Cubs' first Draft pick to come in third round

Cubs' first Draft pick to come in third round

CHICAGO -- The 2016 Draft will take place tonight through Saturday, beginning with the Draft preview show on MLB Network and MLB.com tonight at 5 p.m. CT. Live Draft coverage from MLB Network's Studio 42 begins at 6 p.m., with the top 77 picks being streamed on MLB.com and broadcast on MLB Network. MLB.com's exclusive coverage of Day 2 begins with a live Draft show at 11:30 a.m. on Friday, with exclusive coverage of Day 3 beginning at 12 p.m. on Saturday.

MLB.com's coverage includes Draft Central, the Top 200 Draft Prospects list and Draft Tracker, a live interactive application that includes a searchable database of over 1,500 Draft-eligible players. Every selection will be tweeted live from @MLBDraftTracker, and you can also keep up to date by following @MLBDraft. And get into the Draft conversation by tagging your tweets with #mlbdraft.

Here's how the Draft is shaping up for the Cubs, whose first selection is the 104th pick in the third round.

In about 50 words
"We all feel the challenge that we have to identify some guys and we have to develop some guys so there are pitchers that the Major League team can go down and get," said Jason McLeod, the Cubs' scouting and player development director.

The scoop
The Cubs don't have a selection until the third round, because they signed free agents Jason Heyward and John Lackey, but it's not as if a team can't find good talent there. Jake Arrieta was a fifth-round selection in 2007, Jason Hammel was a 10th-round pick in '02 and Kyle Hendricks was an eighth-round pick in '11.

The pitchers in the Minor League system who the Cubs are excited about include Carson Sands, Justin Steele and Dylan Cease. All were high schoolers taken in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds, respectively, in 2014. Since Theo Epstein took over as president of baseball operations in October 2011 and brought McLeod to the team, the Cubs have not had a pitcher they drafted and developed reach their big league team.

"It's something that keeps us up at night," McLeod said. "We're happy with some of the progress guys have made who are in Double-A now, some of the high school picks. We also haven't taken a pitcher in the first round. We haven't taken that college pitcher.

"When you look at Major League rotations, out of the drafted players, almost half of them come out of the first round. That's not excuse making at all. We have to be better developing these guys."

First-round buzz
The Cubs do not have a first-round pick, but will make their first selection in the third round.

Money matters
Under the Collective Bargaining Agreement, each pick in the top 10 rounds comes with an assigned value, and the total for each of a team's choices covers what it can spend without penalty in those rounds. Any bonus money in excess of $100,000 given to an individual player selected in rounds 11-40 also counts against a team's bonus pool.

The amounts rise each year in accordance with Major League Baseball's revenue growth, and increased by 4.62 percent this year compared to 2015.

Any team going up to 5 percent over its allotted pool will be taxed at a 75 percent rate on the overage. A team that overspends by 5-10 percent gets a 75 percent tax plus the loss of a first-round pick. A team that goes 10-15 percent over its pool amount will be hit with a 100 percent penalty on the overage and the loss of a first- and second-round pick. Any overage of 15 percent or more gets a 100 percent tax plus the loss of first-round picks in the next two Drafts.

The Cubs have the lowest bonus pool at $2,245,100. The assigned value for the Cubs' 104th pick is $573,900.

"It's a challenge for us this year, because we have the lowest pool money," McLeod said. "It's our mindset, it makes it fun, it makes it challenging. Believe me, we're ultra competitive. We want to beat every team rounds three through 10. That's how we look at this."

Shopping list
The Cubs are on the lookout for pitching, pitching and more pitching. The last pitcher who the Cubs drafted and raised in their system to reach the big leagues was lefty Eric Jokisch, an 11th-round pick in 2011. He appeared in four games with the big league team in '14 and was claimed off waivers by the Marlins in April.

As cliche as it sounds, McLeod said they will take the best player available.

"I think there will be a focus on pitching, but we won't try to create it or invent something out of nothing," McLeod said. "Day One will be interesting. Usually, I'm all suited up and I get to come out and talk about how excited we are about our first pick. This year, we might be sitting there in shorts and flip flops pulling names off the board.

"It'll give us the opportunity to spend that whole evening [on Thursday] preparing for the next day. Our mindset is to take it as a big challenge."

Recent Draft history

Trend watch
It isn't that the Cubs haven't been selecting pitchers in the past in the Draft. Of the 42 players the team has picked in the first 10 rounds since 2012, 30 were pitchers. The organization does emphasize versatility - Kris Bryant is a perfect example of that -- so McLeod is on the lookout for the best athlete.

Almora makes incredible catch

Rising fast
Albert Almora, the Cubs' first-round pick in 2012, was having a solid -- and injury-free -- season at Triple-A Iowa. Almora's progress was slowed because of injuries but he was promoted to the big leagues on Tuesday after Jorge Soler was injured, and made a great defensive play and also collected his first hit and RBI in his first big league start Wednesday against the Phillies.

"The defense is something that stands out," Cubs Minor League roving hitting instructor Andy Haines said. "Being a hitting guy, you're watching the offense, but you watch him play center field and the plays he makes [are amazing]."

Ian Happ, the Cubs' first-round pick last year, was doing well at Class A Myrtle Beach, where he's back playing second base, the position he played in college. The ninth player selected overall, Happ played outfield last season at Class A South Bend.

Cinderella story
Matt Szczur was a standout athlete at Lower Cape May (N.J.) Regional High School, playing football, baseball and track and field. The Dodgers selected him in the 38th round of the 2007 Draft, but he opted to attend Villanova University instead and went there on a football scholarship.

At college, Szczur played wide receiver, running back, wildcat quarterback and was a return specialist on the football team. He starred in the 2009 Division I national championship game, totaled 270 all-purpose yards and scoring two touchdowns to earn MVP honors. A consensus All-American in football, he also played center field for the Wildcats' baseball team.

Szczur's two-run triple

The Cubs selected Szczur in the fifth round of the 2010 Draft, and at that time, he still had one year of eligibility remaining to play football and two years of baseball at Villanova. He received a $100,000 signing bonus plus an additional $500,000 if he declined to attend the NFL combine and make a written commitment to baseball before February 2011. Szczur then played for Class A Short Season Boise, and in January 2011, he signed a $1.5 million contract with the Cubs.

Szczur risked his athletic career in 2009 when he donated bone marrow to a 15-month-old Ukrainian girl he did not know who was battling leukemia. Now, he's playing with the Cubs.

Cubs reliever Justin Grimm also was selected by the Rangers in the fifth round in 2010.

In The Show
The Cubs began this season with three of their last four first-round picks on the Opening Day roster, including Kyle Schwarber, Bryant and Javier Baez. Baez was on the 15-day disabled list because of a bruised left thumb.

Szczur is the only other Cubs Draft pick who made the Opening Day roster.

The Cubs' recent top picks

2015: Ian Happ, 2B, Class A Advanced Myrtle Beach
2014: Kyle Schwarber, OF/C, Cubs (60-day disabled list)
2013: Kris Bryant, 3B, Cubs
2012: Albert Almora, OF, Cubs
2011: Javier Baez, IF, Cubs

Carrie Muskat has covered the Cubs since 1987, and for MLB.com since 2001. She writes a blog, Muskat Ramblings. You can follow her on Twitter @CarrieMuskat and listen to her podcast. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.