Theo Epstein and company have drafted over 120 players in the past three years, one has made it to the big leagues—Kris Bryant. While the Cubs claimed the unofficial best minor league system to start the year, many of those prospects were acquire via trade or through the international market.
To be fair, the Cubs last three drafts haven’t been a bust but instead have used their picks to stockpile players in the lower levels of the minors while using trades and free agents signings to bolster the upper levels and acquire talent closer to the majors. The game plan has been the same the last three years, take the best player/bat available and stockpile pitching.
If you would have taken a fan poll, Jonathan Gray would be a Cub and Kris Bryant would be in Colorado hitting balls into the mountains. But it looks like the Cubs front office knew what they were doing. Bryant was everyone’s 2014 Minor League Player of the Year and earned NL Rookie of the Month honors for May in his first full month in Chicago.
Here's a look at the 2014 draft:
2013 Draft—40 picks—24 signed—17 still in organization
While Cubs fans screamed for the Cubs to draft a college pitcher to help a team that had no chance to make the playoffs, the Cubs stayed with their plan and selected Kris Bryant. He’s slugging baseballs off the jumbotron at Wrigley and is the only Cubs draft pick in last three years to make the majors. While Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray are still in the minors, Bryant earned Minor League Player of the Year honors in his first full season and looks to be on his way to superstar status.
Once again the Cubs hammered the college ranks for arms, taking seven pitchers in their first 10 picks. Left-hander Rob Zastryzny (2nd round-41st overall) spent his first full season in High A but had a ERA of over 9.00 in the first inning and landed on the DL after three games in AA this year. Right-hander Tyler Skulina (4th round-Myrtle Beach) was part of a no-hitter at Kane County last season and earned a promotion to Daytona by year’s end.
Trey Masek (5th round) has been saddled with arm problems since the draft and hasn’t pitched above short-season. Scott Frazier (6th round) is one of the hardest throwers in the organization but his command has kept him in Mesa for most of his career. David Garner (7th round) was promoted to South Bend this spring and Sam Wilson (8th round) has only pitched as high as short-season. Zack Godley (10th round) was strong in the bullpen at Kane County and Daytona but was shipped to Arizona as part of the Miguel Montero trade.
The most promising late round arm is Tennessee prep Trevor Clifton (12th round), who turned pro instead of heading to Kentucky. The only prep arm signed in ’13, Clifton was solid in Boise in ’14 and is part of the South Bend rotation in his first full season. Michael Wagner (15th round) and Tyler Ihrig (23rd round) have been used throughout the organization as both have logged innings in AAA and AA.
Cubs have parted ways with right-hander Trevor Graham (13th round), who made 10 starts in Boise last year and won two games in Daytona in an emergency role due to injuries. Brad Renner was the Cubs 28th round pick out of Florida State College but only threw six innings after the draft and due to injuries, didn’t pitch again before being released. Zak Hemans, 30th round from Princeton, made a start last year for AAA Iowa and 20 relief appearances for Kane County but was released during the off-season.
Cubs surprised many in the baseball world selecting and giving OF Jacob Hannemann a $1 million bonus after only one season of college ball. Despite his lack of experience, the speedy outfielder has made a quick rise through the system and finds himself in AA Tennessee after staring year at Myrtle Beach. OF Charcer Burks (9th round-South Bend) may end up being the steal of the draft as the 20-year-old has shown ability to make solid contact in the Midwest League.
The Cubs also added catching depth taking Jordan Hankins (11th round-Myrtle Beach), Cael Brockmeyer (16th round), Will Remillard (19th round) and Tyler Alamo (24th round). Hankins started his pro career at third but spent the off-season making the switch while Brockmeyer was a key part of Kane County’s championship title run and is off to a good start with South Bend this year, already picking up player of the week and all-star honors. Remillard is missing this season after Tommy John surgery and has also experienced back problems in his career, but was the Cubs Minor League Player of the Year in April last year. Alamo, a California prep, has spent most of his career in Mesa since being drafted but should get out of town this summer.
OF Kevin Brown (Myrtle Beach), 22nd round pick, has been used all over the organization as he’s played at every level since the draft, including seven games at AAA Iowa to start this year. He was assigned to Myrtle Beach and recently earned Carolina League Player of the Week honors.
Three draft picks—1B Kelvin Freeman (17th round), IF Giuseppe Papaccio (18th) and IF Zak Blair 20th—were all released. Freeman played 40 games in Mesa after the draft while Papaccio and Blair spent parts of two season in the organization.
Best way to sum this draft class up, Kris Bryant is really good, the rest have a ways to go and some are running out of time.