Chicago Cubs: The Last 12 Top Picks and How They've Fared
With the hiring of Theo Epstein, it is clear the Chicago Cubs want to become a club that has sustainable success into October year-in and year-out. With that, a World Series title would be likely to come to Wrigley.
Although this will be no easy task, there might not be a better trio in baseball to get the job done. Under the Epstein regime, the Red Sox averaged over 90 wins a year and won titles in 2004 and 2007. A part of this is due to all of the money spent on top-notch stars, but a lot of the regime's success came through the MLB Amateur Draft held every June.
In Boston, Epstein drafted players such as Dustin Pedroia, Jacoby Ellsbury, Kevin Youkilis, and Jon Lester. All of these guys are integral parts of the success Boston has each year.
This must be welcomed in Chicago. The Cubs haven't had the greatest drafts since the event started in 1965, especially in choosing first-round talent. As a result, Chicago's farm system is one of the weaker ones in baseball.
Here are the last 12 top picks of the Chicago Cubs and how those players have panned out.
Luis Montanez, SS
Drafted: 2000 (3rd overall)
Stars Cubs Passed On: Chase Utley (PHI), Adam Wainwright (ATL), Michael Vick (COL)*
Notables Cubs Also Drafted: Todd Wellemeyer, Dontrelle Willis
2011 Team: Iowa Cubs (AAA), Chicago Cubs
About: With the third overall pick in 2000, the Cubs selected Montanez out of Miami, Florida.
While in Chicago's farm system, Montanez was never impressive enough to make it to Wrigley Field. After six seasons, the Baltimore Orioles picked him up and converted him to an outfielder.
Montanez finally hit the majors in 2008 and hit a home run in his first big league at-bat with Baltimore. He bounced back and forth between AAA and the Orioles.
The Chicago Cubs then signed Montanez before the 2011 season to a minor-league deal. On May 24, he was called up from Iowa and in his first at-bat with Chicago, and hit an RBI double.
Montanez batted .222 in 36 total games with Chicago, though he hit .321 in 92 games for AAA Iowa.
*Yes, THE Michael Vick was selected in the 2000 MLB Draft by the Rockies. He was drafted in the 30th round after never playing baseball at Virginia Tech. I thought this was interesting.
Mark Prior, RHP
Drafted: 2001 (2nd overall)
Stars Cubs Passed On: Mark Teixeira (TEX), Dan Haren (STL), David Wright (NYM)
Notables Cubs Also Drafted: Ryan Theriot, Geovany Soto
2011 Team: Scranton/Wilkes Barre Yankees (AAA)
About: I'm sorry for bringing him up. If you're a Cubs fan, you may have just shook your head or even bashed it into your keyboard. But the story must be told.
As the top prospect, Mark Prior was selected second overall after Minnesota picked Joe Mauer. The Cubs signed him to a $10.5 million deal, which stood as the record for a drafted player until 2009.
In 2003, the right-hander baffled hitters everywhere. In an All-Star season, he was 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and struck out 245 hitters. Along with Kerry Wood, he led the Cubs to the NLCS and was on the mound for the Bartman/Alou fiasco.
Afterwards, Prior's career tumbled. More injury prone than anyone in baseball, Prior was never able to regain his 2003 form and hasn't pitched in the majors since 2006, his final year in Chicago.
In 2011, the 31-year-old pitched just 12 innings in the Yankees organization.
Bobby Brownlie, RHP
Drafted: 2002 (21st overall)
Stars Cubs Passed On: Matt Cain (SF), Joey Votto (CIN), Brian McCann (ATL)
Notables Cubs Also Drafted: Rich Hill, Micah Hoffpauir
2011 Team: Retired
About: Going into the 2002 draft, Bobby Brownlie was considered to be one of the best prospects available. After being a star at Rutgers, the Cubs selected Brownlie with the 21st selection and gave him a deal worth $2.5 million.
However, Brownlie has ended up being one of the biggest busts in Cubs history. After being a top pick, he never saw the big leagues and retired from baseball altogether after the 2010 season.
He finished his minor-league career with a record of 50-52 and ERA of 4.08.
Brownlie has returned to school and hopes to coach college baseball.
Ryan Harvey, CF
Drafted: 2003 (6th overall)
Stars Cubs Passed On: Nick Markakis (BAL), Chad Billingsley (LAD), Carlos Quentin (ARZ)
Notables Cubs Drafted: Sean Marshall, Casey McGehee
2011 Team: Salem Red Sox (A)
About: Ryan Harvey is yet another first-round bust for the Chicago Cubs. Going into the draft, he was noted as having the best outfield arm and raw power. The Cubs then took him in front of Nick Markakis, who fell to Baltimore.
After receiving a $2.3 million deal to play for Chicago, Harvey was considered one of the team's prospects by Baseball America year after year until 2006.
The truth is, Harvey was never promoted past AA and before the 2009 season, the Cubs released the struggling right-handed hitter.
That year, the Colorado Rockies gave Harvey a chance and he spent two years in AA there as well.
In 2011, Boston signed Harvey to convert him into a reliever (he pitched in high school), but within a month, abandoned the project.
Grant Johnson, RHP
Drafted: 2004 (2nd round)
Stars Cubs Passed On: Mark Reynolds (ARZ), Dallas Braden (OAK), Jonathan Sanchez (SF)
Notables Cubs Drafted: Sam Fuld, Sean Gallagher
2011 Team: Retired
About: After losing their first-round pick to sign reliever LaTroy Hawkins in 2004, the Cubs didn't have a selection until the second round and because of their NLCS appearance, didn't have a selection until late in the round.
The pick before Johnson, the Red Sox selected Dustin Pedroia. After that, the field of prospects was weaker than in drafts past.
Grant Johnson was a Mark Prior look-alike out of Notre Dame who the Cubs selected as their top pick.
For the third straight draft, the Cubs whiffed completely on their first selection. Johnson lasted until 2008 in the Chicago's organization, but never reached AAA. His once-baffling slider became his nemesis, leaving him some years with a near even strikeout/walk ratio.
Johnson spent 2009 in independent leagues and is now out of baseball completely at 28-years-old.
Mark Pawelek, LHP
Drafted: 2005 (20th overall)
Stars Cubs Passed On: Colby Rasmus (STL), Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS), Matt Garza (MIN)
Notables Cubs Drafted: No major leaguers
2011 Team: Dodgers (Las Vegas Adult League)
About: 2005 could possibly be the worst draft the Chicago Cubs had under Jim Hendry. As stated above, not one player drafted by the Cubs have reached the major leagues.
Top pick Mark Pawelek was certainly promising at first, though. The high school lefty was coveted going into the draft and was expected by some to be a top 10 pick. He fell to Chicago at No. 20; the Cubs bit.
He went ahead of current Cub Matt Garza and Red Sox star Jacoby Ellsbury, another successful pick by Epstein. However, Pawelek never even saw AA ball in the Cubs organization.
After a 2007 season in which he walked 15 hitters in 18 innings and only struck out 14, he was released by the Chicago. Shortly after, the Cincinnati Reds took a chance but saw nothing in the lefty for two years. He spent 2010 in an independent league where he walked 15 and struck out just six.
Now, the 25-year-old spends his days playing in an adult league in Las Vegas, where he still struggles.
Tyler Colvin, OF/1B
Drafted: 2006 (13th overall)
Stars Passed On: Daniel Bard (BOS), Joba Chamberlain (NYY), Chris Perez (STL)
Notables Cubs Drafted: Jeff Samardzija
2011 Team: Iowa Cubs (AAA), Chicago Cubs
About: Going into the 2006 draft, the Cubs had prized pitcher Tim Lincecum in mind after drafting him in 2003 and failing to sign him. Instead, Chicago selected the big left-handed hitter Tyler Colvin out of Clemson University.
Colvin spent 2007, 2008, and most of 2009 in high-A and AA ball until making the Cubs opening day roster in 2010.
In 2010, Colvin opened some eyes, hitting 20 home runs. He had never hit more than 16 in the minors. Although he batted just .254, many believed he could earn a starting spot in 2011.
However, in September 2010, Colvin was struck by a broken bat while running to home plate. He suffered a punctured lung and missed the rest of the year.
2011 was a struggle for the Cub. He split time between AAA and Chicago and only batted .150 while in the bigs. His six home runs were also underwhelming.
Josh Vitters, 3B
Drafted: 2007 (3rd overall)
Stars Passed On: Matt Weiters (BAL), Jason Heyward (ATL), Madison Bumgarner (SF)
Notables Cubs Drafted: Darwin Barney, James Russell
2011 Team: Tennessee Smokies (AA)
About: Josh Vitters is a name that brings some frustration to Cubs fans.
Drafted after only David Price and Royals youngster Mike Moustakas, Vitters was considered to be a player who could ease through the Cubs system and take over for Aramis Ramirez.
Now, Aramis Ramirez is likely done in Chicago, and Vitters hasn't shown any reason he should be on the team in 2012.
The 22-year-old took three years to reach AA. In 2010, Vitters hit just .223 in 63 games for Tennessee and drove in 26.
As a result, the third-basemen spent all of 2011 in the same spot. However, Vitters is showing signs of progression as he hit .283 and put on some weight during the season.
In 2012, we should see Vitters in Iowa, getting him one step closer to playing in Wrigley Field.
Andrew Cashner, RHP
Drafted: 2008 (19th overall)
Stars Passed On: N/A
Notables Cubs Drafted: Chris Carpenter (Baseball America: #6 prospect)
2011 Team: Chicago Cubs
About: A dominant closer at Texas Christian University, Cashner was selected by the Cubs 19th overall with hopes of making him as dominant in the rotation.
In three minor league seasons, Cashner only gave up three home runs. In 2009 and 2010, the fire-throwing righty was phenomenal in the minors. Finally, the Cubs looked to have found a star in the first round of the draft.
Cashner pitched in 53 games in 2010 for Chicago from the bullpen. His ERA was 4.80 and he gave up eight home runs.
However, the Cubs brought him back in 2011 as the fifth starter in their rotation. Due to a shoulder injury suffered in his first start, Cashner only pitched in seven games for Chicago.
He is being used as a reliever in the Arizona Fall League.
Brett Jackson, CF
Drafted: 2009 (31st overall)
Stars Passed On: N/A
Notables Cubs Drafted: D.J. LeMahieu, Colin Kaepernick (NFL Quarterback)
2011 Team: Tennessee Smokies (AA), Iowa Cubs (AAA)
About: Brett Jackson is the best prospect in the Chicago Cubs system and will likely see time at Wrigley in 2012. This is what the Cubs expected when they made the Cal-Berkeley star their top pick in over two years ago.
Unlike most of Chicago's recent top picks, Brett Jackson has proven himself at the minor-league level. Before 2011, he was considered to be baseball's No. 38 overall prospect and he will likely move up this list heading into next year.
Jackson tore through A-ball and played well at AA in 2009 and 2010. He split time between Tennessee and Iowa in 2011 and will surely be in AAA or in Chicago next April.
A superb baserunner and fielder, Jackson should hit around .270 or so in the majors at first. Expect Jackson to be starting in Chicago by next August.
Hayden Simpson, RHP
Drafted: 2010 (16th overall)
Stars Passed On: N/A
Notables Cubs Drafted: Reggie Golden, Matt Scszur (BA:#5 prospect)
2011 Team: Peoria Chiefs (A), AZL Cubs (Rk)
That's the one word for Hayden Simpson so far. Cubs fans everywhere were baffled when the Cubs took him with the 19th overall pick last year. He was kind of off-the-radar.
However, the Cubs made the choice on the 6'0," 170-pound right-hander. So far, it might be safe to say Jim Hendry is regretting the reach his club made at the draft.
Simpson entered 2011 considered to be a top 10 prospect for Chicago, but had an absolutely horrific season in both A-ball and the Rookie League.
Here are his stats:
Peoria: 1-6, 5.72 ERA, 61.1 IP, 46 K, 28 BB
AZL: 0-4, 8.15 ERA, 17.2 IP, 11 K, 11 BB
The Cubs can only hope Simpson improves, otherwise he could end up like Bobby Brownlie or Grant Johnson. It's early, though.
Javier Baez, SS
Drafted: 2011 (9th overall)
2011 Team: AZL Cubs (Rk), Boise Hawks (A-)
About: Obviously, it is too early to tell how Javier Baez will pan out in the Cubs organization. What we do know is that Chicago is excited and certainly should be.
The 18-year-old is an excellent fielder and contact hitter. He has a strong throwing arm and is much more accurate throwing the ball than a certain shortstop in Chicago.
And that's what is interesting here. Starlin Castro is the phenom of the Chicago Cubs and occupies the shortstop position. However, he led all shortstops in errors in 2011 and has raised concerns about his laziness at the demanding position.
I believe the Baez selection is either motivation for Castro or one that will eventually move Castro to second or third-base.That will be a decision for the new decision-makers in Chicago.
Regardless, the Cubs were quick to promote Baez from Rookie-league ball. He played four games in Arizona and then played two with Boise. He will probably start 2012 in A-ball.
Javier Baez is a very high-upside kid and could be playing alongside Starlin Castro in just a couple of years.
Steven Conklin is a contributing writer for the Bleacher Report and a student at the University of Central Missouri. He joined the B/R in October 2011. Any comments, questions, or suggestions are more than welcome.
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