CHICAGO -- They day that could and should alter the fate of the Chicago Cubs franchise has arrived, just don’t expect those changes to make an impact tomorrow, next week or even next month.
It’s draft day today, or more specifically, the first draft day with president of baseball operations Theo Epstein manning the club’s draft board.
The first round and compensatory picks will take place Monday beginning at 6 p.m. CST. Rounds 2-15 take place Tuesday, with Rounds 16-40 on Wednesday.
Epstein treats draft week like most kids regard their birthday and Christmas, or the feeling that adults get when the tax return hits the bank account. To Epstein there is promise and potential ahead since there will be a lot more toys to play with very soon.
It’s not unlike any franchise feels about draft day, except Epstein not only puts it out there that this is the day that can change things, he takes the extra steps to make sure it happens.
There are scouting reports to go over, videos to watch, but there is also Epstein’s first-hand knowledge of seeing up to 20 top prospects with his own eyes, while also making sure they were never seeing him. Epstein says he goes in disguise to see high school and college players and is confident that he has never been, nor will be, noticed in the stands.
After a week of long days and nights in the new Cubs offices off Clark Street to review the study material and have sometimes contentious discussions about the draft-worthiness of a potential selection, it’s about time to put the knowledge to work.
“We have basically been in information-gathering mode for the last year and over the (last) week you synthesize the information, do all the analysis, ask all the questions and hopefully come up with the right answers and try to get the board in order,” Epstein said last week.
With that he entered the team’s draft headquarters where members of the organization will “pretty much grind all day and all night long for a week, eating a lot of bad food and smelling up the room.”
So far it’s been the team’s play over the last three weeks that has been smelling up stadiums across the country. This draft class isn’t going to help to change that for at least a couple of years at the earliest and more likely even a couple of more years after that.
The club plans to aim for hard-throwing pitching talent that could end up as both starters and relievers. If some of those arms come from the college ranks they could help a little sooner.
The Cubs worked out about 40 players over the last week. Most of them local, although they did have lefty California high-school pitcher Max Fried in for a throwing session off the Wrigley Field mound and shortstop Carlos Correa, a Puerto Rico native, in to field grounders and take batting practice off manager Dale Sveum.
The idea of bringing the players to Wrigley Field isn’t so much as to see their talents on display one last time as it is to see how they handle themselves. They are grilled from the front office staff not unlike the process the club used when searching for their new manager.
“There are certain things that we like to have answered, and I think we structure the questions that certainly aren’t yes-no,” said senior vice president scouting/player development Jason McLeod. “We want to get the players talking about themselves and their experiences.
“At the same time when we’re in the draft room we have a lot of information. If you guys walked in there, which we’re not going to let you go in there, you’d see these very thick binders of information whether it be performance, makeup, medical. Just a lot of info we go through. The video we have is very extensive. That’s what makes the days long and somewhat arduous, but it’s a very thorough process and I feel very good with where we’re at right now.”
And even though the Cubs could use help right away, they say they aren’t putting a priority on college players over high school players.
“It’s just straight impact,” McLeod said. “When you look up two, three, four years down the road who is going to make the most significant difference on this organization and that’s the player we’re going to take.”
With a club that has lost 15 of its past 18 games, waiting three years for help seemed like an eternity, but nobody said that changing the club’s fortunes was going to happen overnight.
“Pitching will definitely be a focus in this draft,” McLeod said. “It’s not going to be a need-based pick, especially with our first pick, but once we get past the first pick -- it could be a pitcher, it may not be a pitcher -- it is something that we’re certainly going to try to address. It’s certainly a need for the organization.
“We’re not going overdraft pitching just because we need it. It’s got to fit the criteria we’re looking for in that area of the draft. But I’d be really surprised when the draft is over that we didn’t feel really good about the pitching we took.”