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.

  • nkniacc13

    I expect the Cubs to be active in the trade market for the next year. Now while there arent that many top notch players who will be free agents after this year that also means that likley the trade market will be big. Im really going to be interested to see all season how the Cubs attack their 40 man roster

  • Bilbo161

    The Astros passed on Appel’s and Boras’ demands last year. I’m not sure if they are really interested in going that direction now either even though he’s a hometown guy. Cubs passed on him last year too. Why would this year be any different. Appel is still Appel. I think the Cubs will stick to the position player first unless Gray or someone else blows them away. My guess is it will be Bryant, Meadows or Frazier. Bryant would look good to me if he sticks at 3rd, which seems increasingly probable. However, Meadows and Frazier play up the middle which the Cubs favor. It may be hard for them to pass on the 5 tool guys with good makeup.

  • Tyron

    Can someone tell me when the draft is on ?an what time

    • Brett

      June 6 through 8. Typically, the first round is the first night, and then the next two days are full days of the early and then middle/late rounds.

  • vmsjr109

    Jonathan Gray has filthy stuff. I like his smooth delivery.

  • Will

    Don’t put it past Houston to again draft a player with better signability and use the extra pool money to overpay 2nd and 3rd round picks.

  • RWakild

    Just looked up Jonathan Gray. 100 mph fastball and maybe a number 1 starter. He sounds much better than Appel. Hoping the Astros go cheap again so the Cubs have a choice.

    • Rebuilding

      It would be a nice problem to have. Watched Gray pitch last weekend where he was still hitting 98-100 in the 9th. The questions really seem to be the lack of a 3rd pitch and his velocity spike this year. He hasn’t come out of nowhere because he was projected as a first round guy before the season, but he hasn’t shown this stuff before which cause people to question it

  • Austin

    Has anyone ever heard of Devin Gardner MSU starting pitcher? I hope the Cubs go after him in the 3rd or 4th round. Kid can pitch and it would be interesting how he develops in the minors.

    • Austin

      Sorry. David Gardner

  • A.J.

    Here’s some video of Gray pitching. Velocity looks good to me, if the speeds are accurate. The change in velocity seems good also.

    • A.J.

      And before all you geniuses (sp?( let me know smartypants’s (sp?)) let me have it.. I do know speed and velocity are different.. sue me..

      PS. I’m razzing you guys 😀

      PSS. Brett I may need a lawyer

      • Tommy

        You spelled veracity wrong.

        • A.J.

          Oops, sorry about that.. Your velocity is appreciated good sir.

      • tim815

        Gray fan. The question there is his developing a change.

  • CJA.

    I live in southwestern missouri. Went to MIssouri state game 3/29 Sean Manaea was pitching for Indiana St., did not impress me. he threw low to mid 90s,until the 7th. then it went down from 88-90.I was not impressed with his breaking balls, or hismovement on his fast ball. I WOULD PASS