gray appelWe are just three weeks away from the 2013 MLB Draft, which is among the most important singular moments in the Chicago Cubs’ present rebuilding process.

  • And who will the Cubs take with their number two overall pick? Well, the weight of discussion still focuses on the top college pitchers, Stanford’s Mark Appel and Oklahoma’s Jonathan Gray. Keith Law just released his latest mock draft (insider, so if you want the nitty gritty, ya gots ta pay), and he’s got the Cubs taking whichever of Gray or Appel is still on the board. If they’re both on the board, Law says the Cubs prefer Appel, which is my preference as well. Gray probably has upside that Appel does not, but as a helium guy with a shorter track record, I suspect he also has a lower floor than Appel. The Cubs can’t afford to miss on this pick, and Appel feels like the safer bet. And it’s not like he’s not a big-time pitching prospect. He is.
  • Even Phil Rogers, who had recently been pushing San Diego third baseman Kris Bryant as a possibility for the Cubs, says the Cubs are “expected to take” either Appel or Gray. Bruce Levine concurs that it appears to be a “sure thing” that the Cubs will take a pitcher.

  • That all said, Bryant just hit his 30th home run, raising his season line to .338/.496/.876(!). I think it’s fair to question the level of competition he’s facing, but the performance is certainly matching the scouting opinions. It’s becoming less reasonable to be irked if the Cubs end up surprising and taking Bryant, especially if they believe he can stick at third base, rather than being forced into the outfield.
  • Luke mentioned it in a Minor League Daily piece, but it’s worth highlighting here: Jim Callis says there are just three “80” tools in the Draft this year, marking the elite of the elite. It’s Jonathan Gray’s fastball, Matt McPhearson’s speed, and … Kris Bryant’s power. That last one is exceedingly high praise when you consider that even guys like Javier Baez or Jorge Soler or Dan Vogelbach, for example, don’t have 80 power. If the Cubs grade his power out at 80 as well … it could at least become a discussion at that number two spot. Elite power like that is rare and very hard to find. At last check, though, Callis was mocking Mark Appel to the Astros, and the Cubs taking Jonathan Gray thereafter.
  • Dave Cameron at FanGraphs digs into the Astros’ draft strategy last year – take underslot at the top, spread out the savings to overslot types thereafter – and examines when it makes sense to take that approach.

  • BA has ranked the top 100 draft prospects as of May 10, and the top three read Jonathan Gray, Mark Appel, and Kris Bryant, in that order. The list is useful, too, to start familiarizing yourself with some of the prospects we might see the Cubs considering later in the draft.
  • Keep in mind: last year, the Cubs elected to take positional player Albert Almora with their first pick, before proceeding to take seven straight pitchers. The Cubs have indicated that they were pleased with that approach, given the slightly higher bust rate you see among pitchers in the first round. Even though guys like Appel and Gray are top talents, and even though the Cubs clearly need pitching in the organization, I still don’t think you can rule out them taking another positional player first, and then going nuts on a high volume of pitching.

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