Cubs select 3B Kris Bryant as No. 2 overall pick in 2013 MLB Draft
BY GORDON WITTENMYER firstname.lastname@example.org June 6, 2013 6:32PM
FILE - In this April 16, 2013 file photo, San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant makes the throw to first after fielding a ground ball during a college baseball game against UC-Santa Barbara in San Diego. The Houston Astros have the top pick in the Major League Baseball draft for the second straight year, with the team considering several players to take No. 1, including San Diego's Bryant. (AP Photo/Lenny Ignelzi, File)
Updated: June 6, 2013 8:14PM
In a move that might suggest the timeline on the Cubs’ rebuilding is getting moved back again, the Cubs passed on the top power pitcher in the draft Thursday to use their No. 2 overall pick on Bryant, a power-hitting third baseman who answers a top everyday need but does nothing for the organization’s top need: pitching.
The big right-handed hitter hit .329 with 31 home runs and an .820 slugging percentage in 62 games for San Diego this year.
Once the Houston Astros selected Stanford pitcher Mark Appel – a pitcher coveted by many in the Cubs’ war room -- with the No. 1 overall pick, Oklahoma power pitcher Jonathan Gray seemed the likely choice for the Cubs to get the impact pitcher they crave.
Colorado took Gray with the third pick.
Why Bryant over Gray?
“I think the simplistic answer is we felt the best player for the Cubs long term, looking at those two players, was Kris Bryant,” said Jason McLeod, the Cubs’ top scouting and player development executive. “We talked a lot about the history of the draft and position player vs. pitcher and those kinds of things.”
Position players have historically hit at a higher impact rate than pitchers with top first-round picks.
“Don’t get me wrong,” McLeod added, “We thought all three of those guys were very talented and deserved to go 1-2-3 in the draft. We just made the pick that we felt was right for this organization now and for the long-term.”
The Cubs’ choice seemed to suggest that the red flags following Gray’s recent positive test for Adderall might have been bigger than first thought.
But McLeod said: “Ultimately it didn’t affect how we felt about him as a player and as a person. That really has no bearing on it, other than we had to do more due diligence on it. We certainly wish good health and success for Jon.”
Adderall, an ADHD drug commonly used by players to improve short-term focus, was more of a judgment question for the Cubs and other teams.
Gray (10-2, 1.59 with 138 Ks in 119 innings) also raised questions with his commitment to conditioning until his sophomore year in college.
Offensive production has been one of the Cubs’ biggest problems at the major league level in recent seasons, but it’s also a relative strength in the farm system – with the cupboard nearly bare of impact starting pitching.
And if the Cubs get the next Evan Longoria in Bryant? That’s certainly the kind of impact they seek, but unlike Longoria’s Tampa Bay Rays, the Cubs don’t have the kind of pitching pipeline in the system to support that offensive impact, regardless of how fast and big it is.
The Cubs have $10.6 million to spend for the first 10 rounds, including about $6.7 million allotted for the first round. Strict penalties apply to overspending the larger budget, including loss of draft picks after overspending by 5 percent.
Influencing the top few picks in the draft is the fact that hard-negotiating Scott Boras represents two of the top-four ranked players in the draft: Appel and San Diego’s power-hitting third baseman, Kris Bryant.
The Cubs have shown no qualms about working with Boras in the past. The agent represented the team’s top pick last year, outfielder Albert Almora