Many experts anticipated the Chicago Cubs would take Stanford’s RHP Mark Appel or Oklahoma’s RHP Jonathan Gray with the second overall pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, but they opted for University of San Diego slugger Kris Bryant. This was a surprise to many because of the obvious lack of top-end pitching in the Cubs farm system, but the Chicago front office made it clear it was not going to draft to fill needs. Instead, the Cubs went with a position player in the first round for the third consecutive year and addressed the need for pitching in the later rounds.
Bryant terrorized college pitchers all year, finishing the season with a .329 average and NCAA-leading 31 home runs and 80 runs scored. Bryant’s raw power is his biggest asset, and at six-foot-five he has the frame to mature into an elite power hitter at the major league level.
Bryant will join fellow top prospects Javier Baez, Jorge Soler and Albert Almora in the ever-improving Cubs farm system. By now all Cubs fans know about the rebuilding process and are probably sick of hearing about it while the big league club continues to struggle, but disgruntled Cubs fans should continue to be patient. Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer have done everything they said they would do since taking over, and as a result the Cubs farm system has gone from one of the worst in baseball to one of the best. This turnaround is due in large part to the draft. Epstein and Hoyer were set on rebuilding the organization from the ground up, and so far they have used a specific formula in the MLB draft to fill the farm system with future big-leaguers.
The new Cubs front office has followed the conventional baseball wisdom that says position players are a safer bet than pitchers at the top of the draft. They took outfielder Albert Almora sixth overall last year and Bryant, a third-baseman, with their top pick this year. They have also addressed pitching by selecting a myriad of arms, including 19 pitchers in this year’s draft. The reasoning behind the Cub’s reluctancy to take pitchers high in the draft is simple. The Cubs believe quality pitching can be found throughout the draft like current Cubs ace Jeff Samardzija who was a fifth round selection in 2006.
The first pitcher taken by the Cubs in this years draft was southpaw Rob Zastryzny who was taken 41st overall out of the University of Missouri. Zastryzny’s 2-9 record this past season may be cause for concern for Cubs fans but his 228 career strikeouts at University of Missouri tell a different story. He has a plus changeup along with a 90 mph fastball according to scouts, and has starter potential. If he doesn’t end up in the rotation he could be a welcome addition to the Cubs bullpen in a few years, which is devoid of effective left-handers beyond James Russell.
The MLB draft is tough to evaluate since most of the players drafted won’t see the major leagues for at least several years, but it appears the Cubs added an elite prospect to their system in Bryant. Along with Bryant, the Cubs added a plethora of pitchers in an attempt to beef up the pitching in the farm system. As hungry as Cubs fans are to see a winning team, they will have to be content with imagining a lineup featuring Almora, Soler, Baez, Bryant, Castro and Rizzo for now; a lineup built mostly through the all-important MLB draft.