Monday, June 7, 2010

Best Picks by Decade: Cubs

This past Friday, I was inspired by Zachary Levine of the Houston Chronicle who highlighted the top draft picks by the Astros, by decade. In his piece, he lists Cliff Johnson (1960s), Greg Gross (1970s), Brian Hunter (1980s), John Buck (1990s), and Jay Austin (2000s, 2008 to be exact).

Unless Jay Austin becomes an outstanding leadoff hitter in the big leagues, the Astros list is not initially all that impressive.

So, what does the list look like for the Cubs? I decided to look at Wins Above Replacement (WAR) numbers from the essential Baseball-Reference.

1960s: Ken Holtzman, 27.5 CareerWAR, 18.2 CubsWAR
1970s: Rick Reuschel, 66.3 CareerWAR, 46.8 CubsWAR
1980s: Greg Maddux, 96.8 CareerWAR, 31.4 CubsWAR
1990s: Kerry Wood 22.9 CareerWAR, 23.2 CubsWAR
2000s: Mark Prior 13.1 WAR, all with Cubs

In the 70's, Lee Smith earned 18.7 of his 30.3 career WAR while stranding runners in scoring position for the Cubs.

Between 1981 and 1985, the Cubs drafted Joe Carter, Shawon Dunston, Maddux, and Rafael Palmeiro.

It's interesting that by the WAR measurement, the Cubs' best picks have all been starting pitchers. The early reaction of the Cubs' first round pick in tonight's draft, Hayden Simpson, is less than enthusiastic. I trust Cubs' Scouting Director, Tim Wilken, but when we hear that he's barely making some people's Top 200 lists & Keith Law says that the last time a scout mentioned Simpson to him was March, I start to wonder.

I don't know about the rest of Cubdome, but I'd be pretty happy if Hayden Simpson becomes the next Ken Holtzman. At the very least, we have to admit that Hayden Simpson's got a pretty neat name.


  1. BTW - Levine's column focused only on top draft picks out of high school...I was wondering how Craig Biggio was beat out by Brian Hunter in the 1980's.

  2. Excellent point, Osh. We'll take a closer look at the Cubs High School picks.