Rundle Making his Adjustments

Baseball drafts are always a game of risk, what some often call a crapshoot. Last summer, the Cubs played the risk game more than once by taking a gamble here and there on Day One of the draft from the selection of Notre Dame two-sport standout Jeff Samardzija to that of Oregon prep outfielder Drew Rundle.

No matter the club, the annual build-up of round-by-round draft selections resembles something more like a carefully orchestrated, well thought out chess move rather than dozens of men gathered in a cozy front office room with a grandiose view of the stadium they one day hope their potential soon-to-be newest member will be using to sell tickets.

Of course, by the 14th round of last year's draft, the Cubs (like any team) may not have still held those same grandeur aspirations of a future superstar when they selected Drew Rundle, then an 18-year-old left-handed hitting amateur outfielder from Bend (Ore.) High School in the Northwest.

Rundle was not your ordinary 14th-round pick last year, though.

He had been named the 2005-06 Gatorade High School Player of the Year in Oregon and was considered a tough sign due to his commitment to the University of Arizona. Reportedly, Rundle had turned down at least one guaranteed third-round selection from another major league club to ensure the proper signing bonus he and his agent were seeking.

Thus, after the Cubs ponied up a record $1.3 million signing bonus for an 11th-round pick in right-hander Chris Huseby, Rundle himself received quite a nice bundle – $500,000 to be exact – as a signing bonus.

The 6-foot-4, 180-pound Rundle soon reported to Arizona for the start of Rookie League play and would struggle out of the gate early, batting below the Mendoza Line through his first 18 games with the Mesa Cubs.

He would spend less than two months with the Mesa team, but Rundle eventually saw mild improvement at the plate, raising his average some 31 points in August to close the season with a .230 mark in 37 games.

For Rundle, a two-sport athlete in high school that doubled as a wide receiver, it was a first year full of adjustments – adjustments that he is still making this spring in Minor League Spring Training in Arizona.

After batting .163 with 22 strikeouts in only 43 at-bats through his first 14 games last year, Rundle altered his stance. He tweaked his swing.

Above all, he says, he began to play with some all-important confidence under his belt.

"A little bit of it was that," Rundle says of the adjustments to his mechanics at the plate. "But overall, it was just confidence: going up there and knowing you can hit, and then hoping good things would come your away."

When the season ended, Rundle stayed in Mesa for his first Instructional League camp. The work there was less individualistic and more centered around team-oriented tasks like situational hitting.

Although he fanned on average of once per every 2.5 at-bats last season, Rundle said he isn't too caught up in the strikeout totals. He also drew 20 walks (and 10 hit by pitches) in 126 at-bats to bring his on-base percentage to a respectable .376 clip.

Defensively, meanwhile, Rundle spent all of his time in the Rookie League in center field, where he contributed three assists and committed his first two errors since his junior season in high school.

Which tool does he feel he best brings to the table?

"I feel I've got a little bit of everything," Rundle says matter-of-factly. "I'm not going to single out any one thing like speed, or arm strength or power." (He hit one home run and managed three stolen bases in 2006.)

"The kind of player that I am, I feel I can do a little bit of everything."

Rundle won't have to do everything right away, though.

Given his age and limited playing time a season ago in Mesa, it's likely he'll stay in Arizona through Extended Spring Training and then join Class Low A Boise once short-season ball begins in June.

While sound development is undeniably the most important goal for players Rundle's age, this particular young prospect wants to win and win now.

"I feel the number one priority is to win a championship no matter what level you're at," he says of his goals for 2007 from Cubs Minor League Spring Training in Mesa. "Wherever I go, I want to help my team win games. I also want to help strengthen the minor league system for the Cubs as a whole."

The Cubs know it's an awful lot for any one player to place on his shoulders.

"As a high school kid, he is just feeling his way through," Cubs Player Development Director Oneri Fleita acknowledges of Rundle, still only 19 years of age as he enters the season. "But we like his upside and the fact that he's got a great body and a great swing and can run and throw well."

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