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Cubs’ first-round pick in MLB Draft is no slam dunk

Updated: June 5, 2014 2:03PM



With about 24 hours to go Wednesday, Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said the front office and scouting department were down to about “a half-dozen” players for the No. 4 overall draft pick Thursday night.

A day earlier, he called the pick “still a mystery.”

That last one is probably the most accurate.

If the consensus top three pitchers in the draft go to the three teams in front of them — including the White Sox at No. 3 — the Cubs will face the decision that has led to three-hour debates and long nights of background work, with no internal slam-dunk choice at No. 4.

None of the top three teams in the draft — the Astros, Marlins and Sox — have tipped their hand, leading to widespread speculation they’ll take, in some order, North Carolina State left-hander Carlos Rodon, San Diego high school lefty Brady Aiken or 100-mph right-hander Tyler Kolek, a prep kid from Texas.

If that happens, the Cubs are almost certain to select a non-pitcher at No. 4, with the debate including factors such as the players’ position and projected willingness to take less than the $4.6 million allotted the Cubs for the fourth slot.

That would allow the Cubs to draft more aggressively in later rounds, offering over-slot bonuses to gain higher quality in their depth.

One longtime major-league scouting executive said many industry insiders believe the value of the No. 4 pick could be similar to the value of picks in the range of the Cubs’ second-round pick (No. 45 overall).

Among the position players the Cubs might consider is Florida prep shortstop Nick Gordon, who is the son of former big-league pitcher Tom Gordon and brother of Dodgers second baseman Dee Gordon.

N.C. State shortstop Trea Turner, Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto, Kennesaw State catcher Max Pentacost and California prep catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson all could be in the mix for the Cubs, depending on the draft-room debate and signability factor.

The only things for sure at this point are that the Cubs need pitching in their farm system and plan for the third year under team president Theo Epstein’s regime to stock up on pitchers deep in the draft.

The 40-round draft continues through Saturday, with the top two rounds scheduled for Thursday.

“We probably had a three-hour debate [Wednesday], still walking through guys,” Hoyer said. “And we’ll probably have one more lengthy discussion tonight as we get through it. … You want to make sure you don’t leave any stone unturned with these two picks [Thursday].”

A player’s projected ability to handle the North Side fishbowl will be a factor, he said.

“One of the things we focus on a ton is the makeup and figuring which guys can handle [the media] and which guys can handle the pressure,” Hoyer said.

That could make a guy like Rodon — who is said to have a confidence level bordering on cockiness — a fit in addition to his power arm and more advanced development than the high school pitchers.

“You’re going to play in a big market,” said Hoyer, who originally teamed with Epstein and scouting/player development chief Jason McLeod with the Boston Red Sox, “and coming from Boston we learned pretty quickly some guys are going to handle that routinely and other guys are probably better served being in a smaller market.”

Email: gwittenmyer@suntimes.com

Twitter: @GDubCub



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