It was the logical offshoot of my last post about not judging a draft right away.
Actually, it was something I needed to take a little time to research – and accidentally got prodded into doing it by Steve Trachsel (thanks, Trax!).
Looking back, I’ve often wondered: What was the best Cubs draft during my time with the club?
I was involved in publicizing the club’s draft selections from 1988-2003. I sat in a draft room, or a pre-draft meeting, or represented the team at the draft, from 2004-2011. All-in-all, I was there in some way, shape or form without actually having any input into any of it.
In other words, this is a totally unscientific post.
I ended my last post by talking about the 1984 draft – which predated me. The Cubs selected Drew Hall with the third overall pick; he did make it to the majors, but with limited success. If you judge a draft by the achievements of the first-round pick, that draft wouldn’t have turned out very well.
However, Greg Maddux was selected by the Cubs in the second round and Jamie Moyer was picked in the sixth round. Between the two of them, 48 seasons in the majors and 624 wins. Pretty damn good draft, you’d have to say.
Time has shown that there were no Maddux/Moyer combos found in any Cubs draft classes during my time there.
But, to quote Mr. Trachsel – who commented on the ending of that story: “1991 wasn't too shabby either.”
Trachsel was correct. I took it as a challenge. So … which draft class was the best one during my time there?
The Class of ’91 became the early leader. Five of the club’s first eight picks reached the majors. First-rounder Doug Glanville spent nine years in the majors and had two stints with the Cubs. During his second tour of duty with the club in 2003, he had a big game-winning pinch-hit triple in Game 3 of the NLCS.
Fourth-round pick Terry Adams spent 11 years in the majors, appearing in 574 games. Fifth-rounder Ozzie Timmons saw big league time in parts of five seasons.
And then there were the back-to-back selections of Trachsel in the eighth round and Jon Lieber in the ninth round.
Trachsel went on to spend 16 years in the big leagues, winning 143 games – including the wildcard tiebreaker in 1998 that sent the Cubs to the postseason – and had seven double-digit victory seasons. Lieber spent 14 years in the majors, winning 131 games – including a 20-win campaign for the Cubs in 2001.
Not too shabby, indeed.
There was just one problem. While Lieber was selected in by the Cubs in 1991, he did not sign – electing to return to school for one more year. It turned out to be a good move on his part, as he was chosen by Kansas City in the second round of the 1992 draft. He was later dealt to Pittsburgh, where he spent five seasons before being acquired by the Cubs.
So, that kind of puts a red flag on that draft class for me.
1991 definitely became the measuring stick – with five players having substantial big league time and four doing that after being drafted/signed/developed by the organization.
As I looked through the ‘90s, I went through the names year-by-year. There were seasons with more players, but lesser substance. There might have been a player here or there who had comparable career numbers to Trachsel and Lieber, but not multiple people coming out of the same draft.
I purposely skipped 2001 at first – I knew that was going to be a good draft – and continued on through the next 10 years. Sorry, just didn’t see any classes comparable.
And then I looked at the 2001 draft. Truth-be-told, I knew that would be a tough one to beat. Baseball America’s Ultimate Draft Book, published last year, ranked the Cubs’ class as the best in that year’s draft.
Quite frankly, it was a solid draft. Mark Prior was picked second overall. We’ll never know what the end result might have been had he not gotten hurt, but the facts are the facts: In 106 major league starts, he went 42-29 with a 3.51 ERA and 757 strikeouts in 657.0 innings.
Fourth-rounder Ricky Nolasco is still in the majors – and is in his 12th big league season. Geovany Soto, the 11th-round selection, is now in his 13th big league campaign.
Third-rounder Ryan Theriot hit .281 in 899 games. Second-rounder Andy Sisco pitched in 151 games. Fifth-rounder Brendan Harris played in 529. Seventh-rounder Sergio Mitre pitched in 143 big league games.
Overall, 13 players selected by the Cubs that year saw big league time – including six who did not sign (topped by Khalil Greene and Tony Sipp).
If you count Lieber, the 1991 class wins. If you don’t count him since he didn’t sign with the club, the 2001 class wins.
So, I’m still in the same quandary. What was the best Cubs draft during my time with the club?