Cubs not slowed by fewer early picks
Club excited about selections; two-thirds chosen from colleges
CHICAGO -- The Cubs used nearly two-thirds of this year's draft picks on college players.
Was this a sign they wanted players who could have an impact at the Major League level as soon as possible?
No, Cubs scouts say, they were merely drafting where the most talent was.
"Except for the state of Florida, most of the states were down in high school talent," Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken said Wednesday after the two-day draft ended. "So I think that more or less put us in a situation where we might've taken more college players than we're used to."
Despite 31 of the Cubs' 47 picks being college players, Wilken said it's still going to take some time to see results.
"I'm pretty excited about [our draft]," Wilken said. "I think it's a draft that's going to need time to show it, but you can see some pretty good results here anywhere from five to seven years. As you know, baseball is not like football or basketball where you can show a lot of results in a two- or three-year period. This one has a lot of long-term promise."
Wilken said the Cubs' draft was strong even though they were without picks in the second, third and fourth rounds.
"I think we can make up for those picks. I think you'll see that in the later rounds," Wilken said. "We got some players that may not be so familiar with Baseball America and the like, but five to seven years from now I think you'll see a lot of smiles on Cubs' fans and management's faces when they see the final product."
The Cubs lost those three early-round picks after signing free agents Scott Eyre, Bob Howry and Jacque Jones. They were given as compensation to the players' former teams.
So far this season, those signings have worked out well for the Cubs.
Eyre and Howry have been crucial components of the Cubs' bullpen. The pair is tied for the team lead in appearances this season, having worked in 29 games apiece. Howry has a 2.28 ERA and Eyre has a 1.78 ERA.
Jones has been productive on the offensive side, leading the team in home runs (11) and RBIs (32).
"Most definitely [it was worth giving up those picks], especially this year. This might have been one of the thinner drafts," Wilken said. "I'll take Scotty Eyre, Bobby Howry and Jacque Jones over missing those picks at two, three and four."
Among the college players the Cubs took, several names stuck out from the crowd.
Notre Dame star wide receiver Jeff Samardzija was one of the most recognizable.
Samardzija is probably best known for the 15 touchdowns he caught for the Fighting Irish football team last season, but the hard-throwing right-handed pitcher has produced on the baseball field as well, and the Cubs selected him with their fifth-round pick.
Samardzija is 13-4 with a 3.47 ERA and 98 strikeouts in 142 2/3 career innings at Notre Dame. He hit 99 mph on the radar gun three times during the most recent Big East tournament.
Samardzija told reporters he'll continue to play both sports.
"My original plans are to go out and play ball in the summer and then come back in time to get ready for summer football camp," Samardzija said after being drafted, adding that he'll return to Notre Dame for football on July 30.
|"Except for the state of Florida, most of the states were down in high school talent. So I think that more or less put us in a situation where we might've taken more college players than we're used to."|
|-- Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken|
Joshua Lansford plays the same position as his father, third base, and the Cubs hope he will have the same swing as his father, which produced a career .290 average over 15 Major League seasons.
Joshua Lansford showed the ability to hit at the collegiate level, leading Cal Poly San Luis Obispo with a .353 batting average last season.
Jeremy Papelbon, whose older brother Jonathan has made a name for himself as the Red Sox closer, was the Cubs' first selection of the second day with pick No. 569.
Papelbon, a left-handed starter for the University of North Florida, was 5-4 with a 2.43 ERA and 88 strikeouts in 89 innings of work last season.
According to Wilken, players like Lansford and Papelbon are drafted on their own accomplishments, but it doesn't hurt to have a solid baseball lineage either.
"I think it helps to have some baseball background," Wilken said, "but they have to earn it by ability, and both of those players did that."
Wilken said the team hopes to have a few draftees signing within the next couple of days.
Wilken said the Cubs look to draft players they can sign, and he feels first-round pick Tyler Colvin will be one of those guys. The young outfielder still has one year of eligibility left at Clemson University.
"I've got a pretty good feeling Mr. Colvin would like to be a Chicago Cub, and I think there's a good chance of it," Wilken said. "We'll see how everything comes about with their Super Regional, but I've got a pretty good feeling about it."
Two local players were also selected by the Cubs.
Kitt Kopach, a right-handed pitcher who played high school baseball at Downers Grove South in Darien, Ill., was taken in the 12th round. Kopach, currently a junior at Illinois State, posted a 3-9 record with a 4.17 ERA and 59 strikeouts for the Redbirds this year.
Cedric Redmond, a right-handed pitcher at Joliet Township High School, was selected in the 27th round.
Ryan Crawford is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.