In an unusual draft that took place under extraordinary circumstances, one thing didn’t change: the Cubs needed to find more pitching.
Long before the coronavirus pandemic shut the game down from mid-March until early July, the Cubs had overhauled their scouting and player development departments, hoping 2020 would be a pivotal year for their farm system.
This marked the first draft run by Dan Kantrovitz, the Cubs’ vice president of scouting who brought a variety of experiences from the Cardinals and Athletics front offices. The next wave of talent would be shaped by Craig Breslow, the new director of pitching who had a long big league career and an Ivy League education.
With their second-round pick, the Cubs selected the best pure reliever in the draft, Dallas Baptist lefthander Burl Carraway. A little more than a month later, the Cubs added Carraway to their 60-player pool and assigned him to their alternate training site in South Bend, Ind.
Carraway made just two appearances as an undersized, lightly recruited freshman, and pitched in just eight games this season before college baseball shut down. His sophomore season featured 72 strikeouts in 41.2 innings. The Cubs studied his pitch data and loved the fastball/curveball combination, viewing him as someone who would be put on a fast track.
Maybe this summer or fall is too soon. But Cubs officials have been upfront about the organization’s struggles to develop pitching from within, and the opportunities that may arise in the near future.
“They talked about that a little bit in that (orientation) Zoom call,” Carraway said. “It was really cool that they were honest about that—and the fact that they were excited that this was going to be the group that (could) turn it around. I’m excited to be a part of the change.
“We’re going to develop really well in their system. I talked with them a lot—even leading up to the draft—and it seems like they really know what they’re doing. I trust them fully. And I think we’re going to get this thing going pretty good here.”
— Whether or not Carraway debuts this year, the Cubs will need some of their young power arms to break through, especially without a traditional trade deadline and given the fears of an outbreak or more injuries from the long layoff. The South Bend roster includes international pitching prospects like Adbert Alzolay and Brailyn Marquez as well as a slew of draft picks from recent years.
“Frankly, having some guys step up and perform potentially at levels they haven’t performed at yet in the big leagues is really important to us,” Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer said. “Every year, you’re going to need a couple guys to step up and give you performances that are unexpected.”
— Jordan Nwogu, who developed as a walk-on at Michigan into a College World Series performer and eventually the Cubs’ third-round pick this year, should benefit from all the resources the Cubs have poured into their hitting program.
“We prioritize tools, no doubt,” Kantrovitz said. “He impacts the ball about as hard and as loud as anybody in college baseball today. He can hit the ball out to all fields. But on top of that, he’s got a pretty short, compact swing. He’s the type of hitter that might be able to have power as well as plate discipline, and that’s a pretty rare combination.”