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.”
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.