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2014 mlb draftThere were three notable mock drafts released this week, each of which offered some interesting third party perspective on the upcoming MLB Draft (June 5 – 7). As you know by now, the Cubs face quite a quandary at pick number four, assuming the top three picks are the top tier pitchers (Carlos Rodon, Tyler Kolek, and Brady Aiken). Or do they? …

  • Up first, you’ve got MLB.com’s first mock draft, which goes the conventional route with the first three picks: Rodon to the Astros, Kolek to the Mariners, and Aiken to the White Sox. If you could say there’s a “consensus” in how the top three picks will play out – not that you could ever really have that in the MLB Draft – this would be it. All things equal, this is what you should be expecting to hear on June 5, and you shouldn’t be disappointed if it happens this way. For the Cubs’ pick, then, MLB.com has high school C/OF Alex Jackson getting the call. He’s the best all-around bat in the draft, with huge power, and that’s nothing to feel too bad about. It’s just that, for a typical draft, the top of the pack in bats is pretty thin compared to recent years.
  • High school shortstop Nick Gordon, by the way, goes number five. The Cubs have increasingly been connected to him in recent weeks.
  • Then you’ve got Keith Law’s mock draft, and … surprise: the Cubs get Carlos Rodon. That’s pretty much the “dream” scenario for the Cubs, as Law calls it, with Brady Aiken going first, Alex Jackson going second, and Tyler Kolek going third. In my mind, this is a dream scenario, as I’d probably rank the top three something like Rodon, Aiken, and Kolek/Jackson as a near toss-up, with a probable slight nod to Kolek. I know there are concerns about Rodon’s workload and diminishing stuff this year, but, man, that’s the guy I want. Polished, impact college arm? Not only is the best player in the draft to me, he’s probably also the best fit for the Cubs. The former matters much more than the latter, obviously, but I’m just sayin’.
  • Law discusses the Cubs’ options if the top three arms are off the board, noting that LSU righty Aaron Nola, Oregon State outfielder Michael Conforto, and Jackson are still under consideration, among others. Law even mentions a crazy rumor that has the Cubs going a bit off board for college catcher Max Pentecost (a mid-first-round type, but probably the best all-around catcher in the draft), and presumably signing him well under slot to save up funds for later picks. In the new system, I generally wouldn’t approve of this kind of strategy (the very best players are pretty much all gone by the middle of the second round, even if you can still find some very interesting guys later). But, hey, if there’s one area in which I trust this front office implicitly, it’s in the draft. If they aren’t sold on whoever is there for them at four, using this kind of approach would be like “trading down” in another sport’s draft. And it’s not like Pentecost is a non-prospect, obviously.
  • And then you have Baseball America’s second full mock which really throws things for a loop. Carlos Rodon goes at the top to the Astros, which wouldn’t be a surprise. But then BA has the Marlins – who have been attached to the two high school arms pretty consistently this year – going for … Alex Jackson. That means the Cubs are guaranteed one of the top three arms! So, after the White Sox take Brady Aiken, the Cubs get … Evansville lefty Kyle Freeland?
  • BA has the Cubs passing on Tyler Kolek in favor of Freeland, largely because teams are concerned about Kolek’s size (he’d be the biggest prep pitcher drafted at the top in a very long time) and, ironically, his huge velocity. Apparently BA senses that teams have grown weary of prep pitchers who have huge velocity, because, down the road, they almost all wind up blowing out their arm. Is that just a blip driven by the current wave of Tommy John surgeries? Or is it a legit concern? Either way, this is a pretty significant shakeup in sentiment, if BA is right. As for Freeland, specifically, it doesn’t sound like BA has heard the Cubs directly connected to him; and is instead putting him here because he’s climbing boards, and if the Cubs pass on Kolek, Freeland – in a general sense – would fit. The Twins, incidentally, end up taking Nick Gordon with the very next pick. (Kolek falls all the way to 7th, behind Gordon and LSU righty Aaron Nola.)
  • I find it highly interesting that both BA and Law have the Marlins going for Alex Jackson. It makes you wonder about the chatter going around.
  • For what it’s worth, top TJS arms Jeff Hoffman and Erick Fedde fall to 21 and 23, respectively, in BA’s mock, and 18/34 in MLB.com’s mock.
  • In the end, I stick to what Sahadev Sharma reported this week, that, if one of the top three pitchers is on the board for the Cubs at four, that’s who they’re taking. If not, they’ll be leaning toward high school positional guys Alex Jackson and Nick Gordon, or a “safe” college pitcher like Aaron Nola (or a college bat like Michael Conforto). According to Sahadev’s sources, although TCU lefty Brandon Finnegan is still in the mix, Kyle Freeland, together with Vanderbilt righty Tyler Beede, is not.
  • That said: this is the time of year that boards (at least our perception of boards) can shift dramatically. It wasn’t until about now that everyone finally agreed that Kris Bryant was a sure-fire top three pick after spending most of the Spring in the middle of the first round. Just think about that.

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