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carlos rodonLast week, some of the Chicago Cubs’ top executives scouted – among others, I’m sure – top high school righty Tyler Kolek and big-time college righty Jeff Hoffman, each of whom is expected to be among the top handful of picks in this year’s amateur draft, which takes place in early June.

And, according to Bruce Levine, Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein is going to head out on Friday to check out top college lefty Carlos Rodon. For more than a year, the N.C. State lefty has been projected as the top pick in the 2014 draft, but a number of recent projections and discussions have left open the possibility that Rodon will fall out of the top spot, if not further. The Cubs pick fourth in the first round, which still seems too far for Rodon to fall, but the Cubs are wise to be doing their due diligence on any player who could conceivably be there at four, and whom they could conceivably pick.

Rodon had another solid, if unspectacular outing on Friday, going eight innings, allowing one earned run on six hits, three walks, and a HBP. He struck out seven, and threw 115 pitches.

This year, Rodon has posted a 2.15 ERA over 71 innings, walking 24 and striking out 79. You never want to read too much into college baseball stats, but, it is worth noting that typically the higher-end college pitching prospects are a touch more dominant than Rodon has been. What really matters, however, is how the stuff is looking, and how he projects down the road.

In that regard, Rodon is believed to still be a highly-coveted pitching prospect, one who would immediately land in the top 20 (if not higher) of every prospect rankings list. He could also be an impact arm, for whatever team takes him, as soon as the second half of 2015. While the Cubs will still hopefully go for the guy they believe has the highest ceiling/certainty combination (whether that’s a pitcher or a bat), it would be a nice bonus to pick up a pitcher who would just happen to be arriving in the same wave as the current crop of positional guys.

(Fun fact: Rodon occasionally DH’s for the Wolfpack, and although he doesn’t have much power, he is hitting .314 with a .415 OBP. Offensive value from your pitcher isn’t something you require, but, hey, in the NL, it could be a little bonus. Of course, I’m hoping the DH will be in place in the NL long before Rodon becomes a big league mainstay, but, hey, whatever.)

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    Don’t worry too much about the college pitch counts. Remember that these guys pitch once a week. The analysts don’t seem concerned by their workload, so I suspect shouldn’t be either.

    • KHRSS

      If I remember correctly Bryant started to appear as a possible pick in the final months leading up to the draft last year. Are there any college batters with his projection this year or who could end up being a top 5 pick?

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        Not really. This a really weak class for college bats. We could go as low as No 9 or so before the first one comes off the board, and none are obvious choices for the top few picks.

        • http://bleachernation.com woody

          Luke do you think that maybe Schwarber could fall to the second round?

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            I doubt it. I suspect he’ll go in the early 20s at the latest.

        • KHRSS

          So I guess the pick will be a pitcher. Thanks for the answer.

          • Chad

            There could be a high school bat taken like Gatewood or the big catcher (name escapes me)

            • JCubs79

              Alex Jackson. Jackson isn’t a sure thing to stick at C because teams will want to move him to increase his longevity due to his bat.

              • Chad

                I agree completely about him not sticking, but I think his huge power allows him to get drafted high. Those two are the most likely bats. I was just saying that it was not guaranteed to be a pitcher, though I tend to think those are the best options right now at #4

      • SenorGato

        You’d be remembering wrong anyway – Bryant was on every preseason watch list out there.

  • NorthSideIrish

    Still think Rodon-Kolek-Hoffman is likely at the top, leaving Cubs to choose from Beede, Aiken, or Jackson. In that scenario, I think I’d go Aiken. I’ve like Beede all season, but Aiken’s been more consistent. Power LHPs are a rare commodity.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      If the Cubs get to pick between Beede and Aiken, I’m a happy camper. Those two are 1 and 1a on my list.

      • Orval Overall

        Luke, when you look at this, is there a criteria you use to decide when a H.S. pitcher is sufficiently better than a college pitcher, that it’s worth the extra risks (injury, development, etc.) associated with picking a player that is three years younger and hasn’t faced elite competition?

        In other words, how much higher does the H.S. pitcher’s ceiling need to be before it’s worthwhile picking him over a college pitcher with a high ceiling and a high floor?

        Sorry for the abstract question, but your suggestion of a basic equivalence between Beede and Aiken got my wondering about that.

      • SenorGato

        Same here Luke. I think Beede is the Matt Harvey of this draft.

        • JCubs79

          What were the reports on Harvey when he got drafted? Did he have similar issues to Beede?

          • SenorGato

            http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/profile.asp?P=tyler-beede

            http://www.thebaseballcube.com/players/profile.asp?P=Matt-Harvey

            Both pitchers with high velocity, healthy (knock on wood) arms, good offspeeds with ML out pitch potential, high pedigrees (both first round talents out of HS), played in colder weather states for HS, command and control issues not enough to knock them out of being premium draft talents out of college…similar size with both having prototypical pitcher builds…

            It’s probably bullshit but they do seem to have a ton of general similarities…Those K/9 and BB/9 are very, very similar.

            • JCubs79

              Interesting. They do seem to have similarities statistically, even though it’s a smaller sample size for Beede.

              The one thing I know about Harvey coming up is that his slider was never the wipe out pitch it became until he changed his grip due to a suggestion by the Mets pitching coach. I wonder if something like that could help Beede?

              • JCubs79

                For the record, I’m a big Beede fan.

              • SenorGato

                Actually Beede should pass Harvey in college career innings pitched within the next two starts, barring disaster.

                Harvey was a curveball guy for a long time…Left HS with an overhand delivery and a big 12/6 curve. It was never as good in college as it was said to be out of HS, and I assume someone told him that arm slot was unsustainable. Lots and lots of mechanical changes over the years…something else he and Beede share.

      • JCubs79

        Agree Luke. In that scenario, I’d take Aiken but I love Beede quite a bit.

  • http://bleachernation.com woody

    It would be awesome to have another quality lefthander in the fold.

  • Javier Bryant

    Could he be scouting Rodon and Turner? Although I highly doubt Turner is really getting looked at for the 4th pick anymore. I’m with Luke, I like Beede and Aiken.

  • josh ruiter

    Regardless of who is available I think I would go top six in this order:
    1. Kolek
    2. Rodon
    3. Beede
    4. Hoffman
    5. Aiken
    6. Jackson
    Here is my reasoning:
    Kolek – big and strong – good plane to the plate, has maintained a high level for awhile now, and maintains velocity throughout outings
    2. Rodon – every pitcher has a hiccup from time to time – for his hiccup to make him slightly less than elite (and trending positively the last few weeks) – he has the stuff, arm, consistency to be a 1/2 and is a power lefty
    3. Beede – always said about him that he has the top line stuff if he can command – we have his former coach and Bosio seems to master the art of not pitching to K’s but pitching to effectiveness (see T. Wood, Feldman, Hamel, and Shark (this year)). That bodes well.
    4. Hoffman – slightly smaller than other two, with elite stuff, but doesn’t play up to it. Still a great prospect but b/c of other 2 college SP’s he slots 4 for me.
    5. Aiken – guys who arrive late scare me a bit as flavor of the week types, also seems to throw at max effort (also evidence by losing 5-6mph at the end of his last few outings). Still a top tier prospect, but below the other 4 for me.
    6. Jackson – great bat profile, positional questions (usually unless a guy has hands down elite bat and defense as a high school guy) leads me to be a bit gun shy on Jackson, though still not a bad pick top 5-10.
    I really hope we get one of the first four, but Aiken would still make me happy, and Jackson would be some what of a consolation prize at this point IMO.

  • Jon

    Draft Aiken and trade him next year for Stanton.

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Draft Aiken, keep him, and let Bryant develop into your own version of Stanton.

      • Jon

        I’m greedy, I’ll take 2.

        • SenorGato

          Can’t knock that. I really do like Aiken but he’s not Clayton Kershaw, and Stanton is a monster.

  • miggy80

    I was at an Iowa Cubs game two weeks ago. It was cold, wet, windy and just plain miserable. As I sat there in the bottom of the 7th inning the pitcher came to bat, and then right at that moment the DH made sense to me. I’ve always been a fan of the pitcher batting, but in that moment of weakness I gave in and now I look forward to the day the NL adopts the DH.

  • SenorGato

    I’ve never gotten on the Rodon wagon. Just not into drafting a pitcher up top when their best pitch is the breaking ball plus they’ve felt any kind of shoulder pain.

    I’ve been thinking lately that I like Kopech better than Kolek.

    • JCubs79

      I mean it’s not like his fastball is bad. At his best he’s regularly sitting at 92-95 and hitting 98 at times.

      • SenorGato

        “At his best” has happened less often than not over the past two years. That just seems to get glossed over when talking about Rodon.

        I think he’s a major leaguer – there’s enough fastball for that and the breaking ball was and might still be the best individual skill in the draft. Compare him to other recent top of the draft college arms on draft day and his fastball is probably the least consistent or at least in the weaker group. It’s not Price/Strasburg/Cole/Verlander good and all those guys came with a badass offspeeds as well.

        Iunno…there’s that part of me…another part that thinks his slider will make him good enough to be David Wells with less control and more Ks (naturally just on inflation there)…then a much smaller part that thinks maybe he just needs tweaking.

        Not my favorite for 4 but if he landed there and they picked him…well I’d still wish they got Beede instead, but maybe they see something.

        • JCubs79

          I basically agree with all of this. Don’t really see David Well. Maybe a LH AJ Burnett?

          • SenorGato

            The Wells thing is mostly on the strength of the breaking ball (Wells’ curve and Rodon’s slider are dirty), similar height (both above average at 6’3″), and build – though Wells obviously got hilariously fat later…Rodon’s going to have to watch his weight THO, he’s a pretty big guy for his height as a pitcher. Not many 6’2″-6’3″ starting pitchers at 225+…well that I can think of.

  • Darth Ivy

    Question-

    How do people feel about bunting to beat a shift?

    On MLB Network, they were just talking about how an A’s batter bunted against the Astros to beat a shift while the A’s were up by a lot, and the Astros threw at him. Now, I understand the statistical disadvantage to bunting and more importantly I understand the unwritten rule about not bunting when you’re up by a lot. But if you throw a shift at a batter, how can you be upset that he responds with a bunt? The Astros adjusted to the batter with the shift, and the batter adjusted to the shift with a bunt. So the fielding team is allowed to adjust to batters but batters aren’t allowed to adjust to the defense?

    The fact that the Astros threw at the A’s batter for adjusting to their own adjustment struck me as incredibly moronic and am wondering what you baseball minds thought about this (and yes, again, I’m aware of the unwritten rule that you don’t bunt with a huge lead. But that says nothing about being shifted against)

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Thoughts on that coming tomorrow, actually. Not that I’m saying don’t discuss it now.

      • Darth Ivy

        My new slogan-

        “Ruining Bleacher Nation, one comment at a time” ;)

    • Sandberg

      The Astros are morons for throwing at the batter. Unwritten rules like that are stupid.

    • half_full_beer_mug

      I think it needs to be pointed out that this was in the FIRST inning. So there was still a long way to go and even if the team is as bad as the Astros or the Dbacks/Cubs you don’t quit trying to score that early.

    • Jon

      My thoughts, the “Unwritten rules of baseball suck”

      We are in a age when every single PA(piece of data) is being analyzed. You are being judged on a constant basis. If I’m a hitter, and especially if I’m a fringe guy, I’m doing whatever it takes to get on base.

      And throwing at a guy is cowardly bullshit too. I never get that. At least in hockey they drop the gloves and go at it mono e mono

      Ohh, I threw a ball at a defenseless player! how badass that makes me!

      • Darth Ivy

        yep, more and more I find myself opposing these unwritten rules.

        I really don’t mind seeing hitters celebrate or enjoying their success. Pitchers do it all the time. Grilli borderline goes nuts every time he gets a save. It’s fun to watch athletes have fun. And it’s no where near how NFL and NBA players celebrate

      • JCubs79

        There were Cardinals fans on twitter a week ago after Lake homered on that first pitch of the game whining that taking the first pitch of the game is an “unwritten rule of baseball” Wut?

        • http://www.teamfums.org MichiganGoat

          Because “Best Fans”…

        • Fishin Phil

          As long as the pitcher promises to throw a ball on the first pitch, I support that unwritten rule. If it is over the plate, all bets are off.

        • Jim

          I think Rickey Henderson would tell those Deadbird fans that Rickey Henderson don’t care about your stinkin’ unwritten rules.

    • Jon

      Let me guess though, Harold Reynolds sided with the Astros’
      “Those are just the rules man…”

      • half_full_beer_mug

        Everybody knows them that’s why they don’t have to be written down :)

    • bbmoney

      I have no problem bunting to beat the shift, in fact I like it. Just don’t make outs, any way you can.

      And yeah, the Astros look like huge morons if what I’ve read about that sequence is true. If you’re down by enough that you think the other team should in essence stop trying to optimize their performance then you shouldn’t be putting a shift on.

      Not to mention throwing a baseball at 90 MPH at another human being intentionally is pretty much never acceptable…..unless……maybe……if that other human is a St. Louis Cardinal………no…even then, not acceptable.

  • half_full_beer_mug

    I just hope someone puts out terrible stories about Arron Nola and he falls to the Cubs in the second round.

    • richdanna

      ^ ^ This

  • Darth Ivy

    Instead of the Astros getting so upset with being bunted against while down by so much, maybe they shouldn’t shift their defense in those situations?

    • SenorGato

      +1

      Baseball wise the shift was stupid. For a baseball reason throwing at someone is stupid because it usually results in a free base runner. I don’t think we have any right to discuss the issue on a moral level.

  • Eric

    As it stands today I like Kolek, Aiken, Hoffman and Rodon. And it’s a guarantee that one of them will still be on the board.

  • CubsFanSaxMan

    I’ve heard recently (Buster Olney I believe) that there has been more talk about the use of pitchers in college, especially Rodon lately. People are trying to figure out why so many TJ surgeries lately. Usage seems to be the answer that keeps popping up. Any thoughts? Maybe Rodon isn’t the guy that he once was predicted to be.

    • Darth Ivy
    • SenorGato

      Usage is probably just one factor…a big one obviously…another large one is that these guys are throwing harder more often at younger ages…and they’re throwing more breaking balls during those dangerous years and in general.

      • JCubs79

        Not to mention a lot of kids are starting to throw breaking balls earlier and earlier. You see it every year in little league where kids are throwing curveballs at the age of 11 and 12.

  • cubs2015

    I am actually a fan of the “unwritten rules” of baseball. I think it’s just another aspect of baseball that makes it a unique game. However there is no rule that says you can’t bunt to beat a shift in the 1st inning regardless of the score? The fact the Astros threw at him is ridiculous. If you don’t know the rule you sure as hell better not be throwing at them to defend it

    • SenorGato

      Same here, and all sports have them. Nowadays pitchers don’t attack that part of the plate anywhere near as aggressively as they used to. I feel like baseball has really given the hitter the inner half of the plate.

  • cubs2015

    Luke This may be too early for you to know but headed to Kane county game at Cedar Rapids next week on the 30th. Any idea on who will be throwing??

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

      Little early to say for sure.

  • jp3

    Good 1st inning by Hendricks in Iowa. 1 inning 1 hit 3 Ks

  • diamonddon

    Any chance of the three teams ahead of the Cubs take a surprise hitter to save signing money for later picks resulting in Rodon, Hoffman or Kolek slipping to the Cubs?

    • http://www.bleachernation.com Brett

      Jackson is a legit bat in the top three, so it’s certainly possible.

      • Assman22

        Sox like Jackson quite a bit…if Rodon/Kolek go 1-2 Sox could go Jackson…haven’t heard of Sox interest in Aiken…cant see Rodon falling past 2 barring late season injury…

  • diamonddon

    Hope so Brett as Cubs need to start drafting some pitchers with ceilings of a #1 or #2 starter.

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