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by Alex Ciepley
In the first segment of MLB's First-Year Player Draft, held yesterday, the Cubs chose 3 shortstops, 2 catchers, 1 third baseman, 2 outfielders, and 587 pitchers. The team is apparently blissfully unaware of antitrust laws, having attempted to create a monopoly of the mound tossers.
"We have an army," the Cubs front office declared yesterday, "And they are all 6'4", 235, and throw leather balls really, really hard."
Pal and resident goober Alex Belth yesterday asked me if it was tough to see a team with consistent minor league riches not being able to translate that talent into big league wins. My first thought was, "No, goober." The Cubs have done a great job recently of using their minor league talent, especially the pitching, to either fill major league roles (Prior, Zambrano, Wood, Patterson) or trade for big sluggers (Lee, Aramis, Nomar).
Maybe drafting 587 pitchers is the way to go, especially when your team has a pretty good track record with identifying and developing good pitchers. The Cubs have their fair share of pitchers floating around the majors who once toiled in the Cubbie's minor league system. Some of the best:
Greg Maddux career: 309-177, 2.97
Unfortunately, the Cubs missed out on around 200 of those wins, because they were really, really dumb in the early '90s.
Jamie Moyer career: 197-147, 4.17
Moyer was traded early in his Cubs career, along with future HOFer Rafael Palmeiro, for... Mitch Williams. Another really, really dumb move.
Kerry Wood career: 68-51, 3.69
He's been Kerry Wood Good so far in his career, just not Kerry Wood Good, which is what everyone expected.
Jon Garland career: 55-53, 4.57
It's amazing, but Garland is still only 25 years old. So far this year he is 9-2, 3.40.
Carlos Zambrano career: 38-32, 3.21
The popular opinion when Zambrano was coming up was that he'd end up in the bullpen. Maybe a closer, maybe just a maniacal middle reliever. The popular opinion was flat-out wrong.
Mark Prior career: 34-17, 3.07
Maybe when Prior gets off the DL this time, he can strain his ass. Or get a crippling case of hand acne. Or develop blinding neon green eye boogers. All of which would land him back on the DL... again.
Dontrelle Willis career: 33-19, 3.37
Before too much gnashing of the teeth, it's good to keep in mind that when the Cubs included Willis in the deal for Mr. Clement and Mrs. Alfonseca, Dontrelle was actually the Marlins' fifth or sixth choice among the Cubs' pitching talent. In other words, neither the Cubs nor the Marlins knew he'd be this good, this quickly.
As far as the new crop of pitchers goes, first round pick Mark Pawelek heads the charge. He's a youngster, a lefty, and a high schooler. Baseball America gives the poop:
Pawelek topped out at 94-95 mph this year with an effortless delivery. Scouts say his feel for pitching, presence and composure are so advanced for his age that he's the equivalent of a college sophomore. He has command of four pitches and knows how and when to use his curveball and changeup. Pawelek is the only high school player in this year's draft who is being advised by Scott Boras and that could have a profound impact on where he is picked.
All that stuff about Boras? Phooey. The Cubs announced they'd signed Pawalek before five rounds had passed. No Prior-esque or Brownlie-iffic delays in getting this Boras client on board.