jonathan gray oklahomaJonathan Gray reportedly tested positive for a banned (sans prescription, anyway) stimulant on the eve of the draft, and as a result I think becomes the overwhelmingly most logical pick for the Astros at No. 1 over all.

That is not sarcasm. Somehow this CBA has twisted things to that degree.

Houston, I suspect, is going to have every advantage in those negotiations. Any credible threat that Gray would return to college evaporated when that drug test hit daylight. Imagine what would happen if Gray returns to school, passes every drug test with flying colors, and for some reason gains five pounds and loses 1 MPH off his fastball. Questions would be raised, fairly or otherwise, regarding the validity of his 2013 campaign. All the skepticism about fast risers and players who jump up the draft boards over the span of a single season would come back tenfold with the added multiplier of suspicions of chemical enhancement. I think we are too close to the greatest excesses of the steroid era to look at any possible-PED accusation towards a player of this caliber with any degree of rationality. Not as a culture, anyway.

Gray can’t risk it. Returning for his senior season was a gamble anyway, and not a very smart one. I think this just takes that choice away completely. There is almost no upside in his returning to school. He just about has to sign, and no matter how much his agent spins against that line of reasoning in the coming days, nothing negates that a return to school is a bad risk. And every team in baseball will know it.

Including Houston. Suddenly Houston is in a position to grab the highest ceiling pitcher in the draft, the guy with easily the best pitch in the draft, and have the leverage to sign him for well under slot. How far under? I now suspect he’ll settle for No. 3 or No. 4 pick money and save the Astros as much as $3 million. It will take a very good agent for him to land at slot now; I just don’t see it happening.

And if the Astros, for some completely inexplicable reason, decide to pass on this lucrative windfall, the Cubs should give serious thought to taking Gray themselves.

I still prefer Bryant, but my reasons for that have not changed in the slightest as a result of this failed test. In fact, I can’t factor the failed test into my rankings in any meaningful way at all. There is just too much we don’t know. On questions of character we will have to trust the scouts, and on questions of health we will have to trust the training staff.

But we would have done that anyway. Fundamentally, nothing has changed. We are unlikely to know enough by Thursday night to know much of anything other than that this failed test exists. That means we have to consider Gray based on what we do know. Great arm. Great fastball. Highest upside of any pitcher in the draft. Just took a big hit to his signing bonus leverage.

He’s No. 2 on my board behind Bryant. But if I knew for certain that the Cubs could save a million or two on the signing bonus by taking Gray, I would be very tempted to flip those two.

[Brett: This is some seriously well-thought-out stuff, Luke, and I applaud your insight. I’d still take Appel.]

Scores From Yesterday

Iowa – A five run burst in the 13th inning doomed the Cubs to a 10-5 loss.
Tennessee – The Smokies made it to 30 wins with a doubleheader sweep. Game One ended with a 2-0 win, and the final in Game Two was 7-1.
Daytona – A Bradenton rally in the 8th cost the Cubs the game. They lost 5-3.
Kane County – The Cougars allowed big rallies in the 6th and 7th as they lost 10-4.

Performances of Note

  • [Iowa] Someone woke up Brett Jackson. He finished 4 for 6 with his fourth home run.
  • [Iowa] Steve Clevenger doubled home three in his rehab start behind the plate.
  • [Iowa] Hisanori Takahashi tossed three great innings of relief for the Cubs. He allowed a single hit while striking out five.
  • [Tennessee] Kyle Hendricks does it again. 7 IP, 7 H, 7 K, and he pitched the shutout.
  • [Tennessee] Christian Villanueva stayed warm with a triple in Game One. He got in Game Two with a 2 for 4 game that included his 5th home run.
  • [Tennessee] Ronald Torreyes had a pretty good game himself. His 3 for 3 Game Two included a double.
  • [Daytona] Catcher Yaniel Cabezas finished 2 for 3 with both hits being of the double variety.
  • [Daytona] Jorge Soler finished the day with two errors (giving him three for the year). That is very unusual for him.
  • [Kane County] Dillon Maples struck out 7 over 5 innings while walking 3. This might have been his best start of the season.
  • [Kane County] Reggie Golden launched his first home run as part of a two hit game.
  • [Kane County] Gioskar Amaya and Rock Shoulders also both enjoyed two hit games.

Other News

  • ssckelley

    If you are correct on Houston taking Gray then personally I will be thrilled to see the Cubs selecting between Appel and Bryant as I think both are the safest picks of the draft. IMO Gray may have had the highest ceiling but is also the biggest risk. The Cubs cannot afford to swing and miss with this pick and I think Appel could be in the starting rotation as early as next season, taking Bryant with a grade 80 power would be interesting as well. If Houston really is taking the top pitcher of the draft they are not our problem anymore.

  • Austin

    I’m with Luke on this. I think last year’s strategy of taking the safe position player with crazy upside in the first round, and then drafting pitchers in rounds 2-10 is a great strategy. Our farm system is pretty loaded with talented position players. Add one more high quality positional prospect and infuse some more young talented arms into the system.

    It almost seems fool proof. As long as we’re not drafting a bunch of guys coming off of TJ surgery :)

    • Jono

      I wonder how many of those volume pitcher picks actually pan out. If they draft 9 pitchers after the first round, can we EXPECT one to emerge? Or HOPE one to emerge? I do like the strategy. But the cubs don’t need anymore middle/back rotation guys. They need front of the rotation guys. Im just not sure if they’d even get a single #1 or #2 from the volume strategy, just a bunch of middle/back guys that they already have

  • Dan

    I 100% disagree as there is no way Gray doesn’t sign at #1 plus Houston is stupid if they draft him and he’s not their guy

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0


  • Jp3

    Ian, you’re only lying to yourself… It’s not going to happen dude.

  • MichiganGoat

    Great insight and you’re right the new CBA and the whole slotting thang has really changed how teams draft and I guess a team could use the leverage of this positive test to save money to spend on a HS/Jr prospect latter that they want to convince to sign. It all comes down to what a FO thinks of Gray’s use of Adderall- was it just a single mistake or a continued usages that benefited his performance? If its the former I think you are right that the Astros might take advantage if its the latter then we will watch Gray drop below the Cubs. This is where we must trust our scouts. Regardless it has added a nice level of drama to draft week.

  • Jp3

    Almora was 1-4 last night BUT also had a BB. I love he had an off game and still got on base 2-5 PA.

  • ssckelley

    Just curious, does this affect Gray playing in the NCAA Baseball Tournament and, potentially, the College World Series?

    • Jp3

      Yeah good question? CBB not setting a great example if you can take whatever the hell you want while there but when you go pro you have to stop…

      • ETS

        Not “whatever the hell” – just no one thinks adderrol is a big deal.

        • Jp3

          That’s not my point, my point is that, does College Baseball have any form of drug testing or is anything allowed? Does the NCAA have any authority to sit him during the playoffs?

          • willis

            Oklahoma is out saying that yes, they drug test all athletes, and that Gray is eligible still, and has been all year.

            Many people take adderral recreationally, hell a ton of people do. But I kind of think there is something more here. Oh well, we’ll see. I still want Appel.

            • hansman1982

              Ya, this revelation only really makes me want Appel even more.

        • hansman1982

          Adderal isn’t a serious drug like Krokodil, correct, however, users are prone to dependancy and these would magnify the concerns about Grey being a legitimate top of the draft talent.

          Was the 2013 season from something that is sustainable or is he more of a bullpen arm that had a career year thanks to PED’s?

          • ETS

            Krokodil is your counter example?

            Seriously though, if he truly has an anxiety issue then he will get a script for something (probably not adderall but whatever). If he doesn’t have issues then he was probably just cramming for a test. The kid is in college.

            Stupid on Gray’s part for the aforementioned loss of negotiating leverage.

            • Jp3

              College kids take adderall for focus and studying all night for finals, not “student athletes” who will be top 3 picks. Lets not kid ourselves with how much you think big time college athletes go to class, especially ones that are projected 1st round picks. His Major is undecided, I’m going to guess that it’s not down to astrophysics or cytology… He’s going to be a millionaire and was taking something to maximize his potential.

            • hansman1982

              “The kid is in college.”

              I love this line for doing something illegal.

              Krokidil was just the first drug that popped in my head, since I was looking at pics last night of it. More of the point that, “you’re right, the kid isn’t likely to be found huddled in the corner rocking back and forth asking for more smack or dead in a ditch.”

              What’s odd, this is a bigger deal to me than Soler’s bat incident. I can rationalize why but illegal drug use over assault with a deadly weapon?

              • Cubbie Blues

                “attempted” assault.

                • hansman1982

                  I prefer that he was exorcising the demons…Jobu style.

                  • ETS

                    I just don’t think the performance gains, if any, from adderall are a concern. Soler’s having unchecked anger issues would be a bigger concern but I’m hoping that was just a reaction to adjusting to a new culture, etc.

                    • Norm

                      It increases focus. It’s most certainly a PED. And if he can’t get a scrip for it, for whatever reason, there are questions as to how that would affect his focus.

                    • ETS

                      I never said it wasn’t a PED. I said “Performance gains, if any”. Not every athlete is going to perform better on adderall.

                      You’re right about it being a concern to how well he can focus/perform once he is off of it, but it’s a substantially lower risk than other PEDs.

                    • Jp3

                      I think one of the concerns with Gray specifically taking this sort of PED’s is that his body type was something in question about having the potential to be too heavy, what will happen when he comes off? If he puts on weight that Adderall helped him keep off, what will you have drafted, a hard throwing flame thrower out of the bullpen? I wouldn’t mind him as a player but not sure I’d want to select a middle reliever with the #2 overall pick, even a good one.

                • Jp3

                  Speaking of assault, Milton Bradley is going to prison for 7 years, with charges that include brandishing a deadly weapon… This couldn’t have been considered a baseball bat because there wouldn’t have been any danger of him hitting anything with that.

                  • hansman1982

                    I want to post a rimshot picture but I don’t want to google “rimshot” at work.

                    • ETS


    • Alex

      There are no consequences for a drug test for the mlB draft screaning. He failed MLBs test, not the NCAA, so no they will not be touching him. It’s like when soto failed a drug test for marijuana at the WBC, wasnt touched by MLB.

      • Jp3

        Ahhh, thanks Alex. That’s interesting.

  • jt

    Steve Stone would rant that a team that continuously drafts great pitching can trade surplus for position players. I’m wondering if now the reverse is also true? How does the FO value the value of their young prospects? Is there enough talent there to stock the future Cubbies and bring back more talent in the form of trades?
    IMO character is an important quality consideration when drafting and now Gray has developed a character question. If Appel and Bryant are scouted to be close on athletic value would the development of Bryant free up other prospect who could be traded for more ready pitching?
    I’m starting to be swayed by Luke’s preference for Bryant.

  • Norm

    I agree with Dan. If Gray isn’t Houston’s guy there is no reason to draft him. It certainly wouldn’t be inexplicable.

  • Rich H

    One thing on the Jackson getting hot thing. He is finally beginning to get healthy and adjusted to the swing. Jackson being hurt in ST may be the best thing for him in the long run because now he got time to get the fundamentals of that swing down against live pitching. I can live with a guy have a 20%- 25% k rate if we get all the rest of his game intact. Lets hope this is the beginning of Jackson putting himself right back into the conversation as the Cubs center fielder of the future.

  • Josh Kirby

    Pardon my lack of knowledge, but does signing a guy for under slot value just give you more money for late on in the draft to use on other guys? What’s the big advantage other than giving the guys u were going to draft anyways more money?

    • IlliniBone

      Ya, each team has a pool of money to work with based on last years standings. If you can sign your first round pick for well under slot, it gives you more money later in the draft to sign high school kids or college juniors believed to be “tough signs”. Its also why you see mostly college seniors being drafted in rounds 5-10, they have little to no leverage and will sign for the slot minimum.

    • andoalex

      You could possibly convince high school guys or juniors in college to jump into the pros instead of going to or heading back to college if you are able to give them a much larger signing bonus. That is the one big advantage that I can think of although there are probably several others.

  • IlliniBone

    With good reports from Hendricks and Maples last night, I am now in the Bryant camp. Looking back at past Theo’s drafts, he very rarely took pitchers in the first round. It always seemed like he was more likely to develop position prospects and sign FA pitchers.

    Look back at previous drafts and you will notice you have never heard of many of the pitchers, while the top bats are usually ML contributors.

    • Norm

      You’re letting good reports on Kyle Hendricks affect your draft strategy?

    • gocatsgo2003

      Reports on two starts in the low- to mid-minor leagues changes your perception of the draft?

      • T C

        And it’s not like Maples was even all that good last night. Saw him in person, and his curveball was freakin awesome, but his velocity wasn’t great, and he needs a TON of work on his command. He’s 3-4 years away, and that’s if he stays healthy and everything breaks right for him, something not guaranteed for a guy with iffy mechanics and past medical issues

  • willis

    Hendricks is just in the zone right now. Killing it about every time out.

    Pretty good to see a solid start by Maples. And then Lendy Castillo did what Lendy Castillo does, suck ass. But Maples seemed to be on point.

    • Rcleven

      Maples did a pretty good job last night. He was pretty wild too. He had a hard time keeping his fastball in the strike zone. He hit in the 90’s on only 3 maybe 4 pitches (mostly at 89). To contrast the fast ball he had a crazy 74/75 mph curve and straight change that kept the hitters off balance. Gave up four to five hard hit balls that were grass hoppers and two made it thru the infield.
      Lendy was just terrible. He couldn’t find the strike zone and when he did get the ball over the plate he was hit hard. Walking hitters was his downfall. Amlung was just as bad. Between the two they put their fielders asleep and gave up 10 runs.

      • willis

        Yeah I was traveling back from Chicago last night during the game, I got home to check all the scores of the minor league teams, saw that one and said “damn whoever started got shelled.” Then opened up the box and was shocked to see Maples with a 0 ER start. Those bullpen numbers were just awful. Too bad for Maples.

  • curt

    Appel or Bryant , what makes Bryant a better choice than Appel .

  • James

    I think any team selecting Gray in the first five picks is crazy. The man has issues you don’t want to bring to minor league team. Gray knew what he was doing. I know some people will say he is young and deserves a second chance. Performing enchanceing drugs are banned in baseball for a reason. If we all give Gray a free pass because he has talent then we as Cubs fans have little morals.

  • Kramden

    Or, the Cubs can draft another Almora-type by drafting Moran?

  • JulioZuleta

    I have to think the Adderall was mostly a weight-loss aid. I could see it helping hitters marginally, but pitchers almost not at all. It is most commonly “abused” in golfing and NASCAR. Also, Adderall is probably just a lesser version of “greenies” that players like Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle took back in the day.

    The only thing that worries me at all about the failed test is that he was dumb enough to get caught heading into the draft. It is not at all hard to beat NCAA testing. Also, the marginal benefit that Adderall probably gave him is not at all worth the risk of getting caught. Just shows VERY questionable decision making.

    • Scott

      Adderall does aid wheight loss…but it does also improve focus. I played college baseball and took Adderall (prescribed to improve my attention in class). The Adderall helped me gain better control of my pitches. I’m not saying to not pick Gray, but lets not think that Adderall doesn’t improve performance.

  • Tyron

    The 2013 MLB draft
    The Chicago cubs select kris Bryant

  • cubbie blue thru n thru

    Does anybody know which players on the Dominican summer league team were bonus babies

  • YourResidentJag

    I’m with Keith Law when he underrates Bryant’s power and says he won’t stick at 3b. If he’s moving to OF and doesn’t project to have that power, why take him?

  • Jason

    any idea on Kris Bryant ETA would be? It seems Appel would seem to ready pretty quickly IF everything goes right.

  • nkniacc13

    with the recent promotions of 3 Kane County players has there been any mention of who will take their places?