After Bryant, Cubs infuse system with ready arms
Chicago uses seven of first 10 picks on college pitchers to stack farm
CHICAGO -- Cubs president of baseball operations Theo Epstein and vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod ended the second day of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday in the club's war room, looking at their board.
Through 10 rounds, the Cubs felt they got the Draft's best hitter (No. 2 overall pick Kris Bryant), a position player they couldn't pass up (third-round pick Jacob Hannemann) and a bevy of experienced arms that can infuse the organization's well-noted lack of pitching depth.
"I felt really good about it, because it was college pitchers that we really liked," McLeod said Saturday, as the Draft concluded. "It really fit a lot of the criteria that we like from a mechanical standpoint, performance standpoint. At the end of the day, we were really happy to see our board up there with the college pitchers that we really liked."
The Cubs completed their second Draft under McLeod, Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer on Saturday, coming away pleased with their newest class.
The Cubs took 19 arms -- 16 right-handed, three left-handed -- eight outfielders, seven infielders and six catchers. Ten of their pitching selections came from the college ranks, seven in the first 10 rounds.
"I think everything always feels good after the Draft concludes," McLeod said. "Immediately, there's a lot of excitement about the new players you're bringing into the system. You're always happy and excited the days after the Draft, and we are that."
Because the Cubs, with the second overall pick, knew they'd get one of the big three (Stanford right-hander Mark Appel, Oklahoma righty Jonathan Gray or Bryant, a third baseman from San Diego), McLeod said the main focus heading into the Draft was on the second-fourth rounds. This year, the Cubs wanted to target college starters after mostly taking high-upside high schoolers a year ago.
They succeeded, choosing Missouri left-hander Rob Zastryzny (second round), Kent State right-hander Tyler Skulina (fourth), Texas Tech righty Trey Masek (fifth) and Pepperdine righty Scott Frazier (sixth).
"We've talked a lot about needing some starting pitching in the organization," McLeod said. "We really wanted to infuse the system with guys who fit the criteria of what we felt could be starting pitchers."
The Cubs appear to have gotten a lot of value in those picks, as well. Masek, Frazier and right-hander Michael Wagner -- a 15th-round selection and Bryant's roommate at San Diego -- were all ranked by MLB.com significantly higher than they were selected. Masek was ranked as MLB.com's 67th-best prospect on its Top 100 Draft Prospects list, but went 138th overall; Frazier ranked No. 77, but the Cubs took him with the 168th pick; and Wagner, the 438th pick, was ranked No. 58.
McLeod admitted he was a bit surprised to see those arms still available.
The Cubs went off the board a bit with their third-round pick in Hannemann, a center fielder from Brigham Young. Hannemann, a 22-year-old freshman who served his Mormon mission, played only one season of college ball. He hit .344/.415/.553 with 16 doubles, seven triples and five home runs en route to West Coast Conference Freshman of the Year and Louisville Slugger Freshman All-American honors.
He also was a two-sport player at Brigham Young, listed on the football team's spring depth chart as a backup cornerback.
"Jacob Hannemann became a guy for us somewhat later in the spring, that became one of those guys that we just had to have, with his athleticism and his strength and what we feel his upside could be," McLeod said of the 6-foot-1, 195-pounder.
While Hannemann might be a bit raw, the majority of the Cubs' early selections aren't. McLeod said he expects most of the pitchers taken on Day 2, specifically guys like Zastryzny, Masek and Skulina, to quickly move through the Minor League ranks.
"Most of the time with those guys, when it's High-A, Double-A, that's when they're going to get their biggest challenges," McLeod said. "But we like all of them, obviously, and I would expect those guys to go out and throw strikes and compete right away."
In the Pipeline
The Cubs' 2013 Draft class adds to their rapidly improving farm system.
The club's Top 20 Prospects list is headed by three impact position players -- shortstop Javier Baez and outfielders Albert Almora and Jorge Soler -- and a power-hitting first baseman in Dan Vogelbach (No. 11).
The additions of the 19 pitchers add to the depth Epstein and Co. have tried to implement since arriving in Chicago. Right-handers Arodys Vizcaino (No. 5, out for season after arthroscopic surgery on his right elbow), Dillon Maples (No. 6) and Pierce Johnson (No. 7) are all considered Top 10 prospects by MLB.com, while last year's second-round pick, righty Duane Underwood (No. 15), is an intriguing raw talent.