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Mission: Take the best available talent

Cubs' mission: Take the best available talent

Kerry Wood, Mark Prior and Corey Patterson all were No. 1 draft picks by the Chicago Cubs, and all made it to the big leagues. Who will be the next candidate?

The Cubs have the 20th pick in the first round of the 2005 First-Year Player Draft, which will be held today. Scouting director John Stockstill and his staff, who will set up their war room in Phoenix this year, have one philosophy when selecting a player: Take the best one available.

"We take the best available talent," Stockstill said. "To me, the only way to [draft] is to stack up the players, take the best ones, and that's it."

Last year, the Cubs did not have a first-round pick, and chose Notre Dame pitcher Grant Johnson in the second round. In the 2004 draft, the Cubs chose seven pitchers, five outfielders, one infielder and one catcher among their first 15 picks.

Because the Cubs' first pick this year is so low, they hope to snag a highly-touted player who might have slipped past other teams. Super talented third basemen Alex Gordon of Nebraska or Ryan Zimmerman of the University of Virginia, or Virginia high school shortstop Justin Upton or Wichita State pitcher Mike Pelfrey won't be available at No. 20.

Stockstill said the overall depth in this year's field is one of the thinnest he's seen.

"There's no great strength at any position," he said. "We'll take whatever we can get for 50 rounds."

This isn't 2001, when Prior, Joe Mauer, Dewon Brazelton and Mark Teixeira were top-five picks. All of them are in the big leagues.

In its draft predictions, Baseball America suggested the Cubs would take Utah left-hander Mark Pawelek, who did not allow an earned run in 51 innings and struck out 109. He's the state's all-time strikeout leader, and also was a kicker on the Springville High School football team until his senior season. Pawelek's older brother Dennis was a 40th-round pick by the White Sox out of Snow Junior College in Utah in 2002, but didn't sign.

His father helped motivate him his junior year, rewarding the lefty with $1 for every strikeout, $100 for an ERA under 1.50, $30 for a shutout, and $50 for each win. He lost $3 for every walk. This year, Baseball America ranked him third among high school players being closest to the Major Leagues. He has committed to Arizona State, but has said he'll consider a pro baseball career.

However, the Cubs also have looked at shortstop Tyler Greene of Georgia Tech. Last year, the Cubs drafted Greene's infield partner -- and Corey's younger brother -- Eric Patterson in the eighth round. A junior, Greene batted .362 this year with 28 stolen bases.

Then there's Brian Bogusevic, an outfielder and left-handed pitcher for Tulane who grew up in Oak Lawn, Ill. He's considered a five-tool outfielder, and batted .324 for the Green Wave with 20 homers and 42 RBIs. He also was 12-1 with a 2.57 ERA in 16 starts, striking out 114 in 112 innings. He's got to pick a position.

Another left-handed pitcher on the Cubs' radar is Ricky Romero of Cal State Fullerton, who was 10-4 with a 2.60 ERA his junior year. Romero led his team to the College World Series last year, and compiled a 1.57 ERA for Team USA.

However, Romero may not be around by the 20th pick. The draft goes fast, and Stockstill and staff have done their homework.

"We look at a player's past performances more than what he does in the spring," Stockstill said. "The saying is that the Majors are full of guys who had bad springs."

The Cubs have several first-round picks already on their roster. Derrek Lee was San Diego's first-round selection in 1993, Jeromy Burnitz was the New York Mets' first pick in 1990, Michael Barrett was the 28th player chosen in 1993 by Montreal, Nomar Garciaparra was a first-round pick (12th overall) by Boston in 1992, Mike Remlinger was a first-round pick in 1987 by San Francisco (16th overall), and Todd Walker was a first-round pick in 1994 by Minnesota.

Stockstill was named the Cubs' scouting director in October 2000 after serving as the organization's coordinator of scouting and national crosschecker since October 1998. His first pick was Prior, who made it to the big leagues after nine Minor League starts.

CUBS DRAFT HISTORY

The Cubs have leaned toward drafting pitchers with their top picks, selecting 10 since 1990, including Kerry Wood in '95. John Stockstill took over as the team's scouting director in 2000, and has taken three pitchers in his last four selections, including last year's second-round pick: Notre Dame right-hander Grant Johnson.

LAST THREE TOP PICKS

Ryan Harvey, OF, 2003, pick #6 overall: A knee injury in 2003 slowed Harvey, who missed his first professional season. He made his debut in 2004 in the Arizona Rookie League, and batted .400 in two games before he was promoted to Boises. He batted .268 with 14 homers and 43 RBIs for Boise. Harvey played at Dunedin High School in Florida, which is where Cubs GM Jim Hendry went to school. He's at Class A Peoria this season, and was leading the team in home runs and RBIs.

Bobby Brownlie, RHP, 2002, pick #21 overall: Brownlie is slowly working his way up, pitching at Triple-A Iowa this year. He was 9-9 with a 3.36 ERA at Double-A West Tenn last season, striking out 114 in 147 1/3 innings. Brownlie attended Rutgers University, but didn't report to the Minors until 2003 to give him time to recuperate from a shoulder injury.

Mark Prior, RHP, 2001, #2 overall: Prior made only nine Minor League starts before he was promoted to the big league club in 2002. He made his ML debut May 22, 2002, against Pittsburgh and won, 7-4, giving up two runs on four hits and two walks over six innings while striking out 10. In 2003, Prior was 18-6 with a 2.43 ERA and struck out 245. Freak injuries have interrupted his career, including the latest, a line drive off his right elbow May 27 by Colorado's Brad Hawpe. Prior began this season on the DL because of a sore elbow.

Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.

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