Top 5 Draft Picks in Cubs’ History
With the 2014 MLB draft quickly approaching, taking a look back at some of the great picks for the Cubs seemed appropriate. Since the first draft in 1965, it is easy to see some of the choices have been downright terrible, or a complete bust (stay tuned for a future post). Still, the Cubs have managed to pick up some great talent throughout the years and I feel they deserve mentioning.
Below, I have named my top five draft picks in order for the Chicago Cubs. Instead of looking at their entire MLB history, I chose to focus on what the players did in their time with the Cubs. I firmly believe the Cubs have a knack at finding great talent but turning them into mediocre players. For that reason, there are some players that started out in Chicago, but found success with another team.
Also, I encourage others to comment with players they feel deserve to be on the list or if anyone disagrees on the order of my top five.
#5. Kerry Wood (1995) first round, fourth overall
Years with Cubs: 1998, 2000-2008
Aside from his raw talent, he is also responsible for one of my favorite Cubs t-shirts of all time, “We got Wood.” Now that I got that out of my system… Let’s continue. Wood was excellent in clutch situations for the Cubs. While he never transformed into the star he should have been, easily seen after striking out 20 batters as a 21-year-old rookie. Still, Wood put up some good numbers.
From 2001-2003 he won 38 games, but it was in 2008 that most Cubs fans remember Wood’s contributions. Primarily because that was the last winning season for the Cubs, earning the title of NL Central Champions. He had 34 saves, a 1.085 WHIP, and earned a spot on his second All-Star team.
Even after suffering multiple injuries, Wood still holds many records for the Cubs. Currently he is first in strikeouts per nine innings (10.385), fourth in total strikeouts (1470), 13th in career wins (77), 13th in games played (341), 18th in saves (35), 27th in total innings played (1279), 28th for total wins (80), and 31st for total ERA (3.67).
For the Cubs, Wood is honored as a two-time All-Star and was the 1998 Rookie of the Year.
#4. Lee Smith – (1975) second sound, 28th overall
(Photo/ Sports Illustrated)
Years with Cubs: 1980-1987
Lee Smith is one of the best closers in the history of baseball. He had respectable numbers while sharing closing duties with Willie Hernandez, Bill Campbell, and Dick Tidrow in 1981 and 1982, but it was in 1983 where Smith put up some of his best numbers. He had a 1.65 ERA, had a league high of 29 saves, and finished 56 games.
After leaving Chicago, Smith played for a total of seven teams in eight season. Four of those seasons he earned 40+ saves for (shudder) the Cardinals.
He registered about 300 saves for the Cubs and holds three of the top 10 best single-season save years in their history: 36th in 1987, 33rd in 1984, and 33rd in 1985. He is still is the all-time leader in saves for the Cubs (180) and is ranked third for games played (458).
For the Cubs, Smith is honored as a two-time All-Star, and earned one point in the NL Cy Young Award voting and eight points in the National League MVP voting in 1983.
#3. Rick Reuschel – (1970) Third Round, 67 overall
(Photo/Bleed Cubbie Blue blog)
Years with the Cubs: 1972-1981, 1983-1984
Known as “Big Daddy” due to his massive appearance or classified as “workhorse” for his impressive work ethic as a pitcher, Reuschel was a standout player for the Cubs. In his rookie year of 1972, Reuschel had a 2.93 ERA while going 10-8. From 1973-1980, he never missed a single start (averaging 35-39) and played over a total of 1,960 innings. But, it was in 1977 that Reuschel excelled for the sub-par Chicago team (81-81). He had a 2.79 ERA going 20-10 with 166 strikeouts, earning one of the best single pitching seasons for the Cubs.
He ranks high on the Cubs’ all-time pitching lists. Currently he is second in games started (343), third in total strikeouts (1367), sixth in total innings (2290), eighth in total games played (358), 11th in K/9 innings (5.37), 12th in wins (135), 22nd in total ERAs (3.5), and 36th in complete games (65).
For the Cubs, Reuschel is honored as a one-time All-Star, finished third place for the National League Cy Young Award, and was ranked 21st in the 1977 NL MVP balloting.
#2. Mark Grace – (1985) 24 Round, 622 overall
Years with Cubs: 1988-2000
Known for clutch hitting and stellar defense at first base, Grace was one of the most consistent players for the Cubs throughout the 1990s. In his first year with the Cubs he finished with a .296 average and came in second on the National League Rookie of the Year balloting (even though he should have been first).
In 1996, a stand out year for Grace, he had a batting average of .326, he lead the National League hitting 51 doubles, and finished 13th in NL MVP voting.
In Grace’s 13 seasons with the Cubs, he topped 75 RBI for a season 10 times, hit over .300 nine times, and was the hits leader of the 1990s (1,754). Even though he never hit more than 17 homeruns in a single season, Grace remains one of the best hitters in history for the Cubs.
Currently he is ranked second in doubles hit (456), fifth in total hits (2201), seventh in total bases (3187), eighth in extra base-hits (647), eighth in RBIs (1004), ninth in OPB (.386), ninth in total games (1910), and 37th in triples hit (43).
For the Cubs, Grace is honored as a three-time All-Star and a four-time Gold Glove.
#1. Greg Maddux – (1984) second round, 31 overall
Years with Cubs: 1986-1992, 2004-2006
Whether you know him as “Mad Dog” or “The Professor,” Maddux is one of the greatest players to ever wear a Cubs jersey, and hands down the best player ever drafted by the team.
Maddux moved quickly through the minors, but suffered extreme inconsistency throughout his first years as a Cub. With threats of being moved back down to the minors, he went to Venezuela to play winter ball in 1987 and returned a completely different pitcher for the Cubs in 1988. That year he had a 3.18 ERA and finished 18-8. However, it was in 1992 that Maddux displayed his true talent. Pitching for 268 innings, he earned a 2.18 ERA, threw 199 strikeouts, and finished 20-11.
Currently Maddux is ranked sixth for total strikeouts (1305), ninth in K/9 innings (5.83), 12th in total innings (2016), 13th for total wins (133), 18th in games played (302), and 30th for total ERA (3.61). But more importantly, he earns the title of smartest player to ever enter the MLB (in my book). With the ability to remember weaknesses and outsmart hitters, the Cubs choosing to trade Maddux was quite possibly the dumbest decision in their very long history of terrible decisions. He was a man that loved every part of the game; a true ambassador of the sport. Even though he reached his highest potential in Atlanta, knowing he once wore a Cubs jersey is something Chicago can be proud of for years to come.
For the Cubs, Maddux is honored as a two-time All-Star, three-time Gold Glove, and won the NL Cy Young award in 1992 stealing 20 out of 24 votes.