ATLANTA – The Cubs waited out the first day of the draft “in shorts and flip-flops,” but they started collecting college pitchers as soon as they got a chance to start drafting on Friday.
Having lost their top picks as compensation for signing free agents John Lackey and Jason Heyward, the Cubs didn’t have a pick until Friday’s third round, when they selected well regarded Oklahoma State right-hander Tom Hatch with the 104th overall pick.
They added six more college right-handers in the next seven rounds to close out the day, including Hall of Famer Harmon Killebrew’s grandson in the sixth round: 6-foot-2 Chad Hockin of Cal State-Fullerton.
The five other pitchers:6-foot-4 Tyson Miller from California Baptist in the fourth round, 6-5 Bailey Clark of Duke in the fifth,6-8 Stephen Ridings of Havorford College in the eighth, 6-6 Dartmouth senior Duncan Robinson in the ninth and 6-7 sophomore Dakota Mekkes of Michigan State in the 10th round.
The only non-pitcher taken by the Cubs among their first eight picks: Bethune-Cookman catcher Michael Cruz, a lefty hitter, in the seventh round.
The 6-foot Hatch, 21, redshirted last year because of a partial tear of his ulnar collateral ligament, the Tommy John ligament. He didn’t have the surgery but missed 15 months for treatment and rehab.
Hatch was 7-2 with a 2.16 ERA in 16 starts for the Cowboys this season, striking out 102 (28 walks) in 112 1/3 innings.
Cubs officials pledged to focus on pitching in this year’s draft after failing to produce a pitcher for their staff from any of the regime’s first four drafts with the Cubs.
“But we’re not going to try create it or invent something out of nothing,” scouting and player development boss Jason McLeod said leading up to the draft, adding of the challenge of drafting so late:
“We might be sitting there in shorts and flip-flops [Thursday] just pulling names off the board. But it’s going to give us an opportunity to spend that whole evening preparing for the next days. Our mindset is to take it as a big challenge.”