Things at the top of the draft – at least where the Cubs pick at number four – have gotten considerably murky …
- Baseball Prospectus published a mock draft this week, just a few hours before the announcement of Jeff Hoffman’s impending Tommy John surgery, so, naturally, Jason Parks had the Cubs taking Hoffman. That obviously isn’t going to happen now*, so it’s interesting to see the other names Parks considered at the spot (because, yes, the top three were Aiken/Kolek/Rodon): high school righty Grant Holmes, high school righty Touki Toussaint, and college righty Aaron Nola. All pitchers, and all mid-first round types, according to most rankings.
- Nola is having one of the best college years out there, pitching at LSU, but he’s believed to have a limited ceiling. Toussaint is loved by many for his extremely high ceiling, but he’s believed to require a whole lot of refining before his production would match his ability (think high risk, high reward). I haven’t really heard much about Holmes, who’s been climbing the boards in recent weeks (though I’ve never seen him discussed in the top 10 until now). Nick Faleris has the Twins taking Holmes right after the Cubs, so clearly the BP staff is very high on him. It sounds like he’s got great stuff already, but not quite as much velocity as Aiken/Kolek, and not much projectability in his body. Toussaint, incidentally, goes right after Holmes.
- *In case you wanted any more confirmation than that, Patrick Mooney has a team source saying, no, the Cubs aren’t considering Hoffman anymore with their fourth pick. They would consider him with their second round pick, at number 45 overall, but nobody expects him to be on the board that long, even considering the surgery. If he’s there at 45, and the Cubs did take him, it would make for a very interesting negotiation. On the one hand, Hoffman is a $4 or $5 million talent without the surgery, and could get back to that place in a couple years. On the other hand, there’s so much more risk with a guy who is getting TJS, and who could come back far less effective than he was before. Would he accept slot at 45 (around $1 million), knowing that he’d otherwise have to try again in next year’s draft (likely without having pitched competitively in a year, but maybe with more medical evaluation information), or would have to play independent ball the year after that, and hope to be selected high in the 2016 draft? That’s quite a risk when the alternative is a guaranteed $1 million and the best rehabilitation program he’s going to find. In the end, I bet he’d require quite a bit above slot to sign at 45, and I don’t think he’ll be there for the Cubs anyway.
- Baseball America’s John Manuel does the first mock in the post-Hoffman-injury era, and, once again, Rodon/Kolek/Aiken go in the top three, with the Cubs’ position described as, “The Cubs pick fourth in a draft with three defined elite talents.” Neat. Manuel has them going for TCU lefty Brandon Finnegan, one of a half dozen quality college arms under consideration by teams picking in the 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9 range in this draft (it’s shaking up to be a nice year to pick in the top three, or in the middle of the first round). It sounds like UNLV’s Erick Fedde is a close second in that pitching group, with the Cubs also considering high school catcher/outfielder Alex Jackson, high school shortstop Nick Gordon, and Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede, according to Manuel.
- Fascinating: Manuel identifies five players here for the Cubs, and not a single one overlaps with the three Jason Parks identified. Clearly, the Cubs are keeping things tight-lipped. Also: Holmes, Toussaint and Nola don’t go until 17, 13, and 12, respectively, in the BA mock.
- If you were looking for hope that one of the top three arms could slip to the Cubs, Manuel says there’s some chatter that, if Aiken and Rodon were gone, the While Sox would pass on Kolek in favor of a college arm. Further, industry sources tell Patrick Mooney that the White Sox prefer to get one of Aiken or Kolek. So, if you squint, that means there’s a chance that the White Sox would pass on one of Kolek or Rodon. A chance.
- … but Jim Callis says, nah, the White Sox are going to take whichever of the three top arms is still available when they select.
- As you watch the Cubs potentially swept tonight by the White Sox in the Crosstown Cup, let me say only this: had the Cubs not swept the White Sox last year in the Crosstown Cup, if they had instead lost two or three or four in that series, they, and not the White Sox, would be picking third. Indeed, if the Cubs had been swept, they’d be picking second. That is, of course, not a reason to root for losses (especially against the White Sox), it’s just something to think about.