Cubs pick Albert Almora in 1st round

CHICAGO -- Despite the need for a quick influx of talent, the Chicago Cubs went with high-school outfielder Albert Almora with their first-round selection in Monday's draft.

In the compensation round, the Cubs began their focus on pitching. They selected right-hander Pierce Johnson out of Missouri State (43rd overall) and grabbed right-hander Paul Blackburn out of Heritage High School in California (56th overall). The 43rd selection was compensation for losing Aramis Ramirez and the 56th pick was for losing Carlos Pena.

Almora, from Mater Academy in Hialeah Gardens, Fla., batted .603 with 13 doubles, five triples, six home runs, 34 RBIs and 24 steals. He also had a 1.164 slugging percentage and a .667 on-base percentage in 25 games.

His experience and success while playing for Team USA Baseball convinced the Cubs that he will proceed smoothly in his development without the need to repeat minor-league levels.

"If you look at the total package of Albert, he has the ability to no doubt play in the major leagues, but it's also the makeup and work ethic, how he carries himself and the leadership he's shown," said Jason McLeod, vice president of scouting and player development. "It's what we're looking to do here with the Cubs -- to bring in somebody that will be an impact player and to impact those around him."

The No. 6 overall selection, Almora becomes the first draft pick in the Cubs' Theo Epstein era. Epstein, who became the club's president of baseball operations this winter, has targeted the draft as an important piece of the organization's rebuilding process.

McLeod is aware that Almora and the club's new management of Epstein, McLeod and general manager Jed Hoyer will be forever linked.

"It goes back to the evaluation of him as a player on the ability, but even more on the makeup side," McLeod said. "He's driven to succeed and be the best. We feel that in this market there is something to the whole 'Theo Epstein first draft' and our first draft. But that will subside quickly and it will be about him and what he does for this franchise moving forward. We feel he will handle it well because of who he is and what it means to him to be great."

The right-handed thrower and hitter has committed to attend the University of Miami.

The draft continues Tuesday with Rounds 2-15 and concludes Wednesday with Rounds 16-40.