Cubs will need to be crafty in draft
Wilken's proficiency at picking late-round gems will help
Of the Chicago Cubs' last 12 No. 1 draft picks, five have made it to the Major Leagues. Tim Wilken's 11 first-round picks with the Toronto Blue Jays all reached the big leagues.
Wilken joined the Cubs this offseason as their scouting director, and the June 6-7 First-Year Player Draft will be his first for the team.
The Cubs have the 13th pick in the first round, but they do not have another selection until the fifth round. They lost the second-, third- and fourth-round picks when they signed free agents Scott Eyre, Bob Howry and Jacque Jones. Those picks are compensation to the players' 2005 teams.
Wilken has a knack for finding talent in the late rounds of the amateur draft. That will come in handy this year.
For example, the Blue Jays drafted second baseman Orlando Hudson in the 33rd round of the free agent draft in '96, but he didn't sign. The Blue Jays chose him again in the 43rd round of the 1997 free agent draft. Hudson won a Gold Glove last season.
Or, there's Chris Woodward, whom the Blue Jays picked in the 54th round of the '94 draft. He hit .283 last season with the New York Mets.
Most scouting directors will say they'll take the best player available. Wilken agrees. But he also believes it's a 50-round draft, and does his homework to find players who other teams might not spend much time with.
"There are some situations that dictate [you take the best player], but you can't always do that," Wilken said. "There might be a player who you say is the best player, but the guy's signability might have something to do with that. To say you're taking the best player is good in thought."
Wilken likes to target middle infielders because they are generally the best athletes available.
"Going back to the 'best player' theory, I think you apply that in the early rounds and as the draft drops off in ability and everything being somewhat equal, you start concentrating on your weaknesses," he said. "If available, then naturally [look for] pitching -- especially left-handed pitching -- and shortstops and second basemen. [Middle infielders] generally have the ability to play somewhere else."
Recent Cubs top picks
2005: LHP Mark Pawelek
The lanky left-hander spent the majority of last season with the Mesa Rookie League team, and was 0-3 with a 2.72 ERA. He made one start at Boise, pitching only three innings. The teenager -- Pawelek doesn't turn 20 until Aug. 18 -- was kept in Mesa, Ariz., with the Rookie League team this spring and had yet to be assigned. The Cubs don't want to rush him.
2004: RHP Grant Johnson (selected in 2nd round)
The Cubs did not have a first-round pick in 2004, and Johnson was the highest selection, getting tabbed in the second round. Last season, he was 3-8 with a 3.82 ERA in 14 starts at Class A Peoria. This year, Johnson opened at Class A Daytona, and in nine starts, he was 4-5 with a 5.14 ERA. Johnson had struck out 26 over 49 innings.
2003: OF Ryan Harvey
The right-handed-hitting Harvey batted .257 at Class A Peoria last year, leading the league with 24 home runs. He also hit 30 doubles and 100 RBIs. Harvey has put on some muscle, and was assigned to Class A Daytona, where he was struggling. In 32 games, he was batting .184 with five doubles, five homers and 27 RBIs. He's also struck out 33 times.
Carrie Muskat is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.