Levine: White Sox, Cubs Go College Route In 1st Round
(CBS) – With the third and fourth picks in the MLB First-Year Player Draft on Thursday, the White Sox and Cubs went the route of college players who could ascend to the big leagues rapidly.
The White Sox chose North Carolina State left-handed pitcher Carlos Rodon, and he fits perfectly into a plan they have been successful with in the recent past. There was a chance that Rodon would be gone at No. 3 overall, and the White Sox were elated to have him left on the board.
The Cubs had their mind made up that if Texas high school power pitcher Brady Aiken wasn’t left on the board, they would select Kyle Schwarber, a catcher out of Indiana University. Schwarber was recommended by Cubs area scout Stan Zielinski, known as the top amateur talent expert in his field.
The Cubs are in need of catching and left-handed power prospects; Schwarber filled both requirements, and the Cubs got their man.
“He was the most talented player for us at our pick,” Cubs vice president of scouting and player development Jason McLeod said. “We felt the same was about Kris (Bryant) was last year, and Albert (Almora) was two years ago.”
The slot and ability to sign the college catcher were also attractive to the Cubs, who most likely are close to signing Schwarber already. They can take the extra money from that slot and use it for the next few rounds.
McLeod said the team will go heavy on pitching prospects as the draft moves forward.
Schwarber is excited about the opportunity to play in what is now considered a talent-laden farm system.
“I really take pride in how I hit,” he said. “I think I hit for power and average. We will see how everything takes care of itself.”
Schwarber is looking forward to signing, and McLeod feels he will ink a deal soon.
“When he is ready to go out, this will be a fairly quick process,” McLeod said. “He has just finished a very long season in college, so we will let him get some rest. I would expect him to get some (rookie ball) in this summer. Then, we will make a decision along the way.”
Some baseball people believe the 6-foot, 240-pound Schwarber may need to be switched to a corner outfield position along the way.
“I like to catch,” Schwarber said. “I trust that the Cubs will put me in a position that they feel best fits.”
Meanwhile, White Sox scouting director Doug Laumann is sure the team got a quality arm and individual in Rodon.
“He might not have had the kind of dominant year we expected,” he said. “At the same time, you have to consider the history he has had. This is not about one month or a one-year process. We have watched Carlos over several years. For those reasons, we thought he was the consensus best guy on the board.”
Rodon has three quality pitches. The White Sox feel he will progress toward the big leagues in a short period of time once they get him to see their medical and training support system in Arizona. Still, they haven’t announced a desired timetable for his minor league progression.
Both Chicago teams are counting on these two young players to be impact guys.
“Both Chicago teams got people who could have long, productive careers,” a scouting director of another club said. “The key is good health and putting these guys in a position of success at the right time. Both clubs addressed specific needs in their system.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.