In what sometimes feels like a century old rebuilding process, Theo & Co. have stocked the farm system with a wealth of talent and rebuilt the franchise from the ground up. Trading valuable veteran assets for prospects has certainly sped up the process, but his philosophy on how to build a farm system will not only make the Cubs competitive soon but give the organization a level of sustainable success that have never been seen in all of Chicago not just the northside (Yes, White Sox fans I know you won the World Series in 2005 but how many times has your team made the playoffs since?).
Theo has three ways of accumulating young talent, 1. By trade (which we have seen throughout his tenure), 2. The Draft, and 3. International Free Agency. With those methods, he targets players that hit with power and pitchers with strong arms that have a command of the strike zone.
We will ignore the trade portion for now. By now, we have seen Theo trade all meaningful assets for impact prospects that fit his philosophy like Addison Russell or Jake Arrieta so let’s focus on the draft and international signings.
If we analyze Theo’s draft strategy, two things jump out immediately:
- Theo favors college players to high school players. In his three drafts in Chicago, he has taken twice as many college players than high schoolers. College players are obviously further along in their development and thus easier to project. High school players usually take 5-6 years to develop. A lot can happen in those years and if you consider the price some of these guys are going for, it adds up to a very risky move.
- Theo drafts pitchers in quantity. What the chart below will explain besides the fact that pitching prospects fail at a much higher rate than position players, is that about 10% of pitchers prospects will become superior MLB pitchers. Therefore, he’s simply playing the numbers game, the more he drafts, the higher the probability one will make an impact on the major league level.
Finally, in regards to the international market, Theo & Co. have been as aggressive, if not the most aggressive team in the league. We are already familiar with the Jorge Soler signing and the possibility of Rusney Castillo making his way to Wrigley, but the international players is where Theo largely takes on the long term 17 year old projects like Eloy Jimenez or Gleyber Torres.
Why go that route instead of drafting high school players? Consider Hanley Ramirez was signed out of the Domincan Republic as a 17 year old for $20, 000 by the Red Sox or the Cubs signing Starlin Castro for $50, 000. Meanwhile, Brady Aiken a high school pitcher drafted by the Astros couldn’t come to an $6.5 million agreement last month. The international players have every bit the upside without the risk associated with top high school draft picks.
Theo’s consistency and patience given to executing his plan has been a pleasure to watch. What will top that will be watching how Theo’s blueprint has laid the foundation for one of those long successful runs we hear so much about.