How the Cubs are approaching the 2022 MLB Draft
The Cubs have a very good track record of hitting on Top 10 picks in recent history.
The list includes:
2015 — Ian Happ (9th overall)
2014 — Kyle Schwarber (4th)
2013 — Kris Bryant (2nd)
2012 — Albert Almora Jr. (6th)
2011 — Javy Báez (9th)
Four of those players helped the Cubs end a 108-year championship drought in 2016 while the other (Happ) was just named to his first All-Star game a couple days ago.
Dan Kantrovitz’s group is hoping to add to that legacy Sunday with the No. 7 overall pick in the 2022 MLB Draft.
The Cubs’ vice president of scouting is in the final phases of whittling down the list of targets for the 1st round and beyond.
As the high school and college season began in the spring, Kantrovitz’s group started by casting a wide net on potential 1st-round picks. The goal was to thoroughly evaluate as many options as possible just in case certain players slide or a previously unknown player shoots up the draft board.
Then as the draft neared, the Cubs honed in on their top targets.
“Whether it’s players that might get injured or whether signability changes or whether a player might design to go to college at the last minute, we don’t want to sort of confine ourselves and then be surprised,” Kantrovitz said Tuesday at Wrigley. “So it’s better to cast a wider net than not.
“But yeah, certainly, I think for the second half of the spring, we’ve started to really zero in on who that Top 7 might be.”
This will be Kantrovitz’s third draft with the Cubs after joining the front office in the fall of 2019.
It’s been a whirlwind first couple of years with the organization.
Due to the pandemic, the MLB Draft was condensed down to 5 rounds in 2020. The Cubs selected local high school star Ed Howard 16th overall but the shortstop is done for the 2022 season after suffering a hip injury in the spring.
Last year was a step toward normalcy for Kantrovitz and Co. and the Cubs drafted left-handed pitcher Jordan Wicks 21st overall. Pitching for Advanced Class-A South Bend, Wicks struck out 10 batters in 5 shutout innings Tuesday evening.
As he gets set to spearhead his 3rd draft, Kantrovitz feels like he and his team are in a better position.
“The more that you work with a group of scouts, the more that you start to understand their style, and it’s really important in my position to understand the particular style of each scout,” Kantrovitz said. “Everybody looks at players differently, and some scouts are more conservative than others or more aggressive. Some scouts might be better in evaluating pitchers and hitters.
“And that’s something that only comes with time. You can read scouts’ prior reports but until you really work with them and travel with them, you don’t really get a feel for how you can best interpret their evaluation. So that’s probably the biggest thing that I’ve learned over the past two years.”
Even though the Cubs are picking in the Top 10 for the first time in seven years, the draft will be about more than just the first selection.
Kantrovitz is taking a big picture look at the draft a whole. The Cubs have the 10th-most bonus pool money in Major League Baseball for draft picks with $10,092,700 allotted for 20 selections.
“We have to try to figure out how we optimize our entire draft,” Kantrovitz said. “And that plays into the calculus of each pick — who we’re going to pick, how much we’re going to pay them. And then at the end of the day, we want to have the best draft we can based on hopefully having signed 20 players.
“But that has to be in the context of the overall pool this year. We have a pool that’s in the top third of Major League Baseball. That’s exciting. That’s something that gives us some ammunition to go out there and hopefully get some of the better players.”
The overall health of the Cubs’ farm system has been on a steady incline over the last two years and Kantrovitz has an opportunity to add to that group Sunday.
Once that 1st round pick signs and joins the organization, the focus will turn to development — and the Cubs are consulting their coaches before the start of the draft.
“We try to find players that might have something that we as scouts identify that could be areas of improvement that our development opportunities are maybe well suited to handle or address,” Kantrovitz said. “So for the last week or two, we’ve been in meetings not necessarily with our scouts but actually with our coaches on the development side.
“Analyzing what our scouts have been telling us all spring in terms of this player might be able to improve this and what’s the probability that he might build out this pitch or change swing plane? And we’re getting a lot of input from the expertise we have on the player development side.”
The MLB Draft kicks off Sunday evening at 6 p.m. Chicago time with the first 2 rounds. Rounds 3 through 10 will take place on Monday with the draft concluding Tuesday.