Cubs Speak Highly of First-Round Pick

The Cubs believe they know a good thing when they see one, so for the second straight year they selected pitcher Andrew Cashner in the annual major league draft Thursday. Only this time, they made Cashner their first overall pick.

After drafting Cashner, 21, in the 29th round from Angelina College in Texas a year ago, the right-hander would return to college and pitch for TCU in Conference USA this past season. He was 9-4 with nine saves, a 2.32 ERA and 80 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings while holding opposing hitters to a .122 average against.

On a conference call with reporters Thursday, Cubs Scouting Director Tim Wilken said the club was "very, very happy" to have Cashner and that they were "pretty excited."

Cashner, listed as 6-foot-6, 180 pounds, stayed in touch with Cubs area scouts Trey Forkerway and Steve Riha throughout the past season at TCU.

Chicago again came away impressed by what they saw in Cashner.

"He's got a four-seam fastball and has pretty good control and command of his fastball," Wilken said of Cashner. "I liken his breaking ball ... this is about as close to a power curve as you're going to see in baseball. This is one of the reasons why we drafted him, because he's got two put-away pitches for us and he's also shown some feel for a changeup.

"He's very athletic (and) he gets off the mound extremely well. He's flexible and holds runners pretty good. He's about as good a package as what you might see out there."

This past season, Cashner's fastball shot up and was "anywhere from 92 to 98 miles per hour," Wilken said, adding that, "he's featured a curveball anywhere from 80 to 84."

Wilken said: "I put an exclamation point on that because it's closer to a curveball than a slider. He may call it a slider, but the break of the pitch is more that of a curveball, which was very attractive to me as I was watching this pitcher."

The first "reliever" taken in this year's draft, Cashner made all 30 of his appearances with TCU in the bullpen. But Wilken said keeping Cashner in relief wasn't definitive, and that the Cubs were going to let him plot his own path in terms of his future role.

"I think we're going to let this one take its place," said Wilken. "His delivery is pretty sound and is probably one of the better ones of this draft. He's comfortable in what he's been doing I'd suppose. But he has started in the past and we're going to leave this one open. He's shown he's got good versatility to go either way. We're very happy."

Wilken was asked if it was unusual to draft a reliever in the first round. He reiterated that Cashner was not necessarily a reliever, or would be in the future.

"He could very well be a starter and a good one at that," Wilken said.

Wilken said he wasn't concerned with any possible signability issues with Cashner, who maintained a good relationship with the Cubs after returning to college. Thursday marked the fourth straight year he was selected in the draft.

"I hope not," Wilken said. "We had some talks earlier, not necessarily about Cashner but about representation. I don't see any (problems) at this point."

The Cubs have never failed to sign their first overall draft pick since the draft's inception in 1965.

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