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It has arrived. The night that marks the beginning of what many are calling the Chicago Cubs’ most important Draft in years. I’m not sure I’d go that far, but I do agree that the next three days are easily among the most important days of the year for the Cubs.

The Cubs pick sixth overall in the first round, and then again at 43 and 56. Assuming they eventually sign, the Cubs will nab three excellent prospects this evening. The latest scuttlebutt has them taking polished high school outfielder Albert Almora with their first pick, but you never know for sure how these things will play out. The Cubs are believed to be considering, together with Almora, kids like high school shortstop Carlos Correa, high school pitcher Max Fried, college pitchers Kevin Gausman and Kyle Zimmer, and college catcher Mike Zunino. Or the Cubs could throw us all a curveball and take someone no one expects, like college pitcher Michael Wacha.

Things get underway at 6pm CT, and you can watch on MLB Network, or a stream at MLB.com.

We’ll cover the picks here live, for the top half of the first round, and then again as we approach the Cubs’ supplemental round picks. Throughout, I reckon there will be a steady stream of salient thoughts dropped in the comments, on the Message Board, on Twitter, and on Facebook. So join in, wherever your preference for chatting might lie.

Away we go…

Pre-Draft UPDATE: Kevin Goldstein says college pitcher Kevin Gausman will not be on the board at six, to which I said “sad trombone.” He then encouraged me to “be happy with Almora.”

The Picks…

1. Wow, the Houston Astros surprise everyone and take high school shortstop Carlos Correa with the top pick. Also, there are sudden rumors of the O’s and Royals surprising by taking Max Fried and Chris Stratton, respectively. That could really shake things up for the Cubs at six.

2. No surprise, the Minnesota Twins take high school outfielder Byron Buxton. Seattle’s got an interesting choice now.

3. Well, it was thought that the Mariners would take Mike Zunino for a long time, and they did. But, then again, that was when folks thought Mark Appel would be off the board. In any event, it’s the Florida catcher for the Mariners.

4. Crud. The Orioles select Kevin Gausman, the pitcher from LSU. He wasn’t expected to still be available for the Cubs at six, but with things going nutty at the top of the Draft, there was a chance. Bummer. Appel still on the board, but I bet the Royals take him. If so, the Cubs will probably be choosing from among Almora, Fried, and Zimmer.

5. The Royals took San Francisco pitcher Kyle Zimmer, so now the Cubs have a very tough choice. Try and sign Appel, who might be the best pitcher in the Draft? Risk him rejecting $3.25 million?

6. As expected by many – and predicted by me – the Cubs take high school outfielder Albert Almora, even with Appel still on the board. The Cubs have wanted Almora for a while, and wanted him over many of the guys who went ahead of him. I’m thinking the Cubs are happy to get Almora, and if they like him that much, then I’m happy, too. We’ll have quite a bit more on Almora over the coming days – some believe that, when he signs, he’ll instantly become the best prospect in the Cubs’ system behind Anthony Rizzo. Given everyone in the industry’s certainty about the Almora pick in the days leading up to the Draft, I can’t help but wonder whether they’ve already had some serious money discussions, and whether Almora might be a quick sign. That would be awesome.

7. The Padres take Max Fried, as expected by many. I bet he was the Cubs’ other choice at six, but they wanted Almora more. As the first round goes on, I’ll update these picks periodically. Don’t forget, the Cubs pick again later tonight at numbers 43 and 56.

8. Whoa, the Pirates step up and take Mark Appel, the big-time starter out of Stanford. We’ll see if they can figure out a way to sign him.

9. The Marlins take OK State pitcher, Andrew Heaney.

10. The Rockies take high school outfielder David Dahl.

11. The Oakland A’s take high school shortstop Addison Russell.

12. The New York Mets take high school shortstop Gavin Cecchini.

13. The White Sox take high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins, who’s a nice pick at that spot. Good for them.

14. The Reds take high school pitcher, Nick Travieso.

15. The Indians take Texas A&M outfielder Tyler Naquin.

16. The Nationals take the big risk (big reward) by selecting high school pitcher Lucas Giolito. He’s a consensus top 5 talent with an injured UCL in his elbow (yes, that’s the ligament that is replaced in Tommy John surgery). He says he’s healthy, but he hasn’t thrown off a mound yet. So, he slipped, and now the Nats will have to figure out how to sign him, because he’s not going to take a pay cut.

17. The Blue Jays take high school outfielder D.J. Davis.

18. The Dodgers take yet another high school position player, Corey Seager. Starting to wonder whether the Cubs’ plan to take pitchers later might be a good move.

19. The Cardinals get a freaking steal in taking arguably the fourth best college pitcher in the Draft, Texas A&M righty Michael Wacha. Freaking Cardinals. They always draft well.

20. The Giants take Mississippi State pitcher Chris Stratton.

21. The Braves take high school pitcher Lucas Sims. The Braves are always right about young pitchers, so you can pencil him into the rotation for 2017.

22. The Blue Jays take Marcus Stroman, a pitcher out of Duke who could actually be the first player in the Draft to make it to the bigs. He is a tremendous pitcher who could have gone 10 picks higher, but is thought of as a reliever, only. Those types tend to slide, even if they’re dominant.

23. The Cardinals might have just been the first team to try and take someone they feel they can sign way under slot by taking college senior, James Ramsey out of Florida State. I hope they’re wrong and he squeezes them. You know, with no leverage…

24. The Red Sox get college shortstop Deven Marrero, who could have gone as high as 8 to the Pirates. This is more where his talent level is, though.

25. The Rays take Clemson third baseman Richie Shaffer.

26. The Diamondbacks take the awesomely-named high school catcher Stryker Trahan.

27. The Brewers take high school catcher Clint Coulter, one of the few kids actually in attendance for the Draft.

28. The Brewers take Georgia Southern outfielder Victor Roache.

29. The Rangers take high school outfielder Lewis Brinson.

30. The Yankees take high school pitcher Ty Hensley.

31. The Red Sox take Florida pitcher Brian Johnson.

And that ends the first round of the Draft. I won’t cover every pick in the supplemental first round, but obviously I’ll drop the names of the Cubs’ picks, and an early take on them, as well. The first of the two should be coming in about 20 minutes or so.

43. The Chicago Cubs take right-handed college pitcher Pierce Johnson out of Missouri State. It sounds like he was a kid who was going to go much higher, but had an injury issue. Here’s MLB.com’s take: “Johnson was moving quickly up Draft boards, but a forearm strain put that on pause. He came back and threw well, with plenty of time to show everyone he’s fully healthy leading up to the Draft. Johnson has a good three-pitch mix starting with a fastball that is plus at times, touching 94 mph. He’s more successful when he keeps it down in the zone, which he does when he repeats his delivery well. Johnson throws a hard curve that works as an effective out pitch, missing more bats than he does with the fastball. He doesn’t use the changeup as much, but it has the potential to be at least an average pitch in the future. He throws strikes and competes very well on the mound. Assuming he’s healthy, Johnson should join a solid group of college starters who could go off the board shortly after the top tier, profiling well as a No. 3-type starter at the highest level.” Sounds like, if healthy, the Cubs got nice value at 43.

56. The Chicago Cubs take Paul Blackburn out of Heritage High School in California, and he’s apparently a “strong” commitment to Arizona State. In other words, he’s a tough sign, and is what, in years past, we would have called an “overslot” type. MLB.com’s take: “After a big performance at last summer’s Area Code Games, Blackburn has continued pitching well this spring to keep him firmly on the prospect map. The NoCal high schooler has a good fastball that hits 92 mph consistently and will touch a tick or two higher on the radar gun at times. His two secondary offerings – a curve and a changeup – both have the chance to be very effective pitches. He’s generally around the strike zone and thanks to his athleticism and sound delivery, his command should only improve with experience. The Arizona State recruit has some projectability, meaning his already pretty good stuff has room to get even better. That should get him off the board early enough to keep him from heading to Arizona.” I imagine the Cubs wouldn’t have taken him if they didn’t have a plan to sign him, so I’m sure they love his upside.

And that concludes the live coverage for the first round. Obviously we’ll have A LOT more on these three players tomorrow and in the coming weeks. And, a reminder, things don’t end tonight – there are still two more days of Draft coverage on Tuesday and Wednesday.

  • nkniacc

    IMO I think the Cubs take Almora or Correa unless either both are gone or Gilito is willing to sign for Cubs slot price.
    Houston Appel
    Minny Buxton
    Seattle Zunino
    baltimore Gausman
    Kansas City Zimmer

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I think Seattle surprises and takes Correa.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        So do I.

        • Cub Style

          Keith Law said in his Mock Draft 4.0 that he seems to be their pick.

      • gabriel

        I agree I think Seattle would be foolish to pass on Correa (but I hope they do!). He is A-Rod’s heir apparent and the shortstops they have are garbage

  • djriz

    Ok Brett,
    Who’s your pick?
    Who do you think Epstein’s pick will be?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      For me, I like them this way (of guys with a reasonable chance of falling):

      1. Gausman
      2a. Correa
      2b. Zimmer
      2c. Zunino (very hard for me to separate those three)
      5. Almora
      6. Fried

      I’m not complaining about any of them, though. I also wouldn’t even complain if the Cubs took someone like Wacha to save a little money – I think it would suggest some exciting picks later in the Draft.

      • djriz

        Good list. I think something is going south for Zimmer, so he may fall.
        Otherwise, any of the others would be acceptable. (like I really have a choice!)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      As for Epstein, I still think it’s going to be Almora. So very much smoke.

  • nkniacc

    I think Minny may take correa they had him up saturday for a visit if that’s the case things could get very interesting

  • morgan

    thought it was 5 ct not 6 ct

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Pre-program on MLBN (and MLB.com) started at 5pm CT. Draft, itself, starts at 6pm CT.

  • nkniacc

    Be interesting to see if Houston doesn’t take Appel where they go and where Appel falls

  • Kyle

    I’ve really got my heart set on Almora at this point. I’m not even that sold on Correa. Too much of his hype is upside and not current ability.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      That is certainly a correct assessment. Almora is far more “polished,” they say.

  • Cheryl

    If he’s there, I agree Epstein takes Almora, but I think he’ll be gone as will Correa. Should they be, who will Epdtein take?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      That would mean three from Zunino, Fried, Appel, Gausman, and Zimmer would be available.  Take your pick.

      • Cub Style

        I had a bit of a falling out with Zimmer. His bust factor has become significantly higher in the past days. And since I think Zunino is the better pick over Freid and that Gausman and Appel won’t fall, Zunino is my pick there.

    • Cub Style

      Zunino

  • rbreeze

    Very much smoke in every draft wheter its baseball or football.  Keep the other guy guessing.

    I would love Correa to be the guy.  Almora would be my second.  But if neither is there then let it be Fried!  A young lefty with number 1 starter stuff may be hard to pass up.

  • Andrew

    Crossing my fingers somehow zunino falls…desperately need a big time catcher prospect

    • nkniacc

      See im not that interested in Zunino. I think he can handle a pitching staff pretty well but im not sold with his bat and if im taking someone at 6 I have to get both the bat and glove

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I think he falls, but I don’t think the Cubs take him.

  • Andrew

    Zunino will be in the big leagues by 2014 guaranteed

  • nkniacc

    I think there will be a few players taken 10-20 that will surprise people as they will take signablity of talent if thats the case and the Cubs can get whoever they take at 6 to sign for slot it will create an oppertunity to take an under slot and and over slot player in sup rd

  • Andrew

    Luke. Why don’t you think cubs would take zunino? Just curious your reasoning

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      The Cubs seem to be higher on both Almora and Fried.

      Zunino has a lot of fans, but he is falling for a reason.  Teams are not as high on this guy as they were three weeks ago.  He could go as low as 8 – 10.

      • nkniacc

        He struggled a bit with the bat in SEC play this year

      • JulioZuleta

        A guy drafted #6 overall has got to have a superstar ceiling. I don’t think Zuninno will approach superstardom. He may be th safest pick, but I’ll be pretty disappointed if that’s where we go.

        • Cub Style

          #1 is a super star, not 6.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    For anyone watching the pre-draft program on MLBN … these interviews with the high school kids are almost always so painful. The kids are so freaking nervous.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Yeah… I’m still watching the Ubisoft press conference from E3.  Lots more entertaining, I’m sure.

  • nkniacc

    What would the Cubs do if the draft plays out like this
    1 Houston Appel
    2 Twins Correa
    3 M’s Almora
    4 baltimore Fried
    5 KC Gausman

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      I suspect they’d take Zimmer in that scenario.

      • Cub Style

        I would think they’d go Buxton there.

        • Richard Nose

          Did Buxton get in a car accident in this scenario?

          • nkniacc

            no its just some rumours flotaing about and most assume Buxton going in top 3 but what if he didn’t?

            • Richard Nose

              Then you draft him immediately

              • Cub Style

                He’s got 80 speed and a 70 hit future tool. I’d pass out if we got him.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          Wow, yeah, I went to sleep on that one.  If Buxton is on the board, the Cubs will likely be ecstatic to take him.

          • Cub Style

            Yea, I missed him for a second too.

  • nkniacc

    Wonder how far Appel falls if he doesn’t go number 1 especially if he wants 6 million

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Goldstein is saying there is no chance Gausman will be on the board at No 6.  Given some weird rumors regarding KC right now, that probably means he won’t fall past Baltimore.  He was a long shot at 6 anyway.

  • Andrew

    Catchers are extremely scarce to find an elite one, you get a chance to get one I believe you have to jump on it. Don’t believe a thing you hear about who the cubs are interested in. Why would Epstein tip his hand??? I think he understands the importance of a real catcher prospect and will snatch up zunino if available

  • nkniacc

    See I think he may take Mathisen with a Supp pick if hes going to take a catcher tonight

  • Cheryl

    Brett, I’ll end up commenting here. Can’t get into the Message Board again.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Can’t sign in? You registered, right?

      (and it’s OK to comment here, obviously)

      • Cheryl

        No. It automatically says I can’t comment. I had signed in before.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          If you’re signed in (see upper righthand corner, look for your name, or instead, if it says “sign in”), you should be able to comment. Your registration is all complete, so it’s just a matter of being signed in.

    • Cheryl

      OK. Got in. Thanks.

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

    Profile on Almora on MLBN right now.

    • Rick Vaughn

      I want this guy to be the pick.

      • Matt Ice

        Extremely well rounded kid

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        The intangibles are off the charts with Almora.  He’s as safe a high school pick a team can hope to find.

        • Matt Ice

          That swing comp they just did to Braun was nice as well

    • beerhelps

      Very impressive make up with him …. sounds like if his tools are close to his head and determination he’ll be a solid pick.

  • KidCubbie

    How bout Almora, Jackson, and Soler for an outfield? Is that too much to ask? With Rizzo raking at 1B.

  • nkniacc

    any teams other that Angles not have a pick today or did I miss them in the order?

  • nkniacc

    Correa maybe going 1?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Could.  He’s certainly in the mix.

  • Toby

    Watching the Almora piece on MLB TV was heartbreaking when they talked about his grandparents. He seems to be an exceptional young man and a good ballplayer.

  • Jzwizard

    I am a MLB draft noob. How long does each team have to draft?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Five minutes.

  • AD

    I think the Cubs take Fried unless Correa is still on the board. Cubs need good young pitching, especially left-handers.

  • ShootTheGoat

    Was wanting Correa but after that video, I think I’m leaning towards Almora. Lol

  • Jesse

    Almora or Correa.

  • nkniacc

    Someone that can watch please post the picks as they happen atleast till Cubs pick please

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      I’ll be doing that. It does say “LIVE,” after all.

  • nkniacc

    I figured just wanted to make sure

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