Epstein, Cubs preparing for draft

Theo Epstein’s background in player development was one reason

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts sought him out when he was searching for

someone to run his team last year.

Now Epstein gets his first chance to prove his worth in that


The Cubs have the No. 6 pick in their first amateur draft since

Epstein became president of baseball operations in October, and the

former Red Sox general manager said they have narrowed the pool for

that first selection to about 10 players.

”It’s probably the most important thing that we’re doing right

now, to be honest, and so therefore it takes up the vast majority

of our time,” Epstein said before the Cubs hosted the Atlanta

Braves on Tuesday. ”The draft day is the most important day of the

year for every organization.

”It’s a year-long process and right now we’re right in the

sweet spot, finishing up evaluations, going back and getting final

looks and then we’ll get together and dissect all the


Epstein talked extensively about player development after he

joined the Cubs, so there’s pressure on him to come away with a

bumper group of prospects from the June 4-6 draft. He played a role

in drafting Jacoby Ellsbury, Dustin Pedroia and Clay Buchholz while

he was with the Red Sox.

This is also the first amateur draft since the players and

owners reached a new bargaining agreement that includes luxury

taxes on the draft and the ability to trade some selections.

Epstein said the new rules are definitely part of their

preparations, but he didn’t want to get into specifics.

”I think every team is setting aside some time to think through

how the draft might play differently now,” he said. ”It affects

how we approach signability, signability information, how we

allocate our resources in terms of who we’ll scout and how often,

that type of thing.

”That’s the same for all 30 clubs so it’s a level playing

field, just go do our best.”

The Cubs got off to a rough start this season, dropping 11 of

their first 14 games, but they have played better of late. They won

two of three in a weekend series against NL West-leading Los

Angeles, then beat Atlanta 5-1 on Monday night in the opener of a

three-game set.

”I think the effort’s been there all year,” Epstein said.

”We’ve been playing hard and trying to play the game the right

way. It’s hard to see sometimes when you’re losing close games and

when breaks are going against you like they were early. I think

everyone can appreciate it when the results come with it as they

have lately, so it’s been really nice to see.”

Jay Cohen can be reached at http://www.twitter.com/jcohenap