Well, it was a late and exciting night last night, when the Cubs selected high school outfielder Albert Almora with their first selection in the 2012 MLB Draft (sixth overall), and then college pitcher Pierce Johnson (43rd overall) and high school pitcher Paul Blackburn (56th overall). And, while they may be among the highest rated prospects selected by the Cubs in this year’s Draft, they are just the tip of the iceberg. Rounds two through fifteen will go today over the next few hours.
Anthony Rizzo is pretty roundly considered the Cubs’ top prospect at this point. But where was he five years ago? He was being drafted by Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod in the sixth round of the Draft, and signing for $325,000.
The point? There is some seriously important talent at stake in these middle rounds. There are a number of first round/supplemental round-caliber talents left on the board, including guys like Tanner Rahier, Chris Beck, Anthony Alford, Hunter Virant, and Ty Buttrey, among many, many others. The nice thing for the Cubs? A great deal of the best available talent is on the pitching side.
Things get underway at 11am CT, and you can watch a stream at MLB.com.
We’ll cover the picks here live. 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, and here are the Cubs’ picks in round order (I’ll be updating as the Draft goes along):
2. Duane Underwood, RHP, Pope HS (GA) – One of the youngest pitchers in the Draft, Underwood is a high upside, raw prospect. I’m glad the Cubs went this route with one of their early picks. He’s 6’2″, 205 lbs, so he’s already a big kid. Here’s MLB.com’s take: “Underwood is everything you’d want from a high school pitcher: athletic with arm strength, a chance to have three at least Major League-average pitches and outstanding mound presence.The Georgia product will sit in the low 90s with his fastball typically, but he can reach back for 95-96 mph occasionally. His secondary offerings aren’t as good as the fastball, but both his curve and changeup have a chance. When he throws them right, his curve can have a very good 12-to-6 late break and his changeup can be very deceptive. He doesn’t throw either consistently right now and he does have some issues with command at times. His poise, knowledge of the game and athleticsm say he’ll continue to evolve as a pitcher, meaning he could start moving up charts this spring.”
3. Ryan McNeil, RHP, Nipomo HS (CA) – Another high school pitcher for the Cubs (that’s three in a row). He’s 6’3″, 210 lbs, so, yes, he’s another big kid, who throws hard. The Cubs certainly have a type early in this Draft (and it’s exactly what they said they wanted). I’m a little surprised that they haven’t taken a lefty yet, though. McNeil was apparently worked out by the Cubs some time ago, so he was obviously on their radar. He was also telling teams that he was “pretty interested in signing,” so it’s fair to wonder if the Cubs might have known they could sign him easily.
4. Josh Conway, RHP, Coastal Carolina U. – Another right-handed pitcher for the Cubs, but there’s a twist here: not only is he a college pitcher, but he also just had Tommy John surgery. Apparently he was a big-time draft prospect until he went down the elbow injury. From MLB.com: “In the smaller Big South Conference, Coastal Carolina has built a pretty good program that saw four players get drafted and sign in 2011. This year, it could have been Conway’s turn before an elbow injury ended his season and required Tommy John surgery. Once a two-way player, Conway gave up hitting completely to focus on the mound in 2012 and it was paying off. Coastal Carolina’s Friday starter, he’s a bit of an undersized right-hander, but one with a pretty good three-pitch mix. A good athlete on the mound, he throws a fastball, slider and changeup, all of which have the chance to be solid average offerings. Without truly overpowering stuff, he’ll have to continue to improve his command and keep hitters off-balance. Pre-injury, he had the chance to join teammate (and 2011 second-round pick) Anthony Meo as a fairly early Draft pick. Now a team will have to be willing to draft him and let him rehab under its watchful eye.” It will be interesting to see how much money he’ll take to sign, given that it’s pretty much a lottery ticket for the Cubs, and it would be hard for him to improve his Draft stock by returning to college for his senior year when he might not be able to pitch.
5. Anthony Prieto, LHP, Americas HS (TX) – Finally, a left-handed pitcher. Prieto is a smaller guy (5’11” 170 lbs), who’s apparently new to pitching. He was at the tail end of BA’s top 500 draft prospects, so it makes you wonder if this is a kid the Cubs have spoken to, and believe they can sign for under slot.
6. Trey Lang, RHP, Gateway CC (Arizona) – Another hard-throwing right-handed pitcher for the Cubs, Lang is a top 200 draft prospect, and one who will probably be signing right around slot, if not a touch under. He’s a converted outfielder, so there isn’t much polish. As with many of the other pitchers, it’s all about his upside.
7. Stephen Bruno, 3B, University of Virginia – Hey, a positional player! Bruno was not considered a consensus top 300/400 type prospect in the Draft, so this pick could be a bit about trying to sign a player under slot (though Bruno is not a senior, he’s a junior). Bruno’s played around the infield, but missed the 2011 season with an injury. He’s a smaller guy – 5’9″ 165 lbs, but he had great numbers at Virginia this year (.370/.424/.559). Sounds like a vintage Theo/Jed/Jason pick.
8. Michael Heesch, LHP, University of South Carolina-Beaufort – Another pitcher, but this one is a college senior. That is the kind of guy you’d expect to be an underslot target at this point in the Draft. That’s not to say the Cubs don’t like him, but he doesn’t have much leverage. Sounds like Heesch is also a local boy, who pitched a couple years at the University of Illinois-Chicago. Yeah, all in all, I’m think this one saves the Cubs some money.
9. Chadd Krist, C, University of California-Berkeley – The Cubs take another college senior. Krist is a relatively light-hitting catcher, and I don’t think the Cubs view him as, for example, a Geovany Soto (or even Steve Clevenger/Welington Castillo) replacement in a few years. He’ll be depth at the position, and the Cubs will see what happens. They’ll also probably sign him for underslot.
10. Chad Martin, RHP, Indiana University – The Cubs go back to a pitcher, and it’s another college senior. Martin split time in the rotation and in the bullpen, but wasn’t particularly impressive (by the stats) in a lesser league. Once again, I’d say the Cubs are looking to save some money. Where they plan on using it remains to be seen. I don’t mean to tell you that some of the earlier pitchers they took won’t require overslot money, mind you. It just doesn’t look that way to me on a first glance.
11. Rashad Crawford, CF, Mundy’s Mill HS (GA) – As I’d hoped, the Cubs go with a high schooler in the 11th round, but I haven’t yet been able to determine whether he’s a “tough to sign” type of high schooler. I’m guessing he is, based on the placement (then again, he’s committed to Tallahassee Community College, which is fine, but not the kind of powerhouse baseball school you tend to fear when trying to sign a kid). Looks like he was the Georgia 4-AAAA player of the year, and has been compared to a “more advanced Lorenzo Cain.”
12. Justin Amlung, RHP, University of Louisville – Another college
senior junior (redshirt), but, given his placement in the Draft, the Cubs must actually just like him a lot. He’s the 288th ranked prospect according to BA, so there you go. He had great numbers this year. Now that I see he’s a redshirt junior, he might be a tough sign.
13. Bijan Rademacher, OF, Orange Coast College (CA) – The number 445 Draft prospect, according to BA, Rademacher was at Cal State Fullerton last year, but now is at Orange Coast, which is a Juco. I’m not sure of the story.
14. Corbin Hoffner, RHP, St. Petersburg College (FL) – Another Juco selection, Hoffner is a tall righty (6’5″) who put up huge numbers in his league. He’s also quite young for a “college” draftee – he doesn’t turn 19 until the end of July.
15. Carlos Escobar, C, University of Nevada-Reno – BA had Escobar ranked 448 in the Draft. He’s a junior who put up decent, but not overwhelming numbers this past year.