And with the 19th Pick...

...in the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, the Chicago Cubs select: Andrew Cashner, RHP, Texas Christian University.

Interesting selection by the Cubs. Passing up on Casey Kelly (BA stating the interest there was overstated) and on a highly projected yet falling pitcher Christian Friedrich, the Cubs take the first college reliever off the board at #19. This, to me, is an interesting pick. But most of the experts that are covering this thing straight away don't seem to have a problem with it.

The pick is interesting to me in that I think it was made not as much with an eye towards the club's distant future, but with an towards the immediate future. As in September. Word on this Texas flamethrower is that he's got the stuff to be in the bigs today. Was Tim Wilken taking a player he thinks will develop into a great major leaguer here? Or was he taking a player that will be able to help the Cubs as they make a stretch run towards the playoffs and the World Series this year? Let's take a closer look at the Cubs newest player.

Cashner (can we just go ahead and start calling him "Cash" right now? thanks)...Cash...is a flamethrower. He's got 98 MPH heat and a plus slider that runs to 88 that he uses as his out pitch. Check out this great link from MiLB.com for some video and a good recap of his skills. The only question with Cash seems to be whether he can control his big arm. (I really want to think of another Texas fireballer that worked out, Kerry Wood, right now-but am having trouble keeping thoughts of another hard-throwing wild man, Kyle Farnsworth, out of my head right now.)

Coming in to college, Cash was a scrawny 5'9 pitcher. It seems as though he's really grown into his frame since, now clocking in anywhere from 6'6 and 180 lbs to 6'5 195 lbs. Cashner was moved to the closer's role just last spring and has seen his stock soar since. It appears the move and the development of a breaking pitch, his slider, really got him going per this article from the TCU Daily Skiff:

"I (had) never really been able to throw a breaking ball," Cashner said. "I think I've really picked up on my slider and I've been able to throw my slider really well this year."

Cash has been drafted the past three years. Once as a high school player (20th round by Atlanta in 2005) and twice when he was playing for the Texas junior college Angelina (18th round by Colorado in 2006, 29th round by the Cubs in 2007). Couple interesting things there. First, it's surprising to see that his draft stock dropped from the 18th round in '06 all the way to the 29th in 2007. Second, this is the second straight year the Cubs have drafted Cashner. Tim Wilken and crew must really be high on his abilities. Though Cashner still has college eligibility it appears, and has declined to sign in the past, I'd think that going 19th overall would be just about this kid's ceiling. Though he's enrolled in classes for next fall already, I think he can go ahead and throw away that schedule.

Heading in to the draft, Baseball Prospectus' prospect guy Kevin Goldstein had Cashner rated as the 2oth best prospect overall. If you're curious, like me, on the prospects Goldstein had rated higher when the Cubs pick rolled around they were: #13 Christian Friedrich, LHP, Eastern Kentucky, drafted 25th; #14 Gerrit Cole, RHP, California HS, drafted 28th; #15 Shooter Hunt, RHP, Tulane, drafted in supplemental round; #18 Casey Kelly, RHP/SS, Florida HS, drafted 30th; and #19 Josh Fields, RHP, Georgia, the other best closer in the draft, who was drafted 20th.

Bryan Smith, also of BP, had this nice little write-up on Cashner as part of his "College Weekend Preview" on May 1st:

It's very rare that an 0-2 week is enough to get in here, but with a weak batch of entries this week, I opted to turn this section into Last Month's Big Winner. In that vein, no player has been as important for his team while also improving his own draft stock as Andrew Cashner, closer at Texas Christian. Cashner transferred from Angelina Junior College this year, and in two short months, has arrived as the nation's second-best closer behind Georgia's Josh Fields.

Originally, however, Cashner was recruited by TCU to be a starting pitcher, to replace Jake Arrieta on Friday nights. Cashner's 6'6" frame held up well during a start, and he had dominated the JuCo ranks. "He was 90 mph; he'd show you some 93s," said TCU head coach Jim Schlossnagle. "We didn't have a pitcher who we felt could come in and dominate like Sam Demel, so Cashner became that guy. And once he's been able to come in and blow it out, he's been pretty special."

In April, Cashner appeared in 12 games, pitching 18 innings; to start the month, he had four appearances without allowing a hit. Overall, he had 33 strikeouts in the month. If anything, his lone bugaboo is his control, as Cashner had 12 walks in 18 innings as he still learns to command new velocity on his fastball--now 96-98 mph in every outing. "He's been the most power arm that we've had [at TCU] in terms of pure velocity," Schlossnagle said.

The last two weeks, during which time TCU has risen to the top of the Mountain West Conference, Cashner has started to be used differently. In each of his last five appearances, Cashner has pitched more than one inning; in four of his last five, he's pitched at least two. While the results haven't been quite as dominating, multi-inning appearances have made Cashner even more desirable to scouts, and also far more valuable to the Horned Frogs.

Cashner has been described as being "unhittable" and "lights out" as a closer this year for TCU. Some notes from an MLB.com Draft Notebook back this up:
Throwing consistently at 95-96 mph and armed with a slider, Cashner has gone 7-3 with seven saves and a 2.06 ERA in 24 relief appearances. He's been virtually unhittable, allowing only 13 base hits over 39 1/3 IP for a .106 batting average against. He has walked 24, but he's also struck out 61. College closers have become more popular in recent years as early picks who can help a big-league club out in a hurry. With his electric stuff bringing scouts down in droves, he's moved himself up into first-round contention and could be the first closer taken on June 5.
SaberScouting has a nice writeup on Cashner, as follows:
19. Andrew Cashner, RHR, Texas Christian
Bio: 6′5, 185, Bats R, Throws R, 21 years old
The Skinny: This 6-foot-6 righty has been flying up the boards of late, and at least in our eyes, is now the top college reliever in the class. With a fastball that’s been reportedly touching 98 MPH, the TCU righty has been close to untouchable out of the pen. Teams may balk at his lack of track record and closing experience, but others will salivate over his electric arm, projectable frame, and makings of an out-pitch slider. Many teams like his clean arm and feel for a changeup enough to project him as a starter with his newfound velocity, but Cashner lacks feel and command at times and is still raw. Some teams think he could start, which would boost his profile significantly, and there is reportedly interest in the top 10, all the way up to #6 (Marlins). Otherwise, teams like Seattle, Philadelphia, and the Mets are rumored to be looking college reliever in the late teens and early 20s.
Pros: Fresh arm, Fastball velocity
Cons: Track record, Polish
Comparison: Chris Ray
Interesting comparison in Chris Ray. I certainly wouldn't mind seeing Ray in my bullpen.

On the personal side, Cashner is straight country, it appears:

When he isn't pitching, Cashner is hunting or fishing either around the area here or in his hometown of Montgomery, Texas.
"He's a country boy," sophomore catcher Bryan Holaday said.
Cashner said he did a lot of hunting over Christmas break at home.
"I went hunting every day but three days," he said. "If there's a chance of going hunting, I'm going hunting."

Not a lot of hunting that I'm aware of in Chicago. Maybe some cougars, or "cougars," but that's about it.

The jury still seems to be out on Cashman's future. He was a starter until recently. But then he was changed, out of necessity, to the closer's role. But he excelled in that role and his stock shot up. Cashner is now widely considered the top college reliever in this year's class. Did the Cubs draft a flame throwing reliever that they hope can help them down the stretch (cough, Joba Chamberlain, cough)? Did they draft their future closer-wanting to replace one Texas flamethrower with another? Did they draft Carlos Marmol's future setup man? Or did they draft all of those? Only time will tell, I suppose, but if this kid can get his control together-we may be looking at a guy that can not only help the Cubs this year coming out of the 'pen, but also longer term as a setup man or closer and, perhaps eventually, a starter.



Cubs take Vanderbilt SS/3B Ryan Flaherty #41.

In the supplemental round of the 2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft, using the pick obtained from Milwaukee for "losing" Jason Kendall, the Cubs selected Ryan Flaherty out of Vanderbilt. Check out MiLB.com's draft report on Flaherty for info and video.

Flaherty is a left-handed SS who should hit for good average and has some pop but seems to hit more liners than big flys. And while he can field and has a great arm, word is that he's slow and, thus, has limited range. Somehow, though, kid's nickname is "Flash." MiLB compares him to Wally Joyner in skill set. They suggest an eventual move to 3B, but personally I'd like my three sacker to have some power. Flaherty's college coach states on the Vandy site that he believes "Flash" is the best SS in the country. (Really, coach? 'Case a SS just got drafted #1 and #8 overall).

Comments (2)

jumbo

June 5, 2008 at 5:11 PM

Courtesy of Bruce Miles' blog, here's some reaction from Tim Wilken:
Cubs draft a closer
Posted by Bruce on Thu, 06/05/2008 - 13:08

The Cubs today selected right-handed pitcher Andrew Cashner, a closer out of Texas Christian University, with their first pick in the amateur draft. Cashner went 19th overall to the Cubs.

At TCU, Cashner had 9 victories and 9 saves in 30 relief appearances, with a 2.32 ERA. He had 27 walks and a team-high 80 strikeouts.

Interestingly, the Cubs drafted Cashner in the 29th round out of Angelina College in Texas, but he decided to stay in school.

"We're very, very happy," said scouting director Tim Wilken. "We're pretty excited at this point. His delivery is pretty darn sound, one of the better in this draft."

Wilken said Cashner has put on 15-20 pounds from last year and that the Cubs would let time determine wither Cashner remains a reliever or goes to the rotation in the minor leagues.

As far as repertoire goes, Wilken says Cashner has a four-seam fastball with "good ride." Wilken added that Cashner's breaking ball is "as close to a power curve as you'll see in baseball." The fastball, according to Wilken, is 92-98 mph and the curve is 80-85.

Lionel

June 6, 2008 at 9:23 AM

Wow. Nearly information overload. But that's the kind of comprehensiveness you get with TD's draft coverage.

I am not sold on this pick. I don't think you can possibly draft this kid with a thought on September. That's ludicris. This kid's main problem is control. Not the kind of kid you want to throw into a pennant race, especially without any big league experience. I understand that the most reported man in the world Joba Chamberlain did it last year. So what.

The second thing that concerns me was the reason he didn't sign last year. $$$$. The Cubs drafted him in the 29th round (either expecting him to return to school or not loving him) and he said he wanted big dollars. Not huge, but big. He claims he won't be a problem to sign, but I think fans of the professional football team in the City of Chicago will remember a few years ago a teary-eyed Cedric Benson on draft day who took about 5 months to sign. I understand it's a business, and it certainly paid off for him (29th round $$$ vs. 1st round), but it throws up a red flag to me.

So, what do I like about him? Well, the growing 9 inches and being able to control your body well enough to be a dominate pitcher. That's certainly a plus. I know that if I had ever shot up 9 inches in college, besides finally being able to look down on people, I would be as uncoordinated as Harry Caray in the 8th inning. I also like the fact that he's scrawny. In an ideal world, I'd like to see the Cubs say to this kid "we want you to bulk up the rest of this year and pitch out of the 'pen. Then, you'll come back next year as a starter."

As for Flaherty, I'm less of a fan. Maybe he's got room to grow, maybe he'll say to himself that he'll prove those experts at TD wrong and be a great power hitter, but I just don't see it. And in this day and age, you have to hit for some pop as a 3-sack. The Bill Mueller's of the world are gone. If he's got a great arm, maybe they move him to a corner OF spot, but again, he's slow and he's not a power hitter. Usually, you have to have one of the two, or you end up in the cornfields of Iowa (see Murton, Matt). This is a head-scratcher for me.