How Cubs are approaching the 2023 MLB Draft
When the Cubs are on the clock with the 13th pick in the 2023 MLB Draft in just over a week, who will they take?
Cubs vice president of scouting Dan Kantrovitz obviously wouldn’t divulge that information when he met with the media at Wrigley Field Friday morning but that’s also because the organization isn’t sure yet.
The Cubs draft meetings will start in earnest on Saturday as they prepare to add to the next wave of prospects in the farm system.
Last season, the Cubs viewed their 1st- and 2nd-round picks as sort of a package deal. They selected college right-hander Cade Horton with the 7th overall pick and then followed that up by drafting high school southpaw Jackson Ferris in the 2nd round (47th overall).
The Cubs were able to save some of their bonus pool funds on Horton to help entice Ferris to turn pro instead of attending college at Ole Miss, where he was committed.
This summer, the Cubs will have twice as many teams picking in front of them, which leaves a lot of unpredictability. So overall, they’re going in with the same approach.
“Every year, we start with the same process and then we read and react based on what happens in front of us,” Kantrovitz said. “I don’t think our process is gonna be any different picking at 13 as opposed to 7.”
The Cubs major league team is also at a very different point for this draft compared to last season’s event.
The Cubs were very much in the midst of a rebuild last year whereas now, the team is right in the thick of the divisional race this season and primed to make a run in 2024 and beyond.
Does that mean the Cubs would be more inclined to take a player that could get to Chicago faster and fill a need on David Ross’ team?
“I don’t think it’s something that you can ignore,” Kantrovitz said. “I think that’s probably a conversation with Jed [Hoyer] and Carter [Hawkins] and as we progress, we can revisit that.
“From a scouting process standpoint, the timing doesn’t factor in. From a decision-making standpoint, I think time will tell. I wouldn’t expect it to. I’ve never been a part of a draft where that’s been a major factor.”
The MLB Draft is vastly different from the NFL, NBA and even NHL versions as players selected almost always take multiple years before they impact the big-league team.
This will be the fourth draft Kantrovitz oversees with the Cubs and thus far, none of the draft picks from 2020 or later have reached the majors.
But Kantrovitz did help recruit Matt Mervis to sign as an undrafted free agent in 2020 and 2021 1st-rounder Jordan Wicks was just promoted to Triple-A Iowa this week and could impact the Chicago rotation in the near future. Plus, Horton has enjoyed a breakout season in two different levels of A-ball, posting a 2.59 ERA, 0.97 WHIP and a whopping 13.7 K/9 rate.
The Cubs have also found some potential hidden gems in the later rounds of the draft in recent seasons. 2021 15th-rounder B.J. Murray is heading to the Futures Game next week alongside Pete Crow-Armstrong while 2021 6th rounder Riley Martin has ascended up the farm system all the way to Triple-A Iowa as a left-handed reliever. And the 15th rounder from a year ago (Haydn McGeary) is already raking in Double-A.
The Cubs take pride in casting a wide net in the draft, knowing that there is always an opportunity to find a diamond in the rough.
“We want to do as much due diligence on the player that we pick in the 4th round as we do in the 1st round,” Kantrovitz said. “Which means that you’re looking at a couple hundred players that you’re trying to dig up as much information as possible.
“Whether that’s makeup information, background information, talking to his high school guidance counselor. That’s where the real work comes in on our end and you end up doing a lot of work on players that you don’t end up drafting. That’s just kind of the nature of the beast.”
For the Cubs, finding out about the person is just as important as identifying what he can do as a player. They need to know his makeup and intangibles before utilizing a valuable draft spot on him.
“We don’t want to leave any stone unturned when we’re trying to figure out what makes this guy tick, what motivates him, how passionate is he about the game?” Kantrovitz said. “Sometimes you can talk to somebody where you get a pretty canned response and it’s not personal and we don’t learn too much from it. And then you have to go to the next stone and unturn that and try to get something that really speaks to how this player ticks.
“Just yesterday, I’m talking to a few of our area scouts and saying, ‘Hey, can you double back on speaking with this person from this player’s past and this person?’ Whether it’s a coach, whether it’s a guidance counselor, whether it’s a teacher, whether it’s a family member — those conversations happen very frequently and are still happening even up to this point. It’s a big part of the process just to try to get to know players in addition to speaking with them firsthand.”
The 2023 MLB Draft will kick off on Sunday, July 9 and conclude on Tuesday, July 11 — during the MLB All-Star Break.