Chicago Cubs: A Decade Of Hits And Misses In The 1st Round

by Patrick Gilbride | Posted on Tuesday, August 27th, 2013
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Javier Baez

1st Round Picks Over Past 10 Years: Chicago Cubs

September is just a week away and rosters will be expanding from the 25-man roster to a 40-man roster. This allows teams to get a look at some of their younger players in the minors to see what if they have what it takes to play in the bigs, and possibly earning a playoff roster spot, something Manny Machado took advantage of last season.

The Chicago Cubs will not be in any contention for a playoff spot this season, but the future looks bright for them. Since Theo Epstein has taken over, the minor league system has added 4 top 100 prospects in all of baseball and looking to add a young core to eventually compete as early as 2014. Here is a review of the Cubs 1st round picks over the past 10 seasons.

2013-Kris Bryant, 3B University of San Diego (2nd Overall)

Bryant was up against pitchers Mark Appel and Jonatahon Gray as the top three talents in the 2013 draft, just it was hard to predict exactly where all three would go. While Appel went to Houston #1 overall, many thought Gray would be destined for Chicago due to their lack of pitching in the minors. The Cubs went with Bryant, a tall, athletic third baseman with a ton of power, hitting 31 home runs in 2013, out-slugging over 200 Division 1 teams. He is already up to High-A Daytona where he is hitting a combined .344 with 7 home runs and 23 RBI in 27 games. This is very good news for Cubs fans, as he could be seen starting out at Double-A next season, with a possible September call up if he continues mashing.

2012-Albert Almora, OF Mater Academy Charter School (6th Overall)

Albert Almora was the first draft pick under new President of Baseball Operations, Theo Epstein. Almora is young, still just 19, but had the work ethic that just couldn’t be passed up on. He has the upside of a 5-tool player, with the ability to play excellent defense in the majors right now. Over the past two seasons, He has a combined .326 average with 5 homers, 42 RBI an 9 SB. These numbers might not pop out at you as a great player, but Almora has been dealing with injuries over the past year that has limited his play. With a .329 average at A-ball, he will most likely start out next season at High-A Daytona with a midseason promotion to Double-A. Again, he is still just 19, so don’t be disappointed if you don’t see him in Wrigley until 2015 the earliest.

2011-Javier Baez, SS Arlington Country Day School (9th Overall)

Baez right now is the most exciting prospect to be watching. He compiled a .274/17/57 line in 76 games at High-A Daytona before being called up to Double-A Tennessee. Many people thought this is were he would struggle most, but Baez did not. In just 42 games, he’s hit .291/14/38 RBI, giving him a total of 31 homers so far this season. Baez has had strikeout issues over his career, but has been improving over the past season. With Starlin Castro at SS, Baez could eventually move to 2B or 3B whenever he gets the call to the bigs, which could be as early as next year.

2010-Hayden Simpson, RHP Southern Arkansas University(16th Overall)

2010 MLB draft was loaded with superstars, Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Matt Harvey and Chris Sale. Unfortunately for the Cubs, they were all chosen before their 16th overall pick and Simpson was not a name to be remembered. Coming out of college, he topped out at 96-97 MPH and was that was his third best pitch, with a devastating slider and knee-buckling curveball. It came to surprise to many scouts being a first-rounder, as he was projected to be a 3rd rounder at best. His rookie season he battled a case of mono, which eventually made him lose a lot of weight and velocity on his fastball. Simpson made his debut in 2011, putting up a 1-10 record with a 6.27 ERA in 79 IP and 2012 was also a struggle, going 4-7 with a 6.56 ERA. These numbers were only at Single-A and proved he never recovered fully from mono and seemed easily as a bust. The Cubs released him in 2013 and is pitching in an Independent League.

2009-Brett Jackson, OF Cal-Berkeley (31st Overall)

Brett Jackson is still one of the more high profiled prospects, as he reached Wrigley last season. He has all the tools in the world, thought of as a good defender and 20/20 potential, but has not put it all together. His biggest issue is strike outs, whose career K% is 41.5 and BB% at just 15.5%. Jackson is a possible candidate for a September call-up this season, but injuries and poor performance has put a damper on it. He is 25 and needs to prove himself soon before the Cubs decide he is nothing better than a 4th outfielder, so they could let him do so in a September call-up.

2008-Andrew Cashner, RHP Conroe HS (19th Overall)

Cashner is a hard-throwing pitcher that stands at 6’6” 220 lbs, so basically prototypical size for a pitcher that the Cubs drooled over. He didn’t make his debut until 2010 due to some injuries, but pitched well in the minors, with a September call-up in 2011. He was a young pitcher who was thought to be a good 1-2 combo when Jeff Samardzija stretched out to a starter. When Epstein took over in 2011, the Padres had traded Mat Latos for a young first baseman in Yonder Alonso. This was questionable since they had a young promising Anthony Rizzo in the minors and Epstein noticed a huge hole at 1st base. The Cubs and Padres worked out a deal to send Rizzo to Chicago and Cashner to San Diego. So far the trade has worked well for both, as Rizzo is the future 1st baseman for many years and the Padres received a middle of the rotation starter.

2007- Josh Vitters, 3B Cypress HS (3rd Overall)

Like Brett Jackson, Vitters is another candidate for this seasons September call-ups. Drafted young out of high schoo, Vitters would need a lot of time to mature into the power hitter he projected at. Each season he seemed a little behind, but always progressed each year. He earned a call-up last season, but struggled hitting just .121 with 2 home runs. Vitters has battled a number of injuries in 2013 and is only 23, but with newly acquired Mike Olt and Kris Bryant, his time to prove he can stick in the majors is slowly diminishing.

2006-Tyler Colvin, OF Clemson University (16th Overall)

Colvin burst onto the scene in 2006 as one of the Cubs best prospects. He could hit for average capable of putting up 15-20 home runs each year. He only needed 2 full seasons in the minors, before being called up to Chicago in 2009. 2010 was his best season hitting .254/20/56 for the Cubs, but struggled mightily in 2011, hitting just .150. Colvin was another trade candidate when Epstein took over, being hauled to the Rockies for Ian Stewart. For both players, it was a change of scenery that could benefit both clubs. Ian Stewart since has been released from the Cubs and Colvin is currently with Colorado.

2005-Mark Pawelek, LHP Springville HS (20th Overall)

Pawelek was rated as the top left-handed pitcher in the 2005 draft. He stood at 6’3” and 190 lbs topping out at 94-95 MPH and was still young enough to add some velocity. In his first two seasons in the minors, he pitched to a 2.53 ERA, but struggled every year after, with his lowest ERA coming in at 4.64 after 2006. Pawelek last pitched for an independent team in 2010.

2004-No First Round Draft Pick

2003- Ryan Harvey, OF Dunedin HS (6th Overall)

Ryan Harvey was a big guy at 6’5” 200 lbs, with a the tools of a 5-tool player with a lot of power. His minor league average was around .250, but hit close to 20 home runs from 2004-2006. The furthest he got with Chicago was Double-A Tennessee and is currently playing Independent Ball. His highest accomplishment was being the first player in the Florida State League to hit four home runs in one game, which was recently accomplished for the second time by Cubs prospect, Javier Baez.

BHC Pick of the Litter: Javier Baez

BHC Franchise Flop- Hayden Simpson

Analysis: Cubs draft picks over the past seasons have not worked out well at all. Much blame has gone to former GM Jim Hendry, who was more focussed on spending money on the Major League team than acquiring young talent in the minors. Hendry did draft some good prospects that are still in the system, such as Javier Baez, Brett Jackson and Josh Vitters, but has been totally revamped since Epstein took over. Epstein has turned the Cubs minor league system into a Top 5 organization in minor league talent through drafts and trades. His highest regard is going after the top talent in the draft in the first round, followed by stockpiling pitchers the rest of the way. The future is bright in Chicago, as you will soon see some of these names for years to come.

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Patrick Gilbride
About the Author

Patrick has been an avid Cubs fan for almost 20 years and looks forward to covering them in their rebuilding process. Patrick played NCAA Division III baseball and was a participant in the 2009 College World Series. Follow Patrick on Twitter @PatrickG42.

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