2011 MLB Draft: Rundown

Carrie Muskat has an article up about a few of the players the Cubs drafted that’s worth reading. A couple of things caught my attention.

Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken said they did take more high school players than in the past and did so with Cubs chairman Tom Rickett’s endorsement. Ricketts was in Mesa, Ariz., at the team’s Draft headquarters Monday and Tuesday.

“Tom came out and told us we’ll be more active on the amateur side,” Wilken said Wednesday. “When you feel you have a shot to sign players, it changes the strategy in how you pick. It was like Christmas Day for scouts.”

What Ricketts’ message meant was that Wilken and his scouts were able to select high school players that might not have been signable in the past. In Wilken’s five years with the Cubs, they have ranked 24th among Major League teams in bonus spending on the amateur side.

It’s good to know they can spend more money in the draft than they have in the last 5 years, which is something I’ve regularly complained about. How a large market team like the Cubs can spend so little on the draft is unthinkable, but that’s exactly what the Cubs have done and it’s embarrassing. As for the high school players the Cubs may want to pry from committments to universities, 14th round pick Dillon Maples has to be at the top of that list. He was a top 50 prospect entering the draft, but fell because of a strong committment North Carolina. The Cubs selected just two top 65 players in the draft and Maples is one of them. They obviously can’t make him sign, but if Ricketts is sincere, the money available has to be spent right here.

11th round pick Shawon Dunston, Jr. is also likely to go to college and scouts don’t beleive teams should buy him out of that committment.

7th rounder and son of the Great One, Trevor Gretzky is also committed to play baseball in college and will likely to just that. He has a lot of holes in his swing and is primarily a 1st baseman so the Cubs probalby aren’t going to make signing him a priority.

39th rounder Ricky Jacquez is intriguing as well. The guy is just 5-9, 160, but sits at 92 to 94 with his fastball and touches 97 mph. He has a solid hammer curve for a second pitch, too. They say there’s effort in his delivery, but it’s not excessive. He’ll be very hard to sign away from his committment to Texas, but this is one the Cubs may look to pry away if they do have additional money to spend.

There are probably a few other high potential high schoolers to watch as well, but those are the few I thought I’d highlight. If the Cubs can sign Maples, along with Baez and Vogelbach of course, the Cubs had a pretty good draft. If Maples goes to NC as most expect he will, it’s OK at best. Outside of Maples, I really don’t know where this additional money is going to be spent. To be honest, whatever that amount is, the Cubs should use as much of it as they possibly can to lure Maples away from college. Here’s Maples scouting report if you’re interested.

Maples has had the benefit of professional insight. His father, Tim, was a second-round pick of the Orioles in 1979, and his pitching coach at Pinecrest is James Baldwin, the former White Sox all-star. Scouts got a good look at Maples during his junior season when they went to see Baldwin’s son, outfielder James Baldwin III, who signed with the Dodgers as a fourth-rounder. Maples’ best assets are athleticism and arm strength. Also a standout kicker on the football team, he stands at 6-foot-3, 195 pounds with a strong lower half. His fastball sits 91-94 mph and has touched the mid-90s throughout the season. His curveball is an above-average pitch that has left his competition in the state overmatched. He lacks command of his fastball and actually does a better job of spotting his curveball. He has shown a changeup in warm-ups but doesn’t need it in games, so the pitch will need development. Maples has a short arm action and questionable mechanics that lead to his below-average command. Scouts say his athleticism will allow him to make the necessary adjustments. He is committed to North Carolina, where he would play baseball and have a chance to walk on as a kicker for the football team.

This is a guy who was a potential sandwich pick or early 2nd rounder were it not for that committment.