As the 2002 MLB draft was approaching, the Chicago Cubs’ farm system was highly regarded. Baseball America had it ranked in the top 3 in 2002, and 2001 and the trend would continue in 2003. Their biggest strength at the time was pitching. The club had four out of the first thirty-eight picks in 2002 and spent them all on promising pitching prospects.
Unfortunately for the Cubs, only one of them tasted AAA ball and he, Bobby Brownlie, is in independent ball now. I was planning on writing this article on the 2003 draft but as I researched more and more, the Cubs have had some awful drafts.
The Cubs high farm system ranking was due to their plethora of international signings. These ranged from Juan Cruz to Angel Guzman to Carlos Zambrano. All three were highly touted prospects at one point in their careers. This article will cover the Cubs’ drafts from 2000 to 2003. This is giving players time to develop before labeling them as a bust. Since MLB’s drafts are 50 rounds each and teams usually waste later picks on college-bound players in hopes of luring them with money, I will keep this to the first 2 rounds of the drafts. This is where the top talent lies in the draft, sure someone can get a great pick later on, but here’s where results are expected. For some perspective, I ran a few numbers and figured the average percentage that have reached the majors:
- First Round Picks between 2000 to 2003: 92/162, 56.79%
- Second Round Picks between 2000 to 2003: 55/123, 44.72%
- Total Combined: 147/285 51.58%
- First Round Picks between 2000 to 2003: 1/7, 14.28% – Mark Prior was the lone Major Leaguer
- Second Round Picks between 2000 to 2003: 2/4, 50% – Bobby Hill (traded) and Andrew Sisco (Rule 5 pick by Royals) were the major leaguers. Sisco made the bigs as a Rule 5 pick and not with the Cubs.
- Total Combined: 3/11, 27.27%
The Cubs percentage is a little more than half the MLB average. The disparity grows even more once you factor in the fact that Andrew Sisco made the majors with the Royals and not the Cubs. Mark Prior was a “no-brainer” in 2001 after the Twins got Joe Mauer. He provided Cubs fans with many seasons of hope and showed great promise.
Unfortunately, injuries got the better of him and Jim Hendry did not offer him arbitration this past December, rendering him a free agent. Prior was our best pick in those 4 drafts, 1st or 2nd round pick. I would say our second best has been Bobby Hill. I say this because the Cubs traded him in a package to acquire Kenny Lofton and Aramis Ramirez.
Here is a list of the hits and misses:
Luis Montanez – SS (3rd overall) – A SS who could barely play LF and only reached AAA in his 7th pro year. Montanez hit .224/.281/.371 in 245 AB’s.
Fun Fact: The Cubs drafted Dontrelle Willis in the 8th round, 223 overall in this draft.
This draft produced plenty of big leaguers
- Round 1: Mark Prior
- Round 2: Andrew Sisco
- Round 3: Ryan Theriot
- Round 4: Ricky Nolasco
- Round 5: Brendan Harris
- Round 7: Sergio Mitre
- Round 11: Geovany Soto
- Round 14: Khalil Greene (he went back to school instead of signing with the Cubs)
The busts were a plenty in this draft
- Bobby Brownlie (21st) – Never developed and is in independent ball now
- Luke Hagerty (32nd) – Elbow surgery and bounced around organizations
- Chadd Blasko (36th) – Surgery bug hit him hard and the Cubs released him
- Matthew Clanton (38th) – 2 appearances in 3 seasons – was cut
- Brian Dopirak (56th) – Still in the system and cannot get past AA
- Justin Jones (62nd) – Not a bust yet but is pushing it. Will start in AA for Twins
Fun Fact: The Cubs drafted Rich Hill (4th round), Billy Petrick (3rd round), Micah Hoffpauir (13th round), and Rocky Cherry (14th round)
Not the Cubs best draft
Ryan Harvey (6th) – We took him one spot ahead of Nick Markakis. He has career minor league numbers of .253/.297/.457. I have him down as a bust in my book.
People of interest the Cubs drafted in ’03: Jake Fox (3rd round), Sean Marshall (6th round) and Sam Fuld (24th round). The Cubs drafted, but failed to sign, Matt LaPorta (14th round), who went 7th overall to the Brewers this past draft. Also, we drafted Tim Lincecum (48th round), whom the Giants drafted 10th overall in the 2006 draft. In my opinion, this is their worst draft over the aforementioned period.
Overall, the Cubs have not drafted really well lately but with that being said, they were also bitten hard by the injury bug. Seems like any arm they took in the first two rounds have had elbow surgery. While the Cubs have kept up their farm system by signing foreign talent, they need to develop major leaguers through the draft, whether it’s to play for them or to be used as trade bait. Seems like they have been drafting better as of late and I’m curious to see how Tim Wilken’s picks develop.
He has a proven track record of producing major league players. He has graduated 12 consecutive first round picks into MLB players for the Blue Jays. That is a great track record if I ever saw one. I’m still not convinced by the Tyler Colvin pick, but we shall see how he develops.
As negative as this article was, I’m really optimistic about the future of our farm system. I have faith in Wilken and look forward to what he can produce.