Cubs farm report: Epstein finds gems in late rounds of 2012 draft

Chadd Krist's performance in the early stages of his career indicate he's in a hurry to move up the ladder in the Cubs' system. (Adam Eschbach/Idaho Press-Tribune)

The Chicago Cubs signed 30 of their 42 selections from the 2012 amateur draft, and as Cubs fans wait for the pro debuts of first-round pick Albert Almora, and second-round pick Duane Underwood, many of the team’s 2012 draft picks are already a month into their careers. Some of the best so far were late-round selections, and it looks like Theo Epstein is flashing his knack for finding talent in the draft again. Here are some of the team’s best draft picks in the early going.

Timothy Saunders, SS, RD-32 PK-974

17 G, .493, 23 R, 5 2B, 0 3B, 3 HR, 17 RBI, 5 SB, .532/.690/1.222

Drafted out of Marietta College in Ohio, Saunders has been amazing this season, going 35-for-71 over his 17 games at the Arizona League. The 6’-0”, 180-pound right-hander hit .441 over 54 games as a senior with 80 runs scored, 19 doubles, seven triples, five home runs, 48 RBI and 41 stolen bases. He also drew 35 walks to just 28 strikeouts for a slash line of .512/.667/1.179. Saunders is an exceptional defensive shortstop with great range due to his plus speed, and also has a strong, accurate arm. Not really a power hitter, but can hit the gaps with ease and turn singles into doubles, and doubles into triples with his wheels. He has an advanced feel for the strike zone and is a gamer who gets the best out of his abilities. Just got a promotion to class-A advanced Daytona, and with the rise in competition, we should get a better feel for his game, because, at age 22, he was a couple of years older than most of his peers at the AZL. As of now, he is looking like an unbelievable steal for the Cubs in the 32nd round.

Michael Heesch, RHP, RD-8 PK-254

6 G, 0-0, 0.00 ERA, 0.90 WHIP, 11 K/0 BB, 10 IP

Heesch is a supreme control pitcher, and at 6’-5” and 245 pounds, the left-hander also has some power behind his pitches. As a senior at the University of South Carolina Beaufort, he went 9-3 with a 2.21 ERA, 1.05 WHIP and 118 K/13 BB over 122.1 innings. His 9 K/BB and 1 BB/9 ratios show the kind of ridiculous control he has. He has carried that over to the pros as he has yet to allow a walk on the season pitching for class-A short-season Boise. His fastball sits in the low-90s and his slider is above average. His change-up is still developing, and while he could end up in the bullpen, his 122.1 innings was tops among NAIA players in 2012, showing the stamina that could keep him in the rotation if he continues to develop his secondary stuff. He is from Crystal Lake, Illinois, grew up a Cubs fan, and said it was a dream come true to be drafted by his hometown team.

Chadd Krist, C, RD-9 PK-284

20 G, .368, 14 R, 7 2B, 0 3B, 1 HR, 11 RBI, 0 SB, .402/.500/.902

Krist hit .294 with 19 doubles, four home runs and 36 RBI over 54 games as a senior playing for UC Berkeley in 2012. The 5’-11”, 200-pound right-hander left Cal as the school’s all-time leader in doubles with 65 and was a main cog on a team that made the College World Series in 2011. He only struck out 18 times as a senior, showing an advanced approach at the plate. Since his promotion to class-A Peoria, he has gone 9-for-18 over four games with three doubles, a home run and five RBI. A solid defender behind the plate, Krist could be a quick riser to the major league team if he continues to hit the way he has been this season.

Jacob Rogers, 3B, RD-40 PK-1214

13 G, .455, 9 R, 7 2B, 1 3B, 2 HR, 11 RBI, .529/.795/1.325

At Mount Olive CC in North Carolina, Rogers hit .392 his senior season with 17 home runs, 60 RBI, 13 stolen bases and drew 57 walks over 54 games for a .527 OBP. The 6’-5”, 200-pound left-hander has some serious power and has been showing it at the AZL with 10 extra-base hits and a .514 batting average over his last 10 games. Rogers will turn 23 on August 23, and like Saunders, we should get a better feel for his game once he gets a promotion and plays against peers more on his experience level. For being one of the last players selected in the draft, he has been an incredible value pick thus far.

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