The 2012 MLB Draft starts on Monday with the first round, and the Chicago Cubs may be zeroing in on their selection.
According to multiple reports, yesterday the Cubs had high school shortstop Carlos Correa and high school pitcher Max Fried in to Chicago, where they were worked out and interviewed. You can learn a little more about Correa and Fried here (where I listed each as one of ten possible first round candidates for the Cubs), but the gist is Correa is a gifted shortstop prospect with a great bat, and Fried is a gifted lefty starter with a “projectable frame.” According to Bruce Levine, the Correa workout even included Dale Sveum throwing batting practice to the youngster.
Each of Correa or Fried would make sense for the Cubs to pick at number six overall, though increasingly, mock drafts have Correa going off the board before number six. Is it possible that the Cubs have Correa at number one on their board, and Fried as the back-up plan?
Of course we can’t possibly know. The Cubs very likely have at least six players on a list whom they would be happy to take with the sixth overall pick, and they’ll conduct as much due diligence on each (as well as many other players) as they possibly can. And, with this front office, you can’t even rule out the possibility of misdirection.
That said, I do think it’s quite likely that the Cubs are focusing on these two players, given their talent, and where the Cubs will be selecting. At least one of the two is likely to still be on the board at six.
Many months ago, when folks asked me whom I thought the Cubs might take in the Draft, my go-to guess was Fried. It was too early to actually guess, of course, but I knew the Cubs were interested, and I also had a sense that this front office believes lefty starting pitchers could be especially valuable at Wrigley Field. Given the relative dearth of quality lefty starters in the Cubs’ system, I could see them picking Fried, given how close in talent the players at the top of the Draft are this year. (That is to say, selecting Fried isn’t about Drafting to need – the Cubs might still believe he’s the “best available” player at number 6, it’s just that his status as a lefty starter might be a tie-breaker.)
If the Cubs had a shot at one of the big three college pitchers (Mark Appel, Kevin Gausman, Kyle Zimmer), I’d prefer they went that direction, if only because they are incrementally “safer” (older, more experienced, not injured after more innings), and just as talented. They are also – again incrementally – more likely to sign. If Correa is off the board before the Cubs pick, it is likely that one of those three college arms (or college catcher Mike Zunino, whom I also like) would still be on the board. At that point, would the Cubs go with Fried or the remaining college arm?
I’m sure the visits yesterday (and others like it) are also about showing the kids Wrigley Field, getting the excitement of playing there in their heads, so that, when it comes time to sign, they’ve got just a little more incentive. And it’s also probably about planting some negotiating seeds. Given that this year, moreso than any in the recent past, teams would love to be able to sign guys for under slot, so that the savings can be used elsewhere in the Draft. Maybe the Cubs drop some hints with these kids to gauge their willingness to accept, for example, $3 million, rather than the $3.25 million slot value.
The good news about this year’s Draft? Assuming the Cubs take any of the top eight or so prospects (which they will obviously have the opportunity to do), it’s going to be fair to be happy and excited about the pick. No one, at this point, expects the Cubs to take a “surprise.”
Unless they’re going to try and game the money angle, but, well, more on that later.