gray appelThe NFL Draft is going on now (you cannot escape it), and the MLB Draft is about five weeks away. It won’t get the same national coverage, and it won’t have the same kind of immediate impact on the teams involved, but it’s going to be a very, very big deal for the Chicago Cubs. They pick second in the draft and, setting aside all of the other picks in the Draft, that’s the one one which the Cubs really can’t afford to whiff.

There are only a handful of players reasonable under consideration for the Cubs in that two slot, but with a dearth of advanced pitching talent in the system, and a couple of big-time college arms available at the top of the Draft, it’s always been a fair bet that the Cubs would be choosing from Stanford righty Mark Appel and Oklahoma righty Jonathan Gray. And, according to Gordon Wittenmyer, that’s exactly what the Cubs are going to do.

Wittenmyer reports that the Cubs have narrowed their choices at the two spot to Appel and Gray, with the intention of taking whichever is still on the board after the Astros select first overall. (Query which the Cubs would prefer if both are still on the board. That will be an interesting question over the coming weeks.)

He also notes that Dale Sveum confirmed for the media that he’s been watching film on the top 10 candidates for the Cubs’ pick, and indicated it would be hard to pass on Gray or Appel if they keep doing what they’re doing.

Patrick Mooney, in a similar piece, also reports that Gray and Appel have emerged at the top of the Cubs’ draft board.

Does any of that mean that the Cubs are absolutely locked into only those two pitchers no matter what? Obviously the answer is no. There are still five weeks to go before the Draft, and a number of things could happen in that space – most prominently, an injury. But it is conceivable that, barring any surprising changes, the Cubs very well could have decided that it’s going to be whichever of Appel or Gray is still on the board at number two.

College stats are only slightly more useful than high school stats, which are just a shade above useless, but each of Gray and Appel have been cruising this year. In nine starts, Appel has thrown 71.1 innings with a 1.54 ERA. He’s struck out 84 while walking just 12. He’s allowed 48 hits, and just one home run.

Gray’s numbers, as you’d expect them to be, are equally impressive, if not moreso. Through 10 starts, he’s thrown 74.1 innings and has a 1.09 ERA. He’s struck out 91, allowed just 13 walks and 40 hits, and has given up just one homer. The Pac12 is considered a slightly better baseball conference than the Big12, for whatever that’s worth.

  • jayrig5

    One of these guys is exactly what the Cubs system needs. I tend to prefer Appel, but that’s solely because he’s probably closer to the majors. Adding an advanced, polished, upper-level SP prospect will be a very nice boost for the organization. Can’t have too many of those, and right now the Cubs don’t have nearly enough.

    • EQ76

      I think everyone prefers Appel due to his name being prominent for the past couple drafts… but as a Sooner fan and an Okie, Gray is the real deal.. I’d be happy either way and have no preference.. I think either guy will be a huge boost to our farm system and an obvious top 5 prospect in our system to go with Soler, Baez and Almora.

  • Andrewmoore4isu

    How is the hype with these guys compared to other number 1 and 2 draft picks from previous years, like Strasburg and such?

    • ari gold

      Strasburg was a once in a generation arm. But these guys are no slouches. Most see them as solid #2’s which a chance to be an ace. I’ll take a solid #2 any day of the week.

      • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

        Agreed. Very few true aces in the majors anymore. A 2 with upside is exactly what we need.

  • noisesquared

    For either of these 2 pitchers, what’s a realistic starting point in the minors? AA? High A? And if they pitch at expectations, would a 2014 MLB debut be possible?

    • Wrigley11

      Not as sure on Gray, but I’d imagine once signed, both would report to AA. My understanding is Appel could likely make the jump to the Majors in 2014, and I can’t imagine it would be out of the question for Gray to do the same.

    • JulioZuleta

      I would imagine Gray would hit Daytona this year, and Appel would start at AA. There’s a good chance that Appel would just skip AAA all together, and go from AA to Chicago next June-ish. Gray would likely spend all of next season on the farm, and come up June 2015. My thoughts at least.

      • Blublud

        I would think Appel could possibly pitch in the Majors in Sept on potential, but with all the innings he has already pitched, the innings he’ll pitch in the minors and then once call up, I doubt it happens. But just based of talent, I think he could do it. Gray I would think would go to Tennesee, no different from Appel. However, his progression is probably a little behind Appel, even though his talent level is higher.

      • Jp3

        Thanks Julio, your opinion is appreciated. It’s funny I really had no clue since we haven’t had a big time arm prospect since Prior and I completely what the expectations are. If you don’t count Hayden Simpson of course…

        • JulioZuleta

          It’s also possible that either could make an appearance this September, but it’s very unlikely either would start next year with the Cubs. It just doesn’t match up with the Cubs needs right now. The starting staff is the strength of the team and probably still will be next year. They’ll want that extra year of control.

        • X The Cubs Fan

          Hayden Simpson for president

      • Wrigley11

        Scouting report on Gray I saw a while back mentioned that he’d be capable of coming out of the pen this September. Obviously not what he’d be drafted for, but I think Gray could probably make an appearance as a starter in Sept 14, with a chance to make the club the following Spring. We agree on Appel’s timeline.

  • Blublud

    I pray the Astros draft Appel then because I don’t want him. Gray is the guy I want. Appel is a 3 in my opinion. Basically a Garza level pitcher. He is what he is, and i dont see much upside, though there is much risk either. When going with a pick that high, I would rather have the more upside even if more risky prospect. Gray has solid Ace potential. I would love to have Gray achoring our staff for the next for the next decade.

    • Jp3

      By garza-like do you mean $14 mill for a guy to always have a nagging boo-boo?😀 When do they report after the draft in 5 weeks? Soon after?

    • ruby2626

      Blu, out of curiousity how many times have you seen Appel pitch? Most of us have no clue other than what we read.

  • JulioZuleta

    I think I have ever so slightly started leaning towards Gray. I’d be fine with either, though. It’s going to be fun to have a pitcher like either of these in the system.

    • pete

      I have been presuming for awhile that Houston would pick either Appel or Gray, which would render our preference moot. Do you think there is a legitimate chance Houston does not pick either Appel or Gray?

      • JulioZuleta

        I think there’s a chance for sure. Not a big one, but it’s not out of the realm of possibility. They surprised most people by taking Correa #1 overall last year, so who knows. If they can save some big money on a guy, they might pull the trigger and use that money later on in the draft on guys that drop for signability concerns.

  • hansman1982

    With college stats, are the underlying stats (BB%, K%, XBH%, etc…) still useful or is it more of a “Well, he is doing as well as we would expect so that’s good”?

    • Brett

      That’s always been my take on the big time prospects, at least. You listen to what the scouts say, and if the number basically look like what you’d expect, then fine. If they’re outside of that range in either direction, maybe it gives you pause.

      I’m sure the Cubs pore over the stats, though, especially for the non first-round types.

      • wvcubsfan

        Why is it you feel that college stats are almost worthless (two shade above useless as you put it)?

        Is it because you think most of the “big bats” are taken to the minors out of high school? Is it the fact that they don’t use wood bats? Just wondering.

  • JB88

    I’d imagine that there are so many caveats to this “proclamation” that it isn’t worth much. Lets discuss this article on June 1st.

    • JB88

      To clarify, I’m not calling out Brett at all; just that these sort of articles aren’t worth a ton 5 weeks before the draft, that’s all.

    • Brett

      And just to be clear – I made sure to mention the big caveats.

      (But, for me, we’ve finally reached the zone where I think it’s reasonable to discuss. We’re halfway through the final amateur season before the draft.)

      • jt

        I for one find much I did not know in the little bit of space these articles reside.

      • Boogens

        In fairness to Brett, I’ve been waiting for the obsessive draft watch to start. I understand that a lot can change in the upcoming 5 weeks but that doesn’t mean that there isn’t any value in discussing this far ahead of time. I learn a lot from Brett, Luke, Kyle and others opinions and want the draft flood doors opened.

        After reading the ESPN article a week or so back (Brett provided the link in one of his previous articles) I am leaning heavily towards Gray. Nothing scientific but I feel like he has a higher ceiling.

  • Patrick G

    Cant believe its only a few weeks away

  • mjhurdle

    being an avid Oklahoma fan, I have had the opportunity to watch a couple of Gray’s starts, and I am 100% hoping that the Astros take Appel so that we get Gray.
    Obviously i am biased with my fan status and i have not seen Appel as much, but Gray is very impressive.
    I am no scout, but Gray just over-powers hitters. His motion, to my un-trained eye, looks effort-less and his control seems great.
    I don’t think the Cubs can go wrong with either pitcher, but in my perfect world, i will be able to wear my Oklahoma Gray jersey to Wrigley to watch Gray pitch on opening day 2015 :)

    • EQ76

      amen brotha! Boomer Sooner!!

    • Mr. Gonzo

      Boomer Sooner!

    • Boogens

      “…I am 100% hoping that the Astros take Appel so that we get Gray.”

      100% agree. I really hope that you’re right.

  • Sean

    Is there a current big leaguer that fits as a comparison to either guy? Yeah, I know it’s not always apt to compare guys in that manner, but does anyone fit?

  • ssckelley

    I do not think the Cubs could go wrong with either pitcher. I am excited the Cubs finally have a legitimate top pitching prospect since Prior. Gray might have the highest ceiling of the 2 but Appel may be closest to being MLB ready.

  • RoughRiider

    I don’t think that either Appel or Gray would be brought up in September. Assuming the Cubs draft one of them. It makes little sense to use up a spot on the 40 man to that could be used to protect a player who needs to be protected. I would wait and have the player drafted brought in for spring training as a non-roster invitee. It would serve little purpose for them to be brought up to play on a team that has no chance of post season play. In addition by then they will probably have already pitched more innings than they ever have before.

    • ssckelley

      Damn, you are right! There is so much talent on that 40 man roster that they cannot afford to cut anyone.

    • mul21

      That little carrot could be used as a ploy to get them to sign under slot though. If you promise them a call up in September, it starts that arbitration clock a little earlier and gets them paid the big money a little sooner. I agree completely about the use of the 40 man spot, but there’s so much that can happen between now and September that you just never know what’s in the cards. More money available to sign other picks is always a good thing, especially when you have a dearth of upper level arms that the Cubs currently do.

      • Cyranojoe

        Ah! That’s the first good reason I’ve heard for calling either guy up in September. With this FO, I can’t imagine them advancing any players as quickly as most on this site have been suggesting lately, let alone critical first pick types. But if there’s a financial benefit for both sides, that gives some plausibility to the suggestion. Thanks!

  • dw8

    Headed to Eugene to see Appel tonight. The Ducks are generally not a great offense, so I’m expecting domination.

  • Stevie B

    And with the 2nd selection of the 2013 1st year player draft, the Chicago Cubs pick….

    MONTY BREWSTER!!!!!!!!!!

  • EQ76

    Last time we had the #2 pick didn’t we get Mark Prior??

  • RD

    What are the chances the Astros pass on both Appel and Gray because signability issues? Given Appel’s situation last draft, it seemed like he had some high expecatations for how much he signs for.

    • ssckelley

      I think it is possible as either of them will need “over slot” money in order for them to sign. We have seen teams in the past reach for players that they feel have a better chance to sign for less money.

  • chinick

    Lets be glad Phil Emery is not running the Cubs draft.

    • ssckelley

      I was thinking the same thing. If Emery was drafting the Cubs would be taking a player they could have gotten in the 2nd or 3rd round. (facepalm)

      • On the Farm

        Like Hayden Simpson?

  • cubmig

    Could anyone comment (speculate) about what the $$$ issue will be about? I know the Cubs are in a bad way budget-wise………At the same time, I can’t help but believe money has been set aside for this event. True? What would secure Appel, Gray? Any scenario you “see” on this?

    • ssckelley

      Money will not be an issue, I expect the Cubs to spend over their allotment to sign their picks just like they did last year.

      • DarthHater

        Yea, if the Cubs, after gutting the team the way they have and putting all their eggs in the draft basket, were to claim that they didn’t have enough money to sign their top draft pick, I would go directly to the front of the mob of fans wielding torches and pitchforks. But that ain’t gonna happen.

  • CubsFanBob

    How strong of a influence is it on Houston that Appel is from Houston ? Kinda like the prodigy son coming home.

    • Boogens

      That (hopefully) may be a factor. On the other hand, Scott Boras is Appel’s agent and the Astros were not able to work out a deal with him last year when they had the #1 pick overall last year.

    • auggie1955

      I didn’t realize Appel was from Houston, but I still think the Astros will go with Gray. Houston passed on Appel last season, so why won’t they do the same this year? I realize it’s a different situation for Appel, but I think dealing with Boras might scare them off.

  • msbc

    I’m an OKState alum and you can rest assured if we get Gray he’ll be a huge flop.

    However, if we don’t – he’ll be a perennial cy young candidate.

    Obligatory “OU sucks.”

    • EQ76

      msbc… as an OU fan I have to just say: 128–27–9.

      • msbc

        Yeah yeah, you’ve got us in football most years. But take a look at the number of titles won in all sports, OSU is #4 in the nation with 51 – OU is nowhere to be found.

        • EQ76

          of the 51 national championships:
          34 – wrestling
          10 – golf
          4 – cross country

          but, that’s still a lot more than we have.. OU basically has football and gymnastics.

          • EQ76

            and FYI, since the NCAA doesn’t technically have rights to the football national championship, those aren’t counted towards OU’s totals. NCAA shows 18, but we’d have to add in the 7 football championships, so OU has 25 total.. still only half of OSU.

  • andrewmoore4isu

    I know that this will be talked about in later weeks, but I am curious to know what will happened if both Appel and Gray are off the board (injury, known signing issues, etc.). Is there a 3rd pitcher or is there a number one position player we would be drafting with the second overall pick, like a 3rdbase with a huge boom stick bat and gold glove quality fielding?

    • wvcubsfan

      Trade out of the 2nd pick……………….oh that’s right MLB doesn’t think you should be able to trade picks (stupid rules).

      Honestly if that were to happen I think they’d probably look at one of the high school position players.

    • JulioZuleta

      Big, big dropoff after these two. Mix of position players that all belong in the 6-9 range. Assuming these 2 go #1-2, the #3 overall pick is going to be a pretty below average #3 overall pick by most standards. That’s not to say he won’t be a star, but there’s a big drop.

    • cubchymyst

      I’d go College bat and grab Bryant, from what I’ve read he sounds like he can stick at 3rd and has a great approach, if both of Appel and Gray for some mysterious reason they are non picks at draft time.

      • Dynastyin2016

        I agree. He fills a position of need, has a big bat, and would be ready relativeky quickly. But at this point, injury is really the only thing that can derail the top two.

  • macpete22

    Still can’t get over the possibility (dream) of a rotation of Price, Samardzija, Garza/Wood, Jackson and Appel/Gray.

    • Dynastyin2016

      I know SSS and everything, but Jackson and dream rotation shouldn’t be in the same sentence.

      • gocatsgo2003

        As a #4? Come on…

        • macpete22

          I wasn’t really putting the rotation in order. Just naming who could be in the rotation.

  • James

    I don’t think the Cubs will take one of the two pitchers in the draft. Theo and Jed have already talked about not drafting a pitcher with the first pick. Theo and Jed said they feel its to hard to gage a pitcher and I agree with that. My guess it will be another bat maybe Austin Meadows.

  • Eric

    Houston will pick Grey because he has more upside and will come cheaper.

    • JulioZuleta

      Gray has the threat of going back to school, Appel does not. Appel should be a cheaper #1 pick than Gray.

      • Boogens

        JZ – I really hope that you’re right.

        • JulioZuleta

          There are a lot of issues at play for Appel at #1. He’s from Houston. His “advisor” is Scott Boras. Boras and the Astros couldn’t come to a pre-draft agreement last year, when he was thought to be Houston’s top choice. He’s a senior with no real threat of not signing…

          It’s just hard to mesh those together and figure out what it all means.

          • cubmig

            …….but what if Appel tells Boras he wants to pitch for his hometown?

            • JulioZuleta

              If that’s a big priority (it wasn’t last year), he’ll lower his price slightly to try to get Hou to take him.

      • butlerdawgs

        But if Gray goes #2, would that really be that big of a difference? I have no idea what the slot value is, but I feel like it can’t be that much of a difference from #1 to #2. Plus there’s always the possibility of going back and being injured, ruining draft stock, etc. Just to move up one spot? I don’t think that’s worth the risk.

  • dan wis

    why does everyone thing we will have to pick between Gray and Appel Houstion is going to take Meadows

  • Bigg J

    I feel this is a toss up, buy I would still take Appel and give him a chance in September with less signing money. I feel he will be ready quicker then Grey. Appel has been a 1st rounder 2 years in a row and Grey as came on strong the past few months. The Cubs want to compete next year and I feel Appel will contribute right away.

  • Dustin S

    Everything I’ve read is Appel is essentially a tier above of Gray in terms of talent, although Gray is very good, and then it’s a good drop to the next tier after Gray. So being down to those 2 is kind of a no-brainer. The only reason for Houston to take Gray over Appel is if there are signability or attitude concerns. Even as a senior Appel could sit out if he wanted to play elsewhere (he’s said he only wants to play for a contender – not a good first impression of him), and I wouldn’t put anything past Boras.

    Appel looks almost ML ready (I hate to say Prior, but honestly that’s who he throws like to me), while Gray throws hard and is somewhat similar in style to a younger smaller Clemens. Gray’s control concerns me a bit though. Watching video he got a lot of swinging high strikes that would have been taken for balls in the majors. If the Cubs were honest and not hiding their intentions, they would probably admit that they are really hoping Houston takes Gray. I doubt Houston will take him over Appel, but there is a little hope that maybe the Clemens/Nolan Ryan influence and personality factors will push them to Gray. That said, there’s nothing to be disappointed with in landing Gray and he’s a whole lot more likable. But he is a small notch down from Appel as a prospect.

  • fromthemitten

    I’m okay with taking a pitcher in the first round but we gotta start drafting more catchers and third basemen (especially if Candalerio doesn’t stick there) in the early rounds

    • Cubbie Blues

      We are fine in the minors at 3rd.

  • praying the cubs get ready to win

    Is there any chance the Cubs could acquire Houston’s pick for some cash and a couple of players? We have been patient, we mine as well be patient and hope by 2015 we will be ready.

    • Ian

      Can’t trade picks in MLB…

    • Cyranojoe

      Even if you could trade picks, what on earth would make Houston willing to trade any picks? They’re rebuilding even deeper than we are. The only thing we could offer that would make competitive sense for them would be multiple picks for their top pick, which would be foolish for the Cubs.

  • Andrew

    Just curious…how does PAC 12 or other high level college baseball compare to minor league baseball? High a?