104th pick doesn't mean Cubs can't draft an impact player
It's quite a different ballgame for the Chicago Cubs when it comes to next Thursday's amateur draft.
Cubs scouting and player-development head Jason McLeod has been fond of calling draft day his department's Super Bowl.
Even though the Cubs aren't drafting a player until the 104th pick this year, McLeod says the day is no less super.
"It's still our Super Bowl," he said Thursday as the organization began to gather en masse for the draft. "We talk a lot. The Jacob deGroms and those guys are out there. It's our challenge to go get those guys. There's going to be a No. 1 or No. 2 starting pitcher, if not multiple, coming out of from where we pick through the 10th round. Those guys are there.
"So we've got to go out and find who they are and make sure we develop them correctly."
The New York Mets took deGrom in the ninth round of the 2010 draft. Last year, deGrom was 14-8 with a 2.54 ERA. This season, he's off to a 3-1 start with a 2.62 ERA.
During the first four drafts of the current Cubs baseball regime, the organization has gone with position players in the first round: Albert Almora in 2012, Kris Bryant in 2013, Kyle Schwarber in 2014 and Ian Happ last year.
The Cubs were choosing high in the first round because of poor records in the previous seasons.
Pitching has been slow to develop in the system, but there are good arms, such as Pierce Johnson, Duane Underwood and others.
"I think we all feel, not pressure, but I think we all feel the challenge of, 'Hey, we've got to identify some guys, we've got to develop some guys,' so that there are those pitchers the major-league team can go down and get if there's a need this year or certainly for the future," McLeod said. "We understand where we are at this point in time with the major-league team.
"I think there's going to be a focus on pitching, for sure, but we're not going to try to create something or invent something out of nothing."
With no pick on the first day, things will be different for McLeod and company.
"Usually we're here all suited up, and I get to come out and talk to you guys about how excited we are about our first pick," he said. "This year, we might be sitting there in shorts and flip-flops, just pulling names off the board. It's going to give us an opportunity to spend that whole evening preparing for the next day."
Watching his back:
Closer Hector Rondon tested his back by throwing before Thursday's game. Rondon was not available Wednesday night because his back stiffened. It didn't matter, as Jon Lester tossed a complete game.
"I feel better," Rondon said. "I still feel it a little bit."
Manager Joe Maddon said Rondon could have pitched in Thursday's 7-2 victory over the Los Angeles Dodgers, but Maddon didn't need his closer. Instead, Travis Wood worked the ninth in relief of winning pitcher Kyle Hendricks.
This and that:
Kyle Hendricks had gone 10 straight starts at Wrigley Field without allowing a homer until Trayce Thompson hit one in the fifth inning. That was tied for the longest streak by a Cubs pitcher in the last 30 years. Greg Maddux did it in 1991-92, and Jake Arrieta has an active streak ... Kris Bryant has 40 RBI. At the start of Thursday night's National League action, Bryant and Nolan Arenado of Colorado were the only two NL players with at least 40 RBI.