Many Chicago Cubs fans expected the team to go after a lot of pitching prospects in last week’s draft, and in the end the team used seven of their first ten picks on pitchers. While no one can predict the kind of impact these players will have on their respective teams, many people like to look back at past drafts. They look to see which picks panned out as expected, which lower picks surprised everybody, and which picks…well…didn’t necessarily do too well. Let’s look back at some notable pitchers who were drafted by the Cubs.
In 1984, the Chicago Cubs organization made pitching prospects a priority, using five of their first seven picks on pitchers. Two of those picks would go on to have very, very long major league careers. The first of those two picks was Greg Maddux, who the Cubs took in the second round with the 31st overall pick. While he did have a decent amount of success in two stints with the Cubs organization, it’s safe to say that the majority of his major league success came during his time as an Atlanta Brave. In eleven seasons with the team he had an overall record of 194-88, had a total ERA of 2.63, won a World Series in 1995, and made his mark in Atlanta by winning the NL Cy Young award in his first three seasons with the team.
In the 1995 season alone (his last Cy Young season with the Braves) he went 19-2 with a 1.63 ERA. Yes, you read that correctly. He won at least 15 games in every season with Atlanta, and won a Gold Glove award in every season except for his last in 2003. Surely to be elected into the Hall of Fame within the next year or two, the Cubs made a good pick with Maddux. It makes Cubs fans wonder what could have happened if he stayed with the Cubs and performed at that same level.
Their other player who had an extended career was sixth round pick Jamie Moyer, who was taken 135th overall. Moyer’s big league career lasted from 1986 through 2012, when he was at 49 years of age. While he was never known for being a “big time” player, he did have quite a bit of major league success. If you take out his three years with the Chicago Cubs, Moyer played 22 seasons posting a career win-loss record of 241-175. His best years were during his time with the Seattle Mariners, where he achieved the 20 win mark in both 2001 (20 wins) and 2003 (21), and was named to the 2003 AL all-star team. In seven of his nine full seasons with the team he finished with ten or more wins and nine or fewer losses. He also won a World Series with the Philadelphia Phillies in 2008 at the age of 45, after finishing the season with a 16-7 record. Although his major league career was not as decorated as other pitchers (like Maddux), Jamie Moyer was still a great control pitcher who gave a boost to every team he was with.
Dontrelle Willis is a more recent name. He was drafted in the eighth round by the Cubs in 2000. Willis made a big splash with the Florida Marlins in 2003 finishing the year with a 14-6 record, a spot on the NL all-star team, a Rookie of the Year award, and a World Series championship. The D-Train kept on rolling in 2005 when he had a record of 22-10, and ERA of 2.63, and another all-star selection. Since his ’05 campaign, Willis hasn’t been very good. He hasn’t posted an ERA below 5.00 since 2006, and has struggled to make a big league roster since the Marlins traded him to the Detroit Tigers in the 2007 off-season.
A couple of names who are still in the majors today include Giants pitcher Tim Lincecum, and Kyle Lohse, who is currently with the Brewers. Lincecum, like Willis, made a huge impact when he first entered the league, but since has struggled to find his groove. He was named the NL Cy Young award winner in both 2008 and 2009, and made four consecutive all-star appearances from 2008-11. Lincecum was picked by the Cubs in the 48th round of the 2003 draft, but did not sign with the team. Lohse was taken in the 29th round of the 1996 draft, and has been off and on throughout his major league career. After helping the Cardinals win a World Series in 2011 and finishing 2012 with a 16-3 record, Lohse was one of the most valued free agent pitchers this past off-season. While the Cubs went in the direction of Edwin Jackson, Scott Baker and Scott Feldman, Lohse ended up signing with the Brewers and has performed below expectations so far this year.
The Cubs have been able to find good pitching talent in drafts past. They just don’t always make the right moves with those players once they are in the organization.