In the 2017 draft, the Cubs selected 25 pitchers. 61 percent of their choices were pitchers.
20 of the 25 pitchers were in college.
7 of the 20 college pitchers were seniors.
19 of the 25 pitchers were right handed.
What does this mean?
As we have written about in this blog before, the Cubs in the Theo era have drafted more pitchers than position players. However, Theo and the gang have yet to develop one home-grown starting pitcher.
Instead, the first round emphasis had been on pure bat skills (Bryant, Schwarber, Happ, Almora).
But as this season has shown, you cannot always count on a starting staff made up of free agents (Lester, Lackey) or trade (Hendricks, Arrieta, Butler, Montgomery).
A well run organization moves players through their system on an annual basis. At each level, a prospect has to show improvement or it is time to cut bait. Players want to move up to the next level because you get more time with better coaches and better competition to hone skills.
High school prospects normally are targeted for Rookie Ball. It makes sense because the talent level is entry and a team has years of control over an 18 year. High schoolers are raw talent, usually the best player on their team or high school conference. They may be local studs but there are still years behind a college player in terms of total hours of baseball development.
Also, a 2014 draft study showed if you're going to spend a first-round pick on a player, it seems like
you'd be better off drafting a college player who has a 75.39 percent chance
of one day playing in the majors than a high schooler at 58.00 percent.
A team can hold onto a minor league prospect for 7 years. But there is a limitation on the number of players a team can have at each level:
Here are the roster limits by league:
Triple-A: International, Pacific Coast — 25 active.
Double-A: Eastern, Southern, Texas — 25 active.
Class A Advanced: California, Carolina, Florida State — 25
active; 35 under control; no more than two players and one player-coach
on active list may have six or more years of prior Minor League service.
Class A: Midwest, South Atlantic — 25 active; 35 under control;
no more than two players on active list may have five or more years of
prior Minor League service.
Class A Short-Season: New York-Penn, Northwest — 35 active. No
more than three players on the Active List may have four or more years
of prior Minor League service.
Rookie: Appalachian, Pioneer leagues — 35 active. No more than
three players on the Active List may have three or more years of prior
Minor League service.
Rookie: Arizona, Gulf Coast leagues — 35 active. No player on the
Active List may have three or more years of prior Minor League service.
Rookie: Venezuelan Summer, Dominican Summer — 35 active. No
player on the Active List may have four or more years of prior Minor
League Service. No Draft-eligible player from the U.S. or Canada (not
including players from Puerto Rico) may participate in the DSL or VSL.
The Cubs, if they would sign all 41 players (highly unlikely) would need to release 41 players from their minor league system. Signability is an issue with both high school and college players. Normally, college seniors have little leverage because they cannot pass on signing to go back to school for another year. High schoolers have the option of going to college or signing a pro contract. College juniors have the most leverage; they have more experience/track record than high schoolers but can go back for their senior year if they fall below what they think is their signing bonus amount.
By drafting 7 college senior pitchers, the Cubs insure themselves of at least 7 news arms in their Class A minor teams for next season. If they hit on 40 percent of the rest of the pitchers, that is another 6 prospects in the mix.
The Cubs management realizes that it needs to draft and sign more and more pitchers to get a statistical edge that at least one or two will make it to the major league roster as a starter.