Cubs Draft Wrap

With the draft now complete, let's put a bow on Towel Drills' unbelievably amazing coverage.

All told, the Cubs drafted the rights to 51 players over the two day draft. We'll see how many of these guys sign and how many decide to try their luck with the draft again next year. All but 8 of these players were from the college ranks. The Cubs, and Tim Wilken, have been showing a preference for college aged players of late-all but 4 of the Cubs draftees in '07 were college players. 28 of the players in the draft class are pitchers.

Why all the college players? Well, yesterday, we learned the Cubs double-secret draft strategy:
"It was, 'Get the guy who's going to be the best Major League player,'" Cubs assistant general manager Randy Bush said Friday. "It's a philosophy [scouting director] Tim [Wilken] has, and we all agree with that philosophy."
Um. Yeah.

Five of the players drafted were within Baseball America's top 84 prospects. Andrew Cashner, RHP, TCU, BA rank #24, drafted with the 19th pick; Ryan Flaherty, SS/3B, Vanderbilt, BA rank #68, drafted 41st; Aaron Shafer, RHP, Wichita State, BA rank #84, drafted 65th; Christopher Carpenter, RHP, Kent State, BA rank #61, drafted 97th; and Sonny Gray, RHP, Smyrna HS (Tenn), BA rank #52, drafted 821st.

Interesting choice here in Sonny Gray. He's a short righty who draws a lot of Roy Oswalt comparisons. Gray is thought of as a first round talent but spent most of his senior year of high school injured and is, thus, basically considered unsignable. He's likely heading to Vandy in the fall. In fact, kid actually sent a letter to MLB's Scouting Bureau asking that he not be drafted. The hell is that? (Incidentally, I also sent a letter-that's, like, totally why I didn't get drafted again this year. Otherwise...)

Baseball America has a nice review of the first round selections here. Here's what BA has to say about the Cubs' selection of Cashner:
19. Chicago Cubs
Andrew Cashner, rhp, Texas Christian
B-T: R-R. Ht.: 6-5. Wt.: 185.

For a while, it appeared that the state of Texas might get shut out of the draft's first round for the first time since 1977. That's unlikely to happen now, thanks to Cashner, the hottest pitching prospect to come out of Angelina (Texas) JC since Clay Buchholz. Cashner turned down opportunities last year to sign with the Rockies (as a draft-and-follow) and the Cubs (as a 29th-rounder), opting instead to transfer to Texas Christian. A starter at Angelina, Cashner has excelled as a reliever for the Horned Frogs. No college pitcher in this draft can match his consistent 96-98 mph velocity, the product of outstanding whip in his 6-foot-6, 180-pound frame, and overmatched opponents have hit just .104 against him. Cashner has armside run on his fastball, and he backs it up with an 84-85 mph slider that can be electric. The slider is much better than the mediocre curveball he threw in the past, though it's not always consistent. Neither is his command, which may prevent him from becoming an effective starter, but some clubs are interested in returning him to that role in pro ball. A team in love with radar-gun readings could take Cashner as high as the middle of the first round.
That's pretty much all the Interweb has to offer us on this draft. Check back in 5-7 years and we'll see how this draft turned out for us.

And with the 1091st pick...


of the 2008 draft, the Chicago Cubs select Michael Brenly, Catcher, University of Nevada at Los Vegas. That's right boys and girls, the Cubs kept it all in the family by selecting Bob's son in the 36th round of the draft. My understanding is that often a team will draft a guy whose family has some relation to the organization in the later rounds, as a token of gratitude. The 36th round seems a little early for that, but most of the guys in the later rounds don't sign and since Michael is only a junior, he may be headed back to UNLV for his senior season.

A Trip Around the Minors...

Iowa
Felix Pie-His BA is crawling up, as he's hitting .267 over the last 7 days. In addition, he's hit 2 more HR's...combine that with his doubles and triples over the last 7 days, and 75% of Pie's hits have gone for extras. He has 13 K's in 78 AB's in Iowa, compared to his 23 K's in just 63 AB's in the Bigs. The concern I see here is that he doesn't seem to be improving his K ratio and he's swinging for the fences. It's hard to remember sometimes that this kid is only 23.

Rich Hill-Hill made one start since coming off the D.L., throwing 3 innings and giving up 3 runs. 3 walks tell the story, but that's been the story all year. Hill was scheduled to start last night, but the game was rained out. He'll start tonight against Omaha.

Kevin Hart-now with the Big Boys.

Bonus-Matt Murton is hitting .333 with Iowa, even during his current 1-11 slump since the calendar turned. He has an impressive 26 walks compared to only 12 strikeouts. But in a 153 AB's, he has only 1 HR, making his slugging percentage (.425) less than his OBP (.440).

Tennessee

Tyler Colvin-Colvin hit .276 over the past week with 5 RBI's and 7 runs. He has swiped 3 bags in the last 10 days, after only stealing 2 in almost the first two full months. Hopefully, the warmer weather of June will get Colvin's bat going, as his May ended with stat's similar to April. Around a .240 BA, around 25 K's in 100 AB's.

Donnie Veal-Veal is rounding into form. Last Saturday, he dominated, throwing 8 innings of shutout ball. He only gave up 3 hits, but walked 3, posting his first W in almost a month (which is a product of the bullpen/offense). Veal came back last night and gave up 2 earned over 5, while striking out 8. The biggest concern with Veal is his control; he hasn't given up less than 3 freebies in his last 5 starts.

Jeff ND-Jeff ND is starting to show signs of improvement. He lasted 6 innings a piece in each of his last 2 starts, the first time he'd gone over 5 since April 20th. In his lone start of the week, he gave up only 1 run and more impressively, didn't walk a batter. He'll gladly put his May behind him...1-3 with a 8.37 ERA.

Bonus-Nate Spears (acquired in the C-Pat trade) is hitting .450 over the last week, carrying a 5 game hitting streak with him into tonight's game. Spears, who like a lot of the Cubs minor leaguers, got off to a slow April start (.226 BA) is now up to .289.

Daytona

Tony Thomas-Thomas is the definition of a streaky hitter. After watching his .300 BA drop to .250, Thomas' average has steadily rose back up. He's now hitting .285, thanks in part to a .400 BA over the past week. His 4 game June OPS is 1.238.

Jose Ceda-Ceda's lone start last week was a short one, but an effective one from a numbers standpoint. He threw only 4 innings and K'ed 7. The lone hit he surrendered left the yard. The reason he was pulled early, however, was a high pitch count.

Bonus-The Italian-born Alex Maestri (featured in the very first ATAtM) has had a rollercoaster of a season. In his last 5 starts, his game ERA has been 3.00, 11.25, 3.00, 11.57, 3.00. Needless to say, that rounded out his May ERA to 5.70, after a great April ERA of 1.44.

Peoria

Josh Donaldson-Donalson had only 5 AB's in the last week, going 1-5 (and actually helping his .198 BA).
Bonus-Catcher/OF Luis Bautista (32nd Round, 2007) has been one of the few bright spots for Ryne Sandberg's last place Peoria Chiefs. While Donaldson struggles, Bautista hit .412 over the past week and is hitting .317 over 17 games.
Josh Vitters-still in EST, expected to head to Boise

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).

2008 MLB First-Year Player Draft



UPDATE: 2:30PM Central: ESPN's Keith Law has the Cubs going with a college relief pitcher, Andrew Cashner from TCU. Interesting, he also thinks the Cubs' interest in Kelly has been overstated. I'm not too big on these college relievers, let's hope they go a different direction. Here's Law's take on Cashner:

19. Chicago Cubs -- Andrew Cashner, RHP, TCU

I had heard the Cubs were linked to Casey Kelly, but that seems to have been overstated. The Cubs are also the high spot for Jake Odorizzi, and have had some interest in Tim Melville. Brett Lawrie and Niko Vasquez both played well in a recent workout in Mesa, too.

Here's BP's take on the righty:
Seattle has been attached to a number of players at the 20th pick, and many of them, including Texas Tech outfielder Roger Kieschnick and Cal righty Tyson Ross, are the types of players that most teams see as falling just outside of the first round on a pure talent level. They’re also high on a number of college relievers, especially Cashner. If he’s there, the Mariners bite on it with the hope that they’ve found their next closer.

And BA's blurb:
15. LOS ANGELES (NL). Hicks also fits what the Dodgers look for, and if he's gone, they're zeroing in on pitchers. Martin, fireballing Texas Christian righthander Andrew Cashner, Hunt and Arizona lefthander Daniel Schlereth are all in the mix. Los Angeles is the one team seriously considering Arizona State two-way star Ike Davis as a lefthanded pitcher, but may not have seen enough of him on the mound to get that daring.


UPDATE: 1PM Central:
Baseball America has a new mock draft up. And things have changed up a bit. BA is now projecting the Cubs to take Missouri high school RHP Tim Melville with their 19th pick. Here's BA's take:

19. CHICAGO (NL). The Cubs are making some noise about homestate prep righthander Jake Odorizzi, but that's more of a smokescreen. Davis and Kelly appear to be back-burner guys rather than leading candidates here, so Chicago could be lying in the weeds on someone who's sliding—perhaps Missouri prep righthander Tim Melville, who wants a bonus commensurate with the top 10-15 picks.
Projected Pick: TIM MELVILLE, rhp, Holt HS, Wentzville, Mo.

And here's what Baseball Prospectus' Kevin Goldstein says on Melville:

An already bad system made downright barren by the Johan Santana deal needs help. The Mets are hardly complaining, because they got one of the best pitchers in the game, but with three picks between 18 and 33, the pressure is on for them to re-stock the system. They’re very high on University of Miami second baseman Jemile Weeks, and they might pop Rickie’s brother here if they don’t think he’ll be there when they select again at 22. On the other hand, Tim Melville began the season as one of the top high school pitchers available, but he disappointed observers throughout much of the season before returning to form down the stretch. He wants to be paid the way his pre-season status dictated, and the Mets have deep pockets.
Selection: Tim Melville, RHP, Holt HS (MO)


----------
For some reason, I'm pretty excited for the MLB First-Year Player Draft this year. That's the first year I can really say that. I'm not too sure why. I know the MLB draft is a lot different than the NFL or NBA drafts. In those, you draft a guy, and he can immediately improve your team the following year. Not true at all with baseball. The average time it takes a player to go from the draft to the majors is 5-7 years. I don't really even want to think about how old I'll be in 7 years.

There's no guarantees in the MLB draft like there are in other sports. Teams will be drafting across 50 rounds over the next two days. If two of those guys make your major league club, you've had a good draft. And there's really no telling where you'll get these guys. The only Cubs players drafted and developed within the system are Geo Soto, 11th round in 2001, Ryan Theriot, 3rd round in 2001, Ronny Cedeno, undrafted in 1999, and Kerry Wood, first round in 1995. IF guys make the majors-you can find them anywhere.

But...it's still fun to look at this stuff. So ahead of this afternoon's draft (coverage begins at 2PM on ESPN2), let's take a look what direction some of the "experts" have this draft going.

The first overall pick in the draft was looking to be a crapshoot between Vanderbilt C, Buster Posey and Atlanta high school SS Tim Beckham. Until today. Apparently Posey is looking for something in the $12M range-some say it's a strategy to get him bumped down to a better team. But with this going down, look for Beckham (Tim, not David) to join the Rays (who will be picking first, again, and probably for the last time in a long time) today.

The Cubs will be selecting 19th in the first round. Who's going to be available, and who the Cubs will select at that point, is anyone's guess. Here is a nice article on the Cubs drafting strategy and where scouting director Tim Wilken will be looking. And here's the way some see this shaking out:


MLB.com Mock Draft:
19. Chicago Cubs: Casey Kelly, SS, Sarasota HS, Fla.
It's been looking likely that the Cubs will go with a high school bat if the right one is here. Collier and Lawrie have been mentioned, but with them off the board, it could leave the Cubs looking hard at Sarasota High School shortstop Casey Kelly. He's also a talented pitcher and a University of Tennessee QB recruit, but the Cubs have the resources to get it done if they so choose.
Last projection: Casey Kelly


Baseball Prospectus Mock Draft ($):

19. Chicago Cubs
Scouting director Tim Wilken loves athletes, but many of the Cubs' top targets are looking like they’ll be unavailable when the draft reaches them. So they may instead go with someone who has been a slow and steady riser, as the Cubs have been in on hard and heavy to see the last few starts by Illinois high school star Jake Odorizzi. He has the kind of velocity, command, and clean mechanics rarely seen from the cold-weather states. Odorizzi has been even better than ever down the stretch, consistently touching 95 mph with his fastball while showing a much-improved breaking ball. He’s not a hometown pick per se; Highland is actually only 35 miles from St. Louis. The Cubs passed on the best Midwest high school arm last year when they opted to take Josh Vitters over Jarrod Parker; they won’t let him go by this time.
Selection: Jake Odorizzi, RHP, Highland HS (IL)

Here's Baseball Prospectus' take on Casey Kelly:
It’s no secret that the Dodgers are also very high on Hicks, who plays in their back yard. With Hicks likely already gone by the time they pick, there has been a lot of speculation about the Dodgers going the college closer route, and their scouting department has been seen in attendance of Texas Christian closer Andrew Cashner’s late-season games. The problem is that kind of safety selection just doesn’t fit with the Dodgers' philosophy. High-ceiling high school players do, and the best one on the board at this point could be two-way Florida prep star Casey Kelly, the son of a big leaguer who has first-round talent as an infielder and as a pitcher, while also having a scholarship to play quarterback at the University of Tennessee clouding his signability, a factor which contributes to people having him going anywhere from seventh to 30th


Baseball America Mock Draft:
19. CUBS.
Chicago is the first team that has been linked to Cole, though it's always possible that another club is lying in the weeds. The Cubs have no pressing needs and scouting director Tim Wilken loves athletes, so they could take a long-term project like Hewitt. Wilken's Gulf Coast ties also could lead him to Kelly, who shows equal promise as a pitcher and a shortstop.
Projected Pick: CASEY KELLY.


Phil Rogers' Chicago Tribune Mock Draft:
19. CUBS.
Sarasota (Fla.) H.S. SS-RHP Casey Kelly
: Scouting director Tim Wilken loves the potential of Kelly, a QB who hopes to be a two-sport star at Tennessee. He's the son of longtime minor-league manager Pat Kelly and is believed to be intent on a career in baseball, which would make it tough for him to turn down an opportunity with the Cubs.
-----

This Kelly kid looks to be a good possibility for the Cubs. But will he fall to 19? And will the Cubs want to deal with trying to talk yet another player out of playing football (and having to do some with cash)? He sounds like he could be legit, but I'm not so sure I wouldn't rather have a kid who's all about becoming the best MLBer he can be, rather than screwing around with other sports.

Tune back in to Towel Drills this afternoon to see how this all shakes out.

Minor League Movers...


Iowa

Let's start off with the I-Cubs addition...Jim Brower. Brower was acquired this week by the Cubs for cash from the Cincinnati Reds (yes, the Cubs are so desparate for relief help they are acquiring relievers from the Reds). Brower's been around since '99, pitching for 8 different MLB teams. The 35 year old Brower was 0-1 with a 2.88 ERA in 17 games with AAA-Louisville. To make room for him, the Cubs sent Greg Reinhard back to Tennessee. Rich Hill has also returned from the D.L. and will once again be mentioned in this week's ATAtM.


Tennessee

In addition to Reinhard being returned to the Smokies, there was a catcher swap between Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo. Clevenger (7th Round, 2006) has played both catcher and infield, after originally being drafted as a SS. Castillo is a '04 NDFA out of the Dominican.

Daytona

Ed Campusano was added to the roster from EST after being returned to the Cubs. Campusano was picked up in the Rule V draft by the Brewers, who traded him for cash to the Tigers. To accomodate the move, Russ Canzler was placed on the DL just after the MLM was posted last week. He was removed today (making it officially 7 days) and in his spot on the D.L. went Jim Adduci, arguably the D-Cubs best statistical player of the year. Todd Blackford was also promoted to Daytona. Blackford was acquired in the Todd Hollandsworth trade.

Peoria

All pitching moves...South Korea's Dan Eun Rhee was removed from the D.L., sending Kevin Kreier (20th Round, 2006) back to EST. But Kreier would be back up with Peoria when Blackford was sent to Daytona. The Chiefs also sent Alberto Cabrera and his 5.68 ERA back to EST and called up 19 year old Robert Hernandez.

Boise

13 days 'til the opener.

Read My Lips


For those who watched the Cubs game last night, you got a good mound visit from Lou. Being able to somwhat read hips lips, I could make out a portion of his "conversation" with Jason Marquis:
As he approaches the mound...
Lou: "What the fuck are you doing out here?"
Later...
Lou: "Are you going to throw fucking strikes or do you want to go sit down?"
Marquis Responds.
Lou: "Then throwing fucking strikes."

Tim Wilken, Director of Scouting

Starting with Lionel's tremendous recap of the Cubs recent amateur draft results, we here at Towel Drills have "Amateur Draft Fever." If you haven't read Lionel's draft recap, it's a must read-you can check it out here.

With the MLB Amateur Draft rapidly approaching (June 5-6), I thought I'd expand our draft coverage and take some time to read up a bit on Cubs Director of Amateur and Professional Scouting, Tim Wilken. Since Wilken was hired in late 2005, I've heard about what a great talent evaluator he is. But these are the sort of guys that, while they're integral to a ball club's success, you just don't hear a lot about. So let's take a look at Tim Wilken.

Tim Wilken is a Florida native and attended St. Petersburg Junior College, Spring Hill College, and the University of South Florida. Wilken began his baseball career with the Toronto Blue Jays in 1979 and spent more than 25 years with the club in various scouting and front office positions (not sure if he played ball or what he did prior to 1979; Baseball Reference shows no record of Wilken as a professional player) . The Blue Jays' first year as a baseball club was in 1979-so Wilken was around for most of their existence. Wilken started as an area scout and received several promotions, eventually landing as Director of US Scouting in 1995 and then as VP of Baseball Operations in 2000. Wilken resigned from the Jays in 2003 after "a difference in philosophy with Toronto's upper management."

Wilken then moved on to the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, joining the club as a special assistant to the GM. Wilken also appears to have run the amateur drafts for Tampa Bay. Some guy named Lou Pinella was the manager of the Devil Rays when Wilken came on board. Pinella said of Wilken at the time,
"He's had a lot of success in the professional scouting area,'' Piniella said. "He's a good baseball man and will add a lot to us. We are fortunate to be able to hire a man of his caliber.''
When hired in Tampa, Wilken had this to say:
"As you can see, I don't move around much,'' Wilken said. "Hopefully, this is the last place I will be in my career.''
Though he made some key acquisitions while there, like stealing stud SP Scott Kazmir from the Mets, Wilken's stay in Tampa was a brief one nevertheless. In what appears to be an unusual and unexpected move, Wilken would leave the Devil Rays for the Cubs in December '05, stating:
"I'll be pretty active there," he said. "It's a little more detailed and a little more responsibility, simply because we didn't have an international market here."
It seems as though Wilken missed the amateur scouting portion of his former gig with the Jays:
“It felt like this job wasn’t half as hard as it felt the last couple of years I did it in Toronto,” Wilken said. “I realized in 2004 how much I had missed it, even when I kind of got burned out on it toward the end there with the Blue Jays.”
Wilken was hired by the Cubs in December of 2005, replacing John Stockstill who left to become an assistant GM with the Orioles. Shortly after being hired by the Cubs, Wilken was named East Coast Scout of the Year for '06. Wilken ran the Cubs amateur drafts in 2006 and 2007 and is getting ready to complete his third draft for the Cubs later in the week. Scout.com has a nice Q&A with Wilken regarding the 2006 draft, Wilken's first with the Cubs, that produced first rounder Tyler Colvin as well as Jeff ND.

Wilken is very well respected in the baseball community and his success speaks for itself:
"During his 27-year career, Wilken has seen a distinguished list of players signed and ushered into the big leagues, including: Derek Bell, Chris Carpenter, Carlos Delgado, Ryan Freel, Shawn Green, Roy Halladay, Steve Karsay, Billy Koch, Josh Phelps, Alex Rios, Vernon Wells and Michael Young. While with the Blue Jays, he contributed to the club's streak of seeing 11 straight first-round draft picks reach the major leagues."
Last May, Baseball Prospectus did a run-down of the drafting tendencies of MLB scouting directors. Wilken comes out pretty steady, not showing much of a preference for any one particular type of player:

Chicago Cubs
Scouting Director: Tim Wilken (Drafts run: 2006, Devil Rays 2005, Blue Jays 1996-2000)

Best Player Produced: Vernon Wells (1st round, 1997) or Michael Young (5th round, 1997)
Best Prospect in Minors: Jeremy Hellickson (3rd round, 2005)
Notable Steals: Reed Johnson (17th round, 1999), Jay Gibbons (14th round, 1998), Orlando Hudson (43rd round, 1997), Mark Hendrickson (20th round, 1997)
Five-Round Strategy: 34 total picks. 44.1% college, 44.1% high school, 5.9% Latin, 2.9% junior college.
Strategy in a Nutshell: Landing Wilken as scouting director was a coup for the Cubs, as he's long been considered one of the best talent evaluators in the business. Hitter or pitcher, college or high school, Puerto Rican or American, it’s hard to spot biases in the way Wilken drafts. Whoever he has evaluated as the best player available, he will take. Wilken does evaluate differently, as he's made as many scratch their heads in the past over a pick like Alex Rios as they do now with Jeff Samardzija. But look for Wilken’s legacy to grow with the Cubs, as a bigger pocketbook should lend to more late-round steals.
2007 Draft Crystal Ball: While I have not used inside info in this section before, our own Kevin Goldstein has called Wilken's affinity for Josh Vitters the "draft's worst-kept secret." This doesn't necessarily defy his previous selections, so barring a late interest in Matt Wieters if he drops to the Cubs, we'll project Vitters here.

As you know, Wilken did in fact take Vitters with the Cubs first pick last year. Interesting to note that Wilken has a reputation for evaluating players differently than the majority. And even more interesting that, despite this fact, he still enjoys a reputation as being a great talent evaluator. Essentially this means that people tend to question Wilken's drafting decisions as they go against the popular grain-but that he's turned out to be right in making those decisions.

If Wilken does favor a certain type of player, it seems he favors athletes. Regarding the '08 draft, Wilken says:
Scouting directors usually say they'll take the best player available. Wilken says: "We're going to take the best big leaguer left." He likes athletic players -- past No. 1's like Tyler Colvin and Josh Vitters are perfect examples. He's also excited about the possibilities with the 41st pick, which the Cubs will receive as compensation for loss of free agent Jason Kendall.
What direction the Cubs will be heading come Thursday is a matter for its own post (check back soon for that). And how Tim Wilken's draft selections for the Cubs in his first two drafts will pan out is a matter of time. But it seems that the overwhelming sentiment is that the Cubs got a good one here.

Again referring to Lionel's tremendous draft recap post from last week, the Cubs last good draft without Wilken came in 2001. But as good as the '01 draft went, the '03-'05 drafts were simply disasters. The Cubs have been straight awful at producing home-grown talent over the last number of years. That all starts with the draft. Quite simply, if you don't draft well, you're putting your team at an enormous disadvantage. The trend is baseball is to win with young, home-grown, cheap talent. The Cubs have been missing that bus for a while now. Wilken seemed to come along at the perfect time. We won't know for a while how Wilken's selections will pan out, but all indications point to a bright future for the Cubs. Let's hope he nails another draft later this week.

Hart Up, Hoffpauir Down

As Lou hinted yesterday, the Cubs added a 13th pitcher to the roster today sending Micah Hoffpauir (rather than Lil Mikey) back to Iowa and recalling Kevin Hart. Interesting move.

I'm whole-heartedly opposed to carrying 13 pitchers. It just doesn't make sense. How many extra innings games have we played already this year? Tell me...what's more important in those games-an 8th RP (which Hart will be) or a lefty stick with pop coming off the bench? No way you can get all those pitchers in to one game (not that that's the point) and you're really spreading your bench thin. Ronny Cedeno is now the best bat off the bench.

This move is interesting in that Kevin Hart was reportedly sent back to Iowa to get stretched out for another run at starting games. He has in fact been starting since being sent back down, sporting a 1-1 record with a 3.81 ERA in 6 starts since May 4. Does this put an end to Hart's days as starters in '08?

Holla, We Want Pre-Nup

"It's sumpin' dat cha need ta have, cause when she leave yo ass, she gon leave wit half"...unless...you're celebrity Cubs fan Bill Murray.

Saw this article today. Apparently Bill Murray's wife is leaving him. Bummer. Billy's ex is citing "adultery, addiction to marijuana and alcohol, abusive behavior, physical abuse, sexual addictions and frequent abandonment." Ouch.

Thankfully, Bill took the smart route and locked in the "antenuptial agreement" (available for full download through the article. Looks like he's going to get out of this thing after having bought this lady a $1M house and after paying her a relatively measly $7M "marital award"/"leave me the eff alone" penance.

A Towel Drills cheer to Billy for locking this up and not taking a ride down the Michael Strahan Stairway to Divorce Hell. Lionel...you reading this?

Short Hops

  • Whether it be watching and playing baseball with nephews or simply catching up on "work," the entire TD staff has had plenty of free time on their hands, thanks in large part to the Cubs success. With the Cubs rolling along with baseball's best record and an 8 game winning streak, the TD staff has had a hard time coming up with anything to bitch about.
  • The Padres announced this week that Mark Prior may need to have season-ending surgery. My question: if your season never started, can you really have season-ending surgery?
  • Can you guess the Cubs player with the best batting average over the last month? Carlos Zambrano. In 21 AB's over the last 30 days, Z also has more total bases than lil Mikey (28 AB's) and Ronnie C (40 AB's).

Passed out at Wrigley...too many Cups

Wow. I just came across this great video and I have no idea how it wasnt already in my arsenal.

This guy reminds me of many of my friends...Lionel...that often get overserved (even if they are the ones doing the serving). I can appreciate the group effort in the stands to really get the cups as high as possible. They show some serious dedication and heart.

On a personal note: Any one ever taken a riksha back from Wrigley Field all the way to downtown? well I have and it was pricey...60 bucks to be exact. But what a great experience. The bike rider suggested he and I go into business together. He clearly recognized my great business skills or he just saw that I am Indian and that Rikshas msut be in my blood.

back up pre Juice era


Normally I do not like to influence the voting of Lionel's polls but I had to let the world know who I voted for...


Lance Dickson and you know why..."DICK"son...I mean come on here.


Ozzie Timmons


Ozzie Timmons rounds out TD's backup positional players of the 90's. As we progress in pitchers, rules have been created. First, the 90's will be broken down into two subsets; the early 90's (pre-juiced Sosa) and the late 90's (juiced Sosa). Second, to qualify for this prestigious award, a relief pitcher must have appeared in no more than 20 games in any season while with the Cubs and a starter must have started less than 10 games.

Batting Stances

I recently visited my 7 year old nephew and we spent the better part of a sunday playing baseball. We created some teams and it was my team versus his team. Now my nephew is an avid cubs fan. At this age he has the line up memorized along with stats and averages...so I am impressed. He is also his little league team's catcher and pitcher.

So the game begins...

During the bottom half of the 1st inning my nephew attempts to steal an extra base on a base hit...we catch him on the slide and he is called out...

We he then proceeded to pull a Jumbo...what does that mean? Well he threw the base across the field, threw his hat, yelled at me and his dad, kicked his glove etc. etc.

Can't wait to see him play when he is working out and on steroids.

Oh and this video is great too.