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2014 mlb draftLast week, the 2014 MLB Draft changed dramatically at the top, with news that big-time college righty Jeff Hoffman would be undergoing Tommy John surgery, effectively taking him off of the board for the teams picking in the top five. The Chicago Cubs, of course, pick fourth, and Hoffman was definitely under consideration.

Plans change.

Fast-forward to a couple days after that, and UNLV righty Erick Fedde, who was already considered a top ten draft prospect, and who had been rising up draft boards throughout the Spring, started to be mentioned in connection with the Cubs. If you go back to May 2, Keith Law mentioned Fedde as one of his two possible choices for the Cubs at pick four (this was before the Hoffman TJS announcement), together with high school shortstop Nick Gordon. In other words, there were reasons to see Fedde as a legit arm at the top of the draft this year.

Well. Like I said: plans change.

Baseball America reports that Fedde, who was recently shut down with an elbow injury, will be undergoing Tommy John surgery. Like Hoffman, you can consider Fedde now off of the board for the Cubs in the first round. The top names remain high school pitchers Brady Aiken and Tyler Kolek, college lefty Carlos Rodon, and high school position players Nick Gordon and Alex Jackson. There are some other interesting college arms – Aaron Nola, Kyle Freeland, Brandon Finnegan, and others – but none appear to be in quite the same tier as the guys expected to go at the top (or with Hoffman/Fedde, either, apparently).

Like Hoffman, Fedde is considered such a strong talent that it seems unlikely he’d slip all the way to the Cubs when they pick again at number 45. If he did, of course, he would probably receive strong consideration by the Cubs, because the upside is almost certainly worth the risk of post-surgery recovery. The only question with a guy like that at a pick like that is whether he’d be signable for something close to slot (which won’t be much more than $1 million). As I said with Hoffman, it’s hard to see a guy improving his draft stock too much after a year of merely rehabbing, so the decision not to sign could be the decision to risk the recovery period and a year of pitching in independent ball before being drafted again. That’s quite a risk when stacked against $1 million and a year of rehabbing with the best possible treatment.

Fedde will be a name to watch, then, on that first draft day, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up at 45.

As for what the Cubs do at 4 … it’s still wide open.

  • Justen

    Getting close to having to start a “God’s Wrath” 2014 Draft edition.

  • jh03

    This has gotta be the attitude of the FO right now.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t7j5S4ILMig

  • Austin8466

    Seems like just another reason to take Alex Jackson. This is just another example of how frail pitchers can be.

    • Soda Popinski

      I like Nick Gordon over Jackson. He’s a little bigger than Dee and has some great tools. What Dee is doing over in LA this year has me pretty excited about Nick- although I don’t think he’s as fast.

    • fieldofdreams35

      I’m not sure. While I’d love to have either Jackson or Gordon, it really depends on what the talent level is like in the next couple of rounds. If the Cubs can sign one of the solid college pitchers considered a tier below the top three for a good amount under slot, that could net some tougher signs in the middle of the draft.

  • Spoda17

    Good news this information is out now so the Cubs don’t pick a injured player… but also sucks for hitting on a TOR arm in this draft.

    I agree with Austin, drafting a pitcher is pretty damn risky. I would rather stick with a healthy pitcher with a few MLB years under his belt. The Cubs have been really good at picking up reasonable cost pitchers that do very well (other than B-Jax, but he still could be a decent sign).

    If the Cubs had our current rotation with an overage offense, the Cubs would be in contention. I’d rather sign a pitcher than draft one ATM.

  • Javier Bryant

    If Rodon, Aiken and Kolek are all gone my guess is they take Jackson or Gordon. Maybe Brad Zimmer

  • BWA

    Just a thought, but maybe the cubs ought to draft someone and not sign them and take the fifth pick in next years draft.

    • Jim

      Then you lose the slot money for that pick.

      • Brocktoon

        You’d gain it back in 2015. Not that I support this idea.

    • Edwin

      That very rarely works out. You’d be banking on whoever is available at the 5th spot next season being better than the available pick at the 4th spot this year. Plus, you’d be pushing back a season of having a top prospect in the minor leagues, which isn’t that helpful.

      I get what you’re saying, and I think in theory it could work, but I’m not so sure it works as well in reality.

      • Jon

        I’d also imagine that the notion of purposely drafting and low balling a pick so it could roll over the next year would be “frowned upon”. It might hurt your rep as a FO.

        • Brocktoon

          Well wouldn’t you draft somebody like your no-talent nephew? My only question would be if the MLBPA would file a grievance due to operating in bad faith.

          Again though, I disagree with the idea only because it continues to kick the can further down the road on actually winning baseball games.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            I don’t think the MLBPA would have standing. The collective bargaining agreement does not cover amateur players, and the interests of amateurs are not represented at the negotiations.

            The Commish, on the other hand, would probably be rather grumpy.

            • Brocktoon

              Good point, and one I should’ve thought of since I’m always the banshee screaming about how the union doesn’t give a shit about guys who aren’t presently in the union.

            • Sandberg

              Grumpy, yes. But is there a clause that forbids it?

  • Beer Baron

    I’m not suggesting they do this – but at least something to consider. If the Cubs really liked one of these pitchers before the injury, they could still draft him and would have leverage to sign to an under slot deal (have to assume player will never get to #4 again) and parlay that savings into a couple of overslot guys later on. If you think about it, most college pitchers don’t really pitch much the summer after being drafted because they have already put on so many innings during their college season. So if, for example, doctor’s feel Hoffman should be ready to at least do some work by spring training (about 10 months after his TJS) – have you really lost that much? Obviously its a gamble and there’s no guarantee he comes back and pitches the same as pre-injury. Also no guarantee the player would take a lesser deal (clearly something you’d have to negotiate before drafting). But if you really like the player, and your medical people seem relatively confident he will come back , and you can parlay that into signing more overcap players – its at least something to consider.

    • CubsFaninMS

      Actually, I think this is a pretty good strategy. Haven’t thought about that one. I guarantee you Hoffman or Fedde would sign underslot.

      • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

        If this were a no shit top pick like Strasburg, sure I like that strategy. Problem is Fedde wasn’t even a consensus top 10 pick and Hoffman is good, but he’s not head over heels better than even the other college arms like Nola, Finnegan, Newcomb, etc, let alone guys like Jackson and Gordon.

  • MightyBear

    I do wish baseball would let teams trade picks and future picks. This would be a good year to trade back. Deep draft, no clear cut top picks.

    • Brocktoon

      Then why would another team have interest in acquiring the pick?

      • Norm

        Yeah, this wouldn’t work as well in baseball as it does in the NFL or NBA. In those two, you may have an immediate need so you move up. There are no “immediate needs” for the baseball draft, so no urgency to move up.

  • itzscott

    Just wondering….

    By the time these pitchers recover from TJS and are ready to pitch competitively again they will have graduated college. As a non-college amateur, would they be subject to the draft then? Also, I’m not sure what kind of leverage they have or if they can rehab as amateurs on their own dime as well as rehabbing under the care/supervision of a ML team.

    I’m not sure if any team would spend a #1 pick on a kid who just went thru TJS and if those pitchers wouldn’t fall to the 2nd & 3rd rounds as a result.

    The good teams draft at the bottom and we saw how the Braves were unwilling to go along with Arodys Vizcaino’s rehab, but a bad team like the Cubs were.

  • Blackhawks1963

    I’m a huge proponent of always taking a position player with a high first round pick. Load up on pitching elsewhere in the draft, plus with international signings. The risk / reward equation merits this.

    I hope there is a college bat that looks great for the 1st pick. Somebody who could be on the fast track ala Kris Bryant.

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      You’ll be hoping for a long time, because there isn’t a college bat good enough to be taken at 4, certainly not one anywhere near Kris Bryant’s level.

      • Blackhawks1963

        Then take the best available college bat. This is where scouting and assessment by Jason McLeod and his scouts come to play.

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          That makes zero sense, you take the best player available, not the best college bat available. Especially when the best college bat available is probably in the 15-20 range.

        • baldtaxguy

          I agree, I don’t know why you would do this if the top college position player does not project within the top 10. I don’t know which is better: picking a potentially elite pitcher with risk of tjs (or other injury), or picking a not so elite position player and taking your chances.

  • BlameHendry

    well shit…

    But honestly I was thinking Fedde and Hoffman would have been taken before the Cubs pick anyways, being college-level top-tier talents instead of high school level. So we might not have missed out anything. We’ll be getting a high schooler for sure. Really wishing we could get a real pitching prospect for once but that’s not a lock anymore…

    • Brocktoon

      I don’t think Fedde was going before us, but if Hoffman and Fedde were going before us, we’re missing out on the 2 players drafted instead of them.

  • itzscott

    Another question….

    Are the top bats in this year’s draft projected to be better than the 2nd round bats from last year’s draft?

  • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

    It would be nice a hitter, any hitter, would start to separate himself from the pack. Hasn’t happened so far, but there is a little time yet.

    • Austin8466

      Luke, do you mean college hitter? Because by all accounts Alex Jackson is a fantastic pure hitter as a high-school player.

      • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

        I’m not completely sold on Jackson.

        • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

          Could you imagine the heart of the Cubs order with Baez/Bryant/Jackson.

          That’d be 500 Ks a year right there to go along with 100 HR.

          • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

            In, what, 2018?

            • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

              We’re in fantasy land so September.

              In reality, the Cubs will never again feature 3 players that combine to hit 100 HR.

              Sigh.

              • http://www.bleachernation.com Luke

                Why not? Baez, Bryant, Rizzo, Soler, and possibly Olt all have 30 to 35 HR potential, and that’s ignoring free agents.

                I just don’t see Jackson moving up the system all that fast.

                • http://www.friendly-confines.com hansman

                  I was just horsing around.

                  Realistically, we should get 1 30 HR guy out of Baez/Bryant. Rizzo should be a 30 HR guy and another 30 HR guy out of Soler/Olt/Mystery Hitter.

                  In this draft, I could see the Cubs going after Nola if they like his stuff to become the 2 pitcher his ceiling is.

                • Brocktoon

                  As a bonus, Olt might get those 500 Ks on his own.

  • IAN

    I live in Baton Rouge, LA and I get to see Nola pitch often. He’s really, really, really good. And he’s incredibly polished as a junior at LSU. I don’t know how he rates to the other prospects in the draft, but a lot of mocks I see have him being taken just inside the top 10, especially now with the surgeries due to Fedde and Hoffman.

    The Cubs would be getting a really nice pitcher that could be on a one year track to Chicago with Nola.

  • D-Rock

    I echo what others have already been saying: Draft a bat first, and load up on pitching with rest of picks. Too much risk with drafting a pitcher with #4 pick.

  • Norm

    I’m all for Nick Gordon

    • Soda Popinski

      That’s my vote, so far.

  • http://www.rotochamp.com/baseball/TeamPage.aspx?Team=CHC RotoChamp

    With Fedde and Hoffman out with TJS, I wonder if there have been many projected top 10 picks to go under the knife right before they were drafted. And, if so, what was the average # of picks they fell in the draft. This is the first year I’ve followed the draft, so no names come to mind.

    I just don’t think there will be a huge appetite for any team to burn a 1st round pick on a guy that is already damaged and won’t pitch for 12-15 months. I’m thinking at least one of them could fall to us in the 2nd round.

    • Austin8466

      Not likely. They’re still very high ceiling guys who will probably be supplemental first round picks, at worst.

  • NorthSideIrish

    I’d still draft Hoffman at #4 and try to get him underslot…still a higher upside than any other player available. Though I know that is not going to happen.

    I would guess Gordon is the pick…and FWIW, Chris Crawford of ESPN Insider says he likes Gordon more than he did Lindor in 2011.

    Chris Crawford ‏@CrawfordChrisV May 9
    Oh that’s a great question Probably Gordon. “@AndrewPrichard @crawfordchrisv who did you like more, Lindor in ’11, or Gordon this year?

    • Kyle

      That’d be a horrible waste of a top-5 pick.

  • Diego Javier

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t the TJ surgery starting to become almost a standard operating procedure for young pitchers now? With most of them coming back as good or better than before, why does this drop a top talent out of the equation?

    • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

      According to Dr. James Andrews last night on the MLB Network roundtable, Major League pitchers have about a 75% chance of returning to MLB form. It’s far less risky than it used to be, but there’s still a good amount of risk that all of these teams have to factor into the equation.

      • Diego Javier

        Are there any stats for the percentage of pitchers drafted in the top 10 that end up becoming starters in the bigs? You would have to think that would be below 75% right?

        • http://fullcount1544.blogspot.com FullCountTommy

          You just found yourself a research project ;) Report back with your findings next week.

        • Kyle

          You understand that Hoffman would carry all the regular risks *and* the Tommy John risks, it’s not one or the other?

  • http://BleacherNation blewett

    Alex Jackson with the first pick. Take the best available arm in rounds 2,3,4….

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