Cubs sign first-round pick Pawelek
Springville High School southpaw is Utah's strikeout leader
CHICAGO -- Mark Pawelek didn't need much time to think about signing with the Chicago Cubs. Just a few hours after the Cubs selected the Utah state high school strikeout champion 20th overall in the first round of the First-Year Player Draft on Tuesday, the left-hander agreed to terms.
"The decision was easy for me," said Pawelek, 18, who played at Springville (Utah) High School. "I'm not going to pass up this opportunity to play for the Cubs."
It was an easy decision for the Cubs to select Pawelek. He was 10-0 this year and did not allow an earned run over 63 innings, while striking out 132. In his first three years at Springville, Pawelek was 26-2 with a state-record 341 strikeouts. He ended his prep career with 476 Ks, the Utah state all-time record.
He needed all those strikeouts.
"I get up there and throw the ball and try to be a control pitcher," Pawelek said when asked to describe his style. "I have a lot of movement on my pitches and that helps. I've been a control pitcher and strikeout pitcher as long as I could remember. I was on teams that couldn't make a play on the field and I had to strike out guys to get out of the innings."
"Every time we saw him he had above-average pitches as far as his fastball and velocity," said Cubs scouting director John Stockstill of the 6-foot-3, 190-pound pitcher. "We feel he will add strength. I was the Midwest crosschecker years back when Kerry Wood was involved and [Pawelek's] got a frame that will add strength, and that's a very good quality for a young man.
"He was a guy we just wanted to take," Stockstill said.
Pawelek's fastball has been clocked between 90-96 mph, and Stockstill said his fastball and curve are his top two pitches.
"He had a very good feel with his changeup and ability to keep it down in the zone at the high school level, which is very rare also. He does have a slider and it's a matter of refining that."
Baseball America ranked Pawelek third among high school players being closest to the Major Leagues.
"Obviously, we liked his pitching vocabulary and he has a very good upside," Stockstill said. "He's got four pitches, good size, threw strikes and had good command of the strike zone and a long history of doing those things."
There were other college pitchers available when it was the Cubs' turn at No. 20.
"We just felt the upside of Mark outweighed who was on the board from college and more ready," Stockstill said.
Pawelek is the second high school player ever drafted out of Utah. Left-hander Bruce Hurst also was a first-round pick by the Red Sox with the 22nd pick in 1976.
He had committed to Arizona State, but apparently was eager to pursue a pro career. The Cubs announced his signing while making their selection in the third round. Pawelek is represented by agent Scott Boras.
The Cubs' goal in the draft was to take the best player available.
"You can't get enough pitching, but our plan was to get the best available guy," Stockstill said. "We're realistic in knowing it's a certain period of time to the big leagues. In the farm system, you want as many talented players as you can. We generally take the best available talent."
Pawelek's older brother, Dennis, was drafted by the White Sox in 2002, out of Snow Junior College in Utah. Dennis never played professional baseball.
Pawelek's father has helped motivate Mark by rewarding him $1 for every strikeout, $100 for an ERA under 1.50, $30 for a shutout and $50 for each win.
Springville High School
Position: LHP B/T: L/L
H: 6'3" W: 190
Born: 1986-08-18 Class: HS
LHP w/ ideal pitcher's frame. Tall and long w/ lean muscle. Explosive low-90s FB that sinks and runs. Comes out of a quick, loose whip-like delivery. Curveball is out pitch, w/ 1-7 break that comes near the plate.
If Pawelek hit a batter, he got $5 because his father "didn't want me to be scared to throw inside."
"I had a hey day with money this last year combining for over 200 strikeouts -- that's 200 dollars there," Pawelek said. "It's an incentive thing."
Did the Cubs offer the same incentive package?
"Not that I know of," Pawelek said, laughing.
Maybe now he can pay his dad back. One thing the Cubs were impressed with was Pawelek's consistency.
"Every time we saw him, he was a consistent performer," Stockstill said. "You always look at some players that they'll be up and down, but Mark showed us what we were looking for and the projection is very solid."
Pawelek tuned up for his senior season with a no-hitter in a scrimmage game against Utah's defending 4-A champions, Timpanogos High, in his first game. He also threw a two-hitter with 18 strikeouts over seven innings in late March.
He should fit right in with the Cubs. Pawelek plays acoustic and electric guitars, which several of the players are interested in. According to Baseball America, his father encouraged him to play, and among his favorites are Led Zeppelin and Boston. Plus, he loves Jimi Hendrix. After all, Hendrix was left-handed, too.
"It feels pretty good," Pawelek said about being signed. "This team, the Chicago Cubs, is a great organization, and I've grown up watching them. I saw how [Kerry] Wood and [Mark] Prior were. Their pitching staff is just phenomenal. To possibly join that pitching staff is a dream come true."
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.