There are less than four weeks to go until the Rule 4 Major League Baseball Draft. The Cubs select their first pick at #104. Sure, they can get a nice player at that spot, but how much is that player going to cost? The Cubs don’t have a first or second round pick as a result of signing Jason Heyward John Lackey, so they only have $2.2 million (closer to $2.3 with overages) to spend in their pool this year. That’s a pittance when compared to last year’s $7+ million and $9+ million in 2014.
I don’t think the Cubs are going into this draft with any specific target of who they might take at 104, though I’m sure they have an idea of the type of player they’d like to get. There’s still plenty of talent at that point in the draft, whether it’s a player slotted to be around the pick 104 area, a player the Cubs feel they might be reaching for a little bit, or a player who has fallen for a whatever reason. The latter category might be the most unique.
This past week, Baseball America released its top 200 prospects for the draft, Keith Law of ESPN released his top 50, and MLB Pipeline released their top 100. There’s a wild variation between the three as to who the top 10 are in order and all three evaluations are inconsistent throughout.
To me, the name that is most intriguing as far as the Cubs are concerned is Kyle Funkhouser out of the University of Louisville. Funkhouser has electric stuff with an MLB-ready three-pitch mix. His problems are his command and his own self-worth/evaluation. Funkhouser was selected last year by the Dodgers at number 35 but did not sign, which was probably a huge mistake. Now in the midst of a relatively disappointing senior season, Funkhouser has a few blemishes and no negotiation room.
Before the season began, Baseball America said the following:
The early reviews on Funkhouser this spring are overwhelmingly poor, with his fastball velocity down to 88-91 mph, his command graded as below average and his offspeed stuff lacking consistency. We ranked Funkhouser based on his track record, and previously glowing evaluations. If he can right the ship, he could move back up by the next time we rank players. If he doesn’t correct his issues, there’s no telling how far he might slide.
In 69.1 innings over 12 starts, the Cardinal pitcher has struck out 70 and walked 40 while given up 60 hits. That comes to a WHIP of 1.44 – not very sexy. His ERA is currently at 4.54 and had been as high as 8.38.
Funkhouser is currently slated at #85 in Baseball America’s top 100 and is not ranked in either Law’s or Pipeline’s lists. If he falls all the way to 104, would the Cubs be able to get him and still have money to sign 37 other picks? I think the most the Cubs might be able spend on that initial pick is between $750,000 and $1 million. While that only leaves them $1.2 million for the rest of the draft, it guarantees them a pick possessed of talent but not guaranteed of success.
Funkhouser’s main issue has always been his command, though a drop in velocity this year from the mid 90’s is a concern. While he has pitched at the upper echelon of amateur baseball, including Team USA, he still has not thrown a single pitch as a professional. If the Cubs selected Funkhouser, he would slot right into the top 20 on most prospect lists. The key question, however, is whether he will make changes to become the pitcher everyone thought he could be going into the draft last summer
Funkhouser ranked as the top prospect on the U.S. collegiate national team last summer, topping the staff with 36 strikeouts in 28 1/3 innings. That capped a stellar sophomore season during which he tied for the NCAA Division I lead with 13 victories and helped Louisville reach its second straight College World Series.
Undrafted out of an Illinois high school in 2012 because of his commitment to the Cardinals, Funkhouser has a solid three-pitch mix that begins with a 92-96 mph fastball.
Both his slider and changeup show flashes of becoming plus offerings as well.
Funkhouser’s 6-foot-2, 218-pound frame is built for durability. There’s some effort to his delivery, though not enough to lead scouts to think he’ll wind up in the bullpen. His biggest need is to improve the consistency of his control and command.
That’s the description of the kind of pitcher the Cubs would want to select. They get first round talent in the third. However, it’s a huge risk. He literally would be a million-dollar gamble.
It would be interesting to see what kind of tweaks the Cubs would make to improve his command in addition his conditioning. I think at worst you could have a power reliever, at best you could have a number two or number three starter. That might be a risk the Cubs are willing to take.