ready by that time. Once they get the payroll and roster situation under control in 1-2 years, they can start to focus on MLB-ready bats in the draft. Also, due to injuries this year at the MLB level with Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells, and their system with the likes of Robert Whitenack, Jay Jackson, and Trey McNutt, and given the fact it is pretty much a lost season at the MLB level, it would be reasonable to assume that next year, they will most likely focus on MLB-ready arms early in the draft.
Without further adieu, here is my four-deep depth chart:
Catcher – Welington Castillo, Steve Clevenger, Luis Flores, Micah Gibbs
First Base – Rebel Ridling, Justin Bour, Ryan Cuneo, Richard Jones
Second Base – Darwin Barney, D.J. LeMahieu, Pierre LePage, Elliott Soto
Shortstop – Starlin Castro, Marwin Gonzalez, Junior Lake, Arismendy Alcantara
Third Base – Josh Vitters, Marquez Smith, Matt Cerda, Greg Rohan
Left Field – Ryan Flaherty, Ty Wright, Matt Spencer, Reggie Golden
Center Field – Brett Jackson, Tony Campana, Evan Crawford, Matt Szczur
Right Field – Tyler Colvin, Jae-Hoon Ha, Nelson Perez, Michael Burgess
So with that in mind, let’s talk about the draft picks, and why the Cubs selected the way they did …
Let me first start off by saying this is one of the first Cubs’ drafts in memory where I feel they actually had a plan. And I will summarize all of this later.
Ladies and gentlemen, your 2011 Cubs draft selections:
1 – Javier Baez, SS (HS) 18 yrs old R/R
*Great bat speed, average defense, projected as future 3B or OF. Had 20 doubles, 22 hr, 52 RBI and 28 SB. Described as one of the best pure hitters in the draft. Depending how he adjusts to wood bats, there is a very good chance he’ll advance quickly through the system, especially considering the advanced competition he faced in high school.
2 – Dan Vogelbach, 1B (HS), 18 yrs old, L/R
*Rated as having the best overall power in the draft, average defense. Is NOT tremendously athletic, though he’s surprisingly agile for a guy that once weighed 280 lbs a year ago, and now is down to 240 lbs. Along with Baez, he’s one of the guys I’m most excited about in this draft. He hit 17 hr in just 32 games this year.
3 – Zeke DeVoss, 2B/OF (College-draft eligible Soph), 20 yrs old, B/R
*Slap hitter, above average defense, and excellent speed
4 – Tony Zych, P (College-JR), 20 yrs old, R/R
*Mid-90′s fastball, tops at 99 mph, projects as closer/set-up. However, I would not be shocked in the least if the Cubs tried him as a starter, just as they did with another closer/set-up type in Aaron Kurcz. Ironically, Kurcz also topped out at 99 mph in college. Zych was described as a “steal” for the Cubs in the 4th round
5 – Taylor Scott, P (HS), 19 yrs old, R/R
*Starting pitcher, sits mostly in 90-92 mph range, but tops out at 94 mph, and has been increasing velocity consistently since focusing on baseball full-time when his family moved from South Africa to the United States. Despite being fairly raw, he has a tremendous work ethic, and seeks continuous improvement in his game.
6 – Neftali Rosario, C (Puerto Rico), 17 yrs old, R/R
*Described as having a plus arm and plus bat. Still very young, and this pick makes a lot of sense, which I’ll get to later.
7 – Trevor Gretzky, 1B (HS), 18 yrs old, L/L
*Wayne’s son. This was their first overdraft in my opinion, though I believe DeVoss was a slight overdraft as well, but this one didn’t make much sense at all. Gretzky is VERY raw and is a classic “projection guy”, meaning he hasn’t done much to prove himself, but Cubs scouts feel he has potential. In my opinion, you draft those guys after the 10th round. It also might be a wasted pick, as his commitment to San Diego State is considered strong.
8 – Taylor Dugas, OF (College-JR), 21 yrs old, L/L
*Classic CF offense, above average speed, excellent plate discipline
9 – Garrett Schlecht, OF (HS), 18 yrs old, L/L
*Local draft pick, make consistent and hard contact. Described as a very solid hitter that “could really hit at the next level”.
10 – Danny Lockhart, SS (HS), 18 yrs old, L/R
*Keith Lockhart’s son. Very good, solid, fundamental player. He will be a tough sign, but he makes great contact and plays solid defense, so it’d be tough not to pay over-slot for him.
11 – Shawon Dunston Jr., OF (HS), 18 yrs old, L/R
*Shawon’s son. He is a very athletic player, has good bat speed, solid baserunning skills, and is solid defensively. While he has a scholarship offer to Vanderbilt, recent comments by his father suggest that he might be open to signing with the Cubs
12 – Jacob Lindgren, P (HS), 18 yrs old, L/L
*There’s not much out there on this kid. The only report I saw had him throwing high 80′s. He’s only 5’11″, so he’s a long shot to make it anyhow. I really cannot understand at all why the Cubs drafted him this high. This was their second overdraft.
13 – Trey Martin, OF (HS), 18 yrs old, R/R
*He is a lot like Lockhart. In fact, they played in the same league, and both committed to Kennesaw State together. He makes solid contact, is an above average runner, and is an athletic CF.
14 – Dillon Maples, P (HS), 19 yrs old, R/R
*Maples is a tremendously gifted athlete, as he was a standout both on the mound and at the plate. Reports say he reaches mid-90′s with his fastball with advanced polish for his age. As he fills out, scouts figure he can add even more velocity. The Cubs would be fortunate to sign this guy. He has a scholarship to UNC, so they have a tough sign on their hands
15 – Justin Marra, C (HS-Canada), 18 yrs old, L/R
*Member of Canadian Junior National Team. Rated as plus defense, plus bat with above average power
16 – Rafael Lopez, C (College-SR), 23 yrs old, L/R
*Above average defensively. Lopez has a decent bat, but nothing special. I believe he’s the classic minor league back-up catcher, similar to a Chris Robinson.
17 – John Andreoli, OF (College-JR), 21 yrs old, R/R
*Above average defense and speed … but not much else. I don’t really like this pick.
18 – James Pugliese, P (JUCO-FR), 18 yrs old, R/R
*I cannot find anything on his velocity, but I did find his Twitter account, and it appears he might already have a deal in place to sign with the Cubs, given his Tweets. He had good stats with 71 K’s in 57 IP with only 30 hits allowed. Maybe the Cubs found a gem?
19 – Danny Hoilman, 1B (College-SR), 22 yrs old, R/R
*HUGE power. 9 hr, 47 RBI as freshman, 17 hr, 66 RBI as sophomore, 25 hr, 84 RBI as junior, and 22 hr, 50 RBI as senior (with the more wood-like bat this year). Those are some big time numbers, and it should translate fairly well to pro ball.
20 – Ben Klafczynski, OF (College-SR), 22 yrs old, L/R
*Described as an athletic outfielder, but with less speed than you’d expect from a CF with a plus bat. Here are his numbers: 11 hr, 35 RBI as freshman, 6 hr, 43 RBI as sophomore, 10 hr, 62 RBI as junior, and 10 hr, 57 RBI as senior (.367 and .368 averages as a junior and senior, which is pretty consistent to me)
**This guy is my sleeper pick for them, as I haven’t heard a peep at all about him from the Cubs, or anyone else, unlike several other players drafted later. The thing I always look for is consistency. I ask myself, “Did this player come out of nowhere? Did he transfer schools to better coaching? Did he grow, or add more muscle? What were his stats prior to being drafted?” Klafczynski really could turn out to be a gem in my opinion.
21 – Andrew McKirahan, P (College-JR), 21 yrs old, R/L
*Nothing more than a situational lefty reliever from a strong college program (Univ. of Texas). He reportedly touches 91 mph, but sits mostly high 80′s. I wouldn’t expect much from him if he even signs to begin with.
22 – Ethan Elias, P (HS), 18 yrs old, R/R
*Another member of Canadian Junior National Team. My guess is they were scouting the catcher Marra heavily, and decided to draft Elias, as he was the best pitcher in the group. I can only assume this based on an article that just mentions him in passing with the other Canadians they drafted. Click here for report from the Toronto Sun
23 – Bradley Zimmer, OF (HS), 18 yrs old, L/R
*He’s a 6’5″ outfielder with projected power and decent speed. His coach claims he has five-tool potential, but scouting reports say otherwise. The problem is, his brother is the ace starter of the University of San Francisco, which probably means the Cubs have zero chance of signing him, and here’s why … Click here for report from La Jolla Light
24 – George Asmus, P (JUCO-SOPH), 20 yrs old, R/R
*Average stuff, and because of that, he’ll likely sign. I don’t expect much of him.
25 – Rhoderick “Rock” Shoulders, 1B (JUCO-FR), 19 yrs old, L/R
*Has huge power, but is not very athletic, and figures to be a one-dimensional type. However, he’s drawn comparisons to Ryan Howard, and I would say those comparisons are legitimate. They both have similar builds, similar swings, and similar elevation with those swings. They say just like Hoilman, he could possibly play 3B if he loses a little weight. This would be a huge signing for the Cubs to get him this late in the draft.
26 – Michael Jensen, P (JUCO-SOPH), 20 yrs old, R/R
*5-3, 2.00 ERA 63 K’s in 68 IP. A lot of scouts were very high on him, so I’m jumping on the bandwagon too. Could be another Trey McNutt or Nick Struck?
27 – Taiwan Easterling, OF (College-SR), 22 yrs old, R/R
*Might be another Glenn Cook (Miami), a player the Cubs signed that was a star football player, just as Easterling was, as the star WR for FSU. Unlike Cook, he took up baseball again in college his junior year, and had some success, batting .302 this year with 1 hr, 17 RBI and 5 SB in limited action in only 106 AB’s. He did walk just 7 times versus 23 K’s, so he has a long way to go, but he’s very athletic.
28 – Chris Garrison, P (JUCO-SOPH), 21 yrs old, R/R
*Good size at 6’4″. Went 8-4, 2.64 ERA with 62 K’s in 61 IP. Also had a .192 BA against, which is really good
29 – Drew Weeks, 3B (HS), 17 yrs old, R/R
*Not much to report here. His senior average was .470, and he hit .395 overall in high school, but had just 22 doubles, 3 triples, 8 hr, 54 RBI in three seasons. Weeks is already listed in the recruiting class for North Florida post-draft, so I’d assume that means he won’t sign. Click here for report from North Florida’s website
30 – Alturo Maltos-Garcia, P (JUCO-SOPH), 19 yrs old, R/R
*11-1, 2.11 ERA in 94 IP with a very good 139 K’s, albeit with 64 walks. The problem is, he suffered an elbow injury in the playoffs, and sounds as if it’ll be TJ surgery. In the past, the Cubs have not shunned these guys recovering from TJ surgery, so it’s possibly he’ll be signed.
31 – Ronnie Richardson, OF (College-draft eligible SOPH), 21 yrs old, B/R
*Very small at 5’6″, but has plus speed, plays good defense, and was on the US Junior National Team. It’s highly unlikely he’ll sign, considering he’s a sophomore and can improve his draft status the next two years.
32 – Pete LeVitt, P (College-SR), 22 yrs old, R/R
*Good size at 6’5″, and was drafted his senior year of high school by the Cubs in 2008. Went 10-3, 2.93 ERA in 101 IP with 40 walks and 99 K’s. Problem is, the only scouting report I could find says he throws 88 mph tops … If that’s true, and it’s not an old report from when he was drafted in 2008 (the scouting service didn’t list a date), then he doesn’t have much of a future, unless he adds about 4+mph on his fastball
33 – Sheldon McDonald, P (College-5th yr SR), 22 yrs old, L/L
*What’s with the Cubs and drafting Canadians recently? He was part of Team Canada, and even spun a no-hitter for them. His scouting video looks all right, and he reportedly hits low 90′s. He’s the classic late round pick low-ceiling, high-floor type of guy.
34 – Bobby Kelley, OF (JUCO-FR), 19 yrs old, R/R
*In just 39 games, hit .400 with 15 doubles, 9 hr, 42 RBI, and 10 SB. It’s hard to believe he’ll sign, as he might hope to improve his draft stock. If he does sign, it looks like he might have a bright future ahead of him.
35 – Ian Dickson, P (College-JR), 20 yrs old, R/R
*I know it’s the 35th round, but this is one of those curious picks, just like Hendry drafting Jocketty’s son a year or two ago with no apparent merit. Dickson last pitched in 2010 with a 7.71 ERA and 23 K’s in 23 IP, but 36 hits allowed. Again, like LeVitt, they’re both 6’5″, and the only scouting report I had, said he was at 83 mph with his fastball. However, as with LeVitt, I’m not sure if the report was from high school or not.
36 – Trevor Garcia, IF/OF (College-SR), 22 yrs old, R/R
*Finished with a .388 avg, 13 doubles, 3 triples, 6 hr, 34 RBI, and 18 walks vs 24 K’s. He’s a classic utility guy that can play anywhere. He projects as a decent bench bat
37 – Steven Maxwell, P (College-SR), 23 yrs old, R/R
*5-1, 3.13 ERA in 63 IP with 18 walks vs 53 K’s. He’s a starter, and missed time with a biceps injury earlier this year. His scouting video looks decent, and he reportedly hits 94-95 mph tops, but sits comfortably in the 91-93 mph range consistently
38 – Casey Lucchese, P (College-SR), 22 yrs old, R/R
*Drafted last year by the Cubs in the 39th round. He improved his draft stock dramatically this year … (note sarcasm). He was their closer, and was 3-2, 3.95 ERA in 43 IP, with 25 walks vs 48 K’s. According to reports, he sits mostly in the 92 mph range, but with good sink on his fastball. He’s a middle reliever at best in pro ball.
39 – Ricky Jacquez, P (HS), 18 yrs old, R/R
*He lasted until the 39th round for two reasons: #1-because he’s 5’9″, and #2-because he signed with Univ. of Texas. I’ve seen reports that said he throws as high as 99 mph, and others that say he tops out at 97 mph, but sits mostly in the 92-94 mph range. Just like a few years ago with Sonny Gray, it’s HIGHLY unlikely they’ll sign him away from college, unless they offer 1st-2nd round money, and I do not see that happening at all, even though he struck out 20 in a game this year.
40 – PJ Francescon, P (College-SR), 22 yrs old, R/R
*6-2, 3.28 ERA with 6 CG and 2 shutouts. In 68 IP, he struck out 66 batters
41 – Austin Urban, P (JUCO-FR), 18 yrs old, R/R
*Selected in the 27th round in 2010 by the Orioles out of high school, but attended a JUCO to be draft eligible again. He struggled with command, and that is, perhaps, why he fell this year, and will likely go back for another year to try to improve his draft stock again. He tops out at 94-95 mph
42 – Brad Zapenas, SS (College-JR), 21 yrs old, R/R
*Classic defensive specialist with no bat. I don’t understand these types of selections or international FA signings. If you can’t hit, you can’t play everyday, in my opinion, no matter how good your glove is.
43 – Jeff Calhoun, P/2B (HS), 18 yrs old, R/R
*Two-way player. Hit .398 with 9 doubles, 7 triples, 7 hr, 45 RBI, and had a 11-3 record, 1.61 ERA, in 74 IP with 28 walks vs 127 K’s and 7 CG with 3 shutouts
44 – Kenny Socorro, SS (College-SR), 22 yrs old, R/R
*He’s a fringe hitter without much power with 1 hr, 27 RBI this year and had a .337 avg. He projects as a backup.
45 – Tanner Kichler, P (HS), 18 yrs old, R/R
*Good size at 6’5″ and good projection. The problem is, he isn’t likely to sign.
46 – Scott Weismann, P (College-JR), 21 yrs old, R/R
*Throws a 93 mph sinker, and was the team’s closer where he limited hitters to a .128 avg. Given his switch to closer, and the success he had in that role, it’s doubtful he signs, and will likely try to improve his draft stock for next year at Clemson
47 – David Ernst, P (HS), 18 yrs old, R/R
*Not a very good ceiling throwing just 91mph tops, but sits mostly in the 86-88 mph range. He did throw a no-hitter, however, in the high school championship game, so you never know…(it was in North Dakota though, so consider the competition)
48 – Sam Howard, P (HS), 18 yrs old, R/L
*Sits in mid-80′s…not likely to sign
49 – Antonio Gonzales, P (HS), 18 yrs old, L/L
*7-4, 2.18 ERA in 70 IP with 28 walks vs 69 K’s. Not likely to sign
50 – Cody Edwards, P (JUCO-SOPH), 21 yrs old, R/R
*Good size at 6’4″ and primarily sits in 88-91 mph range, topping out at 93 mph.
The Cubs haven’t appeared to have a real strategy until this year. This draft was known as a pitching-heavy draft, and the Cubs figured they could wait, and nab some good arms late. In my opinion, they didn’t really do a good job of drafting pitchers, and seemed to really make a few reaches at the end for some fringe guys, but overall I like the draft for the Cubs, as I believe they set themselves up very well for the future with the waves of talent I discussed earlier.
Historically, MLB teams sign about 60% of their draft, which would mean signing 30 picks. The Cubs drafted 11 college seniors (assuming all of them want to continue their careers, that’d be 11 guaranteed signings), so they’d need to sign 19 others to reach the typical 30 signed picks.
Here would be my list of the 19 other players they need to sign in order to have a successful draft:
Shawon Dunston Jr.
Keep an eye on the 19 guys I just listed. If they sign almost all of them, it’ll be successful. Out of that group, Ricardo Jacquez will be the most difficult one to sign, but if they offer enough bonuses for the rest, they have a very good shot of being one of the best teams in this draft class coming up together. A rotation that includes: Jacquez, Maples, Jensen, Calhoun, and Scott would be outstanding
Combine them with:
C – Rosario
1B – Vogelbach
2B – Lockhart
SS – Baez
3B – Shoulders (provided he loses some weight)
LF – Gretzky
CF – DeVoss
RF – Dunston Jr.
That would be something else to watch that team. Hopefully Tom Ricketts follows through with what he told Tim Wilken, and they spend big on this draft, as I thought the Cubs did an outstanding job getting bats in an otherwise weak offensive draft.
Shawon Dunston, Jr.
For additional video of the Cubs’ draftees: Click Here – CubsNewsCast
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