How bad Cubs Aiken for pitching? Enough to risk pick on Tommy John kid?

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WASHINGTON – The Cubs’ draft-room facilities this year look a lot like talent evaluators describe this year’s “strange,” “weird,” “limited,” and comparatively low-rent talent pool.

Scouting department officials and top executives have spent the last week crammed in a trailer in a parking lot across the street from Wrigley Field because Wrigley Field construction forced them out of their usual meeting space.

During homestands the trailer’s used as a waiting area for players’ families, complete with diaper-changing table.

“I guarantee we’re the only team in major league baseball doing our draft in a triple-wide in a parking lot,” amateur scouting director Matt Dorey said with a laugh, adding that it’s not as bad as it sounds.

“It’s nice inside,” he said. “But it’s definitely tight.”

The big question for the Cubs is what they squeeze out of that trailer when they select ninth overall, about an hour into a three-day draft that starts at 6 p.m. Monday – and whether team president Theo Epstein finally signs off on a pitcher with a top-10 pick.

Never mind the elephant that doesn’t fit in the room.

That’s left-hander Brady Aiken, the 100-mph strong 18-year-old drafted first overall a year ago before the Houston Astros rejected him based on medical issues that eventually led to Tommy John surgery.

As of Sunday, the Cubs still had not ruled out the player who might easily be the biggest-impact prospect in draft, depending on the medical risk-assessment barely two months into Aiken’s post-op recovery.

“That’s why I think it would be really irresponsible not to look at that,” said Dorey, whose staff has had the latest medicals since the family released the information to various teams early in the week.

Some taking part in the draft-room discussions sense the risk might be deemed too great for the Cubs to spend what they hope will be their last top-10 pick for many years.

But he’s not expected to get past the first round. And in a draft lacking a consensus top three or four – much less a clearly elite No. 9 – Aiken may be the Cubs’ best chance at hitting big with this year’s top pick.

“Acquiring talent is hard, especially in the draft, so we have to look at all options,” said Dorey, who stressed the Cubs’ “process” in ranking their draft board is designed to take emotion out of it.

That said, if the risk is tolerable, the rest of the boxes are all but checked already.

“We had such a good process with him a year ago that we know the player, the family and the makeup so well,” Dorey said. “You have to layer that information in, too. He’s a really good kid. There’s a reason why he went No. 1.”

The only thing that seemed sure into the final 24 hours before their pick was that the Cubs were nowhere near as sure of their final call as they were the last two years with Kris Bryant (No. 2 overall) and Kyle Schwarber (No. 4).

Some analysts seem convinced this is the year the Cubs select a pitcher with their top pick for the first time under Epstein – with Missouri State right-hander Jon Harris linked most often to the team.

In 12 years running front offices in Boston and Chicago, Epstein has spent his top first-round pick on a pitcher only twice and never higher than 19th overall (UConn right-hander Matt Barnes in 2011).

As one baseball insider familiar with this front office’s draft thinking said recently: “If Theo says he wants a pitcher, you know he really wants a hitter.”

Said Dorey: “You play the draft history, and historically it feels safer at times to take the hitter. But at the same time, with where we’re at in terms of trying to contend, hopefully in a window coming in the next few years, we would do the entire organization and fan base a disservice if we did not take the most impactful player, pitcher or hitter.”

Or maybe even elephant?

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