Chicago

Chicago

SAN FRANCISCO Theo Epstein has called it the most important day of the year. Jason McLeod has described it as their Super Bowl.

But as much as Cubs executives respect Dale Sveums evaluation skills, and have promised that he will have a voice in shaping the teams identity, it doesnt do the manager much good right now.

More than 2,100 miles away from the draft room, Sveum sat down in his office late Sunday afternoon. He wasnt complaining or pointing fingers after a 2-0 loss to the San Francisco Giants at AT&T Park.

But its easier selling the future the draft starts Monday night than explaining away 15 losses in 18 games.

Its the same press conference every day, Sveum said. Its a broken record. I dont even know what to say to come up with something different.

Outside of Alfonso Sorianos three-run shot in the ninth on Friday night, the Cubs have scored one run in 26 innings here. Theyve scored a run in only nine of their last 81 innings on the road.

The Cubs (18-35) clearly need impact talent, and the organization has a lot riding on this draft. Through the first three rounds, they will be picking at Nos. 6, 43, 56, 67 and 101.

McLeod made a name for himself with the Boston Red Sox by choosing Dustin Pedroia out of Arizona State University at No. 65 in the 2004 draft, and watching him develop into American League MVP four years later. Jacoby Ellsbury McLeods first-round pick out of Oregon State University in 2005 nearly won that award last season.

 

Imagine someone like that in a lineup next to Starlin Castro, Anthony Rizzo and Brett Jackson.

Sveum has watched video of certain draft prospects to see how their swings and hands will translate to the next level. Last week at Wrigley Field, he also threw batting practice to Carlos Correa of the Puerto Rico Baseball Academy. But he hadnt really spoken to the front office in a few days.

Theyre in lockdown right now, Sveum said. Theres a lot going on in their life right now. (So) you do all your due diligence. You want that to be the right pick (and) you want to find those diamonds in the rough.

People dont even fathom how much stuff goes into that draft to make sure you find a few players that can impact the big-league team.

Travis Wood the 25-year-old left-hander acquired from the Cincinnati Reds in the Sean Marshall trade last winter allowed one run across seven strong innings.

Wood couldnt quite match Barry Zito, who left to a standing ovation in the ninth inning, and could have used some more help from his defense. Catcher Koyie Hill couldnt hold onto the ball during a play at the plate, and Soriano had trouble making a few plays out in left field on his bad knees.

The Cubs plan to get faster and more athletic and prioritize defense moving forward. But look at the organizations overall record in the minors (97-123 entering Sunday) and you know they need more power arms.

Pitching will definitely be a focus, McLeod said. Its not going to be a need-based pick, especially our first pick, but once we get past the first pick, it could be a pitcher.

It is something that were certainly going to try to address. It is a need for the organization. Were not going to overdraft pitching just because we need it. Its got to fit the criteria that were looking for in that area of the draft. (But) Id be really surprised if when the drafts over, (we dont) feel really good about the pitching.

The Giants (30-24) won their World Series in 2010 with a rotation built around first-round picks Matt Cain (No. 25 in 2002), Tim Lincecum (No. 10 in 2006) and Madison Bumgarner (No. 10 in 2007).

They were throwing to a franchise catcher in Buster Posey, the fifth overall pick in the 2008 draft. The eccentric closer Brian Wilson, a 24th-round pick in 2003, was waiting to run out for the ninth.

The Cubs can dream, but Sveum knows that there are no sure things in the draft.

Its like gambling, Sveum said. You take a shot and everybody agrees on this guy and that guy and, boom, you pick him. You wish that they pan out the way you grade them out.