Cubs Agree to Terms with #1 Pick

The Cubs have agreed to terms with their 2009 #1 draft pick, Cal junior CF Brett Jackson.

A 20-year old left-handed hitter (he turns 21 in August), Jackson was a pre-season All-American and was named to the 2009 All-PAC 10 team. He hit 321/407/564 with 8 HR & 41 RBI, 17 doubles, six triples, 11 SB (5 CS), and 29/61 BB/K in 253 PA overall, but only 236/320/445 in PAC-10 conference play.

Once he passes his physical, I would expect Jackson to be assigned to Boise, although he might spend a week at Fitch Park first, depending on what kind of baseball shape he's in (Cal's season ended several weeks ago).

I have seen Jackson play in college, and while he is a good defensive outfielder with plus-speed, he really needs to work on his hitting (too many swings & misses). He reminds me of Cliff Andersen and Drew Rundle, two other left-handed hitting "athletic" outfielders in the Cubs system who also have struggled to make contact.

While there is no question that Jackson has lots of potential, right now I would describe him as a bit overrated. I actually like Arizona State CF (and Northbrook native) Jason Kipnis better than Jackson. (Kipnis was named PAC-10 Player of the Year and was selected by Cleveland in the 2nd round). While Jackson might be the better "athlete," Kipnis is just a better all-around baseball player, in my opinion. 

Jackson made his mark with the scouts while playing in the Cape Cod League ("wood bat" collegiate league) last summer, where he was rated the #8 prospect despite hitting only .238.

The Cubs have now signed 18 of their 50 selections in this month's Rule 4 Draft (First-Year Player Draft), including four of their Top 10 picks. Besides Jackson, the Cubs have also signed 5th round pick SS Wes Darvill (Langley, BC), 8th round pick RHP Robert Whitenack (SUNY - Old Westbury), and 10th round pick 3B Charles Thomas (Edward Waters College). Whitenack (who throws the Burt Hooton-like "knuckle-curve") is assigned to Boise and Thomas is assigned to the AZL Cubs at Fitch Park, while the 17-year old Darvill is presently touring in the U. S. and Cuba with the Canadian Junior National team, after-which he will report to Fitch Park.

2nd round pick 2B D. J. LeMahieu is currently playing for LSU in the College World Series (deciding game is tonight), so if the Cubs can sign him quickly once the CWS is over, he would probably go directly to Boise. Cubs GM Jim Hendry has been attending the CWS in Omaha, where his good friend Pat Mainieri is the head coach for LSU (Mainieri was the long-time Notre Dame head baseball coach prior to moving down to Baton Rouge).

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Comments

Cubs flush $1.2 million down the toilet... a recurring theme this year.

In good news, USA just beat Spain to advance to the Confederations cup final where they will probably have a rematch versus Brazil. Hopefully the referee will be honest enough to let the US play with 11 men this time.

Free article over at BP about the 1st round signings:

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?arti...

On Jackson "slot bonus of around $975,000 is assumed."

REAL NEAL: With their Player Development Dept being what it is, the Cubs would really be better off drafting polished college baseball players who already know how to hit and field instead of raw HS or college athletes with potential. For example, Jason Kipnis instead of Brett Jackson, or Matt Wieters instead of Josh Vitters.

Darwin Barney is probably a good example of a solid Cubs draft pick, because while he isn't a future Hall of Famer, at least he already was a player before the Cubs drafted him, so there's not much the minor league coaches need to teach him, and there's not much they can do to mess him up, either.

I concur. If they're absolutely determined to take these high upside guys, grab high school kids who want too much money. It's better to fill the system with Theriots and Barneys than Colvins and Jacksons. I said at the time I would have preferred LaPorta to Vitters, though Vitters still probably has the higher upside. College guys who slug like that and strikeout so little, tend to make impact in the majors.

I don't agree or disagree with that. Here's my thoughts, which were expressed pre-draft as well.

First, I would say Kipnis v. Jackson and Wieters v. Vitters are two very different scenarios. While I know you weren't comparing the scenarios directly, in Wieters, you had a consensus top pick that the Cubs, and others, probably passed for monetary reasons. Kipnis, on the other hand, was a borderline talent. To be honest, he reminds me of Trevor Crowe.

I was not a fan of Brett JAckson, but I didn't hate the pick. Personally, there were a number of guys that I preferred to Jackson (some HS positional guys, several arms), although I preferred Jackson over Kipnis and Pollock by quite a bit. Ideally, we'd have a bangup system, with a mix of high ceiling and high floor talents, allowing us flexibility in the draft. We don't.

For me, a good organization drafts based upon their organization. That means, it looks at the types of talent that are in the system, the positional needs, and so forth. I'm not apt to shy away from a certain type of pick because of past failure in the development of that type of player. There's obviously been a transition of minor league personnel. Certainly, with some mainstays, there has been a certain imprint, but with small changes, like hiring Riggins, we've seen a slight shift in both how we develop our pitchers, and our ability to develop them, it seems.

I was actually trying to avoid draft conversation because I know a lot of people hated that Jackson pick, whereas I was ambivalent to it. That said, I've been frequenting Indians boards of late and hearing the dissect the failures of the Shapiro era, and seeing this discussion, made me want to comment. Over on Let's Go Tribe, they note several reasons for failures in the Shapiro era. First, it's important to note that, if you leave the results aside, most people like Shapiro's offseasons/personnel moves, but however you slice it, they've struggled. So, they were analyzing why, and they noted the mono-culture and stringent drafting limitations.

Bringing it back to the Cubs, I found their discussion rather intriguing as it relates to the Cubs system. The Cubs system has been filled with cup of tea guys, and we had a bunch of cup of tea guys this past year. The system has, in recent years, lacked high upside guys, big time talent.

First, for all the talk about how the Pollock's/Kipnis' fit the advanced mold of college bats that have succeeded, there is a failure to acknowledge how, for every Ellsbury, there's a Trevor Crowe. There's a presumption of lower risk, which certainly has some validity, but that doesn't remove the risk that does exist. I see Kipnis as Crow in that, we see a guy that is very advanced, and is thus able to overshadow his limitations. I see Kipnis in that some mold - I think Pollock is a bit toolsier, so there's a better shot. But this type of talent can be found. There's a reason a guy like Theriot wasn't drafted high. It is still the exception when a guy with the offensive profile of a Kipnis or Pollock succeeds without plus tools, and even then, that is no guarantee of success.

Tying these strands together is this general point - as our system stands now, I can live with an "upside" pick like Brett Jackson. As noted, didn't love the pick, but I think the strand to draw away from, say, the Indians, struggles is that they limited themselves in some respect due to a variety of factors, but partly tied to their drafting philosophy. You need a diverse range of abilities and talents. Fielding a system of Theriot's, Barney's and so forth means that you'll have to spend big on the FA market to fill holes when they develop. With how teams are increasingly being smarter in protecting top young talent, the best way to acquire the impact talent is still through the draft or foreign markets. You need to take some gambles on occasion and hope to develop them. I think of how, say, the A's, have slightly transitioned their drafting within the past 5 years or so. Even an organization like the Red Sox have taken the occasional gambles (Jason Place comes to mind). Point is, I think you have to draft being aware of your system, and the Cubs system was sorely lacking in high impact talent, and while I didn't love the Jackson pick, I think, from a drafting and organizational perspective, the pick was okay.

This isn't a defense of the Wilken era. Overall, I think the system is headed in the right direction, as there's some upside slowly seeping in throughout, from the draft and from international signings. I liked the 2008 draft, was alright with 2007. At first glance on 2009, I'm fairly lukewarm on it. I'll excuse the first draft due to the lack of picks. Furthermore, I also recognize the, "This was a Wilken pick, and my points may not hold in respect to what the Cubs might've actually pondered", but no one really knows.

There's probably a lot more that can be said, and I'm sure a ton of people will disagree with me.

I like high upside picks but there's a limit. Jackson's upside isn't that high and the strikeouts are a MAJOR red flag - what are the chances a guy has such contact issues with an aluminum bat but will make better contact as he uses a wood bat full time and faces better pitching in the minors? And he's not going to succeed in pro ball unless he can improve his contact rates.

Tanner Scheppers was a high upside pick, there were a few HS guys who also had nice upsides and probably are more likely to reach it than Jackson.

If Scheppers arm problems are that serious, then I am glad we passed. Only time will tell, but post-draft, seems like there are some real concerns.

Again, there were guys I preferred more at that spot. I simply didn't hate the Jackson pick and thought it was okay, particularly when compared to, what I perceive, to be mediocre talents like Kipnis and Pollock. That's just me, though. Thing is, leaving aside my own perception of Kipnis and Pollock, when comparing these three OF's, my point is, I'm fine with this gamble because a smart organization has to have a diverse blend of abilities within the system. Look, I preferred the Wheeler over Jackson, so I certainly didn't love Jackson, but I think in the broad spectrum of things, I'm okay with his pick relative to where our organization stands at this moment. If we build up our high upside talent, then sure, I'd probably quite dislike this pick as an unnecessary gamble.

I only posted because of my tracking the Indians fans discussions, and in the broad spectrum, I'm glad that there's some gambling, there's some diversity of skills and abilities within the system and within the focus of what the front office is looking for. We just signed a slap hitting leadoff speedster from Taiwan. We've added a nice blend of lefty and righty arms. There's still areas to work on, obviously. Whether or not it's the right gamble, clearly people have set opinions on that, and for fairly justifiable reasons at that. I'm looking towards the ability to build not only a strong system, but a strong organization, and to that extent, the purpose needs to be finding not only assets to fill in, but value. To that extent, I'm okay with the Jackson pick.

______________

In discussing pure upside on Jackson for a moment, which is separate from that conversation, I don't see how it's not that high. Quick bat through the zone, plus tools across the board. Whether or not he reaches that upside is certainly fair, and it's partly why I'm very lukewarm on the draft, but I would think his pure upside is as high as almost anyone in this draft.

I looked for someone who had comparable K to BB ratios in the Pac 10 to Jackson who succeeded in the majors, I couldn't find anyone (looked at like 5 years of the draft). There may have been someone, but I would put the odds on him being a successful major leaguer around 2%. You need to get better than that from a 31st overall pick. That's pretty simple. Odds are there are 100 guys drafted after him who are going to do better than he will. I would have signed for $5K, and that money would have been better spent than the cash they flushed and will continue to flush down the toilet on this guy.

LF Soriano, SS Theriot, DH Lee, 1B Hoffpauir, RF Bradley, 3B Fox, CF Fukudome, C Soto, 2B Fontenot.

I like it. Defense is for sissies and we have all of the best bats in the lineup.

AZ Phil, I know this is unrelated to Brett Jackson (though I too agree with your reasoning behind not liking the pick), but I was wondering if you knew how Dae-Eun Rhee was doing in his rehab down in Mesa. Thank you very much.

Submitted by Raisin101 on Wed, 06/24/2009 - 4:26pm.
AZ Phil, I know this is unrelated to Brett Jackson (though I too agree with your reasoning behind not liking the pick), but I was wondering if you knew how Dae-Eun Rhee was doing in his rehab down in Mesa. Thank you very much.

========================

RAISIN: As far as I know, Rhee is still just throwing bullpen sessions. I don't know if it is an arm strength issue or command/control or more related to soreness, but hopefully he will be able to throw a sim game or two pretty soon and then see some action in the AZL. But his rehab has definitely been a bit longer than average for a TJS case. It's been almost a year since he had the surgery.

Well, that's disappointing to hear.

Thank you.

Phil -

It seems as though Jay Jackson is really flying under the radar this year. In case no one is paying attention, he has only given up 6 earned runs in his past 8 starts! This kid was drafted a year ago and is currently carving up AA ball. How soon could this guy help the Cubs and do you see him as a front line starter or bullpen arm?

Personally, I think he's got TOR ability. Now, having that ability doesn't mean it'll happen, but here's hoping. I think he's the clearly the most exciting thing in our system right now, and the gap between Vitters and him might not be as great as people think (in terms of "value"). After a slow start, he's really dominated at AA, and all the signs seem positive. Worst case scenario seems like a late inning pen arm, with his two plus pitches, but he's got 4 quality options, no big mechanical issues, quality velocity, and he has the performance, including improving his walk rate this year. I'd rather the Cubs not rush him, meaning at best, a cup of AAA tea late this year, and to start 2010 in AAA. That's my preference.

According to ESPN Reed Johnson 15 day dl for back.

(When did he hurt that?)

Farney back with the team.

Cubs have had runners on all game long, and they're down 1-0.

Gettin' old.

here's the Reed Johnson/Ryan Freel link...

http://cubs.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20090624&...

also has this ARam update:

Ramirez is getting closer. Out since May 9 with a dislocated left shoulder, the third baseman had a good workout Wednesday at Comerica Park. He'll take Thursday off, then start taking batting practice Friday in Chicago. Once Ramirez passes that test, he'll be ready for a Minor League rehab assignment.

down 4-3 bottom of 8th. I can' t stand Heilman. Nice relief job walking in a run with the bases loaded. Rob can you photoshop a blood splattered pic of Heilman with a knife in his neck for us?

we'll see a real closer in the 9th with Fernando Rodney...against DLee, Hoffpauir and Bradley.

at least the Mets are clobbering the Cardinals.

add Marmol on the photoshop request

If it's so important to keep the game close and you're willing to use Marmol to accomplish that... why was Heilmann pitching?

because harden couldn't pitch 7 innings, and piniella can't think outside the box he has constructed for himself? i.e. marmol = 8th or nothing.

back to .500

and back to 0-24 RISP performance on the road

Tough choice on the biggest disppointment (vs. career norm or expectation) so far in 2009:

Soriano
Bradley
Soto
Harden
Fontenot
Marmol

If half of these guys are performing up to expectations, teh Cubs woudl be winning this piece of crap division.

Amazing to have so many guys underperformng for so long.

A couple here still believe there will be meaningful activity at the deadline.

I have said all along ot ain't gonna happen due to the ownership bullshit.

We are stuck with underperforming players, + the return of the fragile A-Ram.

The worst in the NL with RISP. Hendry's baby has gone from first to wurst!

Incredible!

I agree. The only way the Cubs will make a decent change is going to be via a dollar for dollar thing. Crane Kenney did say on Sports Central last week that a deal like DeRosa's would be in scope (about $2-3 million for the rest of a deal that expires this season), but the pickins are slim for guys like that. Well, except for DeRosa that is. Hey maybe he could be to the Cubs what Carl Everett was to the Sox...send him out, bring him back.

And yet, they remain a single game back in the loss column with games in hand on both St. L and the Brewers.

Hendry's baby has gone...
---
mmmm...würste

life at the AAAA level...

Matt Murton, OF, Rockies (Triple-A Colorado Springs)
Sunday's stats: 2-for-4, 2B, HR (9), 2 R, 3 RBI, K
Murton has certainly been around the block. A supplemental first-round pick by the Red Sox in 2003, he was traded to the Cubs as part of the complicated Nomar deal in 2004, then held down a big league job for awhile before he stopped hitting. He was more of a throw-in than anything else in last year's Rich Harden trade, and then the A's flipped him to Colorado in February for utility man prospect Corey Wimberly. Now 27, it's hard to project stardom, or even a starting role for him, but he is the hottest hitter in the minors, going 7-for-12 over the weekend with a double, four home runs and 11 RBIs to raise his Triple-A averages to .414/.470/.707.

from Kevin Goldstein, baseball prospectus

http://www.baseballprospectus.com/article.php?arti...

When did Murton stop hitting?

He decided to tinker with his swing in the 2007 to 2008 off-season which produced a season in which he hit just 2 HR's in 317 PCL at bats.

Lehemeiu 2/4 with a BB and a run scored out of the leadoff spot....

He was pretty big balls the whole CWS. Let's get him signed!

Not sure if it's been discussed, but Cubs add another from Asia, signing Chen Ping-Chieh. Here's the article from taiwanbaseball

http://taiwanbaseball.blogspot.com/2009/06/cubs-in...

Based on that report, sounds like a leadoff type OF. Anyhow, kid's young. I imagine he'll head to Australia first.

Ramirez admits the pain remains profound, and it could cause him to require regular rest through the second half of the season.

''It's sore still, but it's going to be there for a while,'' Ramirez told the Sun-Times. ''I don't know. I've never played like that before. When I got hurt in 2000 [dislocating the same shoulder on Aug. 28], I didn't play the rest of the year, so I don't know how I'm going to react. Once I start playing, then I'll know.''

http://www.suntimes.com/sports/baseball/cubs/16386...

rigorous workout before the game, will take tomorrow off and live batting practice on Friday...

Submitted by Raisin101 on Mon, 06/22/2009 - 12:17pm.
As always, thanks Arizona Phil (especially since MiLB.com's box scores in the AZL can be unreliable).

================================

RAISIN: I don't know if you'll see this, but I know that you follow Cubs minor league games and box scores pretty closely, and in last night's AZL Cubs game, that was S. Williams (18-year old Australian Sean Williams) playing LF, NOT M. Williams (18th round draft pick Matt Williams, the catcher from Duke). Matt Williams was the bullpen catcher.

The problem when the official scorer (or the individual at MiLB.com on the other end of the cell-phone in NY) makes a mistake like this, is that the player's stats from that game get imported into the wrong player's season stats, so that SEAN Williams' nice 2-4 evening got credited to MATT Williams, and all M. Williams had to do to get that 2-4 was warm up relief pitchers in the bullpen. I'll bet getting two hits in a game wasn't that easy at Duke!

Beefy LHP John Mincone (11th round pick out of Suffolk CC) looked VERY good. Low 90's FB with sinking action and an occasional gassy four-seamer to change the hitter's eye-level.

And LHP Daley Cox is a midget. I actually lost sight of him briefly when he stepped behind the mound to use the resin bag.

Dwayne Kemp had a single, double, and a triple, and he really should have had two triples, but AZL Cubs manager Juan Cabreja (coaching third base) held up base-runner Sean Williams at 3rd base (there were no outs). Unfortunately, Kempy just kept barreling blindly full-speed past 2nd base, before slamming on the brakes halfway between 2nd & 3rd when he realized S. Williams had been held up, but then Williams went home on his own and scored easily, although Kempy got caught in a rundown and was eventually tagged out trying to get to 3rd base (and Kemp looked REALLY pissed, too).

Also there were three "new guys" at the game to take physicals and sign contracts. One was #1 pick Brett Jackson, and another was a tall blonde guy (obviously a pitcher) I just can't place.

BTW, Player Development Director Oneri Fleita, Minor League Pitching Coordinator Mark Riggins, and Minor League Hitting Coordinator Dave Keller are at Fitch Park evaluating the new draftees. So expect to see some roster "adjustments" in the next few days.

Thanks! Poor Sean Williams.

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