Just 13 days before the start of the Class-A Minor League season, the Chicago Cubs
selected right-handed pitcher, Hayden Simpson, with the 16th pick—much to the surprise of draft analysts.
Simpson was absent from the majority of first-round projections, mainly due to his lack of exposure while playing for the Division II, Southern Arkansas Muleriders.
Despite being overlooked in the Draft, the Mangolia, Ark. product posted a 13-1 record, with a 1.81 ERA—ranked 10th among D-ll pitchers—and 131 strikeouts in 15 starts in only his junior season for the Muleriders.
In those 15 starts, Simpson held a 42.2 inning scoreless-innings streak—according to the Cubs
' front office—in addition to three shutouts. During his career at SAU, Simpson went 35-2 with a 2.39 ERA and 323 strikeouts.
Simpson recorded a low-to-mid 90's fastball in the 2010 season, with a breaking ball achieving a 25 mph speed differential. The lethal combination of off-speed and power allowed Simpson to rank second in D-ll in strikeouts and victories for SAU. He was named runner-up for the inaugural Tino Martinez D-ll National Player of the Year award at the end of the season.
Scouting director Tim Wilken will most likely be questioned for selecting the unknown pitcher from Arkansas in the first round—but keep in mind, in his first draft in 2006, Wilken selected an undersized outfielder from Clemson, promising that he would be a successful major league player. That player was Tyler Colvin, and everyone and their mothers have heard of his recent success after making the Cubs roster as a result of an incredible spring training.
According to Baseball America, Simpson was the 191st ranked pitcher heading into the first day of the draft, placing him possibly as a late 6th or 7th round pick.
The MLB Network was so surprised about the Cubs' pick, that they scrambled to design a make-shift nameplate to be placed on the draft board.
In line with past first round draft picks, Simpson will most likely suit up for the Boise Hawks in July, after making stops in either the Cubs' Arizona Summer League and Dominican Summer League teams.
Luckily for Simpson, expectations are high, but manageable.
The last pitcher first round draft pick, Andrew Cashner (19th overall pick in the 2008 First-Year Players Draft), has since been called up to the Chicago Cubs, after only two years in the minor leagues, and is expected to assume the set-up position for the club soon.
As a starting pitcher, however, Cubs' officials hope that Simpson's development wont fall into the same trap as 25-year-old right hander, Jeff Samardzija. Samardzija has an 18.90 ERA with the Cubs this season and 5.89 career ERA in the bigs.
Though both will have made appearances with the Hawks after the conclusion of the 2010 season, the 175 pound right hander has incredible upside and odds are that he won't become a "BP sized" catastrophe.