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stanford mark appelFor a while now, based on comments by virtually every member of the Chicago Cubs’ front office, the strategy for the number two pick in the June draft has been clear: if there’s a sure-fire, can’t-miss-stud college arm available at number two, the Cubs will take him. If not, they’ll take the best position player on their board. The latter group is likely to include high school outfielders Austin Meadow and Clint Frazier, and possibly college bat Kris Bryant.

But what about the former group? Who are the college pitchers that could be so overwhelmingly good – and relatively safe (relative is the key modifier there) – that the Cubs might consider going for a pitcher? Well, I think you probably already know the names – Stanford righty Mark Appel, Indiana State lefty Sean Manaea, and Oklahoma righty Jonathan Gray (a living example, by the way, of why I don’t speculate on the draft until the amateur season actually starts – Gray was not a possible top two pick on anyone’s board until the last month; this happens every year).

Are any of those three going to be good enough, sure enough, for the Cubs to pull the trigger?

Well, the good news, if you’re hoping the Cubs draft a college arm, is that Keith Law says there are now two clear top-tier college arms in the draft – Appel and Gray. Since the Cubs pick second, that means they’re guaranteed to get one, if they want.

“I think Gray is the alternative to Appel at 1-1 right now,” Law said in a recent chat (h/t to BN’er Coop). “Cubs fans should be most excited about Gray, because his emergence would mean, today, that they are guaranteed to get a top-tier college starter who projects as at least a good #2.”

There’s still a ways to go until the draft, but the emergence of another top college arm is good news for the Cubs. Pitching options in the draft would be a good thing, even as the organization recognizes that draft to a need is almost always a mistake. Of course, in this instance, Appel, for example, is believed to be ready to contribute at the big league level as soon as 2014. The Cubs could obviously use that.

As for the front office, they’re sticking to their story, with Scouting and Player Development Chief Jason McLeod telling Patrick Mooney that the organization still sees positional players as slightly less risky at the top of the draft.

“If we go that route [selecting a pitcher at number two], hopefully our guy turns into that [Justin Verlander] kind of guy. But if you look back at the draft, you’ll also see a lot of guys that went 1, 2, 3 that were pitchers and kind of just had mediocre careers. So pitching comes from everywhere. Typically, [with] your position players, the star guys come at the top of the draft.”

McLeod added that the organization has spent a lot of time following Appel this year, and “we will continue to.” Mooney says that Theo Epstein recently scouted Gray, himself.

  • Jeff

    Nice piece Brett!

  • Stevie B

    I’m sorry, but when I see a pitcher named Mark and a red hat, I get all teary eyed.

    Mr. Prior, you broke my heart.

  • JR

    Too bad the Cubs can’t trade for draft picks. That would be ideal. So many variables to consider at #2. Even though Appel is a senior, do the Cubs really want to pay a lot over slot when there may be others that are close to his level? Boras is crazy enough to have Appel play in a Independant league somewhere. And if you don’t have a pre-arranged deal how can you take chances on others later in the draft. I am not really all about waiting for another outfielder until 2017/2018 unless they are off the charts either. Plus, it would seem the front office will be under a ton of pressure to make the playoffs in 2015 since they tanked the other years. Tough call for sure…

    • BT

      I don’t see what going the independent league route gets him though. Unless it somehow exempts Appel from next year’s draft, he will be in the exact same boat with the exact same parameters next year, except that teams will be less likely to take him in the top 2 after he spends a year pitching in the independent league rather than in college. He will be picked by a team that has to spend slot money on him or risk losing draft picks, just like this year. At some point, Boras is going to have to accept that this is the new system, and until he has another talent along the lines of Harper or Strasburg, he won’t be able to break it.

    • Marc N.

      Trading down would not help the Cubs. It is much harder to land a premium talent as you move down in the MLB draft, and the Cubs could use someone who is close and highly talented.

  • Kramden

    I agree…. Pitchers come from everywhere.

    But I’ll add that All-Star positional players are more likely to come from the top of the draft than All-Star pitchers without the greater risk of arm/shoulder injury early in their professional careers.

    If I were the Cubs and Houston went for a pitcher, I’d definitely go for the top non-pitcher

  • DocPeterWimsey

    Has anybody tallied the histories of guys like Gray (i.e., rapidly rise in value in their last college season) with guys like Appel (i.e., guys who would have been high round draft picks in earlier years)?

    All else being equal, I would put more stock in an Appel than a Gray, but (and as others have noted) pitchers are so much more easily derailed by injuries than position players that there might not be a pattern.

    • BluBlud

      Has Gray ever been a non prospect is the question? He may not have been a top prospect, or he may be an unknown to us, but I’m sure guys like Theo and Jason have known his name for a while. So while his rise seem sudden to us, I’m sure some scouts somewhere probably had a conversation about his rising stock 2 or 3 years ago.

      • cedlandrum

        He was considered a mid to late first rounder before the season.

      • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

        This year will be his 3rd time being drafted.
        His velocity has increased, but it wasn’t out of the blue…it was little by little over a few years.
        I am hoping for him over Appel at this point, but will happily take Appel….who reminds me of Gerrit Cole in that he wasn’t as effective his junior year despite having the best stuff.

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

      Same way I feel. Just like Manaea had everyone’s attention for a few months and then has started to fade, I don’t trust helium guys. I won’t complain if we get Gray because he does sound pretty amazing, but would strongly prefer Appel.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        heh, “helium guy” is a great way to refer to it. At this age, we expect guys to be improving rapidly still. However, the small sample sizes involved are small, and a good stretch could just be good fortune. In a way, it’s no different from choosing between a Reliever A who “got it together” last year (take two grains of salt and wait a coupe of years!) vs. Reliever B who has had it together for 3 years running, even if never as spectacularly as A did last year: I know which one I trust to repeat the success later.

        (The difference gets back to the improvement slope: we really do expect that at the college level.)

  • Rebuilding

    It’s interesting that all three of Theo, Hoyer and McLeod have recently gone out of their way to talk about their drafting philosophy. You don’t often hear the level of specificity regarding hitter/pitcher, college/high school. I get the sense that they really want a can’t miss, college bat at 2, but given our huge disparity of bats to arms and the way this draft is shaking out they are going to have to go with either Appel or Gray. Bryant could be the kind of guy they have a preference for (college bat), but it seems really up in the air whether he’ll stick at third (Law says 25%). I would be shocked if we took either of the high school guys – Frazier or Meadows

    • Rebuilding

      Btw – If The Cubs scouts think Bryant can stay at 3rd then I would take him. He has a great approach, tremendous power and would prob start in AA. A potential Rizzo/Baez/Castro/Bryant infield is just sick

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        I’d be fine taking him as an outfielder.

        • Rebuilding

          Yeah, I’ve heard that LF might be a legitimate option

        • http://Noclue Marc N.

          A lot less appealing though. LFers are relatively easy to find and aren’t super expensive on the FA market, but a 3B is a much different story.

        • nkniacc13

          If they take an OF it has to be Medows or Frazier unless you consider Bryant in the OF instead of 3rd

        • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

          I wouldn’t. The projections I’m seeing for him just don’t scream “No. 2 pick” to me.

          • nkniacc13

            who doesnt scream “No 2″ pick

            • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

              Bryant

              • Rebuilding

                Out of curiosity – why are you a little more anti-Bryant than the consensus, Kyle. Not that Bryant is consensus top 2 but judging by your comments I sense you are a little more negative than most

                • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

                  Honestly, I don’t think I am. I think some fans have misread the scouting consensus that Bryant can be a top-5 pick for Bryant being a viable No. 2.

                  Here’s what Callis had to say about him last week:

                  http://www.baseballamerica.com/today/draft/chat/2013/2614890.html

                  “I think he’s an easy first-rounder, could be the first or second college bat drafted. I’d project him as 55 bat, 65 power, 45 run, 60 arm, 40 defender at 3B, 50 defender in RF.”

                  55/65 bat just doesn’t seem like enough to me for a No. 2 overall pick. i’d settle for it if no one was distinguishing themselves, but I think Gray, Appel, and both the HS OFers should easily be ahead of him right now.

                  • Rebuilding

                    That makes sense. I would hope the front office would never take this into account, but he is also a righty. That would leave 5/6 top hitting regulars/prospects as righties Castro, Baez, Soler, Almora, Bryant (if) and lefty Rizzo. Obviously if they think he is BPA that should make no difference, but we are sitting pretty right handed from a projection point

                  • nkniacc13

                    Kyle I totally agree with you on Bryant. I think the 4 you named and Manena and maybe Wilson would be picked ahead of Bryant

      • Rebuilding

        One of the things that would concern me about Bryant is the level of competition he has feasted on. I don’t have it right in front of me, but I did see a list of how he’s fared against some of the top arms on the west coast (including Appel) and it was pretty poor. I don’t know enough about San Diego’s schedule to say, but I would assume its a lower caliber than the PAC 12

        • nkniacc13

          I dont think the Pac12 is real good this year but I do think its a little better not much than the WCC that bryant plays in

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    I need to watch some more video of Gray. I like what I’ve seen, but I haven’t had a chance to see much yet.

    And I probably need to watch more Appel videos as well. He looks like a very solid, safe pick to me, but don’t see No 1 / No 2 upside there.

    • BluBlud

      Appel is not an Ace. I have been saying this for a while. he is a sure bet to make the Majors relatively quick, and will be a solid middle of the rotation starter. I think he has such high stock because he is almost a sure bet to be solid, but i doubt he is a true Ace.

      • Rebuilding

        You may well be right. There have been questions about Appel in the past regarding why the results didnt quite match up with the stuff. He has been pretty hittable in his first three years. This year, however, he seems to have turned a corner

        • http://www.viewfromthebleachers.com Norm

          Same questions regarding Gerrit Cole and here he is, a top 10 prospect in the game…
          Amateur draft is a case where you have to trust the scouts over the stats.

  • BluBlud

    I just watched some video of Gray and read a few scouting reports. The guy has a nasty fastball and a nice Slurve, but apparently, those are his only 2 pitches. If he develops another off speed pitch like a changeup, this guy will be a true number 1. He is very interesting. I’m not on the bandwagon yet, but he is someone to keep an eye on.

  • MightyBear

    That’s one rule I think baseball should adopt that football and basketall have and that is the ability to trade draft picks. I think that would make it even more interesting for teams, GMs and the fans.

    • BluBlud

      I like baseball’s rule. I think the rule should be you can’t trade a player until he has a year of service time in MLB, for my personal preference. I know it will never happen, but I like that evry team has a pick in every round. Nothing like hearing about the upcoming NBA draft, when you team has no pick and they traded what would have been a top 10 pick for some one like Steve Blake.

      • Demarrer

        But in that case that is the front office’s fault. Trading draft picks really does not have a negative side. It just gives every team more creativity and flexibility within their club. Why teams cannot trade draft picks yet just shows how out of touch Bud Selig really is. Man he is terrible.

        • BluBlud

          I don’t think Bud is all that bad. And I don’t Bud really has the final say so. If the owners want it, then Bud has no choice but to include it. I don’t think the owners want it. could you inmagine a baseball trade in Strasburg’s pick could have been traded. Washington might have gotten 10 picks for the guy. Or could you inmagine a small market team with a gready owner and no desire to win selling his top picks to the Yankees year after year for cash consideration, so so he can add millions to his bottom line. It would be a really bad Idea.

      • http://Noclue Marc N.

        I would hate that rule. Trading prospects is a big deal for a lot of teams and a key to the trade world in general. If you can’t peddle bull shyte then what can be peddled? Have to imagine no team would want that.

        • BluBlud

          Yeah, I know it would never happen. I just said for my personal preference. Plus, that rule would destroy a team like Tampa. That is pretty much the only way they can compete. Developing players and maximizing those players on team controlled contracts and then flipping those players at the right time for more prospect. But allowing teams to trade draft picks would be a giant mistake for baseball.

  • Austin

    Does anyone really think that the Astros won’t pick the hometown kid at #1? Appel is as good as gone to the Astros, and I’m not sure I’m that mad about it. I mean, the kid is great, but he’s pitching his collegiate senior year this year and will be like 23 or 24 by the team he gets to next year’s spring training. I’d much rather take a kid similar to Paul Blackburn, who has really high upside and is only 18 or 19. He will have 4 or 5 years to develop in the minors, and then he can get to the show at 23 or 24.

    • Rebuilding

      I think people question the Astros picking him at #1 given their strategy last year (signing Correa under slot) and no one knowing if there is bad blood between them and Boras over Appel last year. Obviously his leverage is totally different this year, although Boras will know that they HAVE to sign the #1 overall. He may just demand their whole pool forcing them to sign nothing but minimum guys in the rest of the top ten rounds

    • JR

      Well, they made it pretty clear they didn’t want to play Boras’s games last year and passed. Why would this year be different? Is Boras willing to have Appel sign a lot cheaper this year than he would have last year? I doubt it, even with Appel being a senior.. Plus the Astros aren’t going to be competitive until 2017 at the earliest. They are so far away that a high school bat makes perfect sense for them over a pitcher who can help right away.

      • Grant

        I think the main reason the Astros don’t take Appel comes down to his age/readiness. In taking Appel, they’d be paying a premium for someone who’s ready to be a starter in the majors in 12 months or so. With the Astros’ rebuild being a year or two behind the Cubs’, it doesn’t make sense for them to draft a guy who will be ready that soon, particularly with his comparatively lower ceiling.

        That said, with the possibility that Gray is available, I don’t know that the Cubs take Appel either. Apart from the whole Boras issue, you also have to keep in mind that there’s already a lot of miles on Appel’s arm, and as such, he’s probably a higher injury risk. I don’t know Gray’s story very well to know if he has a similar issue or not, but it’s just good to have some options.

    • http://Noclue Marc N.

      This is so confusing. You want an 18-19 year old from HS to come up at 23-24 but you have a problem with a 22 year old coming up at 23-24? Is there a logic to it besides taking the longest and riskiest path possible to a quality pitcher at #2 overall?

      • BluBlud

        I thought the same thing, but didn’t comment.

      • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

        Because there is a better track record of position players at the top as opposed to pitchers. Very few Verlander’s at the very top of drafts. A lot of the top pitchers had questions and slid a little. The guys that don’t have many questions typically don’t have the upside to explain a top 5 pick in a draft. If you feel better of getting a Josh Hamilton type at the top vs. a Matt Garza type (easier to explain that way) you do it. If you feel the pitcher has the polish at the top with upside, of course you take him. But, you have to have both for this FO at the top of a draft.

      • D.G.Lang

        I think that the thought is that someone spending 4 years in the minors getting professional instruction in how that team wants him to play is more valuable than someone who spends four years in college playing much fewer games and probably getting less than the best training would be more valuable.

        A college player might have developed some bad habits or attitudes while the high school player might be more open to changing his approach to meet the teams doctrines.

    • Noah

      But Appel is likely to make it to the Majors at 23 or 24. Wherever he goes, Appel is likely to start the 2014 season in Double A, and if he excels there could be in the Majors mid-season 2014. If he’s not in the Majors by early June 2015 I’d be very surprised, unless something happened to his arm.

      By no means am I against picking up high ceiling high school talent, but in comparison to Appel their ceiling is going to be no higher and they are going to be far less likely to reach it.

      • http://Noclue Marc N.

        Keith Law said there’s a legit shot he can pitch in the majors this September. Optimistic but Appel put in work (seriously go ahead and find 2011 Appel and compare him physically to 2013 Appel) so not out there.

        • Noah

          I’d agree on the outside shot for Appel to be able to pitch in 2013, but presuming that either the Astros or Cubs take him there is going to be very little reason for either of those teams to rush him to the Majors at the end of the year.

          • Marc N.

            Well can’t speak for the Astros who seem to want to wait until the next decade opens, but the Cubs would be able to have more of a clue about what he needs to work on against MLers. I don’t think it’s ideal to rush him up in 2013 either, but if they think he is polished enough to get a look then I’d be down. He’s almost certainly in at least the mid-2014 picture.

    • caryatid62

      If any MLB team makes a selection of a “local kid” specifically because he’s from a town close to the team’s location, they deserve to be terrible for a long time.

      • Cryinmybluecoolaid

        I believe the Twins did pick a local guy number 1 in 2001. Mauer has worked out very well for them. The sign-ability of Prior in all honesty was more of an issue for the Twins.

  • http://Noclue Marc N.

    Really hoping for Appel, have yet to jump on the Gray wagon, probably lean Bryant over Gray if they think Bryant can play 3B.

    Last night Appel allowed (I think) one base runner after the 6th, and went the whole way for a team that had lost 6 of 7. Kendall Rogers tweeted he was 97 throughout with a high 80’s slider. They didn’t stream this start but I’ve seen his last 4 before that and seen three swing and miss pitches with a change up right on par with his slider. Better mechanics than Gray, and even as a senior at friggin Stanford he’s the same age as Stanek (a junior that started th year as a contender).

    I’ve wondered for the last year how he would be perceived if you took the focus off the money because pretty much every time I’ve seen him I have walked away impressed.

    To me Gray is closer to someone like Aaron Harang or Brad Penny than a #1 ace, but he is big shiny new and talented. His mechanics seem very meh to me, though he does get praised for repeating them. I have body type and athleticism questions on him.

    • wvcubsfan

      He’s not the same age as Stanek or he wouldn’t have been draft eligible last year. That is the entire reason Stanek didn’t go pro last year when his stock was thru the roof.

      • http://Noclue Marc N.

        Stanek missed being eligible for last year’s draft by maybe two weeks, if that. They’re both 22 in July. Appel is 6 days older.

    • Grant

      It’s that “went the whole way” part that has me worried about Appel. He’s already got a ton of innings on his arm. Actually, not just that, but also a lot of long outings as well. I really don’t want to draft another guy named Mark whose arm falls off after a couple years.

      • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

        Appel probably has the least miles on his arm of any of the major pitching choices. IIRC, he didn’t start in high school.

        • Marc N.

          Didn’t start until he was a sophomore in college according to an interview he did with BPR last year and his freshman statistics.

        • Grant

          Thanks for the clarification. Guess I need to fact-check some of the comments I read here.

          Still, don’t they have him throwing a lot of pitches per game?

          • DarthHater

            “Guess I need to fact-check some of the comments I read here.”

            Very true, unless the comment was posted by Die hard. Then, you can rest assured that it has been thoroughly researched and documented. :-P

          • Marc N.

            Last year there was alot of hub bub over a 14…something…pitch count start, but this year the highest I think he’s hit is 117.

            • Rebuilding

              Stanford’s coach has taken a lot of flak over letting Appel go over 140 pitches a couple of times last year. It’s criminal to do that and jeopardize a kids future. I guess he also has a very unique approach to hitting that doesn’t allow a leg kick and is all about going the other way

  • cubchymyst

    From what I’ve read if the Cubs do not take a college arm I’d go with Bryant. Bryant is probably the safest pick in the draft with his bat and it seems like people are starting to view him as a 3rd/OF with good power and average.

  • mdavis

    What about the AR kid? Stanek i think his name is? Has he dropped out of favor this season? That being said, I’d stay away from Appel. Manea, Gray. sound good to me.

    • Rebuilding

      Stanek has fallen this year. He was even moved back by Arkansas from the Friday night games (college aces pitch that one) to the Saturday doubleheaders. I’ve read that his fastball just doesn’t have the life you would like to see

      • wvcubsfan

        What I’ve seen is it’s all about control. Last year he was painting the black, this year it’s getting too much of the plate. He really didn’t take off last year until the later portion of the season either, so there is still time.

    • cedlandrum

      Stanek has huge upside, but he is a risk because he has some repeatable delivery issues.

      • Cub Style

        I don’t know about huge upside. He’s a projectable #2. Manaea is the one with the upside.

        • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

          I don’t think Manaea has an upside edge on Appel.

          Scouting has a lot of weird ideosyncrasies in the jargon.

          In scouting terms, there’s only a few (maybe 6-8) “No. 1″ pitchers. A “No. 2″ pitcher is in the tier behind those guys, even if they would be the best pitcher on the majority of teams.

          Appel projects as a strong No. 2. Not a Strasburg or a Verlander, but darn near as good.

        • cedlandrum

          The problem that we have is that we think the only ones with huge upside are number 1’s. I would think Garza was a huge upside guy and he is only a number 2. Really just a matter of perception. Really good number 2’s are way undervalued at this point.

        • Marc N.

          Sickels was just talking the other day about how calling someone a #2 starter gets treated like an insult to overzealous, fairly new prospect fans. A #2 starter out of the top 2 spots in the draft *before* they capped spending would have been phenomenal and an outright steal. Now with a cap on how much even top tier talents can make…

          Anyway yeah, if you’re going to delve into prospect world you need to realize how quality being only a “#2″ starter is and how rare a true #1 is.

          Appel projects as a guy with 60’s and 65’s across the board with plus to plus plus mechanics, control, command, pitchability, athleticism, size, and intangibles on the mound in a very reasonable window of time (2-4 years). That’s huge, and if things go extremely well he might even hit a 70 or two. That’s plenty of upside, especially given that it seems he won’t need much time in the minors.

          • Will

            The #1 versus #2 arguement comes down to the different perception people have. Let’s face it, every team has a #1 SP. That’s the guy that you throw out there opening day. The #2 goes next, and so on. Rather than using #1 and #2, just use Ace & top of rotation (TOR). It is true that there are only a dozen or so true Aces out there, but you have issues like Philly were you have 2-3 legitimate Aces.

            My designations would be:
            Ace – #1 {Kershaw, Price, Hamels, Lee, Sabathia, Hernandez, Verlander, Strasburg, Weaver}.
            TOR (Top of Rotation) – legit #2 {Sale, Scherzer, Dickey, Darvish, Shields, Gonzalez, Gallardo, Greinke, Cain, Peavy, Cueto, Latos, Wainright, Bumgarner, Halladay, Zimmerman, Johnson}.
            MOR (Middle of Rotation) – Lower end #2-High end #4 {Too many to list, but mainly innings eaters and high K/9 but low IP guys}.
            BOR (Back of Rotation) – #4 & #5 SP’s {Rotation filler & flyers}.

            • Marc N.

              I like your designations.

  • BABIP (MichCubFan)

    I like their way of going about the number 2 pick…or at least the way they are talking about it. You are drafting one of the most talented players in the draft at this time, but when you look back at drafts you see the high picks who are stars, busts, and in betweens. They want to pick one of the stars…or at least as close to a star as possible.

    • Edwin

      Yes. I also like the fact that the Cubs want to draft a player who turns out to be good.

  • Noah

    I have a feeling if there is another option that the Astros think they might be able to get for less than Appel that they can also legitimately say could deserve to be 1-1, Appel will fall to the Cubs at 2. The Cubs should be able to work something out with Appel. Just remember, the Cubs had to go over slot with Almora and still were able to sign Johnson, Blackburn and Underwood.

    The thing I love about Appel is that he is someone who you could envision in a Cubs’ rotation and pitching well in the back half of 2014.

    • http://Noclue Marc N.

      Yeah Cubs were one of two teams that over slotted in the first last year. I feel no need to protect Mr. Ricketts’ money for him and just want the best player – which easily appears to be Appel.

      • hansman1982

        I don’t think anyone (who is sane, at least) is suggesting to select lesser talent in the draft to save money.

        However, if the Cubs find guys who are equal, but one will sign for less money, then taking that one should be taken. (Note: This would be an exceedingly rare scenario)

        • Marc N.

          Exceedingly rare is one way to put it. I would fire my agent if I was cheaper guy unless he’s made some kind of deal with the devil where I make it all the way to my first FA trip fully healthy and developed.

          • Marc N.

            That was written like crap…hopefully it still translates.

            • hansman1982

              I get it, and, ya, exceedingly rare. In this scenario, the team would have to see something they like more than what the player/agent/other scouts may see/think.

              Think Hayden Simpson but not quite as “from out of left field”.

              • Marc N.

                Carlos Correa

                • http://thenewenthusiast.com dw8

                  The word on Correa was that if he had not been picked at 1 he would have dropped, giving the Astros, who claimed to have him at or near 1 on their list, the opportunity to sign him for cheaper than slot.

                  Correa was near the top of some other lists from the industry, as was a late riser, IIRC.

                  Also, depending on the negotiations, Appel might not be the most expensive sign on the board. As a senior, he may have less leverage than a guy like Gray depending on Gray’s helium closer to the draft.

                  If an organization can do something similar with Appel that the White Sox did with Chris Sale or the Rays did with David Price (fast track to MLB via bullpen) this might also affect bonus negotiations. Starting a player’s service clock and getting major league salary are probably on the radar for amateurs because major league contracts are not available for amateurs under the current CBA .

  • Kevin

    Is it possible for the Cubs to negotiate with the #2 pick before the selection? I’m not suggesting anything crazy but if they could have the pick accept the #3 slotted budget they would have extra money to pay over slot money to make a HS selection more attractive to sign. This could even work with Appel even if he’s represented by Boras.

    • JR

      I don’t think your technically suppose too. But teams do it all the time. From what i have read is the Astros offered Appel a deal slightly below slot. Boras said no, so the Astros ended up drafting Correia and paying him like $2 million under slot. Usually high in the draft teams have an idea what it will take to sign a guy. It’s too big of a risk otherwise.

      • nkniacc13

        if you have the top pick you can. But as number 2 you will most likely can talk and get an idea what they want but can’t really negotiate i believe

    • Marc N.

      Can’t remember but wasn’t there a sense that the Cubs pretty much had at least talked to Almora/Boras extensively before last year’s draft?

  • Fastball

    I draft positional players before pitching. Cubs have serious needs in a lit of places. It would be foolish to think we are pro at developing players. I want to see some repeated successes of drafted talent by the Cubs being relevant at MLB level. College pitchers that are good should walk right into Aa and do well. If they can’t you don’t waste a draft pick below 10.

  • Cheryl

    Appel may not be a questionmark but dealing with Boras is. Wonder if Appel realizes that clubs may pass on him because of Boras?

    • http://Noclue Marc N.

      Almora had Boras last year, no? Teams scared to deal with Boras are cowards and probably doing a major disservice to their fans. Teams deal with Boras because the vast majority of his clients are quality. Players deal with Boras because they know he’s quality and he treats them like quality.

      • Cheryl

        I don’t think teams don’t deal with Boras because they are afraid of him. Its the demands that he makes for his clients that cause the teams to turn elsewhere. This will be especially the case with the CBA where teams have to spread their money out more.

  • Saving Grace

    For me it’s Gray or Meadows.
    A friend of mine is from Oklahoma and seen Gray pitch and early told me about him.
    He looks like a possible top rotation guy,where i see Appel as a solid two

    I saw the Cubs linked to Torres in the international draft.

    There are some good international prospects for pitchers in asia and latin america.
    Will the Cubs target them with the extra pool money or go positional?

    • nkniacc13

      Well Torres who is a ss will comand atleast 1.5milliom likely the Cubs figure to have around 4.1 in international spending so it will be interesting to see where the cubs go on the international market.

  • Sandberg

    If the Astros low-ball Appel and don’t sign him, they get the 2nd pick next year, right? Then they’d potentially have the first two picks.

    • nkniacc13

      but that pick they would have to sign or lose ant get another pick. They also lose that bonus $ if they dont sign the pick

      • hansman1982

        Losing the bonus money isn’t as big of an impact as it first seems.

        Most (if not all) of that money is going to be spent on the pick anyway.

        • nkniacc13

          true if its someone like Appel but if you would want to take a tough sign there you can’t take a tough sign with the next pick because of the bonus money.

  • Dustin S

    My gut feeling is that the Cubs probably badly want Appel to be there at #2 and any other talk from the FO is just smokescreen. Manaea could be very good but is a few more years away. I’ve seen Manaea over Appel in some rankings though just due to his high ceiling, with Gray usually #3. Any of the 3 are worth getting excited about. I will say that I really liked Manaea’s easygoing demeanor in video interviews off the mound vs. Appel saying talk to me before you draft me because I only want to go to a winner. Manaea and Appel are both Boras clients for what that’s worth.

  • jim

    Did ryne stanek die?

    • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

      No, but he’s lost some draft standing. Not a great spring.

    • http://Noclue Marc N.

      Just has the microscope put on him in his draft year and did not take the steps forward expected. He did get a little bigger this year but still the least explosive fastball of the main college guys and still hugely reliant on his breaking ball.

  • Edwin

    I’d be curious to see what the breakdown of positions drafted looks like for the Cubs. Are they drafting more or less total pitchers compared to other teams?

    SInce pitcher’s have such a higher bust rate as prospects, does a team make up for this by drafting a ton of pitchers in the late rounds and hoping some stick, or should they focus on “safer” position players and try to trade/sign for pitching talent at the MLB level?

  • another JP

    If the Cubs were to end up with a choice of Appel or Gray that would pose an interesting dilemma. Seeing how Theo is big on acquiring impact level talent, the guy with the highest upside might be Gray- one thing that can’t be taught is a 100 mph fastball. Also being a college pitcher means he wouldn’t be far away from the majors, so given our lack of pitching prospects it’s increasingly looking as if we’ll get one of these two guys. If the Cubs wanted to go pitching with their first ten picks this year that would be fine with me too (toss in a catcher if one falls in the draft)

  • nkniacc13

    the other thing about Appel is that as a senior he doesnt have the ability to go back to school so he cant be as forcefull with his demands

  • PKJ

    Very nice thoughtful piece, Brett.

    As much as the Cubs would like Appel, I love McLeod’s mindset here: “Typically, [with] your position players, the star guys come at the top of the draft.”

    This was the strategy last year, and look how well that turned out. Almora and a bunch of good pitching following for the next seven rounds.

  • nkniacc13

    Id like to see the Cubs go with a hs postion player in 1st especially if they could get him just under slot.

  • Fastball

    I draft the best player on the board at No.2 if it’s not a pitcher fine. I still draft a lot of pitchers in the MLB draft and the International Draft. I do what the Cubs have been doing that past two winters. Sign any and all talent from every honey hole on the planet.

    I think this season Theo needs to put it out in the media that he is going to spend money this off season of Free Agents. Especially pitching. Real pitching. Not a bunch TJ rehabbers… He signs a Real Ace and a Real No. 2. Shark moves down to No.3 and Jackson becomes a No 4 or No. 5. After this season the Cubs payroll will be so skinny they can go out and sign a ton of FA talent at positions of serious need.

    Pitcher, Catcher, 3b. If our OF prospects don’t project to be ready in 2014 then he has to sign some top outfielders or trade for them. Right now we have 5 OF’ers who are all 4’s. I won’t get on the Jackson train and if Soler isn’t ready an Almora is ready to be a mid season call up next year. You have to sign OFer’s as FA’s or make trades.

    However it shakes out this season. This is the last season Theo gets away with tanking the Cubs for draft picks. There are too many What If’s and too many prayers that Baez, Almora, Soler and the boys all make it the Bigs. The Odds are against us on that happening. We need to have a great draft and then make some professional trades in June and July.

    • TWC

      “I think this season Theo needs to… spend money [on free agent] pitching. Real pitching. Not a bunch TJ rehabbers… He signs a Real Ace and a Real No. 2.”

      Please look at the list of projected 2014 free agents and let us know which #1 and #2 pitchers are available, thanks.

      • DocPeterWimsey

        tut, tut: we all know that if you put a big pile of money in front of Wrigley, then put a big box over it held up by stick attached to a rope, then #1 and #2 pitchers will magically appear to take the money. Just pull the rope and tah dah! You have yourself a new pitcher! Now, get another pile of money, prop the box back up, and get one more.

        Theo’s just lazy, that’s all.

        • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

          This is why whiffing on the post-2011 free agency hurts even more. The classes are just going to get worse.

          • hansman1982

            Banking on Burhle (or any pitcher signed last offseason) being healthy/effective by 2014 is a big gamble.

      • JR

        Yeah the pitching blows next offseason. Actually there really aren’t many exciting bats either for that matter. It be surprising if Cano gets to free agency, and if he does the Dodgers will bust a nut on him. Really the Cubs are going to have to trade for talent like D. Price, but then there farm system will be back where it was when they took over.

      • Marc N.

        Time to get creative. By creative I mean strongly consider Roy Halladay at the right price and put some of that pitcher health research to use. I have no problem chasing a late 30’s player of that caliber (borderline HOF) for the right contract considering the day and age where high caliber players last into their early 40’s.

        One side advantage with someone like him is that they can get data on a HOF caliber pitcher’s mechanics and training methods for the long term.

        • Marc N.

          Also yeah the trade market…there’s no need to build a system with so much depth to be thrifty in the trade market. Cubs should not be hoarders of anything but elite MLB talent.

        • http://thecubcontrarian.blogspot.com Mr. Know It All (Kyle)

          Our health research should tell us that Halladay essentially has no shoulder left at this point.

          • Marc N.

            Well the health research should tell us what level of “no shoulder” he’s actually at, how that compares to others at a similar age, and so on…

            • Marc N.

              * “essentially no shoulder”

        • DocPeterWimsey

          “One side advantage with someone like him is that they can get data on a HOF caliber pitcher’s mechanics and training methods for the long term.”

          It is pretty improbable that there is any consistency among HOF pitchers for these things. There certainly has been huge variation among recent HOF-caliber pitchers, and lots of guys with similar habits/mechanics flop.

          • Marc N.

            Agreed, he’s probably made changes over the years, I’m sure that would be considered. OTOH, who are the guys with similar habits and mechanics? The one from the Pirates?

            • DocPeterWimsey

              Well, in an important way, almost nobody has Halladay’s most basic mechanic: not throwing extra pitches. Halladay has (or, sadly for his sake) *had* a ridiculous ability to K guys without walking them. He had a ridiculous 4 year run of K’ing 200+ guys while walking fewer than 40. That means he was King guys on fewer pitches: and the best pitch for your arm is the one not thrown.

              Just to put in perspective how ridiculous Halladay has been, neither Jenkins nor Maddux K:BB rations (just over 3:1) come close to Halladay’s (almost 4:1). Like. Just. Wow. I just wish that I’d appreciated Halladay more while he was pitching well.

              • Marc N.

                Yep, and all that goes into why I think he can last into his low 40’s and is a “Curt Schiling” candidate for the Cubs. Tapping into that aging star market the Yankees, Cardinals, etc have worked the past few years on the basis that their decline is alot more productive than your typical decline barring something drastic.

                Halladay really might be the kind of hitting his checkpoints mechanically…Goes hand in hand with why his command has been so elite for as long as it was.

                • DocPeterWimsey

                  Yeah, but I think that is past: Halladay almost certainly is toast now, and as Kyle mentions, he’s down to one shoulder.

                  As for his stuff, it’s not about mechanics. It’s about incredibly fine motor control and muscle memory that allowed him both amazing exactness and precision. That almost certainly has deteriorated with age and use: no mechanics in the world can halt the damage caused by constant tearing & rebuilding of muscle, or the constant stretching of ligaments & tendons, or the aging of the nerves. The neurological program running the show probably hasn’t changed: but the processing chip, RAM & harddrive all are dying.

                  • Marc N.

                    Incredibly fine motor control and muscle memory that allowed him both amazing exactness and precision = mechanics.

                    I’m open to the idea that he’s finished physically (saw his start yesterday and everything was up), have to be, but I’m not setting it in stone either. I like betting on fallen superstars in recent years and a great deal of them survived (Beltran was supposed to be done after the two knee surgeries…Berkman…Pettitte…Mussina post ’07)…I mean you’re looking for 2-3 quality years out of him, not prime ace level performance or anything.

  • Jackalope

    TINSTAAPP

  • The Dude Abides

    Luke – probably way too early for this question but do you know who is considered the top one or two catchers available in this year’s amateur draft?

    • #1lahairfan

      Jonathan Denney is the top catcher in my opinion. There is a slight chance that we take him if he has a huge season; considering the weak catching depth in our system.

      • Marc N.

        I know the track record on HS catchers sucks…sucks might be putting it kindly…but I really like the stuff I’ve heard about Jeremy Martinez.

        • TheDynastyStartsIn2016

          The stuff you hear about Martinez reminds me a lot of what we heard about Almora. Good, not great tools, better defensively than offensively, but ‘off the charts’ maturity and leadership abilities. Most projections have him being available for the Cubs in the 2nd round.

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