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carlos rodonIt’s still early – the draft is on June 5, 6 and 7 – but the amateur landscape is already starting to shift with respect to the draft. Some of the latest Cubs-related notes …

  • One name flying up the lists is high school lefty Brady Aiken, a 6’4″ polished pitcher with great stuff and a mid-90s fastball. The Cubs reportedly sent their “scouting director” (which could be VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod, or it could be Amateur Scouting Director Matt Dorey) to watch his second start of the year last year. Aiken is clearly on the Cubs’ radar with that fourth pick, together with a bunch of other names, of course.
  • How high has Aiken climbed at this point? Well, Keith Law now has him in the conversation for first overall.
  • Speaking of Aiken and the Cubs, Patrick Mooney looks at a long list of the guys the Cubs might be considering at the top of the 2014 draft, and Aiken is among 12 names. There are the usual suspects, but also some names you we may have not yet heard: high school shortstop/pitcher Nick Gordon (yes, Tom’s son), Oregon State outfielder (one of the few college bats in consideration up in the draft) Michael Conforto, TCU lefty Brandon Finnegan, Indiana University catcher/outfielder Kyle Schwarber (one of the better college power bats), and LSU righty Aaron Nola. Mooney’s is a great piece for background on all of the guys who could go at the top of the draft.
  • The question of NC State lefty Carlos Rodon as the first overall pick continues to be a really interesting one. Rodon went out on Friday and laid an egg against Maryland, giving up eight runs over just 4.2 innings, allowing six hits and four walks (and two HBP). He did strike out eight, but, all in all, it was apparently an unimpressive outing. We’ve already discussed questions about Rodon at the top, and the slim chance he could slide to the Cubs at four. Starts like this will only hasten those questions.
  • Jim Callis still sees Rodon as the top overall pick with ace upside, even if he’s no longer believed to be the better-than-David-Price guy he was previously thought to be.
  • Rodon wasn’t the only one who stunk in his latest start. Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede, who had been absolutely dominant this year, lasted just 2.2 innings against Mississippi State. He gave up 11 runs (five earned) over that stretch, allowing six hits and five walks. He struck out just two.
  • East Carolina’s Jeff Hoffman wasn’t dominant on Friday either, for that matter, pitching against Charlotte: 7 IP, 3 ER, 6 H, 2 BB, 1 HBP, 2 K.
  • Dan Kirby, collaborating with John over at Cubs Den, writes about some of the potential college arms the Cubs could consider in the second round. Given the draft approach of the last two years, it’s pretty likely that the Cubs will be grabbing a pitcher with that selection.
  • itzscott

    …. and that’s just another reason why choosing a pitcher so high up is such a crap shoot.

  • C. Steadman

    Aaron Nola is having himself one heck of a year…

    • JacqueJones

      Nola is definitely a competitor. Last year I watched him outpitch Jonathan Gray in the College World series, even though his stuff isnt as electric.

      • C. Steadman

        Yeah, I just don’t think he has the stuff to justify taking him at #4.

  • dwest9cubs

    I want schwarber. Big time bat, multiple positions (especially catcher) that could really benefit our minor league system. If aiken isnt there at 4, i would like to see schwarber.

    • Norm

      I don’t think many, if any, see Schwarber as a catcher in the pros

    • C. Steadman

      Schwarber seems like a 1B/LF guy. I hear his catching skills are below average.

    • Norm

      and no one see him as a Top 4 pick.

    • DarthHater

      I don’t know enough about Schwarber to comment on him specifically, but there is no way the Cubs will draft for farm system need in the first round. They’ll take whoever they believe is the best player available.

    • http://bleachernation.com woody

      The problem with Schwarber is that he is not going to make it as a major league catcher and presents similar problems that we already have with V-Bomb. Rizzo could be in our lineup for another ten years and I don’t think Schwarber’s defense would cut it in our outfield. He makes a lot more sense for an AL team that could use him as a DH and a lefthanded bat to platoon at 1st.

      • C. Steadman

        He’s almost a clone of Vogelbach, looked at his size(roughly ten pound or so difference, same height) and pictures of them playing, its a scary resemblance.

  • Spoda17

    I wonder if the weather has anything to do with the pitching problems… I know its okay in North Carolina… but north of there is a figgin freezer…

    • miggy80

      Some of these guys probably spent more time filling out their NCAA brackets than preparing for their next start. Hope one of them wins a billion dollars.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        Hope they didn’t wager any money on it though, that would be against NCAA rules

      • scorecardpaul

        sorry but that was a diehardlike post

        • DarthHater

          High praise, indeed.

    • Carew

      The weather is not too good here in North Carolina. We’re supposed to winter weather tonight and tomorrow actually, and it’s late March!

  • Darth Ivy

    Aaron Nola? That’s either the best baseball name ever or the worst. I can’t decide.

    • Big City Mick

      If not the best baseball name it’s definitely the best Louisiana name. NOLA is an acronym for New Orleans, LA. I only know that because of all the annoying Saints fans wearing that stupid (yes, I’m jealous) tee shirt. On a side note, has anyone here actually been to a Saints game? It’s comical how many times you here, in cajun accent, INTERCEPT! It doesn’t even matter if they’re on offense or defense. Least knowledgeable football fans, ever.

  • http://www.survivingthalia.com Mike Taylor

    You can head over to the message board to check out my pick for the 2nd round in the MINORS and PROSPECTS section… he may be off the board by the time the 45th rolls around, but he’s a name to watch… Nick Burdi of Louisville.

    • Illini Cubbie Fan

      Watched Burdi pitch in high school a few times. Kid has electric stuff then and could end up being an absolute dominate closer someday. Would be an excellent second round pick. Another player I wouldn’t mind the Cubs taking a shot on in rounds 8-15 is Illinois State catcher Mike Hollenbeck. Went in round 14 out of high school. I’ve seen him play a few quite a few times now and I think he has a very bright future ahead of him.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    Does anybody know where Almora is going to start the season? I see Soler has been optioned to AA, but didn’t see any mention of Almora. My guess is that he will start out at Daytona,, but seeing that both were injured last year and played in the AFL I thought they were on the same timeline with their progession.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Not yet announced. And don’t read too much into where guys have been optioned yet – those are just Spring Training levels, not necessarily where they will start the season.

    • Darth Ivy

      the trainer’s room?

      sorry.

    • C. Steadman

      Almora is listed on the AA spring training roster at thecubreporter.com(as of 3/20), but like Brett and the disclaimer at the site says those rosters are very fluid and not guaranteeing that level.

      • terencemann

        mlbdepthcharts.com is my favorite source for minor league assignment projections (it’s owned by BP). It’s pretty good when it comes to players of note.

      • http://bleachernation.com woody

        I hope that it is possible to keep Almora and Soler together this year. The two are pretty good friends and I think Almora has helped Soler a lot with the cultural transition. Bryant was also hanging with Almora and roomed with him during ST. If Bryant kills it a Daytona then maybe all three of those guys can get some time a Iowa this year. Ideally they all progress to the point where they can make the roster in 2015. But with the exception of Soler I think the FO will keep Bryant and Almora down in 2015 for service time control until mid-season.

        • C. Steadman

          Another interesting note, but Bryant is also listed on the AA spring roster.(insert fluid roster disclaimer here)

          • Xruben31

            I think the hope was Bryant would start the year in AA. If all three really did, start in AA this year, 2015 could realistically be the year we see them all.

    • ssckelley

      Good question on Almora, one would guess based on his age and experience that he would be ticketed for Daytona. WGN had Carrie Muskat on yesterday and she made some interesting comments on Almora being “fast tracked” to the major leagues, which gives me the impression that AA is a possible starting place for him. Almost everybody I read says the same thing about him, maturity and incredible poise. His glove is MLB ready for center field, if he can keep proving that he can hit you might as well keep bringing him along.

  • Ben G

    I don’t like any of the college bats at #4 from what I have read and listened. Nola concerns me because of his armslot but he has been dominant at LSU. Beede got roughed up big time last weekend but the SEC is the best baseball conference. I still prefer either of Beede, Rodon or Hoffman. A few struggles is not going to change that. I also love watching Trea Turner play but I don’t know if he is going to have a good enough hit tool to justify taking him at #4. Kolek will be gone at 4 but I would love for him to slip to Cubs. Alex Jackson also seems like an intriguing high school player. I enjoyed this writeup!

    • gocatsgo2003

      There’s probably an explanation I don’t know, but why is there such concern for Turner’s hit tool? Seems to have hit for a pretty high average throughout his career at NC State and his speed should allow his hit skill to “play up” somewhat.

      • ssckelley

        His hit tool has been a question mark and this year he has gotten off to a slow start. His best skill is his speed and without a great hit tool he is not worth a top 5 pick. They say he does have defensive potential at shortstop, if he sticks there the hit tool is not as big of a deal. His stock has been slipping as of late and very well could end up out of the top 10.

      • mjhurdle

        ive read three reports that say he has a lot of “lift” in his swings that results with in more flyballs/soft line drives than you would like to see from someone with his amazing speed and little power.
        That being said, I haven’t read anything that says that his hit tool will be bad, but just that his future as a pro is almost entirely wrapped up in that because of his lack of projectable power and average defense.

  • college_of_coaches

    Darn, I could’ve gone to see Rodon get slapped around by the Terps. The field is only a five minute walk from my office, though technically we were on spring break last week.

  • mudge

    Beede off? How long you been saving that one Brett?

  • SenorGato

    Beede couldnt throw his fastball for a strike but I am sold on his offspeeds being pluses. Still really like him and Aiken.

    Aiken at 1-1 seems crazy but whatever gets people noticing hes the best HS pitcher in this draft.

  • ssckelley

    I am still hoping the Cubs grab the top position prospect at #4 which, IMO, is Gatewood or Jackson. In the last mock draft I read (I forget who’s it was) they had the W’Sox grabbing Gatewood at #3 with the Cubs getting Beebe.

    • NorthSideIrish

      It would seem to fit the front office’s MO to take the top bat rather than possibly the 4th pitcher on their board. Jackson has huge raw power and the Cubs seem to be trying to corner the market on power bats. There’s little belief that he will stay at catcher but that bat would play anywhere and he likely ends up in RF.

      I think it’s possible Jackson is the only hitter taken in the top 10 this year and right now it would be hard to see more than two. Turner had a good weekend but before than had been a bit of a disappointment with the bat. Gatewood hasn’t impressed so far this year either and could end up in the 12-16 range. It’s the definitely the year of the pitcher so far.

      • Ben G

        I don’t think they would do that necessarily in a year were most of the top players are pitchers. At this point the 1-3 college pitchers all look equally good from what I am reading. You can easily make a case for Hoffman, Rodon or Beede at the top, so if either of the 3 are there at 4. I hope Cubs give it strong consideration.
        I don’t know much about Jackson other than he is consdered the top hitter on the board and he is a HS bat. I wonder if his bat will be good enough to merit top 5 consideration if he is destined to be an outfielder. I am just glad there are lots of strong options at #4 (from the looks of it anyway)

        • ssckelley

          This draft does seem to be deeper than last year. I am not 100% convinced if a guy like Rodon or Beede drops to #4 that the Cubs wouldn’t take him. I think they would have taken Appel last year had the Astros passed on him. I think they will take a pitcher if they feel the injury risk is low and the projections are solid. IMO it would be a stretch to see this FO draft a pitcher, too much risk.

        • NorthSideIrish

          A month ago, I would have said there was no way any of the top three college pitchers were getting to the Cubs, but they’ve all showed some question marks this season. I think Kolek is locked in to a Top 3 pick, so one of the college arms should be there for the Cubs and I’m hoping they take one. But if all three did go, I’m not sure how the FO rates prep arms vs. prep bats. We’ve heard that the FO think bats are safer bets than pitchers and historically prep pitchers are the riskiest picks, so I think that is where Jackson could be in play. But Kolek’s raw tools and Aiken’s polish could easily sway the FO. Right now I don’t think any of the college bats are in the conversation for 1.4.

          • ssckelley

            Based on the fact they drafted Almora out of high school I don’t think they will hesitate to take the top high school bat.

            • NorthSideIrish

              They will take the higest player on their board no matter what. It is more of a question of how they are rated and the FO has stated that they prefer college bats. I just don’t know what their next preference would be.

              And Almora was a bit of a special case. There were jokes that year that the Cubs loved Almora so much that they would have taken him first.

          • Mike Moody

            The thing I keep going back to with Kolek is that, if you compare ceilings of all players in the draft, Kolek comes in first and no one else is particularly close. That comes with a fairly low floor as well: A ball wash-out.

      • ssckelley

        From what I have been reading Jackson has the skills to stay at catcher but like Bryce Harper will get moved to the outfield to take advantage of his elite bat. The thinking is he will have a longer career and will move through the minors quicker by moving to the outfield

        • Mike Moody

          One person I know who has seen him says he has the arm to stay at catcher but the hands are a real question mark.

          • NorthSideIrish

            I think Jackson gets moved off catcher because of his bat not his defensive tools. He certainly has the arm and I’ve seen reports of some ridiculous release times for him. I hadn’t heard that about his hands though but that makes even more reason to move him out from behind the plate.

            • ssckelley

              The hands are something that would be worked on in the minors if he was kept at catcher. But like you said the bat will probably move him from catcher anyway. Although it would be nice to have an offensive threat like that at catcher.

  • Mike Moody

    After Zastryzny I’m little gunshy about drafting a polished lefty who has a sudden jump in velocity. Really a tough call though with every single guy there coming with significant question marks. Even the formerly sure thing Rodon.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Why after Zastryzny? He didn’t pitch a lot for the Cubs after being drafted, but no serious red flags emerged and he still projects as a potential mid-rotation starter.

      • Mike Moody

        Because he was drafted after hitting 95 in front of scouts. That makes him a potential 2, which is an excellent pick in the second round. The velocity dipped almost immediately to the low 90s, which really makes him a middle-bottom of the rotation guy. A good one, no doubt, but not a guy you spend a second round pick on.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

          Keep in mind, he did sign under slot, and the idea was to grab him *because* the Cubs had seen the velocity spike, whereas not everyone had really taken full stock of it before the draft. I like taking the shot.

          And, even that said, I still see plenty of upside there.

          • Mike Moody

            I do think part of the thinking was to save money for Hannemann and Skulina, so that definitely went into it.

        • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

          It is rare to see a likely No. 2 starter slide to the second round, and it would take more than velocity on his fastball to kick Zastryzny up to No. 2 status. He still has that ceiling, but he’ll need to polish at least one of his secondary offerings to very good plus, if not plus-plus, status and maintain a plus-plus fastball to hit that.

          More likely he settles in with a plus fastball and two or three average-plus secondary offerings. As a lefty, that’ll slot him in as a No. 3 or No. 4 in a lot of rotations provide he has the command to back it up. If he can pick up 200+ innings a year in that slot he’ll be a very, very valuable selection for the second round.

          I’m still happy with the pick.

          • Mike Moody

            I disagree here. There are two easy examples: Lester and Buchholz were both drafted later than Zastryzny, by the exact same front office. They clearly shoot for the stars with those picks.

            I even have an alternative pick: Hunter Green, who was on the board, had been heavily scouted by the Cubs, and has obscene potential.

            • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

              The Cubs appeared to target college pitching last year, likely in an effort to stock up some on pitching prospects in the middle of the organization. You can disagree with that approach, but under that approach Green wasn’t really an option.

              I agree that Green had tremendous upside, but he also was one of the highest risk picks in the first few rounds. The bust potential is equally tremendous. Zastryzny, comparatively, has a much, much higher floor.

              • Mike Moody

                I think they did it to minimize roster crunch in 5 years when the IFA class has to be added to the 40-man.

                But even then, they did draft high school guys they liked (Charcer Burks, Trevor Clifton). I know they scouted Green. He was absolutely on their radar. The story I heard is that the Cardinals were in on Zastryzny until Kaminsky dropped to them, which let Zastryzny fall unexpectedly into the Cubs laps.

                It was probably a smart gamble drafting him, but at this point it looks like a failed gamble. That’s okay. It happens. But he’s pretty much hitting his floor and no one drafts a player saying, “Man, I hope he hits his floor!”

                • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                  After 24 professional innings you’re already writing off Zastryzny as a “failed gamble.”?

                  Interesting.

                • TulaneCubs

                  You can’t be serious. A failed gamble?

                  You’re overreacting to one Baseball Prospectus article. You must have missed the comments on a Baseball America podcast 5 days earlier from Josh Norris:

                  Zastryzny threw that day too. There was a scout there that was just raving about him.”I’m going to write up a pro report on him tonight. This guy could be in the major leagues this year.” Just loving every bit of Rob Zastryzny…

                  I think it’s time to put away the jump to conclusions mat.

                  • Mike Moody

                    No, I saw it. The velocity is gone. The only reason they took him was because he hit 95. I know that for a fact. He could be an excellent 4. But without the velocity he’s a 4.

                    • TulaneCubs

                      Come.on.dude.

                      You called a 2nd round pick that has pitched 24 professional innings a failed gamble, even though he’s received some glowing reviews this spring that he could be ready for the bigs this year.

                      That’s just ridiculous.

                    • Mike Moody

                      This is my last comment on this. I’m not talking out of my ass here. I’m speaking with some knowledge. Not perfect knowledge. It certainly wasn’t in a conversation with Theo that I gleaned this. But I trust the people I did talk to. You’re welcome to believe those glowing reviews. I hope you and they are right and I’m wrong.

                      However: do you really think those 24 professional innings are all they have to evaluate him on? No bullpen sessions. No minor league games this spring (like the one you mentioned). No instructional league games. There is a lot more to evaluating and developing talent than what you see on baseball reference.

                    • Kyle

                      I talked to those guys too, and they said they were just messing with you. They didn’t think you’d take it seriously.

                    • TulaneCubs

                      Sorry Mike, but given your comments in this thread, the “I know people, trust me,” thing is a tough sell.

                • AB1980

                  “I think they did it to minimize roster crunch in 5 years when the IFA class has to be added to the 40-man.”

                  Yea, the front office is drafting weaker players in the early rounds of the amateur draft to account for when the 16-year olds they sign become eligible for the 40-man roster.

                  Great point, very smart and observant.

                  • TulaneCubs

                    I got so wound up on the failed gamble part, I forgot that part.

        • Kyle

          I think you’re overrating what type of prospect is generally around at that point.

          • Mike Moody

            Other pitchers drafted in the same range:

            41: McCullers, Wojciechowski
            42: Buchholz
            43: Piercce Johnson, Taijuan Walker, Mark Prior (high schooler, unsigned)
            44: Lieber
            46: Yovanni Gallardo

            And that isn’t counting a bunch of guys like Joba Chamberlain, Luke Jackson, and Wade Miley who were considered TOR guys and never made it. The 2nd round is still a round to shoot high — it’s just the hit rates that are lower.

            • Kyle

              When you consider how cherrypicked it is, that’s really not that great of a list.

            • ssckelley

              At #41 there have been 2 players drafted that went on to have over 10 WAR, Dan Plesac and Fred Lynn. Only 12 players (out of 48) have over 0 WAR. The odds are so low that you are going to find a productive player at this position that I can’t blame the Cubs for rolling the dice on Zastryzny.

            • AB1980

              what random non-sense

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