Sox get star quality, Cubs eyeing quantity

June, 6, 2014
Jun 6
10:12
AM CT
Greenberg By Jon Greenberg
ESPNChicago.com
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Rodon/SchwarberUSA TODAY SportsCarlos Rodon was viewed by many as the top pitcher in the draft while the Cubs believe Kyle Schwarber is the best hitter.
As a Cuban-American and a left-handed starter, Carlos Rodon would fit right in on this White Sox team.

As a Big Ten student, Kyle Schwarber will fit right in with the Wrigleyville crowd.

The newly drafted first-round picks of the White Sox and Cubs, respectively, are perfect fits for their new teams, according to executives responsible for drafting them.

As rewards for miserable 2013 seasons, the White Sox and Cubs got rare back-to-back high draft picks during Thursday's amateur draft.

The Cubs, of course, lost big last year as part of a grand scheme to rebuild the franchise. The Sox lost because they were just bad. There was no plan in place.

With that in mind, it's amusing, to me anyway, that the Sox wound up picking third, one spot ahead of the Cubs, in a first-round highlighted by three top-notch pitchers. Also funny is that the Cubs swept all four games from the Sox last year and finished three games behind them.

For all the talk about the Cubs' rebuilding project, it was the Sox who got a pitcher with star power.

While Sox fans loved the #RoadtoRodon hashtag during last year's 99-loss season, no one started a hashtag #SuckforSchwarber last year during the Cubs' 96-loss campaign. Sights were set on a top prospect, because Cubs fans have nothing else to root for but prospects, but the Cubs played it safe with a signable bat they're touting as the best in the draft.

Going into this season, Rodon, the North Carolina State ace, was the overwhelming favorite to go first this year, though he slipped all the way down two spots. He's a 6-foot-3 lefty with a power slider and a mid-90s fastball. Paired with Chris Sale, they could make a devastating 1-2 combination.

Schwarber, a left-handed hitter, wasn't rated the fourth-best pick in the draft by the draftniks, nor the Cubs. While he was predicted to go later by the draft experts, the Cubs, wouldn't you know it, loved him all along.

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Cubs director of scouting Jason McLeod told reporters they had Schwarber second on their draft list after high school pitcher Brady Aiken, who went first, because he's "hands down, the best hitter in the draft."

Second! What a stroke of luck to get him. He's also a former middle linebacker, so he'll be a fan favorite in Chicago, if he ever plays here.

Call me a pessimist, but the Cubs' press release on Schwarber, a 6-foot, 240-pound catcher in college who could switch to outfield, came quickly, which along with McLeod's confident assertion they can sign him lickety-split, gives credence to the idea the Cubs drafted him so high to save money for later picks.

Their second-round pick, pitcher Jake Stinnett, a University of Maryland right-handed pitcher, is a senior. With no options, he'll sign cheaper, too. Look for the Cubs to use their additional draft slot money to overpay someone in the third or fourth round Friday.

This could be the kind of deep draft the Cubs need, not only to compete whenever the "business and baseball sides sync up," as owner Tom Ricketts likes to say, but also to trade down the road for veteran players.

While the Cubs add to their resurgent farm system, the Sox will have to pony up some cash for a guy they want in the majors sooner rather than later. There likely won't be any service-time shenanigans with this pick.

Rodon, a junior, is expected to demand top money. His agent is Scott Boras, usually an anathema to the Sox at draft time. But Rodon was too good to pass up for a team that hasn't drafted that high since 1977. Rodon is expected to be a fast riser, though perhaps not quite as quickly as Sale, who acted as a reliever in September of his draft year.

Rodon could be a star for a team that is always fighting for headlines in its own city. If he pitches to his promise, he'll join Sale and Jose Abreu as the faces of the franchise.

As for the Cubs, Schwarber is just part of "the plan," a brick in the cobblestoned path of prosperity.

I wish I could tell you how it'll all play out, but I'm a Pirates fan still waiting on Chad Hermansen to blossom.

Jon Greenberg

Columnist, ESPNChicago.com
Jon Greenberg is a columnist for ESPNChicago.com. He has lived and worked in Chicago since 2003, and is a graduate of Ohio University and the University of Chicago.

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