The Cubs don’t have their Johnny Baseball in mind.
While the NFL has spawned an entire industry of mock drafts and insider analysis, the Cubs don’t know who they’re going to select at No. 4 overall. It will take years before we know if they were right or wrong.
There are no slam-dunk picks at the top of a draft class that’s deep in pitchers (but not necessarily elite starters) – and weak for college position players (a philosophical preference for Theo Epstein’s front office). Even with a farm system tilted toward hitters, the Cubs will be going after the best player available.
“You have to take that attitude,” general manager Jed Hoyer said Thursday, before the NFL draft started at New York’s Radio City Music Hall. “(There), you get to plug in a guy – a defensive end – or you get to draft a quarterback because you need a quarterback.
“We can’t really do that in our game. I always try to talk about it like you’re buying careers. You’re not really buying seasons.”
A Baseball America mock draft released Thursday had the Cubs taking Texas Christian University lefty Brandon Finnegan.
There’s a growing sense the top two prep pitchers – Tyler Kolek and Brady Aiken – might not last beyond the White Sox at No. 3 (or even get there with the Houston Astros and Miami Marlins controlling the first two picks). North Carolina State University lefty Carlos Rodon has been playing with a target on his back, entering this season as the anticipated No. 1 overall pick.
The Cubs aren’t really sold on Louisiana State University right-hander Aaron Nola. Minor-league pitching coordinator Derek Johnson helped recruit Tyler Beede to Vanderbilt University, but that relationship has been overstated.
“You want to go out there and find the guy whose career you’re going to feel really good about,” Hoyer said. “It doesn’t mean you don’t have certain things you look for, certain fits. But at the same time, when you start drafting for need in baseball – given the fact that these players aren’t going to be here for a few years – I think you can make a lot of mistakes.”
Jeff Hoffman’s upcoming Tommy John surgery complicated the plans. The Cubs were very high on the East Carolina University right-hander, but can’t take him at No. 4 now.
“It’s sad to see,” Hoyer said. “It’s obviously a kid that worked hard going into his draft year. You don’t want to see (that happen to) any player, especially a player with the potential to make a lot of money in the draft. I don’t know him personally, but my parents live in that town and they’ve followed it closely and everyone says he’s a good kid. It’s a shame that happened to him.”