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2010 Draft Preview - Chicago Cubs

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The seventeenth part of my draft preview series is on the Chicago Cubs and their scouting director Tim Wilken.

Owner: Joe Ricketts family, bought club in 2009
General Manager: Jim Hendry, promoted in July 2002
Scouting Director: Tim Wilken, first draft was 2006

Looking Back

2006 Draft: $5.0 Million Budget

1. Tyler Colvin, OF, Clemson, #13 overall: In Tim Wilken’s first draft, the Cubs decided to reach for an athletic outfielder in the first round, despite the fact that they didn’t pick again until the fifth round. Colvin wasn’t even really considered a strong first round prospect, making his pick at #13 questionable, but the upside was there. Following players selected: Travis Snider, Chris Marrero, Jeremy Jeffress. Signing bonus: $1.475 million.
2. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Notre Dame, #149 overall: This choice could be seen from a mile away, as the Cubs were the main candidates to choose Samardzija and make an attempt to lure him away from football. He was a borderline first round talent, making this gamble quite solid. Following players selected: Luke Hopkins, Cory Van Allen, Chris Errecart. Signing bonus: $1 million, signed Major League contract later.
3. Josh Lansford, 3B, Cal Poly, #179 overall: Lansford had good baseball blood and was signable, making him an attractive choice here. He was expected to go somewhere in this general area, and he was a solid college hitter. Following players selected: Brian Jeroloman, Zech Zinicola, Brae Wright. Signing bonus: $155,000.
4. Steve Clevenger, SS, Chipola JC (FL), #209 overall: A solid hitter, Clevenger was expected to go somewhere in this range to someone who believed he might develop a little power. He was a normal seventh round pick, but one that converted to catching shortly thereafter. Following players selected: John Baksh, Sam Brown, Andy Bouchie. Signing bonus: $130,000.
5. Billy Muldowney, RHP, Pittsburgh, #239 overall:
A pitchability college righty with little projection, Muldowney was chosen as a relatively safe pick. Some saw him as a future reliever, despite his starting success at Pitt. Following players selected: Dan O’Brien, Sean Rooney, Shane Hill. Signing bonus: $98,500.
Other Notable Selections:
RHP Chris Huseby (11th), Martin County HS (FL), $1.3 million bonus; C Blake Parker (16th), Arkansas.

2007 Draft: $6.1 Million Budget

1. Josh Vitters, 3B, Cypress HS (CA), #3 overall: Vitters was a hot prospect from start to finish during his senior year, making him an easy choice in the top five. This was a solid pick by the Cubs’ management, and he had one of the highest ceilings in the draft class as a prep hitter. Following players selected: Daniel Moskos, Matt Wieters, Ross Detwiler. Signing bonus: $3.2 million.
2. Josh Donaldson, C, Auburn, #48 overall: Expected to go somewhere in this range, Donaldson was a solid hitting catcher. He was relatively new to the catching position, but there were few that doubted he’d stick back there, and his bat behind the plate made him even more valuable if he could stick there. Following players selected: Michael Burgess, Wes Roemer, Charlie Culberson. Signing bonus: $652,500.
3. Tony Thomas, 2B, Florida State, #97 overall: Thomas was a huge surprise during his junior year at Florida State, coming out of nowhere to become a top 100 pick. This was about where he was expected to go, making this a solid choice of a fairly safe college middle infielder. Following players selected: Brian Friday, Eric Niesen, Steven Souza. Signing bonus: $360,000.
4. Darwin Barney, SS, Oregon State, #127 overall: Barney was taken early than expected here by a couple of rounds, as most teams thought little of him both defensively and offensively. His approach left something to be desired, but his college success at Oregon State made him stand out to some scouts. Following players selected: Quincy Latimore, Tim Bascom, Derek Norris. Signing bonus: $222,750.
5. Brandon Guyer, OF, Virginia, #157 overall: Guyer was an infielder at Virginia, but the Cubs drafted him as an outfielder. He was expected to go somewhere in this range as a speedy kid with a decent hit tool, and he was considered a decent college hitter with fourth outfielder upside. Following players selected: Andrew Walker, Jake Arrieta, Brad Meyers. Signing bonus: $148,000.
Other Notable Selections: None.

2008 Draft: $5.5 Million Budget

1. Andrew Cashner, RHP, TCU, #19 overall: Cashner had the best pure fastball in the draft class, having been a reliever in college. However, the Cubs drafted him as a starter, and he was expected to go around here somewhere to a team that believed they could stretch Cashner out while keeping his top of the rotation natural stuff. Following players selected: Josh Fields, Ryan Perry, Reese Havens. Signing bonus: $1.54 million.
2. Ryan Flaherty, SS, Vanderbilt, #41 overall: A high-character hitting machine at Vanderbilt, Flaherty was expected to go somewhere in the second round, though the Cubs picked him with a supplemental first round pick. However, his hit tool was that good, and his makeup made him a desirable prospect. Following players selected: Jaff Decker, Wade Miley, Jeremy Bleich. Signing bonus: $906,000.
3. Aaron Shafer, RHP, Wichita State, #65 overall: A pitcher with a huge arm, Shafer was considered a first round prospect before getting hurt his sophomore year. He never regained that status, but he was expected to be a second round pick as a college arm with more upside than usual for a second-rounder. Following players selected: Dennis Raben, Cody Satterwhite, Javier Rodriguez. Signing bonus: $625,000.
4. Chris Carpenter, RHP, Kent State, #97 overall: Carpenter was also a first round prospect once upon a time, and injuries got in the way. Drafted twice before, this was actually about a round below where he was expected to go, and he had considerable upside compared to most third round college pitchers. Following players selected: Aaron Pribanic, Scott Green, Kirk Nieuwenhuis. Signing bonus: $385,000.
5. Matt Cerda, SS, Oceanside HS (CA), #131 overall: Cerda was picked earlier than expected by a few rounds, as his small stature and lack of athletic tools made him an undesirable prospect to some purist scouts. However, the Cubs believed in his bat, and they’ve transitioned him to catcher since. Following players selected: Steven Hensley, Brett Jacobson, Sean Ratliff. Signing bonus: $500,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP Jay Jackson (9th), Furman, $90K bonus; RHP Casey Coleman (15th), Florida Gulf Coast, $100K bonus; SS Logan Watkins (21st), Goddard HS (KS), $500K bonus.

2009 Draft: $4.0 Million Budget

1. Brett Jackson, OF, California, #31 Overall: Jackson came with a few concerns as a toolsy first-round outfield candidate. He struck out a bit too much over the course of his college career, but he was a rare five-tool college hitter with a chance to stick in center field. Good find at the end of the first round if everything turns out well. Following players selected: Tim Wheeler, Steve Baron, Rex Brothers. Signing bonus: $972,000.
2. D.J. LeMahieu, 2B, LSU, #79 Overall: LeMahieu had an up-and-down sophomore year at LSU, as he started out at shortstop, was moved to second base later on in the season, and he also struggled getting off the ground with his bat at times. However, the Cubs valued his ability to be a plus-hitting middle infielder with solid actions. Following players selected: Pat Corbin, Trevor Holder, Kyle Seager. Signing bonus: $508,000.
3. Austin Kirk, LHP, Owasso HS (OK), #109 Overall: Kirk was a fairly finished product as a prep arm, showing a mature, durable body with average or slightly above-average stuff. He was expected to go somewhere in the late third round to fifth round, making this a solid pick. Following players selected: Josh Spence, Jonathan Meyer, A.J. Morris. Signing bonus: $320,000.
4. Chris Rusin, LHP, Kentucky, #140 Overall: Rusin was a college senior with solid stuff, though a number of scouts saw him as a future lefty reliever. He was expected to go somewhere from round four to six, and the Cubs picked him at the end of the fourth. Solid pick with little upside. Following players selected: Wes Hatton, Miguel Pena, Tyler Blandford. Signing bonus: $140,000.
5. Wes Darvill, SS, Brookswood SS (BC), #170 Overall: Darvill was a tall, skinny Canadian that wasn’t projected to be a long-term shortstop. Unlike LeMahieu, he was expected to shift further to his right, ending at third base in the long run. He had good upside at the plate, but he was considerably more raw than a lot of picks in this range. Following players selected: Casey Haerther, Michael Taylor, Shaver Hansen. Signing bonus: $142,200.
Other Notable Selections: LHP Brooks Raley (6th), Texas A&M, $750K bonus; RHP Trey McNutt (32nd), Shelton State CC (AL), $115K bonus.

Tim Wilken has as much, or more, scouting director experience than anyone else in the league. He has run ten drafts by my personal count, including five with Toronto, Tampa Bay’s 2005 draft, and the four since he has joined the Cubs. At each of Toronto and Tampa Bay, he was replaced by men that are current scouting directors elsewhere in the league, with Chris Buckley taking over in Toronto before moving to Cincinnati, and R.J. Harrison taking over in Tampa Bay. As such, Wilken’s a much-respected scouting director in baseball, and his experience is a good tool for the Cubs to use. Looking at a few trends in Wilken’s picks, one can see that he generally prefers athletic college hitters over prep bats, though the prep bats he takes are rather athletic and have either defensive value or big pop in their bats. The stereotypical Wilken pick is manifested in guys like Flaherty and LeMahieu, college bats with good makeup, a record of winning, and also solid, if unspectacular, bats. On the pitching side, Wilken generally likes bigger, more polished arms, and even a prep arm like Austin Kirk fits that bill. Generally, Wilken’s looking for players that don’t need a huge amount of minor league at-bats or innings.

Looking at draft budgeting, the Cubs have been disappointing to me as a club that has good revenues, as they don’t carry that money into the draft as much as they should. Since Wilken took over, the Cubs have spent the 19th-most on draft bonuses, which isn’t in line with their Major League payroll. The club has spent $5.15 million per draft under Wilken, which puts him 18th in line compared to other scouting directors with at least one draft under their belt. The five new scouting directors are not included, though I kept the sixth, that of Boston, in for comparison, since the same front office structure is in place there. The Cubs own picks 16, 65, 97, 130, and every 30 picks after that in the coming 2010 draft, which is equivalent to their own natural pick in each round, with no additional compensation picks or picks lost in the compensation system. I expect the Cubs to spend somewhere near $5 million on those picks this year, which should essentially reflect the difference in slots between last year’s Brett Jackson pick and this year’s 16th pick. It has been pretty mediocre spending, and if the Cubs wake up to how much of an advantage they could get through the draft, then they would be much better off.

Connecting the Cubs to a few players, my latest mock draft has lefty college pitcher Drew Pomeranz falling to them with their 16th pick. There’s probably only a 1 in 7 chance that a possibility like that happens, but Pomeranz fits that mold well. Other possible names could include Alex Wimmers, Bryce Brentz, James Paxton, and Chad Bettis, all fairly polished names with some good upside. Brentz is the only hitter in the bunch, and I do not see many good hitting names available to them in that slot unless they want to dip down into the more volatile prep ranks. Josh Sale, Austin Wilson, and Yordy Cabrera could be available in that slot, but they generally don’t fit the Cubs’ overall tendencies at the moment. Looking beyond the first round, I’ve connected players such as Kolbrin Vitek, Mark Canha, Brett Weibley, and Ross Wilson to them in the second round. Later names of interest might include Gauntlett Eldemire, Turner Phelps, Matt den Dekker, and Stewart Ijames, though each of those players’ draft position could swing rapidly between now and June. Overall, I expect the Cubs to add a few interesting names with relatively modest upside, but relatively high floors. They’ve done so in the past, and I expect more of the same from a solid amateur scouting department.

*Bonus information came from BA.

What do you guys think? What will the Cubs do?