The Chicago Cubs 2016 MLB draft demonstrates a shift in organizational philosophy under Theo Epstein. This year the front office focused on bolstering the organization’s pitching depth at all levels. 27 of their 38 selections were pitchers, starting with Tom Hatch, a right hander from Oklahoma State University, with an 8-2 record this season, who was taken with the team’s first selection in the third round.
All of the other Cubs first draft picks under Epstein have been position players, a strategy that fans of the Northsiders have begun to see pay off in the last year and a half. In 2012, recent call-up Albert Almora Jr. was taken with the sixth overall pick, followed by Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber the next two years. With the number of pitchers selected in this year’s draft, the club is almost certain to have one or two impact arms. The front office has been too successful since they arrived four years ago for fans to stop trusting them now.
The timing of this shift in strategy could not have happened at a more perfect time. All but one or two of the spots in the everyday lineup appear to be solidified. The need for a high end bat appears minimal for the time being, allowing these pitchers time to develop at their own pace. After the 2017 season, Jake Arrieta is scheduled to become a free agent and John Lackey’s two year 32-million dollar contract expires. Selecting all these pitchers now increases the likelihood that one or two of them will be ready after the 2017 season. This allows the team not to be bullied by Arrieta’s agent, Scott Boras, during contract talks. If the price is too rich for the Cubs blood, they will be better positioned to possibly let Arrieta walk.