Draft Day Q&A with Tim Wilken

Major League Baseball's annual First-Year Player Draft has come a long way from just four years ago. It used to be that the draft was a two-day affair, with teams sorting through 20 or so rounds on the first day and then blazing through the remaining rounds on the second day.

Things are a little different now.

Instead of teams making picks for only two days, the draft has been expanded to three full days. In addition, this year the first day of the draft will consist only of the 30 clubs' first-round picks with supplemental (compensation) picks to follow.

The second and third days will consist of the remaining 49 rounds and as usual will be a mad-dash until the finish, with picks being announced about as fast as information spreading on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.

Things have also changed in terms of how the draft is broadcast.

Now, thanks to the invent of Selig TV (MLB Network) in 2007, the draft -- or the first round anyway -- is televised each June for the first time in history. The network will begin broadcasting the first round of Monday's draft at 6 p.m. CT, and you can get updates from all 50 rounds by visiting the InsideTheIvy.com Twitter page.

The Cubs hold the 16th overall pick in the draft, and we caught up with Chicago Scouting Director Tim Wilken for his thoughts on this year's class, and more.




Q: Is there a clear-cut consensus as to the first player taken in this year's draft similar to how Stephen Strasburg was the overwhelming choice last year?

A: I don't know if it's clear. Conceivably, there are two or three guys to debate on without me really talking about which three. But you can debate on them whereas with Strasburg, you really didn't have an argument for anyone else. This is an OK draft. It's not a big bread-winner draft overall for the 30 teams. We're on a little bit of a lull where it's not as good.

There are some right-handed arms with velocity. There's a fair group of outfielders, primarily centerfielders. Pitching is down, and pitching was probably as good as I'd seen it last year. Left-handed pitching, which was good last year, is not as good this year. There's a fair amount of third basemen. Unfortunately, (the class for) middle infielders is about as poor as I've seen it.

Q: As you take a look at the organization's depth, do you see a position or positions that this draft can really improve?

A: There's a fair amount of third basemen in this draft as I said. We could probably use another one just for depth purposes. It wouldn't hurt to take an outfielder or two, and as you would hear almost any veteran say, pitching is needed, although it's real dominant, right (dominating) left this year. Last year, left had some balance. You always like to get better behind the dish, but it's not a real strong year. There was much stronger catching last year.

Q: In the first round, it's never about drafting for depth, is it?

A: No. When it goes to a certain part of the draft, where you think the talent level has kind of dropped off and everything is somewhat equal, then you go after your weaknesses. We know first base is not a strength (in the organization), but at the same time, we know that some of our players at different positions may be headed over there. Unless they're first-round first basemen, or guys you kind of pick going from another position to first, normally you don't see teams drafting first basemen in the fourth through eighth rounds. Maybe one or two in the first or second round, but four through eight, you don't see teams going out of their way to draft that big first baseman, and you shouldn't be. You've got to be trying to find other skill sets, and a lot of first basemen weren't first basemen (originally), a la (Mark) Teixeira. First base has never been easy for me, either. If the Mets had taken (Andrew) Cashner, we were going to take Ike Davis. That was the first time I was ever prepared to take a first baseman. I know what the organization says (about depth) after Derrek Lee and I know what's there, but it may be at another position.

Q: Do you think this year's class is better for high school or college talent?

A: It's better for high school for about a round and a half to two rounds. The downside for this is that if that high school guy doesn't fit or doesn't get to you for reasons, it gets awfully tough to sign them decently after the first or second round.

Q: You've taken a lot of college players early on in past drafts; a lot of teams have. Is there a preference to college over high school?

A: With everything being somewhat equal, I'd actually take the high school player. I just think you can develop them better your way, even with the way it's getting so hard to sign them. We took five in the first 18 rounds last year and I think we were in the top five in baseball (with that amount). That's not that many. There are some that would go 18 and not even take one. You just can't sign them. You don't take one for the sake of taking one, but with the figure that's been set for the round, I would take the high school guy 75 to 80 percent of the time. It's proven, especially on the everyday players side, that they're better hitters than college hitters.

Q: Which of your four previous draft classes did you feel the best about immediately afterward?

A: There's a sense of euphoria when you finish every draft because it's finally over and you can get back to normalcy. Probably the '08 one because it was a little more fun. We finally had full picks all the way through. The first one (in '06), we didn't have Rounds 2 through 4 and in '07, we didn't have a second-round pick, so 2008 was the first time we had a full boat. That felt good.

We seemed to get good in the depth part. You can see a few of the later picks did good out of that and I thought we as a staff were pretty thorough. As a staff, we seem to get better having a couple of picks later, like last year with (Trey) McNutt and (Nicholas) Struck. There will be a couple of others; (D.J.) Fitzgerald has played good off the bat, and (Tony) Campana played good. (Josh) Harrison is hitting .320 in Double-A with Pittsburgh. I think we're getting deeper and deeper in each draft. We're starting to get those guys from rounds further back that are producing and that makes me smile.

Q: Does it also make you feel good on a personal level knowing that the team you were with before joining the Cubs, the Rays, have baseball's best record and that you played a part in that?

A: I had a small part in that and a lot of that was built before I got there, but I am glad because there are a lot of good baseball people in Tampa. I give credit to (Andrew) Friedman and some of those guys that recognized they didn't need to make big changes; they just tinkered, right from the big league staff to the scouting department when I left there. Andrew did a nice job and had common sense enough looking over the situation. He recognized what was going on there.

I did enjoy that short time period over there. We were fortunate to get guys like (Jeff) Niemann and (Reid) Brignac and Wade Davis and Fernando Perez and (Andy) Sonnanstine, and they've got some more guys coming up. They've got some stalwart scouts there and have some guys that have been there a long time. They've got good area scouts.

I think the new people here, the Ricketts family, they get what it's all about, and I can envision that happening over here. I think you can see some of the early results and I think there are even better results to come. We have a good crew of guys over here.

Q: I asked you this a couple of years ago but wanted a refresher course. Can you walk us through what happens on draft day and where you all are, where you're huddled, and just what all goes in on draft day and the days leading up to it?

A: Here's what we do: On the Sunday before Memorial Day, a few of our scouts met at a workout in Los Angeles that we had. That night, we flew to Phoenix and set up mostly our West Coast and some of our Midwest guys on Memorial Day, with our area guys, and listened to them talk of all of their players. The following day, we bring in the rest of our Midwest guys. We meet with those guys. We had a workout in Mesa Tuesday night. Wednesday it was just the regional guys, the national guys and myself, and Wednesday through Sunday, with tomorrow it's almost like a sixth day because of the extra time.

I don't like to do it for too long; I think you wear each other down. Sometimes I think you can trip yourself. But we do it because things are fresh on our minds. We've had a few workouts in between since I've been here, and to kind of break up the long days. Generally (Arizona State) has a regional, so we got to see ASU, the University of San Diego, and Hawaii all here this year. They generally have two or three good clubs in here with guys that we have or have not seen, which is good in some cases and breaks up a little bit of the day.

During those five days that we meet, we set the board, and what we generally do is rank players, mostly in order; some not in order. From there, we probably get our first two picks and then we go rank all the positions and also set up a board for senior signs, and a board for medical lists, people that are hurt, and also a board of unsignables and another board of summer follows that we've had some success with. That's basically what we do in that five-day period with the regional and national guys and myself.

On draft day, they're going to watch that board for me and make some suggestions. We also have people from the front office that help us set this board up, and Jim Hendry and Randy Bush have been here for about the last three days and they help out. Oneri (Fleita) and I will have a meeting -- we've already had it -- three days before the draft. He tells me what the system might need as far as even bodies for both Mesa and Boise besides the extended league guys that we have. So we get to a certain point where that senior sign list that we told you about, that's the time those guys come into play and get the necessary positions filled.

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