By Bruce Levine–
CHICAGO (CBS) — The pattern is pretty much set for the Cubs as they approach the amateur draft Monday. The intent of the organization is to draft the best young pitchers available with its two first-round picks, at No. 27 and No. 30 overall.
That 27th pick is compensation for the Cardinals signing Dexter Fowler in free agency last offseason. The 30th pick, of course, is the final pick of the round that goes to the previous season’s World Series champion.
Some names on the Cubs’ radar are LSU right-hander Alex Lange; former Houston left-hander Seth Romero, who was kicked off his college team; right-hander Matt Sauer, a high schooler from California; and left-hander Trevor Rogers, a high schooler from New Mexico.
The Cubs are riding a high of having all five of their top picks from 2011 to 2015 on their big league roster and contributing this season, including Javier Baez, the first-round pick in 2011, when the Jim Hendry regime was still in charge. Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber and Ian Happ are the others.
“This is exciting to know we have all these young guys playing together on this team,” Baez said. “We were all here last season except Happ. We learned a lot from the guys like from (David) Ross and (Miguel) Montero. Now we can keep growing and help a guy like Happ grow with us too.”
All of the Cubs’ first-round picks since 2011 have been position players, but senior vice president of player development and amateur scouting Jason McLeod insisted that pitching will be on the team’s mind come Monday.
“For me, this is one of the more volatile years to project players in our mock drafts,” McLeod said. “You don’t have as many top-end college players as you have in normal years. There have been injuries to college pitchers. There have been some high-profile guys taken off of their teams. That leads to where to slot them. Even some high school pitchers have gotten hurt. This makes things a little harder for us because it’s more volatile to project what the teams in front of us are going to do.”
President of baseball operations Theo Epstein always has the final say on who’s drafted, McLeod said. Ahead of the big decisions, Cubs officials will challenge one another’s convictions and debate the best prospects. On draft day, they’ll be in lock step.
“I don’t know if we will volume draft (pitchers) like we did last year,” McLeod said. “(Pitching) will be a focal point still. We might be focused on a particular type of pitcher. After 20 rounds sometime on Tuesday, you will see a pretty good mixture of pitching in there again.”
As usual, the Cubs will place an emphasis on the makeup and characters of players.
“What is more impressive than the play on the field is that they have drafted such good people,” Happ said. “They have done such a good job of checking character background. They really understand who these guys are before they draft them. I can’t say enough about how great of human beings all these guys are.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.