Draft Preview: Cubs hope for more fast risers
Front office targeting best athletes to move through ranks
CHICAGO -- What does Tim Wilken have up his sleeve this year?
Wilken, the Cubs' scouting director, will lead the decision process for the team's picks in the First-Year Player Draft on Monday. The Cubs' front office and scouts gather in Mesa, Ariz., for the three-day Draft -- and Cubs player development director Oneri Fleita can't wait.
"[Wilken's] Drafts are always interesting, they're always a lot of fun and they're always balanced," Fleita said.
The Cubs have the 16th pick in the first round of Monday's Draft, and they won't make another selection until the second round (65th pick).
MLB.com will offer live coverage and analysis of the entire First-Year Player Draft from June 7-9 on MLB.com/Live. The first round and Compensation Round A will be broadcast live on MLB.com and MLB Network on Monday, June 7, beginning with the Draft preview show at 5 p.m. CT.
MLB.com Draft expert Jonathan Mayo will join Greg Amsinger, Harold Reynolds, John Hart, Peter Gammons and Baseball America executive editor Jim Callis on Monday's broadcast.
Coverage for rounds 2-50 will shift exclusively to MLB.com/Live. Rounds 2-30 will be streamed on Tuesday, beginning at 11 a.m., and rounds 31-50 will be streamed on Wednesday, starting at 11 a.m. Host Pete McCarthy will be joined by Mayo and former general manager Jim Duquette.
Here's a glance at what the Cubs have in store as the Draft approaches:
In about 50 words
Two of Wilken's past four first-round picks are on the big league 25-man roster in Tyler Colvin (2006) and Andrew Cashner (2008). Wilken, who took over the Cubs' scouting director job in December 2005, looks for the best athlete and doesn't favor college over high school, or left-handers over right-handers.
The Cubs have developed more depth in the Minor League system since Wilken took over. "He's looking for balance as far as lefty-righty pitchers -- it's not targeted on one," Fleita said. "He's targeted on trying to get the best position player every round. It's worked -- we have a couple catchers, infielders, outfielders. It's hard to go into a Draft and say, 'We're going to focus on power, we're going to focus on speed.' He's got a great gift, I think, to have a great balance on everything -- pitchers, all position players, and a variety." The balance has helped the Cubs move some players quicker through the organization, such as Cashner and Jay Jackson (ninth round, 2008), who is now at Triple-A Iowa.
MLB.com's Mayo predicts the Cubs will take right-handed pitcher Asher Wojciechowski from The Citadel. His fastball has been clocked at 94 mph and he seems a better fit as a reliever than starter. Baseball America says the Cubs will tab 6-foot-4 right-handed pitcher Karsten Whitson out of Chipley High School in Florida. His fastball has been clocked at 91-96 mph, and he has a nasty slider and solid changeup to go with it. Whitson performed well at the Florida High School All-Star Game in front of several Major League scouts and is easily a first-round pick.
Wilken picks the best athlete available each round, but after the first two days are completed, he, Fleita and some of the other members of the Cubs' player development staff will go over the selections and try to fill in the gaps on the Draft's final day. Wilken also likes to pick what he calls "late bloomers," which would be players who might be converted to another position.
In 2008, seven of the Cubs' first 10 picks were pitchers. In 2009, only four were. What Wilken has done is provided depth in the Draft. The perfect example is Casey Coleman, a 15th-round pick in 2008 who was the organization's Minor League Pitcher of the Year in '09. Trey McNutt was a 32nd-round pick in 2009. He's 4-0 with a 1.70 ERA at Class A Peoria. "[Wilken] seems like a guy who's focused, obviously, like everybody in the country, on who the first pick is," Fleita said. "But as soon as that pick is gone, his mind is motoring and he's looking at who are they going to get in the 18th, 20th [rounds]. The Draft is not over until the 50th pick for Tim Wilken. I think that's been a great dynamic and great strength that he's given his staff."
Recent Draft History
The Cubs are high on Jackson, who began the season in Triple-A Iowa's rotation, then switched to the bullpen, and now is back in the rotation. He threw eight shutout innings against Nashville on April 19, giving up two hits. What doesn't show up in this Draft are the international additions the Cubs have in the system, such as Korean shortstop Hak-Ju Lee or Taiwanese pitcher Hung-Wen Chen.
If Coleman reaches the big leagues, he'll be the third generation of his family to do so. And the Coleman family would be the first in Major League Baseball to have three generations of pitchers. Coleman's grandfather, Joe, was a pitcher and played in 1942, missed time because of the war, and returned to baseball from 1946-55. His father, Joe, also was a right-handed pitcher, and played 15 seasons from 1965-79, including one season (1976) with the Cubs. Casey's father set a record when he struck out 14 for the Tigers in the 1972 American League Championship Series. That record stood until 1997, when Mike Mussina fanned 15 in an ALCS game. Both Colemans were All-Stars.
Now Casey, who attended Florida Gulf Coast University in Fort Myers, Fla., is trying to make it to the big leagues with the Cubs.
"People remind me all the time," Coleman said about his family heritage. "I look at it differently. I'm not putting pressure on myself, and my family and friends have done a good job of not putting pressure on me. I'm the youngest and trying to have fun out here. If it's meant to be, then it'll work out."
In The Show
Colvin, the Cubs' No. 1 pick in 2006, made the Opening Day roster and has been rotated in the outfield. He spent the offseason on an intense workout program, adding 25 pounds of muscle, and his strength training has paid off. Cashner, the team's 2008 No. 1 pick, was called up May 31 to the bullpen. In his Major League debut that day, his fastball hit 95 mph on the PNC Park radar gun. Other Draft picks currently on the big league roster include Ryan Theriot (third round, '01); Geovany Soto (11th round, '01); Sean Marshall (sixth round, '03); James Russell (14th round, '07); and Randy Wells (38th round, '02). Plus, Starlin Castro, a non-drafted free agent signed in 2006, grew up in the Cubs' system.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.