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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.

  • Kyle

    So many posts, so many page views. I’m imagining Brett grinning and counting his money like Peggy Olson.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      My mentor once throw a fistful of cash in my face. I never forgot it.

      • Cubbie Blues

        Last year there were 43 responses. This year as of right now there are 423. Congrats Brett on the site really taking off.

  • calicubsfan007

    Who are the Cubs pursuing in the comp round? Hopefully, a pitcher?

  • KC

    I hear appel refusing to talk to Pittsburgh media? oh on!

    • Billy

      As a displaced Cub fan living in Pittsburgh I find that very ammusing

    • calicubsfan007

      I AM BETTER THAN ALL OF YOU!!!! BOW TO ME!!!!!- Mark Appel

  • Roy Hobbs

    Im torn about the cubs pick. I think Almora will be a good, maybe above average outfielder, but when the best pitcher in the draft falls in their lap, it’s hard to justify not taking him when we have zero elite pitching prospects in their farm system.

    Screw the money, if he is the real deal, I’d sacrifice being able to sign one or two other fringe players later in the draft.

    I have no idea what Appels ceiling is but I’ve read Verlander, and if he pans out like that it’s gonna really suck watching him beat us with the pirates the next 10-15 yrs.

    I can’t help but remember when the cubs passed on Clemens. I can’t remember who they took, but that’s probably because he didn’t pan out.

    That Clemens guy sure did alright tho.

    Man I’m gonna be sick if Appel turns out to be an Ace.

    • Billy

      His ceiling is not Verlander. Not even close. He will be middle of the rotation at best, and putting your entire on draft on one guy is not smart, no matter who the player is

      • Hawkeye

        Nobody but “Billy” projects Appell as a middle of the rotation starter at best. He projects as an ace, that being said its the MLB draft so who knows how he’ll turn out.

    • Jimmy James

      highly doubt he will be a pirate….but we shall see

    • Adam

      You dont remember? They took Jackie Davidson. Duh

  • Kyle

    ESPN scouting/draft guru asked in chat who the best player from this draft will be in seven years, and he says “Gimme Almora all day long.” Guys at NSBB say this ESPN guys is good, so that’s cool.

    • Cubs Dude

      Kyle, who have you heard Almora compared too? They said Adam Jones earlier.. That be alright.

      • Can’t think of a cool name

        I’ve read, Carlos Beltran. The more I read about Almora the more I like. I didn’t know he was Manny Machado cousin. Good baseball genes in the family.

        • calicubsfan007

          I’ll take Beltran any day of the week. I am glad we didnt take Appel. What a jerk.

          • Can’t think of a cool name

            Agree, not a bad ceiling.

      • Kyle

        I heard that one too.

        I’m so focused on the Cubs lately that I can’t help but think of Brett Jackson with a hit tool, better all-around athleticism, and a little less power.

        • Drew7

          That’d be great. If he can show the same plate discipline as Jackson even w less power id be really happy.

          • Can’t think of a cool name

            I forgot what what website I read it on (I googled 2012 MLB Draft Almora), but it said his plate discipline is really good. Something like 14 walks in 95 at bats and oly 3 strikeouts. I’m probably wrong on the figures but it was pretty impressive even for high school.

            • Kyle

              Baseball America had him rated as the third-best plate discipline of any high school hitter in this draft.

              It’s always a crapshoot how HS plate discipline translates to the pros, but he’s faced a lot of elite competition in the Team USA stuff he’s done. I don’t know if his plate discipline will be great, but it might be, and I really doubt it’ll be awful.

  • KC

    I am so happy the Cubs didnt take Appel now! Wow way to go

  • cubchymyst

    The cubs team website says Almora is represented by Scott Boras. Anyone think this means there is no way for the cubs sign him for under slot?

    • calicubsfan007

      Oh, to be a fly on the wall with the Theo/ Boras negotiations… World War III

  • Smitty

    question about Pirates and CBA. Let’s say they cannot sign Appel(which seems very possible), I know they will get the #9 pick next year, but do they get to use the rest of that money on the rest of their draft? If they can, then didn’t they figure out a way to work the draft?

    • nkniacc

      They can’t they lose that money slot

    • wvcubsfan

      I think they lose that portion of their pool

    • Kyle

      They can’t use that money. It’s subtracted from their pool. If you could get the pool money *and* take a free pick next year, it’d be way to overpowered. No one would want to sign their first-rounders.

  • Drew7

    Whats the report on Gallo? Seems like he has quite a bit of power

  • KC

    I am thinking I want Smoral…

  • Billy

    The Astros have a really good draft. Was hopping McCullers would drop 2 more spots

    • nkniacc

      especially with Correa likely signing under slot which should allow them to get McCullers signed

  • beerhelps

    of course they go to commercial when the cubs are up

    edit….well nevermind

  • KC

    lol commercial

  • chirogerg

    Cubs take Pierce Johnson

    • Billy

      I don’t understand that pick at all

    • nkniacc

      I like it 3 decent pitches with a fastball that sits around 94 and a hard curve not bad I wonder as he was moving up boards before the strain if he signs for under slot

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Not a guy I had targeted, but good value.  Throws hard, has some good stuff.  Fell due to an arm strain, but projects as a potential No. 3 starter.  I can’t complain.

      • Serious Cubs Fan

        Disappointed. I wanted smoral. Anyone who still has #1 or #2 potential?

    • calicubsfan007

      What’s he expected to be? Front line starter, middle, or back end starter?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Mid rotation guy.

        • Kyle

          It’s way too early in his career to be thinking this way, but I see touching 94 with two plus pitchers, I think “reliever.” And not in a bad way.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            At 6’3″ he’s got the size scouts like to see in a starter.  He could go either way, though.

            • Kyle

              It’s just that “touching 94″ on draft day always seems to turn into “working at 90-91″ by the time they reach the majors as starters. He’s got a legit out-pitch breaking ball and working from the pen could keep his fastball plus where it needs to be.

    • Billy

      All that said, JedStein have a way better track record than I do in drafts so I’m behind it, as unsexy as it was.

  • Roy Hobbs

    You’re probably right Billy.

    All I’m saying is, I really hope you are right.

    • Billy

      Even if he is Verlander, would you want him surrounded by a bunch of Barney’s or have a lesser pitcher with better position players around him?

  • Josh

    This guy’s comparison is Drew Storen. I’ve never heard of him, therefore that’s not a good thing. His ERA isn’t anything special either. Oh well I guess that’s why Theo and Jed make bank and I make minimum wage.

    • chirogerg

      Do you even watch baseball, how can you not know who Drew Storen is. I think he was an all-star and was among the league leaders in saves for the nats

    • calicubsfan007

      If thats true, I am glad we got Johnson then.

  • KC

    Do they go after Pierce because they think he might sign for cheaper with Almora having Boras as his agent?

    • Billy

      I’m guessing. Maybe they think one Wood or Smoral drop to their next pick and can sign them more easily

  • Luke D

    My boy Jankowski goes one pick after the Cubs. Oh well.

  • Kyle

    He’s a college pitcher who was projected to go as high as the low 20s before a forearm strain.

    The concern for me is that sometimes a forearm strain is just a forearm strain, and sometimes it’s a weakened elbow showing itself.

  • calicubsfan007

    Heres the guys basic scouting report from MLB.com:

    6’03” 175lbs DOB: 05/10/91 | Full Scouting Report
    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.

  • chirogerg

    Let’s get Jake Barrett, a close to MLB-ready reliever

  • Steve

    As this is a PG board, I won’t unleash my string of profanity I most certainly want to. Why would we pass on Appel??
    This guy had better be the next Willie Mays. I’m serious. I’m pissed.

    • Billy

      Once again, Appell is not the next Roger Clemens. Many scouts had Almora as the best prospect in the draft. And if he takes up your entire draft pool, you wasted your entire draft. Remember when the Saints made Ricky Williams their entire draft? How’d that turn out?

    • Drew7

      Why are you upset with it?

  • Justin5183

    As an MSU alum who has seen Pierce Johnson pitch, we got a really good one here. Maybe I’m a homer, but I think this guy is solid major league starter in the relative near future.

    • calicubsfan007

      Do you see him being incredibly solid to great starter in the majors?

  • Joker

    Hey, the Peguin looked great! Hard to believe that was Ron Cey – looked trim and with a ton of hair.

    • beerhelps

      and a Jim Sundberg sighting! thats cool too.

  • Kyle

    Any chance we can re-draft that Ben Klafcynski kid? I heard he was a college All-American.

  • Steve

    Again… Please tell me why we didn’t just take Appel???? I had to record this draft and was on the edge of my couch when Kimmer and Appel were falling….
    Please make me feel better about this. I’m drinking very heavily now.

    • Kyle

      Because our front office thinks Almora is a better prospect.

  • chirogerg

    Ryan Franklin just looks like he wants to cry when he goes up to the podium

    • Joker

      Sad, huh?

  • Carew

    Cubs should consider Max Schrock, high schooler from North Carolina. One of the best players ive ever seen. Nice guy too. Plays 2B, SS, OF

    The only thing is he’s committed to South Carolina

  • Justin5183

    If I can make the comparison between two MSU pitchers, I think Pierce Johnson can project about on Shaun Marcum’s level as a major league pitcher. Maybe not an ace, but certainly a number two or three.

    • calicubsfan007

      I wouldnt mind that. We need plenty of pitchers.

  • calicubsfan007

    MLBTV could have picked a better picture of the guy that the Phillies just drafted…

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