Cubs' Easterling Chose Baseball Over Football
CHICAGO—Taiwan Easterling was a top wide receiver at Florida State. He caught 108 career passes, including 43 as a junior last season, and seemed headed to a possible NFL career.
But Easterling made an abrupt about-face last summer. He had played just enough baseball at Florida State to get on the Cubs' radar, and was intrigued by the possibility of a career in a sport where he could do the hitting, not get hit.
Easterling, 22, walked away from the Seminoles after the Cubs took him in the 27th round of the draft. He signed for a bonus of $150,000 and hasn't looked back.
Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken said Easterling opened eyes with his ability to produce line drives around the park during instructional league.
"He looked great," Wilken said. "It looks like he can really hit—a good idea for a guy who was playing football on Saturdays last fall—and he runs well. Our guys are really excited about him."
While Easterling received more attention catching passes, he went to Florida State with two-sport intentions after the Marlins took him in the sixth-round out of Oak Grove High in Hattiesburg, Miss., in 2007. The Marlins drafted him again in 2010, this time in the 31st round, but he returned for another season at FSU. Easterling skipped spring football to play full-time for the Seminoles' baseball team in 2011. He slid in the draft because teams didn't realize how serious he was about baseball.
Easterling, who stands 5-foot-11, 195 pounds and runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds, was signed as part of a $20 million investment in amateur talent last summer. He adds to the Cubs' inventory of young outfielders, which is headed by Matt Szczur.
After signing in late June, Easterling played 48 games in the Cubs system, including 40 at low Class A Peoria. He batted .307/.332/.407 overall with two homers, 17 RBIs and 10 stolen bases.
• Wilken also praised outfielder Shawon Dunston Jr. for his work at instructional league. He homered on back-to-back days at one point, displaying the power that Wilken projected when the Cubs gave him a $1.275 million bonus.
• Shortstop Junior Lake, who split last season between high Class A and Double-A, got off to a fast start in the Arizona Fall League. He had four home runs and nine stolen bases in his first 12 games, batting .327/.400/.673.