Taking stock of Cubs' vision for 2022 Draft

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CHICAGO — The last time the Cubs had one of the first 10 picks in the MLB Draft, the franchise was coming out of a rebuild and had constructed a prospect-fueled core that went on to pile up personal hardware, division banners and a World Series trophy.

The North Siders’ current reconstruction project went into full swing last summer with core-dismantling trades that injected the farm system with impact prospects. Come Sunday, the Cubs have a chance to keep adding to their future blueprint with the No. 7 overall pick in this year’s MLB Draft.

One thing Dan Kantrovitz, the Cubs’ vice president of scouting, said he will not be doing is factoring in the Major League club’s potential contention timeline as he gives the go-ahead for the team’s first-round selection.

“I don’t think we can try to time a window like that,” Kantrovitz said. “I think if you start to get into that, then you might end up missing the best player available on the board. It’s such an imprecise science as it is.”

Kantrovitz met with media on Tuesday in the hours before the Cubs’ 4-2 loss to the Orioles at Wrigley Field. In the first inning, newly-anointed All-Star Ian Happ launched a solo home run. Happ was Chicago’s first-round pick (No. 9 overall) in 2015 — the last time the club had a Top 10 selection.

The Cubs were at a different point in their timeline in 2015, having selected the likes of Kyle Schwarber (‘14), Kris Bryant (’13) and Javier Báez (’11) in prior first-rounds and prepared to push the accelerator to October via free agency. Right now, Chicago is coming off a 91-loss season in ’21 and is currently flirting with a 100-loss pace this year.

Under the circumstances, the Cubs are operating with a long-term vision, placing importance on this year’s Trade Deadline and the upcoming MLB Draft, plus the international signing period, for the direction of the franchise.

“I think we’re going to be a really good team really soon, and that’s where we’re trying to get to,” Cubs manager David Ross said. “If pieces get moved around until then, I think that’s just part of our business. The players understand that. I understand that. There has to be a sense of patience from everybody.”

Cubs’ Draft breakdown
First pick and bonus slot:
The Cubs’ first overall pick is at No. 7, which has a bonus slot value of $5,708,000.
Additional first-day picks: The team’s second-round pick checks in at No. 47 (bonus slot value: $1,660,400).
Total bonus pool: The total available for the Cubs is $10,092,700, which is the 10th-largest pool in this year’s Draft.

“This year, we have a pool that’s in the top third of Major League Baseball,” Kantrovitz said. “That’s exciting. That’s something that gives us some ammunition to go out there and hopefully get some of the better players.”

Last three first picks
2021: LHP Jordan Wicks (No. 21), Kansas State
2020: SS Ed Howard (No. 16), Mount Carmel HS (Chicago)
2019: RHP Ryan Jensen (No. 27), Fresno State

Best pick of the last 10 years, per MLB Pipeline: Kris Bryant
The Cubs picked Bryant with the No. 2 overall pick in the 2013 Draft, and he went on to win the National League Rookie of the Year (’15), an NL MVP Award (’16) and helped lead the Cubs to the ’16 World Series.

According to the latest mock first-round by MLB Pipeline expert Jim Callis, the Cubs are among the teams zeroing in on the talented crop of hitters at the top of the Draft. Some of the names in Chicago’s sights could be Georgia Tech catcher Kevin Parada, Louisiana third baseman/outfielder Jacob Berry, Chipola’s Cam Collier (Fla.), Cal Poly shortstop Brooks Lee or Termarr Johnson of Mays HS (Atlanta).

The Draft will begin at 6 p.m. CT on Sunday with Round 1 (including two compensation picks), Competitive Balance Round A (seven picks), Round 2, Competitive Balance Round B (eight picks) and six second-round compensation picks. MLB Network will provide complete coverage of Sunday’s picks, and the first round will be broadcast on ESPN. MLB.com will stream every pick.

Kantrovitz declined to discuss any specific Draft prospects the Cubs might be targeting. 

“There’s a lot of high school hitters that are projected to go high,” Kantrovitz said. “Whether or not that comes to fruition or not, time will tell. I think as it’s unfolded, there’s probably been more pitchers that have percolated to the top of teams’ Draft boards.”

Kantrovitz took over the Cubs’ scouting department and assumed the top Draft duties ahead of the 2020 season. In that summer’s Draft, the Cubs took shortstop Howard (a highly-touted prep star from Chicago) with the No. 16 overall pick. Last year, the North Siders grabbed collegiate lefty Wicks with the No. 21 pick.

This year, Kantrovitz said the early-spring approach to the Draft was similar in terms of casting a wide net. As the weeks have passed and the Draft has inched closer, the Cubs have narrowed their focus to the smaller group of players who will likely be in play with that seventh overall pick.

“We don’t want to sort of confine ourselves and then be surprised,” Kantrovitz said. “So it’s better to cast a wider net than not. But certainly, for the second half of the spring, we’ve started to really zero in on who that top seven might be.”