A Draft Preview: Two Weeks Away and the Cubs Top Pick is a Mystery
There are still two weeks left to the draft and with the College World Series and State High School Championships in play, some players could sill move up or down based on performance or injury. In the past week, Baseball America, MLB Pipeline, Through the Fence, and several others web sites have come out with their own mock drafts. I will not be so bold. But what I will do is select a few players for each spot in the first five rounds.
|Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||
|Jacob Nix||Rhett Wiseman||Isiah Gilliam||Justin Jacome|
|Luken Baker||Mac Marshall||Steven Duggar||Kyle Twomey|
|Jon Harris||Peter Lambert||David Thompson||Kevin Deschene||
|Brady Aiken||Joe McCarthy||
These three picks exemplify what the Cubs are looking for in players in the draft. Benintendi has come on strong the past month as has Harris. All exemplify strong young players with excellent makeup and well respected by their teammates. Benidtendi has the elusive left-handed power the Cubs seek in every draft, but he also has speed and plays a premium position. With his “Popeye-like” forearms, Benintendi has become a favorite of many teams beside the Cubs. It is rumored the Red Sox are also in on him.
If you want a comparison for Kyle Tucker, you only need to look at Paul O’Neil; a young Paul O’Neil at that. In addition to his gorgeous left handed swing, Tucker is known for his makeup and work ethic. He has been a top pick since last fall and recently moved into the top ten with his excellent play this spring.
Jon Harris comes from Missouri State, the same school that brought the Cubs Pierce Johnson. MLB Pipeline said this about the 6’4” righty:
His curveball, slider and changeup are all plus pitches at times. Harris has power and depth on his breaking balls, and he has made huge strides with his changeup and trusts it more than before. He also has improved his command and is doing a better job of pitching inside with his fastball.
Brady Aiken is the wild card. The prospect recently underwent TJS. The thing is, the Cubs had him as one of their two top picks in last year’s draft. In order for the Cubs to get him at #9, which they easily could, a thorough inspection of his medicals will be in order. I doubt the Cubs will rely on Aiken’s Twitter account, which has updates and pictures of his recovery like this one:
Coming along nicely! 1 month #R2R pic.twitter.com/7kzKgOiu69
— Brady Aiken (@bradyaiken10) April 24, 2015
I don’t think the Cubs could go wrong with any of the first three, but they have to go bat. It is the less risky pick. However, early this morning, Kiley McDaniel of Fan Graphs threw in a curve ball for the #9 selection.
I’m told Cubs president Theo Epstein was in Oregon last night to see UCLA righty James Kaprielian; multiple teams in top 10 looking at Kap.
— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) May 23, 2015
The UCLA righty would be an underslot signing, but I still think bat, bat, and another bat here.
The great thing about this draft is that it is deep in talent. The 17th pick and the 47th pick are not that much different in terms of talent. While there is no Kris Bryant or Bryce Harper available, there are plenty of picks who will be serviceable pros and some could develop into outstanding players. Three possible selections picks the Cubs could take with the 47th pick are Jacob Nix, Luken Baker, and Peter Lambert – all three young right handed arms.
Nix might be the most polished of the three to begin with, while Lambert has the most pitching potential. At 6’4” and 245 pounds, Baker is physically a beast who could be drafted as a position player or as a pitcher. Problem is, while he can hit as a position player, fielding might be an issue. Physically, he is pretty much maxed out now.
However, I just love Joe McCarthy (the baseball player not the 1950s Senator). McCarthy can hit. McCarthy can hit left-handed. He controls the zone and plays a premium position – center field –but he is adept enough to play all three outfield positions. If not for a back injury earlier in the year, he might not be available in the second round. To me, he is one of the top bats in the draft, reminiscent of current Cub prospects Kyle Schwarber and Mark Zagunis.
The Cubs could choose from the mighty left-handed pitcher Mac Marshall or two players I like a lot: University of Miami 3B David Thompson, who is slowly developing into a power player, and Vanderbilt outfielder Rhett Wiseman, who knows how to hit and how to win. It will be a tough choice but the Cubs really can’t fail. To me, Marshall has the highest upside of the three (and the Cubs lack power lefties) while Thompson is one of those late bloomers who could sneak into the second round.
Skye Bolt was the wunderkind two years ago as a freshman at UNC. Since then, he has being trying to regain that flair that made him an All-American. He got off to a good start this year, but while he has struggled in recent weeks, is still hitting near .300. Like McCarthy, he is versatile enough to play all 3 OF positions.
Another pick who might be a solid in this round is Cole Sands, brother of current Cub Carson Sands, who has been pleading his brother’s case on Twitter:
2015 dream would be made if @ColeSands turned into a @Cubs
— Carson Sands (@southpawsands) May 22, 2015
His brother Cole, although a year behind in school, is a righty who is actually two years younger (17) than Carson and has a pretty solid power arsenal; they are two completely different pitchers. In fact, Cole might have a higher upside.
Here’s where things get a little trickier. At this point in the draft in the past, the Cubs begin to select players who fit a certain criteria – makeup, athletic, left handed, and a pitcher. It would not surprise me to see the Cubs string together pitcher after pitcher for five to six rounds in a row. On the other hand, the Cubs might string together center fielder after center fielder at this point in the draft.
Steven Duggar of Clemson is one of those center fielders who has the speed down. Once a top 40 projection, he has slid this year. Isiah Gilliam, a switch-hitting outfielder the Cubs selected in the 23rd round in 2014, will be available after attending Chipola JC for one year. I don’t think the Cubs let him get away again this time. On his Twitter page, he proudly claimed he was drafted by the Cubs. Let’s hope that love still lasts and that Gilliam lasts to this spot.
If Gilliam is gone, lefty pitcher Kevin Deschene out of Illinois could hear his name called. With an ERA under 1 for most of the year, the lefty Deschene throws in the upper 80s to 90 and has two plus off speed pitches in a curve and changeup. His 2014 standout summer in the Cape Cod League raised his awareness, but without a high fastball, he will not be in the top rounds.
The Cubs could get one of two quality pitchers in Justine Jacome or Kyle Twomey, but Cam Gibson is likely the pick here. For some reason I think the Cubs go all-in on center fielders this draft. One reason is that the system could be decimated by Rule 5 candidates this winter. The other reason is that center fielders are versatile enough to play all three positions in the outfield with speed.
Like the Cubs have collected shortstops the past few years, this is the draft where center fielders are in deep supply. Imagine playing three center fielders. They could go foul line to foul line with ease and change the game defensively.
Rounds Six through Ten
The Cubs will continue to attack their plan.
Day three of the draft will find the Cubs selecting as many high-end players as they can. In years past, the franchise went mostly college seniors in rounds 11-20 and then gambled on high school players with strong commitments, and then sprinkled in some junior college players in rounds 21-40.
Last year, the Cubs signed 27 of their 40 picks. Look for somewhere near that number again this year.