The 2017 MLB Draft is now just a little more than two weeks away and the Cubs are getting closer to making their decision as to who they will take with picks 27, 30, and beyond. While many people are making their predictions as to who Theo & Co. might select, I figured we could take a look at picks of the past. Going year by year all the way back to Theo Epstein’s first season at the helm in 2012, I will lay out each of the top five Cub selections that season as well as the player that has been the biggest steal of each draft class thus far.
(104) Thomas Hatch – Myrtle Beach (A+)
(134) Tyson Miller – South Bend (A)
(164) Bailey Clark – Arizona (Extended Spring Training)
(194) Chad Hockin – South Bend (A)
(224) Michael Cruz – South Bend (A)
Biggest Steal: It is really difficult to proclaim a steal of a draft from just a year ago. The easiest way to go about making this selection is just based off of lower draft picks who have performed well over the last calendar year. For that reason I’ll take 13th rounder Wyatt Short. Short spent all of last year in the closers role in Eugene and now this season in South Bend. While this year hasn’t been quite as impressive as 2016, it is hard to compete with the 0 earned runs, 0.80 WHIP, and 3 hits/9 IP last year for the Emeralds.
(9) Ian Happ – Chicago
(47) Donnie Dewees – Kansas City Royals organization (AA)
(82) Bryan Hudson – South Bend (A)
(113) DJ Wilson – South Bend (A)
(143) Ryan Kellogg – Myrtle Beach (A+)
Biggest Steal: There are plenty of guys taken in 2015 after the tenth round that could potentially make an impact in Chicago in the future including Matt Rose, PJ Higgins, and Daniel Spingola. But for the biggest steal of the draft I will go with Ian Rice who was taken in the 29th round. Rice, predominately a catcher, has shown that his bat is what will keep progressing him throughout the minors. His 15 homers and .380 OBP last year have been followed up by 6 homers and a .376 OBP already this season in Tennessee.
(4) Kyle Schwarber – Chicago
(45) Jake Stinnett – Tennessee (AA)
(78) Mark Zagunis – Iowa (AAA)
(109) Carson Sands – South Bend (A)
(139) Justin Steele – Myrtle Beach (A+)
Biggest Steal: This might be too early to tell, but I am going to go with a guy that is still only in South Bend. Dylan Cease dropped all the way to the Cubs at pick number 169 in the 6th round because of his impending Tommy John Surgery. Epstein took a justifiable risk in drafting the flame throwing high school arm and it seems to be paying off. Cease is now the number one pitching prospect in the system and will surely start ascending through the system now that his arm is healthy.
(2) Kris Bryant – Chicago
(41) Rob Zastryzny – Iowa (AAA)
(75) Jacob Hannemann – Tennessee (AA)
(108) Tyler Skulina – No longer with Cubs organization after being released this past offseason.
(138) Trey Masek – Southern Maryland Blue Crabs of the Atlantic League
Biggest steal: You could argue that the biggest steal came with the second pick of the entire draft with MVP Kris Bryant. Really it is only a steal from the Astros who passed on KB in favor of Mark Appel, but Bryant could go down as one of the best Cubs to ever play if he keeps up the pace that he is at. If you are saying Kris Bryant doesn’t count for an answer then I guess I will go with Trevor Clifton all the way down in the 12th round. Clifton is now one of the top three pitching prospects in the system and is having a stellar season in Tennessee with an ERA/FIP/WHIP slash line of 2.42/3.38/1.16.
(6) Albert Almora Jr – Chicago
(43) Pierce Johnson – Iowa (AAA)
(56) Paul Blackburn – Oakland A’s organization (AAA)
(67) Duane Underwood Jr – Tennessee (AA)
(101) Ryan McNeil – Tennessee (AA)
Biggest Steal: Theo’s first draft didn’t go as well as you would expect, especially in terms of depth. After Almora and Johnson, not one other player has seen a major league diamond since being drafted five years ago. No player from the draft has really earned the distinction of being the biggest steal but guys like Rashad Crawford (11th round) and Paul Blackburn (1st round supplemental) have been parts of trades to bring back Major League players that contributed to the World Series roster in Aroldis Chapman and Mike Montgomery, respectively.
Theo & Co. have been very successful with their first round draft picks during their tenure in Chicago. Every first round pick (Almora, Bryant, Schwarber, Happ) has found his way into the Cubs lineup and that may be because of the plan focused on selecting the best bat available at that point. We know that hitters tend to stay healthy more often than pitchers and the plan has proven to be a good one.
The next step for the front office is to find success with pitching in the draft. Last year was the first year in which Theo Epstein had taken a pitcher with his first selection of the draft and just the second time he had done so in his career (Matt Barnes in Boston). With Rob Zastryzny and Pierce Johnson being the only Theo-drafted pitchers to make their Cubs debut, only time will tell whether Thomas Hatch, Tyson Miller, Bailey Clark, and Chad Hockin will make their way to Chicago or end up following in guys like Tyler Skulina and Trey Masek’s footsteps.
All stats are accurate as of May 26.