By Bruce Levine-
(CBS) The future of the Cubs franchise is starting to take shape under the front office led by team president Theo Epstein. Working toward their third amateur draft, Epstein and Co. will surely have a young pitcher on the radar when June’s First-Year Player Draft arrives.
“It is one of the most important days of the year,” Epstein said. “This is really a year-long process. There is a sprint to the finish line from mid-February on.”
By all accounts, the Cubs have done well in their first two drafts under the guidance of Epstein. They choose outfielder Albert Almora with their first pick in 2012 and third baseman Kris Bryant last June. Almora was the sixth overall pick, and Bryant was the second pick. This year the Cubs pick fourth.
“Our scouts are doing a great job and we are trying to process a lot of information,” Epstein said.
Epstein wouldn’t tip his hand as to which way the Cubs will go this time around. Pitching at both the college and high school level is projected to be available in the first six or seven picks.
“There are always secrets who you like and don’t like,” Epstein said. “Industry consensus is rarely any one individual team’s consensus as well. You are not going to reveal that.”
The Cubs have been consistent picking the best player left on their board. Last year they had pitcher Mark Appel as their first to choose on the board before Bryant. When Houston took Appel, the Cubs stayed true to the board by taking Bryant.
Epstein watched two top college pitchers last weekend. Left-handed starter Carlos Rodon of North Carloina State was the consensus first draft pick last winter but has fallen a bit for some clubs. The other pitcher Epstein saw was East Carolina right-hander Jeff Hoffman.
The two top high school pitchers are righty Tyler Kolek and lefty Brady Aiken.
“We are just going to take the best player,” Epstein said. “There is tremendous pitching depth in this class, but it is more depth than elite. But we should come out with a pretty good player we hope.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.