Andy Seiler's MLB Draft Blog

Home of the MLB Draft Notebook

Draft Preview – Chicago Cubs

Here is the twelfth part in my series, this time focusing on the Chicago Cubs and their scouting director Tim Wilken.

Owner: Tribune Company, bought club in 1981
General Manager: Jim Hendry, promoted in July 2002
Scouting Director: Tim Wilken, first draft was 2006

Looking Back

2006 Draft: $5.0 Million Budget

1. Tyler Colvin, OF, Clemson, #13 overall: In Tim Wilken’s first draft, the Cubs decided to reach for an athletic outfielder in the first round, despite the fact that they didn’t pick again until the fifth round.  Colvin wasn’t even really considered a strong first round prospect, making his pick at #13 questionable.  Following players selected: Travis Snider, Chris Marrero, Jeremy Jeffress.  Signing bonus: $1.475 million.
2. Jeff Samardzija, RHP, Notre Dame, #149 overall: This choice could be seen from a mile away, as the Cubs were the main candidates to choose Samardzija and make an attempt to lure him away from football.  He was a borderline first round talent, making this gamble quite solid.  Following players selected: Luke Hopkins, Cory Van Allen, Chris Errecart.  Signing bonus: $1 million, signed Major League contract later.
3. Josh Lansford, 3B, Cal Poly, #179 overall: Lansford had good baseball blood and was signable, making him an attractive choice here.  He was expected to go somewhere in this general area.  Following players selected: Brian Jeroloman, Zech Zinicola, Brae Wright.  Signing bonus: $155,000.
4. Steve Clevenger, SS, Chipola JC (FL), #209 overall: A solid hitter, Clevenger was expected to go somewhere in this range to someone who believed he might develop a little power.  Normal seventh round pick.  Following players selected: John Baksh, Sam Brown, Andy Bouchie.  Signing bonus: $130,000.
5. Billy Muldowney, RHP, Pittsburgh, #239 overall:
A pitchability college righty with little projection, Muldowney was chosen as a relatively safe pick.  Some saw him as a future reliever, despite his starting success at Pitt.  Following players selected: Dan O’Brien, Sean Rooney, Shane Hill.  Signing bonus: $98,500.
Other Notable Selections:
RHP Chris Huseby (11th), Martin County HS (FL), $1.3 million bonus (overslot); OF Drew Rundle (14th), Bend HS (OR), $500K bonus (overslot); C Blake Parker (16th), Arkansas; 3B Jovan Rosa (22nd), Lake City CC (FL), $180K bonus (overslot)

2007 Draft: $6.1 Million Budget

1. Josh Vitters, 3B, Cypress HS (CA), #3 overall: Vitters was a hot prospect from start to finish during his senior year, making him an easy choice in the top five.  This was a solid pick by the Cubs’ management.  Following players selected: Daniel Moskos, Matt Wieters, Ross Detwiler.  Signing bonus: $3.2 million.
2. Josh Donaldson, C, Auburn, #48 overall: Expected to go somewhere in this range, Donaldson was a solid hitting catcher.  He was relatively new to the catching position, but there were few that doubted he’d stick back there.  Following players selected: Michael Burgess, Wes Roemer, Charlie Culberson.  Signing bonus: $652,500.
3. Tony Thomas, 2B, Florida State, #97 overall: Thomas was a huge surprise during his junior year at Florida State, coming out of nowhere to become a top 100 pick.  This was about where he was expected to go, making this a solid choice.  Following players selected: Brian Friday, Eric Niesen, Steven Souza.  Signing bonus: $360,000.
4. Darwin Barney, SS, Oregon State, #127 overall: Barney was overdrafted here by a couple of rounds, as most teams thought little of him both defensively and offensively.  His approach left something to be desired.  Following players selected: Quincy Latimore, Tim Bascom, Derek Norris.  Signing bonus: $222,750.
5. Brandon Guyer, OF, Virginia, #157 overall: Guyer was an infielder at Virginia, but the Cubs drafted him as an outfielder.  He was expected to go somewhere in this range as a speedy kid with a decent hit tool.  Following players selected: Andrew Walker, Jake Arrieta, Brad Meyers.  Signing bonus: $148,000.
Other Notable Selections: OF Ty Wright (7th), Oklahoma State, $42K bonus; 3B Marquez Smith (8th), Clemson, $30K bonus

2008 Draft: $5.5 Million Budget

1. Andrew Cashner, RHP, TCU, #19 overall: Cashner had the best pure fastball in the draft a year ago, having been a reliever in college.  However, the Cubs drafted him as a starter, and he was expected to go around here somewhere.  Following players selected: Josh Fields, Ryan Perry, Reese Havens.  Signing bonus: $1.54 million.
2. Ryan Flaherty, SS, Vanderbilt, #41 overall: A high-character hitting machine at Vanderbilt, Flaherty was expected to go somewhere in the second round, making this a slight overdraft.  However, his hit tool was that good.  Following players selected: Jaff Decker, Wade Miley, Jeremy Bleich.  Signing bonus: $906,000.
3. Aaron Shafer, RHP, Wichita State, #65 overall: A pitcher with a huge arm, Shafer was considered a first round prospect before getting hurt his sophomore year.  He never regained that status, but was expected to be a second round pick.  Following players selected: Dennis Raben, Cody Satterwhite, Javier Rodriguez.  Signing bonus: $625,000.
4. Chris Carpenter, RHP, Kent State, #97 overall: Carpenter was also a first round prospect once upon a time, and injuries got in the way.  Drafted twice before, this was actually about a round below where he was expected to go.  Following players selected: Aaron Pribanic, Scott Green, Kirk Nieuwenhuis.  Signing bonus: $385,000.
5. Matt Cerda, SS, Oceanside HS (CA), #131 overall: Cerda was an overdraft by a few rounds, as his small stature and lack of athletic tools made him an undesirable.  However, the Cubs believed in his bat.  Following players selected: Steven Hensley, Brett Jacobson, Sean Ratliff.  Signing bonus: $500,000.
Other Notable Selections: RHP Jay Jackson (9th), Furman, $90K bonus; SS Logan Watkins (21st), Goddard HS (KS), $500K bonus (overslot)

Those are the three drafts run by Tim Wilken since joining the Cubs from the Tampa Bay Devil Rays.  Wilken also has eight years of experience in the Blue Jays’ front office, including five years as scouting director there from 1996-2000 before being promoted to Assistant GM and VP for the 2001 season.  In general, Wilken has been a man recruited by many front offices for his player evaluation talent, and he generally has the ear of his general manager.  That’s good freedom for a scouting director.  Looking at his drafts, Wilken seems kind of run of the mill in terms of getting value at his picks.  He generally sticks to perceived draft value, and while he rarely picks a player that has slided to him in lower rounds, he also rarely overdrafts players, as well.  Jeff Samardzija represents an obvious exception, but there was definite Jim Hendry fingerprints all over that pick.  In general, Wilken loves his college players in the early rounds.  First round picks are generally made by a scouting director and general  manager consensus, though I don’t think Wilken would have picked anyone other than Vitters had he had complete control himself.  Wilken does a good job of mixing hitters and pitchers, and he was able to add two good arms after the first round a year ago, though they came with checkered injury histories.  Getting Ryan Flaherty in there meant a solid group of hitting and pitching, though I didn’t particularly like the Cerda selection, which was a little off from his normal drafting routine.  Besides the obvious Notre Dame connection there is with the Cubs, Wilken doesn’t show any particular geographical trend when choosing college players, as he’s done major programs, mid-majors, and JUCO players.  So it’s pretty hard to simply predict which player Wilken might like, other than the fact that they’ll likely be from college.  Overall, he’s done a nice, solid job in the drafts, with little splashes on the good or bad side.

As for draft budgeting, the Cubs have been fairly middle of the road in general.  The slight 2007 bump is due to a higher first round selection, which skews the overall budgeting amount by the greatest margin of any other pick differences.  The Cubs own pick numbers 31, 79, 109, 140, and every 30 after that, so basically no extra and no less picks than is regularly allotted.  Using slotting from a year ago, the first five rounds with these picks would cost $2.269 million, and since slots are being brought down 10%, that would mean the Cubs’ slots for the first five rounds would equal roughly $2 million.  That low number probably means that the Cubs will reach a little in those rounds or later, meaning they might be a candidate to bust slots a few times.  I’d wager that their final budget is again in the $5 million range, making them prime candidates to reach overnight deals between the first and second days of the draft next week.  The ripple could mean a nice infusion of higher-ceiling talent into a relatively low-ceiling system.  Their payroll is the highest ever, but I don’t think that will greatly affect how they spend in the draft, as the difference between $2 and $5 million is negligible for good players.  Keep an eye on some picks that they might make that might be considered questionable due to signability issues, as they could surprise by signing them anyway with a little extra money.

Connecting the Cubs to specific players, I’ve seen some info that they’re hard after Indiana righty Eric Arnett, who might not be there when they pick.  I do have Arnett falling in my latest mock, but that’s far from a guarantee.  They’d also love to get Notre Dame’s AJ Pollock for obvious reasons, but the interesting news is that they might like some prep pitchers such as a Matt Hobgood, Garrett Gould, or Chad James.  Matt Purke might also be an option to a lesser extent, if he falls.  Athletic outfielders such as Brett Jackson, Tim Wheeler, and Jared Mitchell could also enter the equation.  Looking beyond that, I’ve connected them most recently to Chris Dwyer of Clemson and Jeremy Hezelbaker of Ball State, and others like Derek McCallum of Minnesota, Ryan Jackson of Miami, David Hale of Princeton, and Jason Stoffel of Arizona might be good options.  Matt den Dekker is probably on their radar, too.  In general, there are a good number of solid, yet unspectacular college players in this class.  Keep this in mind, though.  Kentrail Davis, who would fit their philosophy, is a Scott Boras client, and he doesn’t get along with the Cubs, so scratch him off the list.  A JUCO player might pop up, mainly Jabari Blash, but don’t count on it.

All bonus information came from BA, and writeups on draft status going into the draft were a mixture of BA and PG.  Go to their sites for draft coverage.  They’re awesome.

What do you guys think?  What do the Cubs do?

Previous Draft Previews:

Tampa Bay Rays
Los Angeles Dodgers
Detroit Tigers
Philadelphia Phillies
Texas Rangers
Pittsburgh Pirates
Baltimore Orioles
Colorado Rockies
Chicago White Sox
Washington Nationals
Los Angeles Angels


June 3, 2009 - Posted by | Draft Previews | , ,


  1. Would have to disagree slightly with Wilken going with the “perceived draft value.” Mainly because of the Colvin pick. I think BA had Colvin ranked in the 170’s or something going in to the draft, which would make him more than an overdraft. I would argue Samardzija was not an overdraft because he was considered a guy with 1st round stuff, but lacking first round polish. Getting a guy like that in the 5th round is pretty solid. That sad, I am not a Shark fan.

    I have gathered Wilken as a guy who likes aggressive contact hitters. Also found that he likes to take guys up the middle of the diamond, which would contribute to the idea of taking Pollock with the first pick.

    They may also be the team that takes Luke Bailey in the 4th or 5th round, since they have shown to go after high upside guys with an injury history and Bailey is still considered signable.


    and keep up the good work!

    Comment by Matt Marsden | June 3, 2009 | Reply

    • I think the Colvin pick wasn’t entirely conceived by Wilken, making him less at fault. And yeah, Samardzija wasn’t an overdraft at all. I mentioned the first round talent, and it was great draft value.

      As for the injury history part, there’s a good chance they do go after guys with an injury history, but I don’t think Bailey is high on their list. They’ve got Clevenger and Cerda at catcher from recent drafts, and I don’t think they’ll want to spend the money it would take to sign Bailey. I’d look more at pitchers with injury histories.

      Comment by andyseiler | June 3, 2009 | Reply

      • The Colvin pick – Wilken gave an interview a year or so later where he said the Colvin pick was entirely him. Whether or not that’s true, I obviously don’t know, but Wilken did note something about how he didn’t trust the other bats in that area.

        Colvin does fit the Wilken model to a T – an athletic, toolsy guy, who shows upside and had some CF potential (he drafts up the middle guys because, as he’s noted before, that they can always move to a corner, so you aren’t as limited). It’s been speculated by some that Wilken is leaning more towards college guys these days due to Hendry’s influence on philosophy.

        One other note, which has been lost in most discussions on the Colvin pick – late rumors that year had Colvin, by draft day, as a late first round pick. Still a reach, but people seem to forget this (I believe he was connected to the White Sox).

        I wouldn’t be surprised if we did pop a catcher in the first 10 rounds. Cerda is a long term plan, and according to the esteemed AzPhil over at TCR, he’s been rather inconsistent in developing his receiving skills. We did pop Luis Flores and Michael Brenly a year ago, both in A ball (Daytona and Peoria) respectively, and I think Flores might have enough bat to be worth pondering. Welington Castillo has been struggling in AA, while Clevenger has been a pleasant surprise in terms of power and defensive consistency.

        I’ve got a tough time seeing AJ Pollock being picked by Wilken in the first round. He seems rather limited offensively, albeit, he does offer an advanced approach. That said, my gut feeling is that the Cubs approach those guys later.

        Comment by Tony | June 5, 2009

  2. Good write-up! Here are a few points…

    -I only have one major problem with your write-up. Where did you get that the Cubs negative relationship with Scott Boras? Quite frankly, they’ve actually had a really good relationship with him in the past. They’ve drafted a number of Boras clients in the past, including Mark Pawelek, Corey Patterson, Micah Owings, Taylor Teagarden, and Bobby Brownlie. The Cubs are not afraid of dealing with him and, as evidenced by their signing Mark Pawelek at slot value, work quite well with him.

    -As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, the Cubs have a strong tendency to spend roughly slot for their first round picks. I can’t remember any budget-busting first round picks off the top of my head in recent memory. Instead, they have a tendency to go after guys over slot in later rounds. Names like Eric Patterson, Micah Owings, Jeff Samardzija, Drew Rundle, Jay Jackson, Logan Watkins, Chris Huseby, and so on, all pretty much confirm that the Cubs would rather spend a few extra hundred thousand on a few picks in the late rounds than spend a few extra million on one first round pick.

    -Another thing worth noting is that the Cubs have strongly favored college players in their drafts. During Wilken’s three year tenure, only 10 HS players have signed from their drafts. In the past two years, they have drafted only three HS players in the first 20 rounds. There’s definitely a trend going on there.

    -Something I’ve noticed recently is that the Cubs have been targeting pitchers who have been sliding due to injury concerns. Chris Carpenter and Aaron Shafer are both good examples, but they also have picked up guys like Jon Nagel, Chris Huseby, and Donald Veal over the past few years.

    -Re-drafts are fairly common. Andrew Cashner, Marquez Smith, and Michael Brenly all were drafted by the Cubs more than once.

    -Wilken emphasizes athleticism over pretty much everything else. There’s been a decided emphasis on two way players and guys who could be converted to other positions (Clevenger and Cerda are currently catchers, Jay Jackson was a RHP/OF, Blake Parker and Josh Lansford have been converted to pitchers, etc.).

    -Geographically, the Cubs have a good presence in Texas, Florida, and Virginia. Paul Mainieri was Jim Hendry’s connection to Notre Dame, but he left for LSU three years ago. People really like AJ Pollock for the Cubs simply because he’s a Notre Dame guy, but I don’t think Mainieri recruited him. Without that connection, I have my doubts that AJ Pollock to the Cubs is a sure thing.

    The guys I’ve been focusing on for the Cubs in the first two rounds right now are Baylor LHP/OF Aaron Miller, LSU OF Jared Mitchell, Texas A&M RHP Alex Wilson, and Texas A&M LHP/OF Brooks Raley.

    Comment by Outshined_One | June 3, 2009 | Reply

    • The Boras factor is related to the Cubs’ lack of recent relations with him. It’s been four years since the Cubs drafted Pawelek, and they haven’t gone after any Boras clients since. That should be saying something, as they’ve been available numerous times for them to pick. I don’t necessarily think they’re “afraid” of Boras, but I don’t think they favor paying his asking prices. They’ve been more inclined to hand the extra dollars to other agents.

      Comment by andyseiler | June 3, 2009 | Reply

      • I think that goes back to my original point about the Cubs not forking over large bonuses to first round picks more than anything else. Boras and the Cubs actually have a very positive relationship (especially considering the Cubs paid for him to go to law school: There’s an established history between the parties at the minor league level and the major league level.

        I’d agree with you that the Cubs probably will shy away from Kentrail Davis, but more because he’s asking for a boatload of money than because he has Scott Boras as an agent.

        Comment by Outshined_One | June 3, 2009

      • I guess I should further explain what I mean. I mean that the Cubs will shy away from Boras due to his bonus demands for his clients.

        Comment by andyseiler | June 3, 2009

      • I understand now. We’ve been in agreement the entire time, haha.

        Comment by Outshined_One | June 3, 2009

  3. Great writeup and great points. Like you pointed out he favors college guys. Outshined one brought up a good point too in that he prefers athletic up the middle college guys.

    He also has this weird thing where he likes polished high schoolers(Vitters, Cerda), but also likes unpolished college guys with upside; namely Colvin, Samardzija, and the 6 million rehab and two-way players he took last year.

    Also, I think the Notre Dame connection is a little exaggerated. Samardzija’s the only guy the past 5 years or so out of Notre Dame. Although yeah, back early in the decade it was like an annual thing.

    All that, combined with the fact the Cubs have like zero outfielders of note, Kyler Burke, Brandon Guyer, and Tyler Colvin might be the top OFers in the system, makes me think the Cubs are going to go with Brett Jackson. I hope to god I’m wrong, Brett Jackson would be a bad choice, but I think that’s the way Wilken’s going to go.

    Comment by JIlly Bohnson | June 3, 2009 | Reply

  4. I expect this draft to be heavier on positional players than pitching (thus more 2007 than 2008). We took a big crop of college pitchers last year, helping to restock the system. A lot of those arms were relatively raw to full time pitching, so there’s still some shot of “growth”. In saying that, I think they’ll go for the best available talent in the first round, and I also think they’ll pop some lefty arms throughout, say, the first 15 rounds or so.

    Tools and athleticism are important to Wilken, and as noted, there’s been some speculation that because of Hendry, Wilken leans more towards collegiate guys for the Cubs. They’ve shown a willingness to pop some tougher signs later, in the teens. Guys like Dan McDaniel and James Russell come to mind. One thing interesting is that, from around the 5th-11th rounds, Wilken will occasionally pop guys considered to have higher floors, or be considered safer in some respects. Wilken has a tendency to follow things – whether it be families (the Matulia’s), schools, previously drafted guys (Cashner/Marquez Smith come to mind). So, Alex Wilson, who’s probably a slight reach in the late first right now for most people, should be pondered as he likely won’t be there in the late 2nd.

    The money is a tough question. Indications have been that the Cubs have the ability to spend as an organization, but whether or not their ability to spend in the draft is impacted by their ability to spend in the bigs, I don’t know. There were rumors that the Cubs might drop some dough on Latin American talent, but haven’t heard much lately. Speaking of the Kentrail Davis discussion above, part of me wonders if it might be possible. They could take him based on talent and spend … or they could draft him, see if he’ll come in for less, and if not, take a supplemental next year and perhaps save money this year if money is an issue.

    IMO, this system needs more power … arms and bats. In my dream of dreams, we’d go after a sliding HS guy, whether it is Jiovanni Mier (even with Castro and Lee, we could use more MI talent), Donovan Tate, Matt Purke or someone else. I guess I can sorta see Pollock, but as noted above, not sold that his offense is enough for them to take him in the first. I think Wheeler seems more likely based on ability. I can see Brett Jackson, though. He sorta reminds me, at the plate, of Ryan Flaherty a bit (although I’m not the best at those comparisons). A HS guy that I like who I think may fit would be Mike Trout. Depending on the money situation, I won’t be surprised if a guy like David Renfroe factors in. If a Jared Mitchell falls, I think he’d be the pick, even though I don’t know if I’d love it that much. But with the Maineri connections and the “tools”, it fits to a T. One guy that intrigues me as an option is Aaron Miller. I really like what I’ve heard of Miller. A 2-way guy who shows an advanced approach at the plate. I’d want him as a bat more than as an arm.

    Comment by Tony | June 5, 2009 | Reply

    • oops, meant compensatory and not supplemental with the Kentrail Davis thing, and that’s only if in the first two rounds.

      Comment by Tony | June 5, 2009 | Reply

  5. Hadn’t looked at your latest 3 round mock until now. With the way the board fell, I think Jared Mitchell would be the pick. Just seems to fit to a T. Something about Arnett’s lack of polish with secondary pitches makes me question Arnett to the Cubs, although I’ll be surprised if Arnett makes it there. Bullock doesn’t get enough discussion, but I do wonder if the Cubs may ponder making him a starter. I can see Andy Oliver as well – don’t know if this is the best comparison, but Oliver makes me think James Russell with a better arm. As noted, could see Jackson. I think a guy like Mychal Givens could be a thought, but it’d be fringy, and I’ve thought about Wilson, Miller, Renfroe. I can see James Paxton in the mix.

    My hunch at the Cubs top 3 if the board falls that way would be

    1. Jared Mitchell
    2. Andrew Oliver
    3. Eric Arnett

    Comment by Tony | June 5, 2009 | Reply

  6. Well … AJ Pollock played in an XST game for the Cubs (AzPhil over at TCR). Maybe I’m way off about Pollock as a first round fit. Of course, Niko Vazquez worked out for us and played in a game last year as well, IIRC and we skipped over him.

    Comment by Tony | June 5, 2009 | Reply

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: