Cubs close to signing first-round pick

Cubs close to signing first-round pick

CHICAGO -- The Cubs have agreed to terms with first-round pick Hayden Simpson, pending a physical, and the right-handed pitcher could sign this weekend.

Simpson, who was the 16th overall pick in the First-Year Player Draft out of Southern Arkansas, was expected to undergo a physical this weekend in Chicago. A formal announcement could come Saturday.

Simpson was 13-1 with a 1.81 ERA in his junior season at the Division II school. He had six complete games in his 15 starts and struck out 131 in 99 1/3 innings while walking 35.

Recommended by area scout Jim Crawford, Simpson was projected to be taken somewhere between the second and fifth rounds. Cubs scouting director Tim Wilken liked the right-hander's bulldog attitude, especially after watching him strike out 13 in a shutout against Florida Southern in the Southern Regional tournament. Simpson did not walk a batter in that game.

He's the second pitcher Wilken has tabbed in the first round since joining the Cubs in December 2005. The other was Andrew Cashner, the Cubs' top pick in 2008, who is now on the Major League team.

Simpson throws a four-seam fastball up to 97 mph, a circle change, a slider and a 12-6 curveball. He says his best pitch is his slider, but scouts like the knee-buckling curve the wiry right-hander has.

The Cubs have agreed to terms with 11 of their picks from the June Draft, including Hunter Ackerman, taken in the fourth round out of Louisburg College.