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2014 mlb draft featureThe Draft. Is. Tomorrow! If you’ve missed either primer post on the stuff you should know in advance of the draft, they are here and here. We’ll go live here around 5pm CT for the pre-draft show, and then the first round starts an hour later.

And, despite the draft being sooooo close, there’s a NEW rumor popping up about the Cubs’ selection at number four overall …

  • I’m not sure how much I buy it at this point, but Jon Heyman reports that Indiana junior catcher/outfielder/first baseman Kyle Schwarber is flying up boards, and says the Cubs “could target” him. Presumably Schwarber, who’s always been considered a first round talent, but not necessarily a top half talent, would be an under slot type for the Cubs, if they are stuck with a handful of choices at four that don’t bowl them over. Schwarber has the kind of offensive numbers you’d expect from a top college bat – he’s right up there with Max Pentecost and Michael Conforto – but the problem is that very few believe Schwarber can stick behind the plate, and, if he moves, it’s likely going to be to first base (it’s unclear whether he’d even be a good fit in the outfield). For me, to consider a possible first baseman at four overall, even under slot, the bat would have to be a sure-thing, over-the-moon type. I’m just not sure that’s Schwarber. If the Cubs take him, I’ve got to believe they’re convinced he can stick at catcher, or at least play left field.
  • (Back when sorting out the Cubs’ options a few weeks ago, Sahadev Sharma described Schwarber as possible, but unlikely.)
  • UPDATE: And, shortly after Heyman’s report, Scout’s Kiley McDaniel tweets that he’s also hearing the Cubs connected with Schwarber at four, noting that it’s plausible he could be an occasional catcher, if not a full-time one. The fact that McDaniel heard the same (relatively surprising, late-coming) thing as Heyman tells us that the rumor is definitely making the rounds in the scouting/draft/baseball community. What we can’t know, however, is if it’s a legit rumor, or if it’s designed to place pressure on someone else that the Cubs might like to take, but only if that someone takes slightly under slot (Gordon?). We also can’t know if the rumor has gotten legs because the Cubs and Schwarber have come to some kind of understanding for a significantly under slot deal (given that the slot values in the range Schwarber might otherwise go are in the $2.5 million range, the Cubs could save a huge amount under their $4.621 slot by telling Schwarber they’ll take him if he agrees to a deal at, say, $2.75 million (which is probably more than he’ll otherwise get – win-win)). I lean toward this being something of an intentional smokescreen rumor, but you never know. As I’ve said all along: I like an under slot pick *only* if the Cubs pretty much like a group of guys similarly (based on talent), know they can get one of that group far under slot, and also know that they can use those savings effectively later in the draft.
  • Speaking of taking a big college bat at four, Keith Law still has the Cubs going with Michael Conforto (Oregon State outfielder) at four in his latest mock. That’s because, in Law’s view, the top three pitchers – Brady Aiken, Carlos Rodon, and Tyler Kolek – will be off of the board. Law doesn’t see the Cubs surprising and grabbing post-TJS pitcher Jeff Hoffman, and he also (surprisingly) doesn’t see the Cubs going after high school shortstop Nick Gordon (once again, top high school bat Alex Jackson is ignored as an option for the Cubs). College catcher Max Pentecost, and college arms Kyle Freeland and Aaron Nola are the other possibilities for the Cubs, again, assuming the top three arms are gone.
  • Jesse Rogers spoke with Conforto’s coach at Oregon State, who unsurprisingly sings Conforto’s praises. Interestingly, his coach calls him a plus defender in the outfield, while others have been less certain. Most think he can actually play passable outfield, but probably out in left. Keep in mind: a college coach probably has a little incentive to hope that his players – the ones he helped develop – wind up high draft picks.
  • Dan Kirby’s final mock strikes me as entirely plausible at the top, with the Astros taking Brady Aiken, the Marlins taking Alex Jackson, the White Sox taking Carlos Rodon, the Cubs taking Nick Gordon, and the Twins taking Tyler Kolek.
  • The latest scouting bit at BP has takes on Jackson, Freeland, and Conforto, among others not being considered by the Cubs.
  • A point that I’ve really missed the boat on emphasizing around here: because the 2011 draft was known to the be the last year before serious changes were coming in the 2012 CBA, a number of teams – Cubs included – went nuts on spending, which had the effect of dramatically reducing the number of elite high schoolers who went to college. Three years later, and those guys would have been college juniors – i.e., the primary crop of college talent in the 2014 draft. No wonder the overall college talent level is considered down this year, and no wonder folks are talking up the relative strength of high school pitchers. I expect the Cubs to take a number of high school pitchers, specifically, in the 2nd through 6th round range, and again in the 11th to 40th range.

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