That was fun.
There were over 750 comments on the Bleacher Nation Live thread for the draft last night, and the party on Twitter was just as active. It was the kind of crazy night that makes the MLB Amateur Draft more fun than any other professional sports draft. And that fun continues today at 1 PM as rounds 3 through 10 of the draft take place. Brett and I will be covering every Cub pick both on the website and on Twitter.
Round One – Kris Bryant, 3B/OF
- In general, I think the Cubs did well last night. The selection of Kris Bryant alone is enough to earn them accolades, though, since the Cubs landed a potentially elite hitter. That is not a small event. There are few hitters in the game with power comparable to what Bryant possess, and scouts report he is already a patient hitter with a refined plate approach. The sky is the ceiling here. Bryant has the potential to be a very, very good player.
- And like all draft picks, he has the potential to bust entirely. There are some questions on the internet about his bat speed. There were concerns from some corners about his strikeout rate. But against those concerns consider that scouts and analysts were nearly unanimous in ranking Bryant the best overall hitter in the draft and one of the clear top three players on the board. If his bat speed or strikeout rate had a high likelihood of wrecking his career, he would not have been that universally praised. At worst I think we can say he has a good chance of enjoying some success. We will get a better idea of his ceiling when he begins playing every day in the minors.
- So. Where will be assigned? Initially I think he will head to the Arizona Rookie League to learn the basics of the Cubs organization and what is expected of him as a player in this farm system. Albert Almora had a similar stint in Arizona last summer. After that, but still in 2013, I think there is a very good chance he will be assigned to High-A Daytona. The only other patient, disciplined college hitter the Cubs have taken recently that we can compare him to is Ben Carhart. And while Bryant is a significantly better prospect, Carhart did make the jump straight from Arizona to Daytona. I think that is the best indicator we have. I hope Bryant is polished enough to land in Tennessee this August (I will be in Tennessee this August and would love to see him in action first hand), but I do not really expect that.
- Until I can see him perform in the minors for a month or so I hesitate to project his major league arrival too closely, but I think the second half of 2014 is the earliest we can realistically hope for.
- I am not certain where Bryant ranks in the Cubs farm system yet, either, but I know it is somewhere in the top four. He will be joining Jorge Soler, Javier Baez, and Albert Almora at the top of the next Bleacher Nation Top 40.
Round Two – Rob Zastryzny, LHP
- As expected the Cubs took a pitcher in the second round. And as I had hoped, the Cubs took a left handed starting pitcher from the college ranks. But not the one I expected. There was some initial confusion when Zastryzny was announced as the Cubs’ choice, but that does not mean this is a bad pick. On the contrary, I think the Cubs did pretty well.
- The best scouting report I have been able to find (that is not behind a paywall anyway) is this one. There are two main things I think we need to take away from that write up. First, he is a left handed pitcher who throws a mid-90s sinking fastball. Second, he consistently throws strikes and does not walk very many hitters. That is a nice foundation for a pitching prospect.
- I hate comparing prospects to major league players. I really hate comparing draft picks to established major league players. But I am going to do it anyway, just this once. The worst case scenario on Zastryzny is one in which he never develops his breaking pitches and is consigned to the bullpen. Many assume he’d be relegated to a LOOGY. But ask yourself this: how many LOOGYs do you know of that throw a 96 MPH sinking fastball? Most pitchers gain an MPH or two when they become exclusively relievers, and I see no reason to think that Zastryzny would buck that trend. So what do we call a left handed reliever with a very hard fastball with good late sink? We call him a setup man and quite possibly a closer. Based on the best scouting reports I can find, I honestly think the floor for Zastryzny is a reliever roughly comparable to James Russell. I have no objections to the Cubs drafting another Russell in the second round.
- His ceiling, assuming he can stay in the starting rotation and develop at least one quality breaking pitch to go with his fastball and change up, is that of a No 3/4 starter. That’s not bad at all.
- It gets better. Many reports refer to Zastryzny as one of the more polished pitchers in the draft. I do not look for him to pitch much higher than Arizona this year (if he pitches there) due to the number of innings he has already pitched this spring, but when he gets going next year he has the potential to move up quickly. He could be reinforcing the Chicago bullpen by mid 2015. His timetable as a starter is only a little slower. Zastryzny is not a long term project. He looks like someone who should be able to pitch in the majors sooner rather than later.
- I am not certain where he ranks in the farm system just yet. I strongly suspect he is the best lefty in the organization, but that still leaves me a lot of territory. For now I think we can safely slot him in the 12-20 bracket, but do not be surprised if that changes before I re-rank the Top 40.
- All in all I think Cub fans should be happy with this pick. The Cubs probably traded some upside for polish by choosing Zastryzny, but I think they got a high-floor lefty who is likely to help out the major league team sooner than we might expect. If he does sign a little under slot as is speculated that will just be the icing on the cake.
What To Expect Today
- The Cubs have taken two fairly polished players who can potentially help the major league team in the next two years or so. We could read that as a sign that the Cubs are aiming for nearly finished players who can move quickly through the minors and will be able to help the Cubs compete as soon as next season. I’m tempted to say we should read it that way, but two data points do not make a trend.
- If the Cubs open up today by taking more polished college players, though, I think we have our trend and possible the defining story of this draft (for Cub fans, anyway). By Round Five we should have a good idea if this is in fact the plan.
- Regardless, I think we can expect to load up on pitchers again. I expect at least half of their draftees through the first ten rounds to be pitchers of some variety.
- If you are looking for draft candidates, the Baseball America Top 500 is a good place to start.
Day Two of the Draft gets started at 1 PM ET. There will be a crowd here on the website and it should once again be a lot of fun. To get fully immersed in the action, though, be sure to follow both @BleacherNation and @ltblaize on Twitter. Brett and I will be covering every one of the Cubs’ selections today.