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06/06/08 10:34 PM ET

Cubs draft experience over youth

Growing trend for Chicago leans in favor of college players

CHICAGO -- High school prospects should not get too excited when the Cubs are on the clock. For the second straight year, the Cubs concentrated on collegians in the First-Year Player Draft.

They selected eight high schoolers out of their 51-pick allotment, including one prep choice on the first day. All but four of the team's first 35 picks in 2007 were college players.

That may not have been the intended trend, but the Cubs still targeted certain types of players going in.

"It was, 'Get the guy who's going to be the best Major League player,'" Cubs assistant general manager Randy Bush said Friday. "It's a philosophy [scouting director] Tim [Wilken] has, and we all agree with that philosophy."

The Cubs drafted five of Baseball America's top 84 players. They took their fill of pitchers, 25 right-handers and three left-handers, after not selecting any pitchers on the first day of the 2007 Draft.

The first four draftees (pitcher Andrew Cashner of Texas Christian, shortstop Ryan Flaherty of Vanderbilt and pitchers Aaron Shafer of Wichita State and Chris Carpenter of Kent State) were of the college ranks. Fourth-round pick Matt Cerda, one of five shortstops in the Cubs' Draft class, hails from Oceanside (Calif.) High School.

The Cubs drafted Cashner for the second straight year. They kept their eye on the 6-foot-6 right-hander after he declined to sign as a 29th-round pick in 2007, choosing to transfer to TCU instead. Cashner converted to closer and went 9-4 with nine saves and a 2.32 ERA with the Horned Frogs, including 80 strikeouts in 54 1/3 innings.

"He was the guy [Wilken] wanted," said Bush, who said the team is keeping an open mind as to whether Cashner will start or pitch from the bullpen. "We liked him last year, and he did nothing but improve this year."

The college trend continued Friday, when the team didn't grab a high school player until the 21st round. Before that, the Cubs selected 14 college players, beginning with Oklahoma State catcher Luis Flores in the seventh.

Another catcher, UNLV junior Michael Brenly, was taken in the 36th round. Brenly is the son of ex-Major League catcher and current Cubs announcer Bob Brenly.

The Cubs had a run on pitchers from rounds eight through 11, taking James Leverton from Texas Tech, Jay Jackson from Furman, Alex Wilson from Texas A&M and Toby Matchulat from Wabash Valley College.

Wilson, who was born in Dhahran, Saudi Arabia, has not pitched competitively since undergoing Tommy John elbow reconstruction surgery while at Winthrop last summer. He reportedly threw at Fenway Park on Wednesday, hitting 95 mph before meeting with Red Sox general manager Theo Epstein.

The Cubs switched to position players in the 12th and 13th rounds. They grabbed second baseman Jake Opitz, once nicknamed "Cadillac" by his coaches at Nebraska for his flashy attitude, with pick No. 341. Speedy Cincinnati outfielder Tony Campana came to the Cubs 30 picks later. Campana was the only Division I player with at least 40 stolen bases and eight triples through June 2.

Pitcher Casey Coleman, a 15th-round pick out of Florida Gulf Coast, is the son of Joe Coleman, a 15-year Major Leaguer who went 2-8 in 39 appearances for the Cubs in 1976. The junior is leaning toward signing.

The Cubs didn't take an Illinois native until right-hander David Cales in the 24th round. Cales played at St. Xavier University and the University of Illinois at Chicago. He went to high school at Mt. Carmel in Chicago.

The Cubs turned heads with their selection in the 27th round, high school pitcher Sonny Gray, a first-round talent out of Smyrna, Tenn. Gray signed with Vanderbilt and is so set on going to college that he sent a letter to MLB's Scouting Bureau asking not to be drafted, according to The Tennessean.

Cubs' top five selections
19.RHPAndrew CashnerTexas Christian U
41.SSRyan FlahertyVanderbilt U
65.RHPAaron ShaferWichita St U
97.RHPChristopher CarpenterKent St U
131.SSMatthew CerdaOceanside HS (Calif.)
Complete Cubs Draft results >

A telephone message left for Gray went unreturned Friday night, but his mother, Cindy Craig, said her son's commitment to Vanderbilt was "pretty firm."

Baseball America ranked Gray the No. 52 prospect on the board and rated his fastball and curveball among the best in the Draft. The right-hander was 4-0 with a .79 ERA and 78 strikeouts in 35 innings in a season shortened by a sprained ankle. He hit .518 with three home runs.

Time will tell if Gray becomes the next David Price, who skipped an early pro career to go to Vanderbilt in 2004. Price was selected in the 19th round four years ago and after a stellar three-year run with the Commodores was the No. 1 overall pick by the Tampa Bay Rays last year.

The Cubs tabbed Louisiana Tech right-hander Dylan Moseley, brother of Angels pitcher Dustin Moseley, in the 48th round.

Nick Zaccardi is an associate reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.