Cubs encouraged by pitching infusion into farm system

Cubs encouraged by pitching infusion into farm system
June 7, 2014, 7:45 pm
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Had the White Sox passed on Carlos Rodon with the third overall pick, the Cubs would've been left with a seemingly difficult choice.

Option 1: Take the best college pitcher in the draft (who's represented by Scott Boras) and risk sacrificing bonus pool money for later-round picks.

Option 2: Take Kyle Schwarber, whom the team had No. 2 on its draft board, and save some money to pay out to high school pitchers later in the draft.

Obviously, it's a moot point given the White Sox went with Rodon on Thursday. But could the Cubs be confident about signing high school pitchers Carson Sands (fourth round), Justin Steele (fifth round) and Dylan Cease (sixth round) had they drafted Rodon?

"Probably not," Cubs director of scouting Jason McLeod said. "That certainly isn’t a determination of why, but obviously we didn’t have to make that choice because he was gone before us. It certainly helps that in we feel in the conversations we’ve had that we’re going to be able to get them all signed.

"We all know who Carlos’ adviser is, we’ve dealt with him in the past, so best of luck to our crosstown friends in getting him signed."

[MORE: Cubs 2014 MLB Draft tracker]

The Cubs' goal for the 2014 draft was to add pitching to the minor league ranks, giving guys like C.J. Edwards and Pierce Johnson some competition while balancing out a position player-heavy farm system. Ten of the Cubs' first dozen picks were pitchers, with Maryland right-hander Jake Stinnett and the aforementioned high school trio headlining the group.

McLeod's confident the Cubs will sign Sands (a Florida State commit), Steele (Southern Miss) and Cease (Vanderbilt), infusing the organization with some high-upside teenage pitching. Those are the three guys McLeod pointed to when asked which players excited him from this year's draft who perhaps weren't getting the kind of attention Schwarber's receiving.

"When you get a Carson Sands and you get a Dylan Cease and a Justin Steele, these are kids that were rated very highly (and) had strong college commitments," McLeod said. "… We feel like we got three talented young players that we think we’ll be able to sign."

The Cubs hope Cease, in particular, will be a steal. McLeod said the right-hander is likely destined to undergo Tommy John surgery -- he's had a balky elbow this year and had a PRP injection in it this spring -- but that the team was aware of that coming in to picking him.

Before running into those elbow issues in March, Cease was projected as a top-15 pick. While he'll lose a year or so of development to recovering from the procedure, the Cubs believe the talent is there and that he was worth the risk as a sixth-round pick.

It'll be a while before Cease and his fellow high schoolers have a chance to make an impact in Double-A or Triple-A, let alone the major leagues. But the Cubs believe they've grown the pitching talent pool within the organization with the 2014 draft, even if the first guy they took was a catcher.

"I don’t know if you ever feel like there’s enough (pitching) depth," McLeod said, "but certainly we’ve hit it hard in now our third draft."