Cubs narrow No. 2 draft choice to four players

Cubs narrow No. 2 draft choice to four players
June 2, 2013, 1:00 pm
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Alex Ruppenthal

The Cubs are considering 4-5 players with the second overall pick in the 2013 First-Year Player Draft, which runs Thursday-Saturday.

Word has been that the Cubs will take one of two college pitchers -– Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray or Stanford’s Mark Appel. Houston, which has the first pick, is likely to take one of them, with the Cubs presumably grabbing the other.

“The names you’ve heard about, they have put themselves in position to be considerations up there,” said Jason McLeod, Cubs head of scouting and player development, on Sunday. “We all know you need dominant starting pitching to hopefully get to where we want to be and get into the postseason. At the same time, you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself to only [draft] based on need.”

Gray and Appel are both the aces of their pitching staffs and could be pitching deep into the summer, unlike a high school player.

“Being the only sport that holds its draft during the college season while it’s still going on, a lot of years you end up selecting a player whose team is playing for the next three, four weeks in the College World Series,” McLeod said. “Then you see him out there for 130, 140 pitches and you hold your breath a little bit each time he goes out because you know you wouldn’t handle him that way in a professional environment.”

Both pitchers would figure to be big-league ready in a couple of years, but McLeod said the Cubs won’t necessarily draft a player who’s on a fast track to the majors.

“In a perfect world that would happen, but last year we took [high schooler] Albert Almora,” he said. “Anytime you take a high school player, you understand it’s going to take a little bit longer. We made that selection based on what we felt and still felt that it was the right decision.”

[MORE: Cubs prospect Almora brings 'stabilizing' presence to organization]

The Cubs have yet to hold a mock draft because with the No. 2 pick, they don’t have to prepare for as many scenarios as a team with a later pick. McLeod said they’ve spent a lot of time discussing the Cubs second and third picks, Nos. 41 and 75 overall, and two hours on the No. 2 pick.

The Cubs are likely to stockpile pitching in the draft –- President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein and General Manager Jed Hoyer have been open about the organization’s lack of pitching depth. They’ll also target hitters who get on base frequently. As much as they can, at least.

“We spend a lot of time talking about it here in the draft room, finding hitters who fit that mold,” McLeod said. “But a lot of times those guys don't offer a lot of other things, so you've got to balance … Let's say [there’s] a college player who's been an on-base machine –- a lot of times he doesn't run, he doesn't play defense, he doesn't have power … And it's hard to go see a kid in Michigan that's 17 and predict that he's going to be a plate-discipline guy.”

Baez, Soler performing well, but no promotion planned

McLeod said the Cubs haven’t discussed promoting Jorge Soler or Javier Baez to Double-A. The two top prospects have played well at Single-A Daytona, both slugging higher than .500.

“We'll make them force us to have those conversations,” McLeod said.

McLeod mentioned Single-A Daytona third baseman Dustin Geiger, Double-A Tennessee shortstop Arismendy Alcantara and Single-A Kane County pitcher Pierce Johnson as minor leaguers who have stood out lately.

Reliever Shawn Camp, on the disabled list since May 22 with a right big toe sprain, will throw a bullpen session tomorrow in Anaheim, a day before the Cubs start a two-game series against the Angels.

Catcher Steve Clevenger, on the DL with a strained oblique, will begin a rehab assignment Monday.