In the 10 drafts post-Mark Prior, the Cubs haven’t had a single first-round pick establish himself as a big-league fixture. That’s one of the biggest reasons why they have lost so many games since making a free agent-driven run at the World Series in 2007 and ’08.
Tyler Colvin and Andrew Cashner are the only two first-rounders in that era to reach the big leagues, and the jury is out on both. The other six first-rounders: right-hander Bobby Brownlie, outfielder Ryan Harvey, left-hander Mark Pawelek, third baseman Josh Vitters, center fielder Brett Jackson and right-hander Hayden Simpson. The Cubs didnt have a first-rounder in 2004.
Jackson is going to get to Wrigley Field in 2012, if not before this season is over. He looks like a speed-power player who will be able to hit for enough of an average and be a solid enough fielder to have a long career.
Like Colvin, Vitters, Cashner, Simpson and 2011 first-rounder Javier Baez (who is still unsigned), Jackson was selected by the highly respected Tim Wilken, who did excellent work in Toronto and Tampa Bay. Wilken’s drafts have been slow to bear fruit but a marked improvement over those of his predecessor, John Stockstill.
Wilken isn’t afraid to take risks. He took a big one on Simpson, an under-sized right-hander from Southern Arkansas University, and you hope it was one based on talent, not just signability. The $1,060,000 the Cubs paid the 16th overall pick was $560,000 less than the Rays paid 17th pick Josh Sale, a high school outfielder from Seattle, and the second lowest of the top 30 picks.