Goatriders of the Apocalypse

Hendry's tab

No, I'm not talking about his tab at the local donut shop ... looking back since Hendry first started to work for the Cubs, he has had his hand in every draft since 1995.  When he became the GM in the middle of the 2002 season, his duties certainly would have changed at that point, but if there has been one person responsible for the organizational strategy toward development, then it would be Hendry.

In terms of his track record with pitchers, we could call it a success but only perhaps because a few Cubs pitchers have actually run the gauntlet and succeeded in the major leagues.  However, his draft picks are spotty at best and he especially has a horrible track record with hitters.  I pointed it out in a recent article and I'll say it again - the last Cub batters who had a long-term positive effect were Raffy Palmeiro and Mark Grace.  There have been others since then who stayed in the majors for a while, guys like Rey Sanchez, Jose Vizcaino, Jerome Walton and Dwight Smith banged around the league for a while, Rick Wilkins played for 7 or 8 years, but none were stars, and none had more than a handful of good years.

Over in the SB thread, Goat Reader NEXTyearNOW says "that isn't fair, the rays have had the first pick in the draft for 10 years."  It's true, but there have been plenty of teams - the Braves in particular - who've done better than the Cubs since 1995 and also fared better in terms of their talent pool.  What's more, there have been 5 seasons since '95 in which the Cubs lost 90 games or more.  Theoretically, that makes for plenty of chances to get it right, at least once.  Here's how it looks:

1995 - RHP Kerry Wood - 4th overall pick - I can't argue with this pick as Wood was a good Cub and could've been a great one if his arm had stayed intact.
1996 - RHP Todd Noel - 17th overall pick - He never got above A+ ball, and he flamed out in 2000.
1997 - RHP Jon Garland - 10th overall pick - It's too bad Ed Lynch dealt him, because Garland has been a pretty decent player throughout his career. 
1998 - OF Corey Patterson 3rd overall pick - Corey was Jim's first hitter ever chosen in the 1st round of a draft, and he demonstrated a lot of traits we'd see from so many other Hendry prospects - athletic without a hint of discipline. 
Taken after C-Patt: OF J.D. Drew, OF Austin Kearns, SS Felip Lopez, 1B Carlos Pena, RHP Brad Lidge, LHP CC Sabathia
1999 - RHP Ben Christensen - 26th overall pick - Another pitcher, another bust.  Put it in perspective - Hendry's batting 50-50 in pitchers chosen as of 1999.
2000 - SS Luis Montanez - 3rd overall pick - Just remember, this guy was chosen in part because they knew he'd sign for cheap.  Montanez is now an Oriole who finally saw his first taste of major league action this past year, where he batted .295 in 112 at bats.  In his last year with the Cubs, he was in Iowa and he batted .224 in 245 at bats with an OPS of .652.
Taken after Montanez: OF Rocco Baldelli, 2B Chase Utley, RHP Adam Wainwright
2001 - RHP Mark Prior - 2nd overall pick - Man, it's hard to criticize Hendry for this pick.  Back when the draft was upcoming, there was a lot of debate as to whether or not the Cubs should've gone with Teixeira, but obviously they went with the Wuss instead.
Taken after Prior: RHP Gavin Floyd, 1B Casey Kotchman, RF Gabe Gross, 2B Mike Fontenot, SS Bobby Crosby, SP Jeremy Bonderman, SP Noah Lowry, 1B Mark Teixeira
2002 - RHP Bobbie Brownlie - 21st overall pick - When last seen in the Cubs organization, Brownlie went 0-3 with a 10.81 ERA in Iowa.  Since then, he's bounced around between the Indy leagues, Cleveland, and the Nationals minor league teams.
Taken after Brownlie: SP Jeremy Guthrie, RF Jeff Francoer, SP Matt Cain
2003 - OF Ryan Harvey - 6th overall pick - Hmm.  Jim Hendry had been involved in the Cubs drafts and farm system since 1995 by this point, and yet, Ryan Harvey is only the 3rd hitter taken under his watch.  Harvey - who has never drawn more than 25 walks in a season - is 23, had his first taste of AA ball last year, and is a career .247 hitter in the minor leagues.  Like Dolly Parton before him, Harvey looks rather ... busty.
Taken after Harvey: OF Nick Markakis, LHP Paul Mahom, LHP John Danks, 3B Ian Stewart, CF Lastings Milledge, 2B Aaron Hill, CF Brian Anderson, RF David Murphy, SP Chad Billingsley, LF Carlos Quentin
2004 - No First Round Pick
2005 - LHP Mark Pawelek - 20th overall pick - 4 years into his tenure within the Cubs organization, Pawelek is 6-12 with an ERA of 3.86 and he's yet to get above Low A ball.  It's too soon to call him a bust, but he's not exactly atop many prospect lists anymore. 
Taken after Pawelek: CF Jacob Ellsbury

And at that point I'll stop, because it's a little too early to call 2006 pick Tyler Colvin a bust, especially since he was in the Top 10 of our latest Cubs prospect list.

Anyway, as they say hindsight is 20/20, but I can't get over Hendry's inability to develop a hitter.  Geovany Soto was the exception, and he wasn't drafted - he was found.

Maybe throughout the next week or two, we'll also look into the other draft rounds, depending on how easy it is to find that information.  We can compare Cubs 2nd round choices with those of other teams, and onward into boredom or something more interesting springs up.

Yes, 1st rounders have

Yes, 1st rounders have definitely been a bust under his watch. I'd like to assume that most other teams haven't had fantastic success with 1st rounders either. Heck, Fontenot was the Orioles 1st rounder. I would like to see how Fat Hendry fared with later picks as well, but that may be quite a cumbersome task since there's what...50 rounds?

Actually the easier thing to

Actually the easier thing to do would be to see if there was a single other team in baseball that has developed as few hitters as the Cubs since 1995. Really, Soto has been the most successful, Theriot has been okay but the book isn't done being written about him, and that's about it. 1 or 2 hitters in 13 years is unforgivable, and even the good teams like the Braves, Red Sox and Yankees have had much more success both on the field and in the draft over that span.

Very true. But the lack of

Very true. But the lack of position talent is long before Hendry as well. He at least has developed some pitching talent though. I'm not vouching for him, he's been decent.

Right -- I just feel that

Right -- I just feel that being able to develop "only pitchers" doesn't make one a decent GM. The Cubs should be a top-notch organization ... Hendry would've been fired a long time ago if he was running a team like the Yankees or Red Sox.

Your point is well taken. You

Your point is well taken. You seem to have Hendry's strategy nailed down - he prefers to take pitching in the first round, and when he does draft a hitter, he looks for power and athleticism over patience and baseball acumen. I guess you're arguing that that's a bad strategy.

This is also Hendry's responsibility, but could the coaching staff be to blame, rather than the strategy? It seemed Corey Patterson had the power and the speed (Eric Karabell picked him to go 30/30 in 2008, lol), but the kid just never found a way to put it together; many talking heads suggested he was rushed to the bigs. Pie is perhaps another example, but his situation is kinda unique given the Cubs' short term goals.

Brian Dopirak is perhaps the perfect player to keep an eye on in this respect. Recently listed on Baseball America as a Top 5 Cubs prospect (was he ever #1?), Dopirak has since been cut from the Cubs minor league roster. He hit 39 home runs for Single A Lansing at age 20, and kinda burned out from there.

Now, he's a Blue Jays prospect. In 2008, he posted a .308/.382/.577 at High A Dunedin (probably had a lot of fun playing against Daytona). If the Jays can figure out how to make this guy a major leaguer, that might give us an idea on who's to blame--the draft staff or the coaches.

Dopirak will be an

Dopirak will be an interesting thing to keep an eye on. My bet is he'll flame out.

I think the Hendry strategy is as follows. Pitching is at an absolute premium...in free agency and in the minors. His strategy, it seems to me at least, is to pick up as many young arms as necessary in hopes that they develop. These pitchers then get traded for positions of necessity for the MLB club. It's not necessarily a bad method, in theory, as teams will always take chances on minor league pitchers with potential. And there's always the injury factor...you can have a stud in the minors and he tears a labrum or something and poof...value vanished (see Angel Guzman).

Basically I see it as drafting mostly pitchers because they carry the most value going forward in terms of help and trade value.

I think that is an accurate

I think that is an accurate assessment. Pitching is more valuable than hitting.

How much of that was Hendry...

...and how much of that was Andy McPhail's overall draft philosophy?

Well, Mr. McPhail has been

Well, Mr. McPhail has been gone as GM for more than 6 years now and as a Cub rep in general for, 3 or so and the Cubs haven't exactly gotten better at this gig of draft and develop. I think Hendry played a big part in the Cubs philosophy, because that philosophy didn't change when he took over.

Cubs drafted two position players in the last three years...

...opposed to three total from 1995 through 2005. Hendry brought in a new head of player development from the Blue Jays at that point in time as well. There have been other changes in draft philosophy as well.

The point is that if there

The point is that if there are 50-or-so rounds in each and every draft, and if there are more position players in a system than pitchers, then Jim Hendry has had his hands on a number of opportunities to draft and develop adequate hitters. We can blame McPhail for some of the problem - although I'd like to take a closer look at the players he drafted and developed in Minnesota - but Hendry undeniably has to share his burden of responsibility.

Compare his track record with other GMs ... I just don't think he comes close to holding up with the best of them, and his inability to draft and develop is tremendously frustrating for Cub fans -- or at least for me.

It certainly would be

interesting to know the first round success rate of the rest of the league. But quite often it is overlooked that many prospects aren't retained by the organization in order to acquire proven players, thus yielding positive results from the farm system in that manner. Still, I'm certainly no Hendry apologist and the position player development has been pathetic.

I remember an old interview during a rain delay with the Braves with Harry Carey and Chuck Tanner. Carey was questioning Tanner as to why the Braves had such success in their farm system. Tanner's response was that the Braves had a three pronged approach when it came to the draft. First, they draft a room full of pitchers. Second, they draft a room full of pitchers and thrid, they draft a room full of pitchers.

Now to be sure, the Braves have a plan on how they want to coach and develop their position players and IMHO, that has been where the rub lies with the Cubs. The vision and coaches that implement it has been non-existent. The basis of all development from the jump should be the instruction of sound fundamentals in every aspect of the game with every prospect. I could give a flying fuck if you're a Ryan Theriot or an Alfonso Soriano. Everybody is instructed and developed the same way. Hendry is the GM, his failure to outline an organizational strategy of developement, and/or put in place the coaches and instructors to implement it, is his biggest failing.

I'm not so sure you're

I'm not so sure you're correct in your assessment on development.

I believe it was Billy Beane that did a study of sorts, on his hitters. He learned that OBP and style of play is almost ingrained in a player. He took players and tried to etch into their heads that walking is key. He didn't have much success with it. But players that already had a high OBP, walked more.

Basically, you can't expect a Soriano to all of a sudden have a .380OBP. But you can slightly nudge up someone like a Ramirez from .350 or so up to what he did last year, .380.

On the flipside of Beane

On the flipside of Beane ball, it appears ignoring the conventional tools is hurting the A's.

Their prospects can identify good pitches to hit--but just can't do anything with them.

Soto

Geovany Soto was drafted in the 11th round of 2001. he was not just found like most Hispanic player.

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