Trivia Question: Which player drafted by the Cubs, went on to have the most illustrious Cubs career(that should be easy), who would you rank #2 and #3 though (considering their Cub career only)?
Tell me if this sounds familiar. The games wealthiest clubs, particularly one in New York, were outspending the more financially constricted ballclubs to sign available players. Salaries (actually bonuses) escalated out of control and something needed to be done to restore competitive balance. Proposals were introduced, arguments were made and rules were changed. And in 1965, the amateur draft was introduced, now known as the First Year Player Draft.
On June 7th of this year, the 41st baseball draft will be conducted and the Cubs first selection of the day will be at the 20th spot. This is a rather low pick historically for the Cubs, whose first pick from year to year on average is around the 10th or 11th pick. Considering draft slots are selected in reverse order of win/loss records, this is a dubious distinction indicating the organization's futility over the years. All those upper round picks though should have been the fruits of a better tomorrow, but as you'll see, the Cubs drafting has been nearly as disappointing as their play.
Thanks to some number crunching done over at Birds in the Belfry
, 18.8% of players* selected in the first round of the draft go on to become major leaguers. On the surface it appears the Cubs trounced that number by leaps and bounds as 42% of their first round picks have reached the majors. Prior to 1987, the baseball draft was composed of 4 phases, a June and January draft, each with a primary and secondary phase. There was even a fifth phase the first two years of the draft, where ballclubs were limited to drafting only American Legion players. If we concentrate only on the June regular phase of each year's draft, the Cubs have had an outstanding 62% of their players reach the major leagues. Amazing how well our scouts have been able to evaluate talent over the years, isn't it? Not so fast!
That lofty 62 percentile that the Cubs achieved includes every Tom, Dick or Joe that got a cup of coffee in the major leagues, such as the Cubs first ever draft pick in 1965, pitcher Rick James
who managed to pitch all of 5 innings in his major league career. Le'ís adjust that number to players who were at the very least able to garner one win share
in their Cubbies career. Hell, why waste time with percentages when I can just list them.
Career Win Shares In Parenthesis
1967 P - Gary Ross (1)
1970 OF - Gene Hiser (2)
1970 1B - Pete LaCock (11)
1971 P - Burt Hooten (39)
1973 1B - Jerry Tabb (1)
1973 P - Donnie Moore (13)
1974 OF - Scot Thompson (14)
1977 P - Randy Martz (15)
1979 - INF Scott Fletcher (1)
1982 - SS Shawon Dunston (112)
1984 - P Drew Hall (1)
1984 - C Damon Berryhill (20)
1985 - OF Rafael Palmeiro (25)
1986 - OF Derrick May (31)
1986 - P Shawn Boskie (15)
1987 - P Mike Harkey (24)
1991 - OF Doug Glanville (11)
1993 - OF Brooks Kieschnick (3)
1993 - 3B Kevin Orie (14)
1995 - P Kerry Wood (72)
1998 - OF Corey Patterson (43)
2001 - P Mark Prior (36)
That's 22 out of 105 players who contributed anything and if you eliminate the 4 players that only had one career Cubbie win share, you get 17% of 1st round picks who ever accomplished anything as a Cub.
Let's take a brief detour and explain a few things. I'll be using the system of win shares throughout these pieces as I've found it the best tool in evaluating players performances particularly in a historical context. I encourage everyone to click on the link above to get an idea of how the system works and hopefully you'll see it's usefulness in such an exercise. Secondly, at the moment I'm only concerned with how players drafted by the Cubs did as Cubbies
. Some may have gone onto long, illustrious careers somewhere else, let's call them Rafael Palmeiro's, but these Rafael Palmeiro's are currently not of interest in this article. I'll get to the Rafael Palmeiro's of the world in one of the subsequent articles. Also, when calculating Cubbie win shares, I only include the players first run with the team. So when Shawon Dunston left in 1996 and then came back in 1997 and earned 7 more win shares, those DO NOT get included in his Cubbie win share total. My thinking behind this is the player returned to the team, they were in essence a player from another organization. He might as well have been Jeff Blauser signed as a free agent, brought in to fill a roster spot and no longer a homegrown talent that was developed within the Cubs farm system. Now back to the fun stuff!
Although it's historically been proven that the first round of the draft is far and away the most important, it doesn't mean there isn't talent to be found in the later rounds. Until recently the baseball draft ended once every team "passed" on their pick, meaning in theory a team could pick indefinitely. 2 years ago, a 50 round limit was instituted, although a team does not need to go that far. So which drafts proved to be the most fruitful?
Here are the top 5 drafts in terms of players reaching the majors:
||Total Players Drafted
||Players Who Reached Majors
||% of Drafted Players Who Reached Majors
Once again quantity doesn't equal quality. How about the top 5 Cubs drafts in terms of production:
||Total Win Shares
||Players Who Reached Majors
The 1986 and 1984 draft were the best drafts in terms of depth for the big-league club. Other then Maddux, there were no real superstars in any of the drafts (at least not with the Cubs), but both drafts provided a few players who contributed regularly for at least a few seasons.
No use looking at only the good when there is also the very, very bad. Amazingly two of the Cubs drafts provided not ONE
major league player able to accumulate a win share as a Cubbie. Those 2 drafts were in 1990 and 1976. 1990 was the year when Lance Dickson was the 23rd pick of the draft and the Cubs first pick. A southpaw with a major league ready 12 to 6 curve out of the Univeristy of Arizona, Dickson managed 13.2 IP in the majors with a 7.24 ERA in 3 starts as a Cub before blowing out his arm. Those innings came in 1990, the same year he was drafted and why he was pitching in the majors the same year he was drafted for a team that finished fifth in its division is beyond me. The 1976 draft was just as pathetic, as shortstop Kurt Seibert played the most games of anyone from that draft class.....7.....with only 2 at-bats.
And no look back at the Cubs draft is complete without looking at some of the biggest first round duds. Who's your favorite whipping boy? Here are some blasts from the past.
1965 - (P) Rick James 6th overall pick
1967 - (SS) Terry Hughes 2nd overall pick; Played 2 games with the Cubs
1976 - (P) Herm Segelke 7th overall pick; Pitched a few innings for San Fran
1983 -(P) Jackie Davidson 6th overall pick; Never played in the majors
1984 - (P) Drew Hall 3rd overall pick; Pitched off and on for 3 years with Cubs with disastrous results before being a throw-in on the Palmeiro for Mitch Williams trade.
1988 - (2B) Ty Griffin 9th overall pick; Robin Ventura was the 10th overall pick
1989 - (1B) Earl Cunningham 8th overall pick;
1990 - (P) Lance Dickson 23rd overall pick;
1991 - (CF) Doug Glanville 12th overall pick; Did turn into a useful Mickey Morandini
1992 - (P) Derek Wallace 11th overall pick;
1993 - (OF/P) Brooks Kieschnick 10th overall pick; Billy Wagner was 12th
2000 - (SS) Luis Montanez 3rd overall pick; Still in system with Peoria
From 1988 to 1993 the Cubs did a wonderful job of screwing up their first pick in the draft and we wonder why the 90's were some lean years. Ty Griffin still gets my vote for worst Cubs pick ever, particulary since I went out and bought the Topps Traded Set with his Olympic Card just cause the Cubs drafted him.
So who holds the coveted top drafted Cub and the answer to our trivia question?
Position Played/Round Taken/Career Cubbie Win Shares
1. Mark Grace (1b/24/269)
2. Rick Reuschel (P/3/155)
3. Shawon Dunston (SS/1/112)
4. Lee Smith (P/2/104)
5. Greg Maddux (P/2/102)
6. Ken Holtzman (P/4/75)
7. Kerry Wood (P/1/72)
8. Steve Trachsel (P/8/58)
9. Rick Wilkins (C/23/55)
10. Ray Burris (P/17/49)
I won't get into how Rafael Palmeiro or Greg Maddux should be on top of that list, as I said before that's for another day. Rick Reuschel was a bit of a surprise to me, but then of course I wasn't even born when he was doing the bulk of his damage. The fact that Shawon Dunston is third pretty much tells you how badly the Cubs drafts have been or at the very least how quickly they've given up on their young talent. The best news though is that a recent crop of Cubs should find themselves in the top 10 in the near future. Kerry Wood is already there, Mark Prior has 36 career win shares, Corey Patterson has 43 and I like to think that if the Cubs stick with Jason Dubois through the next four to five years, he'll be able to get anywhere between 50 and 100.
And one final list; The all-time Drafted Cubs team:
C - Rick Wilkins (55)
1B - Mark Grace (268)
2B - Bobby Hill (5)
SS - Shawon Dunston (112)
3B - Kevin Orie (13)
LF - Dwight Smith (42)
CF - Corey Patterson (43)
RF - Scot Thompson (14)
P - Rick Reuschel (155)
P - Greg Maddux (102)
P - Ken Holtzman (75)
RP - Lee Smith (104)
I had to fudge a bit as some of those win shares weren't accumulated at their respective positions. I'm sure everyone is thinking there has to be someone else at second, third or right field, but darn if I could find them. The futility of Cubs third basemen is well known, and second base has been anchored by Glenn Beckert, Manny Trillo and Ryne Sandberg for the bulk of those years. Since Sandberg's retirement, second base has been manned by Mickey Morandini, Eric Young, Mark Bellhorn, Mark Grudzielanek and Todd Walker. Thus Bobby Hill's 59 games in 2002 were enough to get him the nod.
Right field has been another revolving door of players. Billy Williams, Jose Cardenal, Jerry Morales, Keith Moreland, and Andre Dawson all patrolled the right field well in Wrigley before the ever-entertaining Sammy Sosa was acquired in 1992. So 1974 first round pick Scot Thompson, mostly a utility outfielder who did manage 128 games with the Cubs in 1978, is reluctantly named to my team.
The draft though is more then just developing talent for the big leagues. It's also an organization's best resource in acquiring talent from other teams. Next I'll take a look at how the Cubs general managers in the past used their coveted picks to help the major league club and how the first drafted player ever, Rick Monday, helped land one of the greatest Cubs ever.
* Birds in the Belfry stopped their study after 2002, since most players drafted after that have yet to reach the majors.
^ Win Share totals do not include this season.