I know the Deep Space Nine minor league analytics guys probably hated the five-round first year player draft, but even they’d have to admit that the shorter event led to a whole lot more interest from casual fans. The hype surrounding all of the Cubs’ picks was palpable and I was happy to see the front office and scouting department unencumbered from selecting strictly high floor guys.
No pick was more exciting for me than Burl Callaway, a potential lights-out reliever from Dallas Baptist who possesses the most Texas name ever. Callaway is the type of reliever the North Siders have been missing for at least as long as I’ve been a fan. His arsenal may consist of nothing more than two pitches, but he can get batters out regularly with an upper 90’s fastball and a curve that’s a true hammer, so who cares?
Burl to the Cubs!
— DBU Baseball (@DBU_Baseball) June 11, 2020
If you want the Cliff’s Notes on the two-day proceedings here you go:
- Ed Howard IV – The Cubs selected the best shortstop in the entire draft class.
- Carraway – The front office followed up by getting the best reliever among all eligible pitchers.
- Jordan Nwogu – The universal DH is coming to baseball and Nwogu, a lethal combination of power, speed, and OBP, is going to be that guy.
- Luke Little – I previewed the hard-throwing lefty at the start of the pandemic when he hit 105 mph on the radar gun. That’s fast.
- Koen Moreno – A projectable HS righty reminiscent of the types of players the Cubs looked for in previous drafts. He models his game after Walker Buehler, and with the right development path he could be someone to keep an eye on.
Now the scouting staff will really have to earn their paychecks. A five round draft won’t fully restock the farm system, even with the loss of an affiliate in this year’s minor league purge. Player who weren’t drafted will have to decide if it’s worth giving up amatuer eligibility for a $20,000 bonus and a meager minor league salary instead of possibly playing in foreign professional leagues or, if eligible, going to college. For college graduates who still dream of playing MLB baseball, joining teams as minor league free agents could be their only hope.
Those players who may need a cup or two of good cheer can look to Hall of Fame outfielder Larry Walker, who went undrafted. Same for former White Sox, Pirates, and Mets outfielder Bobby Bonilla, who is still being paid nearly $2 million per year by New York despite retiring in 2001. Larry Bowa and Bruce Sutter were also minor league free agents, and Sutter, who retired in 1988, is still drawing an annual paycheck of $1.12 million from the Braves.
Cubs News & Notes
- One writer from Bleacher Report gave the Cubs a B+ for their two-day draft. That should make Dan Kantrovitz happy.
- Mike Axisa and R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports gave the team’s front office a solid B for their efforts.
- One Cubs draft pick is being referred to as the “Little Unit” thanks to comparisons to 6-foot-10 Hall of Fame lefty Randy Johnson.
- Carraway is a good bet to be the first 2020 draftee to reach the big leagues because he’s a pure reliever with one of the best 1-2 punches available. “He’s got an upper-90s, explosive fastball that’s comparable to some of the better big league fastballs today,” Kantrovitz said. “And he’s got two different types of breakers that are true knee-bucklers. We feel like he’s an impact arm.”
- Kantrovitz and his staff expect to find a “diamond in the rough” or two among draft-eligible free agents.
- Jason Kipnis spoke up about negotiations between player and owners, hinting that a strike could be possible if Rob Manfred uses his powers to start the season without a negotiated agreement on salary in place.
- Don’t forget, ESPN will air Long Gone Summer, their 30-for-30 documentary on the 1998 home run race between Sammy Sosa and Mark McGwire, on Sunday night.
- Many pitchers don’t feel they were cheated by Sosa or McGwire, who may have been pioneers in advanced hitting analytics used by the game today.
- It’s worth noting that hitting coach Jeff Pentland was as instrumental as anybody in getting Sosa to be better prepared and more focused at the plate. Pentland used Chipper Jones as the model for fine tuning Sosa’s mechanics.
- You’ll need a subscription to The Athletic to read it, but Ken Rosenthal detailed how Theo Epstein spurred all of his peers to make a stand for racial equality during this year’s draft.
Find Your Inner Hero
John House is my new hero.
— Pat Connaughton (@pconnaughton) June 11, 2020
Odds and Sods
It was a nice sentiment by Epstein at the time, and he fulfilled a promise of sorts, but saying the Cubs President of Baseball Operations predicted he would specifically select Howard is a bit of a reach.
In 2014, Theo Epstein told Ed Howard the Cubs would draft him in 2023. They drafted him last night in 2020. I’m crying, man. ? pic.twitter.com/mqnB6pKNwl
— Jeff Eisenband (@JeffEisenband) June 11, 2020
Apropos of Nothing
MLB News & Notes
Former Houston manager Álex Cora said the Astros cheating scandal went far beyond being simply a two-man operation he engineered with outfielder Carlos Beltrán. He’s certainly not happy that the two took the fall for others.
Mets’ owner Jeffrey Wilpon said that there are at least 4 or 5 suitors interested in purchasing his club.
Today is the 23rd anniversary of interleague play.
At a time when most other African-American players shied away from controversy, Pirates pitcher Dock Ellis was a pioneering baseball voice regarding racial equality. Today is the 50th anniversary of the righty’s no-hitter, one he claimed he achieved while experiencing the effects of LSD.
The Red Sox acknowledged that criticism of their racist fan base is warranted.
As MLB discusses potential scenarios for rebooting the season, an expanded playoff field is one of the drivers in each of the owners’ proposals. If eight teams had qualified from each league starting in 1995 (when the wild card was introduced), a total of 46 teams finishing at or below .500 would have made the postseason. There are other ramifications, too. Expanded playoffs could prevent many teams from tanking, but it may also inhibit player movement at the trade deadline. That said, a 22-team playoff is pure absurdity.
MLB's latest proposal to players calls for a 16-team playoff. Here's why 22 teams would be better: https://t.co/K1vyh4k4As
— Bill Shaikin (@BillShaikin) June 8, 2020
Sliding Into Home
I may start calling the Cubs first round selection EH4 for short. I like that.
They Said It
- “We’re going to play baseball in 2020, 100 percent. If it has to be under the March 26 agreement, if we get to that point in the calendar, so be it. But one way or the other we’re playing Major League Baseball. I remain committed to the idea that the best thing for our sport is to reach a negotiated agreement with the MLBPA that plays as many games as possible for our fans. We do have rights under the agreement and there could come a point in time where we exercise those rights.” – Rob Manfred
- “If it comes to the point where we need to put our foot down [and strike] and stand for what we believe in, it’s something we would have to do. But I don’t think anybody wants that. I think every single player knows how good they have it and knows how much they love the game and love playing the game, so we are trying desperately to not let it get to that point. We just can’t seem to find this middle ground right now.” – Jason Kipnis
Friday Walk Up Song
Only Love by Ben Howard – Just a mood. One of my best friends is getting married Saturday, and I’m standing up. It will be a bad day in St. Louis when another middle-aged man can outdance me, FYI.