With the 16th overall pick in the 2010 MLB Amateur Draft, the Cubs selected Hayden Simpson, a right-handed pitcher out of the University of Southern Arkansas. The former “Mulerider” posted a 13-1 record in 15 starts to accompany a 1.81 ERA. He also threw an astounding 131 strikeouts in 99 1/3 innings while walking only 35.

Simpson stands as a physically unimposing presence on the mound at 6’0″, 170 lbs, but he throws with good velocity and solid mechanics.

His delivery is fairly simple with a smooth high leg kick, explaining the similarities to Roy Oswalt that Cubs’ Scouting Director Tim Wilken compared him to (he also compared him to Tim Lincecum, probably for his ability to throw four above-average pitches).

Simpson throws a mid-90s fastball (which may improve if he fills in his frame a bit more), a plus slider, a plus curveball, and a circle-change.

So with that kind of repertoire, why was it a shock for him to be taken so high as 16th overall?

His competition.

Facing inferior competition makes the transition to professional ball much, much harder. In Division II baseball, you can overpower hitters with a mid-90s fastball and make your stuff much more deceptive. This is Simpson’s flaw.

There are also questions as to whether he can make a successful transition to the big leagues as a starting pitcher. Being undersized, he may not have the body to absorb the physical abuse that a 32-start season would entail.

There is little doubt about his athleticism, as he was two-sport star at the high school level—a type of draftee Wilken prefers.

Little is known about Simpson, as he was expected to be a fourth or fifth round talent. However, the Cubs stuck to their guns, and went after him even though there were far more first-round talents available.

This could lead for the Cubs to take high-potential picks in later rounds because of the money saved in the first round, similar to when the Cubs drafted outfielder Tyler Colvin with their first overall selection in 2006, then using that saved money for pitcher Jeff Samardzija.

Whatever happens in the coming rounds of the draft, the Cubs and Hayden Simpson will be evaluated closely due to the surprise of the draft.

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