James Farris was 6-6 with a 3.40 ERA in 16 games with five CGs.

Last year, James Farris was selected in the 15th round of the First-Year Player Draft by the Astros but turned them down.

The right-hander wanted to return to Arizona for his senior season and be the team's No. 1 starter, pitching on Fridays. He also was hoping to increase his Draft status. It worked.

On Friday, the Cubs selected Farris in the ninth round.

The only senior on Arizona's roster, Farris was 6-6 with a 3.40 ERA in 16 games (15 starts) with five complete games. He struck out 100 over 113 2/3 innings and walked just 19. He was Arizona's Sunday starter in 2012, posting a 7-3 record and 3.97 ERA, and in 2013, went 5-5 with a 4.18 ERA.

Arizona coach Andy Lopez talked to Farris about his plan.

"There used to be a stigma about being a senior and not getting picked to the 55th round," Lopez told the Tucson Citizen last year. "But a lot of seniors get drafted in the first 10 rounds now [because of the new bonus slotting system]. If he pitches well, he could go in the top 10 rounds easy."

And he did.

A native of Columbus, Ohio, he attended Highland High School in Gilbert, Ariz.

Farris' bio on the team website lists the St. Louis Cardinals as his favorite team. He may need to change that. The website also lists his gameday superstitions, such as wearing the same undershirt for each game and taking the same route to the mound each inning. He was enrolled in the college of social and behavioral sciences with a major in regional development and a minor in environmental studies.

He made 50 career appearances and 47 starts for the Wildcats. The right-hander is not overpowering, but he has the ability to keep hitters off-balance and has good command of his secondary pitches.

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon CT.

Cubs catch another big hitter in third round

Draft Report: Mark Zagunis, College Catcher

The Cubs not only need pitching, but also some catchers. That being the case, they selected backstop Mark Zagunis of Virginia Tech in the third round of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday.

On Thursday, the Cubs tabbed Indiana catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber fourth overall. Both Schwarber and Zagunis are finalists for the Johnny Bench Award, presented to the top collegiate catcher. Zagunis was a three-year starter at Virginia Tech.

A good athlete, Zagunis is the rare catcher who runs well.

"Not many catchers are fast and steal bases," Zagunis said in a May interview with the Roanoke Times.

"He is as relaxed and confident in the batter's box as I've seen in 17 years [of coaching]," Virginia Tech coach Patrick Mason told the Times. "Probably the best hitter I've ever coached."

Zagunis started all 53 of the Hokies' games, but he would play outfield during non-league games.

"He helps our team the most when he's catching," Mason said. "In a perfect world, I'd have him behind the plate every game."

Zagunis would like to stay behind the plate.

"I've grown to really love it," he siad. "It's, in my opinion, the toughest position on the field."

Zagunis' father Mark played baseball at Rutgers, but jokes that his son got his speed from his mother. He was not drafted out of high school.

"Coming out of high school, he ... wasn't a polished product," Mason said. "Here, he refined himself as a hitter. he refined himself as a catcher. He learned how to work a little more efficiently in the weight room. He was really strong and bulky comin gout of high school. Now he's more flexible. He's much more athletic."

Zagunis' home run totals were down this season because he strained his oblique muscle in preseason, but he finished strong. He'd hoped to be taken in the first five rounds.

"I like to think to myself that I will be there," he said of the big leagues. "That's the only way you're going to have success -- if you believe in yourself."

A two-time All-ACC second team catcher, Zagunis also made the All-ACC Academic Team. He finished his junior year ranked in six ACC career categories among active players in the league. He was third in batting average (.338), hits per game, total bases per game and stolen bases and fourth in slugging percentage (.495) and fifth in runs (141).

He's the seventh Hokie to total at least 200 hits in his junior season, and finished tied for the fourth most by the end of the season. Zagunis is the second Hokie to steal at least 50 career bases.

And he can definitey hit, leading the team in batting two of the last three seasons to join Johnny Oates (1966 and '67) as the only two catchers in school history to lead the team in that category two years.

Zagunis also can hit in the clutch, delivering three walk-off RBI hits, including two home runs. He belted a solo homer against No. 7 Florida State on May 23 in the ACC Baseball Championship to give Virginia Tech the win.

This season, he was one of four Hokies to start all of their games -- 40 at catcher, eight in right field, one each in center and left, and three as the designated hitter. He led the team with 23 multi-hit games. He was the only player in the ACC at the end of the regular season with at least 20 multihit games and more than 10 multi-RBI games, and he ranked in the top 10 in five categories.

For the year, he led the team with a .330 batting average, 44 runs scored and 69 hits, and was second in slugging percentage (.426), RBIs (39), doubles (10), triples (two), home runs (two), total bases (89), walks (32), and stolen bases (16).

A sociology major at Virginia Tech, Zagunis earned varsity letters all four years playing at Holy Cross High School in New Jersey, and he was a 2011 Louisville Slugger High School All-American. He also played football and basketball.

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon CT.

Prep lefty Sands goes to Cubs in Round 4

Draft Report: Carson Sands, HS Pitcher

Carson Sands has an impressive resume for a high school pitcher.

The left-hander has spent three straight summers pitching at Team USA's national training complex in North Carolina, and won a gold medal with the 2012 18-and-under team.

On Friday, the Cubs selected Sands in the fourth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft.

The lefty, who was attending North Florida Christian High School in Tallahassee, Fla., has good size and a feel for his changeup, according to MLB.com's scouting report.

Sands saw his stock rise with his teammate Matthew Railey because of the strength gains he made over the past year. That led to an increase in his fastball velocity, and he now throws in the low 90s, regularly hitting 94 mph, according to scouting reports. Sands also has a solid curve and good feel for his changeup.

Railey was selected 89th overall by the D-backs, while Sands was taken 109th overall.

Sands, who has signed to play at Florida State, has been tested, throwing a complete game to lead North Florida Christian past Coral Springs Christian, 1-0, on May 14 and advance to the state title game.

"Carson's good. In pressure situations, Carson pitches his best," Sands' coach Mike Posey said.

Sands and his younger brother, Cole, both played for Team USA. The two actually faced each other during a tryout for a travel team, and Cole was the batter. Carson struck him out on a changeup, and still has the video of the at-bat. The two help each other.

"We feed off each other when we pitch," Cole said in an interview last June with Baseball America. "You always have to have someone looking out for you and telling you what you are doing wrong when you pitch. He gives me great advice."

In the interview, Carson said the increase in velocity is because he's increased his strength and because of long toss sessions with his brother. The two would long toss every other day in the offseason.

"If it wasn't for long toss with Cole, I don't know if my arm strength would be where it is today," Carson said.

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon CT.

Round 5 delivers Steele's live arm to Cubs

Draft Report: Justin Steele, HS Pitcher

Justin Steele may not have the size of some pitchers, but the Cubs liked enough of what they saw of the left-hander to select the prepster in the fifth round of the 2014 First-Year Player Draft on Friday.

Steele was the third pitcher the Cubs took in the Draft, and the first Mississippi high school pitcher selected in the first five rounds since the Braves picked Matt Butler in 1999.

MLB.com's Jim Callis said Steele's velocity was better this spring and his changeup had some good movement.

"Even though he's smaller, he's fairly athletic," Callis said. "I think he has a chance to start."

The Lucedale, Miss., native was able to pitch after he fractured his left wrist sliding into home plate in a summer league game in September. Steele needed surgery to insert a screw in the scaphoid bone.

Steele's father, Ben, played football at Alabama in the mid-1980s and his older brother, Jordan, pitched at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College.

"Justin is extremely competitive, and he has a God-given ability to throw the fastball," George County coach Brandon Davis said last year in an interview with GulfLive.com. "His mentality when he's on the mound, he wants to get everybody out. But he's got the mentality to handle it when he doesn't get everybody out. That's what's gotten him noticed by Southern Miss and [professional scouts] who are starting to notice him as well."

Steele was 5-1 with an 0.98 ERA and 92 strikeouts over 43 innings pitched his senior season. He earned Class 5A Player of the Year honors, and threw no-hitters against Pascagoula and East Central.

During a workout at the East Coast Professional Showcase last summer, Steele's fastball was in the low-90s. MLB.com's scouting report says the lefty is better when he can throw with less effort in his delivery.

At 6-foot 1 and 180 pounds, Steele may wind up in a big league bullpen rather than the rotation. He prepped at George County High School, and he signed a letter of intent last fall to attend Southern Mississippi.

In his junior season at George County, Steele was 7-3 with a 1.94 ERA and 98 strikeouts over 61 1/3 innings. He also played some first base, outfield and was the designated hitter, batting .326 with six doubles, three home runs and 23 RBIs.

According to GulfLive.com, he's the first George County player drafted since 2011 when outfielder Mason Robbins was picked by the Mets in the 20th round.

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon CT.

Cease brings Wrigley experience in Round 6

Dylan Cease pitched at Wrigley last August.

Dylan Cease may have an edge among the other Cubs' picks in the First-Year Player Draft. He's already pitched at Wrigley Field.

Cease, whom the Cubs took in the sixth round in the 2014 First-Year Player Draft on Friday, took part in the Under Armour showcase in August, which was held at Wrigley. The game showcases 36 of the best high school players in the country.

A starter at Milton High School in Georgia, Cease was one of the hardest throwing high school pitchers in the Draft class. However, this spring, he had an elbow injury -- a partial tear of the UCL -- that kept him off the mound since March. He chose not to have Tommy John surgery but the injury most likely made him available in the later rounds.

When healthy, Cease's fastball was clocked at 91-95 mph, hitting 97 mph at times, according to MLB.com's scouting report. At 6-foot 1-inch, 175 pounds, he generates velocity with his athleticism and arm speed.

Cease played with his twin brother, Alec, at Milton High School. He was recruited by Georgia, Auburn, Clemson, Georgia Tech, Miami and South Carolina, but has committed to Vanderbilt.

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon CT.

Righty Norwood gives Cubs upside in seventh round

Draft Report: James Norwood, College Pitcher

CHICAGO -- James Norwood was projected to be taken in the early rounds of the First-Year Player Draft, but an elbow injury may have prompted some teams to pass. The Cubs liked the potential in the right-hander, selecting Norwood with the 199th pick in the seventh round on Friday.

Norwood was winless and battled an elbow strain his sophomore year at St. Louis University in 2013. He came back strong. His fastball was clocked up to 98 mph, and he was steadily in the 91-95 mph range with some sink. He has yet to develop a quality secondary pitch, and that will determine his role.

Norwood, who took over as the Billikens' Friday starter in 2014, earned first-team All-Atlantic 10 honors by going 8-2 -- the second-most single-season wins in school history -- with a 2.68 ERA and 64 strikeouts over 15 starts and 94 innings. He struck out nine against Wake Forest over five innings, and threw a complete game against Richmond on April 18, giving up two hits and striking out six. On March 21, he threw a one-hit shutout against Rhode Island.

A finance major, the New York native threw the first no-hitter in All Hallows High School history. With his selection, St. Louis has had a player drafted in back-to-back years. The D-backs picked catcher Grant Nelson in 2013.

Norwood was ranked by Baseball America as the 76th best prospect going into the Draft. Nearly 20 scouts saw the 20-year-old right-hander hit 97 mph on the radar gun during an exhibition game last fall against the Ontario Blue Jays.

"It was all over Twitter," St. Louis coach Darin Hendrickson told FOX Sports Midwest. "I think when that started happening, we all figured that we've got something going here."

Hendrickson also admitted that Norwood still has some developing to do.

"That's why, if I was a scout, I'd be excited from that end to know that I'm going to get more from this guy," Hendrickson said. "He only has 100 college innings in his arm. Some guys have that this year, and they are going to bust that this week in the Regionals and Super Regionals. That's something to look at, too.

"There are a lot of plusses about James. He's going to have to figure some things out with his secondary stuff and get after it pretty hard when he gets to his pro club, and I know he will. He's a worker. He's a good kid and represented SLU well and he's going to do real well down the road."

Norwood is the fifth pitcher the Cubs selected in the Draft.

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon CT.

Ducks' No. 1 gets call from Cubs in eighth round

Tommy Thorpe went 11-4 with a 2.14 ERA in 16 starts for Oregon.

Tommy Thorpe took over as Oregon's No. 1 starter this season. His next challenge will be to make the Cubs' rotation.

The Cubs selected the left-hander in the eighth round of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday. He was the sixth pitcher Chicago has taken in the Draft.

Thorpe went 11-4 with a 2.14 ERA in 16 starts for the Ducks, striking out 90 over 105 innings while walking 33. Teams batted just .217 against him.

Injuries to two Oregon pitchers moved Thorpe up, and he took over as the Friday starter. His record included wins over UCLA and Cal.

In May, Thorpe threw 122 pitches in a complete-game victory over Cal for his 10th win of the year, but he had to convince his coach to leave him in the game.

"I just said, 'Give me the ball, coach, I'm not going out,'" Thorpe told the Oregonian. "Coach [George] Horton knows me really well, and he knows I'll battle out there."

Thorpe struck out eight and walked one in the outing.

"He was unbelievable," freshman shortstop Mark Karaviotis said of the lefty. "He pounds the strike zone every night he goes out there. That's why he's our Friday guy. He's our ace. That's what we expect from him, and he produced tonight."

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon CT.

Cubs end Day 2 with East Carolina's Williams

When the Cubs are scouting players, they check not only the statistics but do research on his make up and character. East Carolina's Ryan Williams passed all the tests.

The Cubs picked Williams in the 10th round of the First-Year Player Draft on Friday. He's the other East Carolina pitcher -- highly touted Jeff Hoffman was taken ninth overall by the Blue Jays. But Williams was a standout for the Pirates as well.

This year, Williams received Louisville Slugger Third-Team All-America honors and was named a semifinalist for the 2014 Gregg Olson Award, presented to college baseball's breakout player of the year.

The right-hander led the Pirates in six pitching categories and became the 10th in school history to claim the pitching triple crown (wins, ERA and strikeouts). He finished 11-3 with seven saves in 32 appearances, and he had a win or a save in 18 of the Pirates' 33 wins.

A native of Morgan Hill, Calif., Williams struck out 76 and walked 11, ranking 10th nationally in the strikeout-to-walk ratio. He posted a 1.81 ERA, giving up 20 earned runs over 99 2/3 innings.

But what sets him apart is that he was the 11th recipient of the honorary No. 23 jersey worn by the late ECU coach Keith LeClair. LeClair was an inspirational leader for his battle against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, also known as Lou Gehrig's disease. The illness forced him to step down in 2002, and his No. 23 is awarded each season to the player who displays LeClair's spirit.

"Ryan is very passionate about East Carolina," ECU coach Billy Godwin said in an interview before the season began. "He has a champion's heart with a great work ethic, whose selfless approach is contagious. He embodies all the characteristics associated with wearing the No. 23 jersey, and will wear it with great pride and help carry on its legacy within the ECU community."

Williams comes from a strong athletic background. His father, Arthur, was a quarterback at St. Cloud State and spent 15 years as a professional golfer.

The Draft concludes on Saturday, with exclusive coverage of Rounds 11-40 beginning on MLB.com at noon CT.