It’s here. The Super Bowl. For the Chicago Cubs right now anyway.
The 2014 MLB First Year Player Draft kicks off in just a little bit, and the Chicago Cubs pick fourth overall, and then again at number 45 in the second round. Those are the only rounds on tap for today, but they represent the best opportunities to land a true impact talent.
The biggest question, of course, is whom the Cubs will tab in the first round. Even in the latest draft notes, it’s still unclear just what direction the Cubs will go. That opacity is the product a draft class without clear, elite talent at the top – unless you count pitchers Brady Aiken and Carlos Rodon, who probably won’t be there for the Cubs at four – and a myriad of talented players that make sense for the Cubs at four. The Cubs could go with a great high school positional talent like Nick Gordon, or a big college bat like Michael Conforto or Kyle Schwarber (and probably save some bonus pool money in the process for use later on). Or the Cubs could throw most folks for a loop and go for big-time high school arm Tyler Kolek, if he’s still on the board.
For my part, I’m pretty comfortable whichever of those directions the Cubs go. Not to drop an appeal to authority on you, but this front office has as strong of a track record as there is in the first few rounds of the draft. If they decide going for Conforto and picking up talent that slips later on is the best course, then I’m on board. If they want to roll the very-high-upside dice on Kolek? Cool. If they want to go for a top up-the-middle talent like Gordon? Good by me.
And, hey, let’s not forget that second round pick: the Cubs go again at 45 overall, and this draft is very deep in high school pitching talent. I think the Cubs will likely grab quite a few of those guys in the 2nd/3rd/4th/5th round area, and then again later on down the line.
The Draft kicks off at 6pm CT, and I’ll cover it live here with a stream of updates below. You can also follow me (@BleacherNation) and Luke (@ltblaize) on Twitter for more rapid fire coverage. And, of course, go nuts in the comments. Disqus was built for this kind of thing, so have some fun.
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– My first update for the night, as I’m watching MLB Network’s pre-draft coverage, is a reminder that this first round is going to feature endless, hilarious big league comps. “This guy is Clayton Kershaw,” “that guy is Ryan Braun.” You pretty much have to stuff those comps in your shorts. They are designed to give you a very superficial, short-shrift description of the type of player being discussed. These are still prospects – amateur prospects, at that.
– Importing research:
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) June 5, 2014
– John Manuel gives us something fun to go nuts about:
Here's how volatile this #mlbdraft is: team in top 5 may switch gears in a big way, here 2 hours prior to start. Chaotic first round
— John Manuel (@johnmanuelba) June 5, 2014
– Why did he say “top five” – does that mean it’s a team picking 3/4/5? Is it the Cubs? Will they surprise and go with someone like Alex Jackson or Aaron Nola, neither of whom has been strongly attached to the Cubs in over a week? Or is it a team ahead of the Cubs? Does that mean one of Brady Aiken or Carlos Rodon might slip? Am I totally overthinking this? Yup.
– Harold Reynolds says Tyler Kolek is already hitting 102mph at 17 (he has), which means he could be hitting 105mph when he’s a little older. Okey dokey. Should be hitting 110 by the time he’s 25. By 30, with a solid weight training routine and a good diet? 400mph. Draft him.
– Sahadev Sharma’s up-to-the-moment thoughts:
Assuming Aiken & Rodon go 1-2, which feels safe, I say Sox – Kolek & Cubs – Conforto. Would love to see Gordon at 4, but I get the strategy.
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) June 5, 2014
Of course, if Schwarber's willing to take bigger discount than Conforto, then I guess Cubs go that direction. So combo of best bat/best deal
— Sahadev Sharma (@sahadevsharma) June 5, 2014
And Luke offers his thoughts on that duo:
I'm a little concerned about swing and miss on Conforto. If it is between the two, I'd lean Schwarber.
— Luke Blaize (@ltblaize) June 5, 2014
Schwarber does have a better K rate, for what that is worth.
– A late rumor on the White Sox:
Hearing more Aaron Nola than Tyler Kolek at 3 to CWS at this time, change from previous mocks #mlbdraft
— John Manuel (@johnmanuelba) June 5, 2014
The two questions there that matter for Cubs’ purposes: Are the Cubs considering Kolek? Would the White Sox take Nola over Rodon?
The Draft is about to begin, and Kiley McDaniel sums up how crazy this year has been:
Sounds like none of the top picks are set w/5 minutes until the draft starts. Industry is throwing its hands up. My mock has no prayer.
— Kiley McDaniel (@kileymcd) June 5, 2014
Away we go with the picks …
1. Houston Astros – Brady Aiken. Nothing was set in stone coming into the Draft, but Aiken was pretty darn close. The high school lefty is considered the best prospect in the draft, and the Astros took him. The real questions start with the next pick.
(Pre-pick rumor from JJ Cooper (BA) has the Marlins surprising everyone and taking Tyler Kolek … )
2. Miami Marlins – Tyler Kolek. Wow. A pretty strong surprise after all of the Alex Jackson and Carlos Rodon rumors. The selection does NOT necessarily mean that the Cubs will get Carlos Rodon, of course, because the White Sox have been attached to Rodon at times, and were really heavily tied to Tyler Kolek. So, seems like there’s a good chance the Sox take Rodon now.
3. Chicago White Sox – Carlos Rodon. Well, he and Aiken were expected to be off the board for the Cubs – perhaps not in this order – but, they are. The top three pitchers indeed go 1, 2, 3 as long expected, and now the Cubs have a huge, crazy decision to make at four. I’ll just tell myself that Rodon’s bonus demands were going to be crazy, and they were totally going to wreck the rest of the Cubs’ draft. Or something.
4. Chicago Cubs – Kyle Schwarber. He was a new-ish name in the last few days, but the Indiana catcher/outfielder is arguably the top college bat in the draft. He’s got the most power, and he doesn’t strike out much, so that’s all good stuff. He bats lefty, too, which is a nice complement to all of the Cubs’ big-time righty bats in the system. The real question here is how far below slot can the Cubs get him (he was projected to go in the mid-first round, maybe 10 to 15 spots later), and can they use those savings effectively later on? More on the Schwarber pick here.
Parks likes it, for what it’s worth:
5. Minnesota Twins – Nick Gordon. The high school shortstop who was the presumptive Cubs pick until about two days ago doesn’t fall far.
Mid-pick update, Keith Law thinks he knows who the Cubs are targeting with their Schwarber savings:
Cubs likely to get Jack Flaherty, HS RHP from Harvard-Westlake, at pick 45 if someone like STL doesn't grab him first.
— keithlaw (@keithlaw) June 5, 2014
Flaherty is a high school arm, considered a tough sign, and a top 50ish talent in the draft.
6. Seattle Mariners – Alex Jackson. The Mariners get the top high school bat in the draft, and they’ve been connected to him for a while. I’d imagine they’re quite happy he was there for them. They list him as an outfielder with the pick, so there’s no chance they even try him at catcher.
7. Philadelphia Phillies – Aaron Nola. The picks are going roughly as expected right now. So much for draft craziness!
8. Colorado Rockies – Kyle Freeland. The Rockies were just about the only team that was reportedly unfazed by Freeland’s medicals, so they get their guy. He’s been a fantastic lefty arm this year, in terms of results, so, if he’s healthy, it’s a fine pick. Especially if the Rockies save some funds.
9. Toronto Blue Jays – Jeff Hoffman. The first Tommy John pitcher goes off the board, once again, pretty much where he was expected to go. The Blue Jays, who pick again in a couple picks, can probably save a little money on the pick, too.
10. New York Mets – Michael Conforto. If the Cubs didn’t take him, this is where he was expected to go. I think the Mets probably owe the Cubs a fruit basket.
11. Toronto Blue Jays – Max Pentecost. Briefly attached to the Cubs on an under-slot deal, but they decided to go with the other college catcher.
12. Milwaukee Brewers – Kodi Medeiros. A little surprising to see Medeiros to go ahead of other high school arms like Grant Holmes and Touki Toussaint.
13. San Diego Padres – Trea Turner. It wasn’t but a few months ago that Turner was considered a top five pick candidate, and a possibility for the Cubs at four. That changed as the collegiate season went on, and this is about where he was expected to go.
14. San Francisco Giants – Tyler Beede. The Vanderbilt righty was another top five-ish candidate a few months ago, but the command concerns popped up this year, and he dropped. There was some talk that he might fall all the way to the compensation round.
15. Los Angeles Angels – Sean Newcomb. A quality college lefty, but one to whom the Cubs were never really attached.
16. Arizona Diamondbacks – Touki Toussaint. The Diamondbacks have to be thrilled that Toussaint lasted this long, as some think he’s got the most raw talent/upside of any high school starter in the draft, perhaps outside Aiken.
17. Kansas City Royals – Brandon Finnegan. The TCU lefty really fell after a shoulder injury in-season scared a bunch of teams away. For a very brief post-Hoffman, post-Fedde injury period (like a day or two), Finnegan looked like a possibility for the Cubs.
18. Washington Nationals – Erik Fedde. And the other big TJS pitcher goes off the board. This is a little higher than Fedde was expected to go, but there was no way he was dropping to the Cubs at 45 even after the surgery, so whateves.
19. Cincinnati Reds – Nick Howard. A righty from Virginia, Howard is the first pick that I’ll admit I knew absolutely nothing about until this moment. Was a back-end first round type to most pundits, which is why he was off my radar – too early for the Cubs’ second rounder, too late for their first. I guess there will probably soon be a lot of those guys.
20. Tampa Bay Rays – Casey Gillaspie. One of the better college bats. It’s a statement about the caliber of college bats this year that the fifth one off the board doesn’t go until pick 20.
21. Cleveland Indians – Bradley Zimmer. Possibly the best all-around college player in the draft, Zimmer was an early candidate in the top ten, but a soft season (I guess) drove him down the boards.
22. Los Angeles Dodgers – Grant Holmes. Crud. I know, it was crazy unrealistic to hope that Holmes would slide all the way to 45 – the kid is a possible top 8 talent – but the further he fell, the harder it was going to be for a team to gather the funds to sign him. Dodgers have to be ecstatic.
23. Detroit Tigers – Derek Hill. A high school outfielder. Another player not on my radar.
24. Pittsburgh Pirates – Cole Tucker. A high school shortstop that wasn’t expected to be a first rounder. Some didn’t even have him going in the second round, actually.
25. Oakland A’s – Matt Chapman. A third baseman out of Cal State-Fullerton. Just 20 more picks, guys …
26. Boston Red Sox – Michael Chavis. A high school third baseman who was expected to go a fair bit higher. Folks are loving this pick for the Red Sox.
27. St. Louis Cardinals – Luke Weaver. A college righty who was thought to be an upper-tier first rounder early in the year, but fell off. Figures now to compete for the 2017 Cy Young. Just kidding. 2016.
28. Kansas City Royals – Foster Griffin. A nice high school lefty.
29. Cincinnati Reds – Alex Blandino. Pretty much where this Stanford shortstop/third baseman was expected to go.
30. Texas Rangers – Luis Ortiz. A late rising high school pitcher on most boards, Ortiz could have gone in the top 15.
31. Cleveland Indians – Justus Sheffield. He’s a high school lefty, which can’t be true. This guy is a time-traveling cowboy, who occasionally wrestles alligators.
32. Atlanta Braves – Braxton Davidson. He’s a high school outfielder, which he very well may be.
33. Boston Red Sox – Michael Kopech. One of the high school arms expected to go in this range, and one of the names I’d seen vaguely attached to the Cubs.
34. St. Louis Cardinals – Jack Flaherty. Now, I’m not going to say I know a lot about Flaherty, other than he’s a high school pitcher who is a good draft prospect. Until tonight, I didn’t know the Cubs were rumored to want him in the second round. But, I mean, of course the Cardinals grab him.
Competitive Balance Round A
35. Colorado Rockies – Forrest Wall. A high school second baseman, which means he must have a big bat. Which he does.
36. Miami Marlins – Blake Anderson. A high school catcher who was not expected to go quite this high.
37. Houston Astros – Derek Fisher. An outfielder out of UVA who would have gone much higher if he hadn’t broken his hamate earlier this year. Nice pick.
38. Cleveland Indians – Mike Papi. How about that? Fisher’s teammate in the outfield.
39. Pittsburgh Pirates – Connor Joe. A catcher/outfielder out of San Diego. Another reach for the Pirates, though.
40. Kansas City Royals – Chase Vallot. A big-time power bat out of high school.
41. Milwaukee Brewers – Jacob Gatewood. Remember when he was a top ten guy? A down season and some concerns about the contact ability (and ability to stick in the infield) really dropped him down, and now we can see why the Brewers saved some money in the first round. I doubt the Cubs would have taken Gatewood at 45, but now we’ll never know.
42. Houston Astros – A.J. Reed. Another good pick for the Astros – Reed’s not a bad pitcher, but he’s a huge power bat out of college. In the AL, he could be a future 1B/DH type, so why not grab him?
43. Miami Marlins – Justin Twine. A high school shortstop, but another pick from the Marlins that seems to be ahead of where he was otherwise ranked.
44. Chicago White Sox – Spencer Adams. A really good high school righty, and one that was probably being considered by the Cubs at 45. Hard to see how they’ll be able to sign Rodon for above slot (if he’s truly demanding that), and a quality high school arm like Adams.
45. Chicago Cubs – Jake Stinnett. A senior righty out of Maryland, who was supposed to go right around here. This will take a moment to digest, as he doesn’t look like a clear over slot guy (as a college senior, you could argue he’s actually another under slot type (though he’s thought of as a legit second round talent, for what that’s worth)).
One thought I have: if the Cubs were going to try and draft-and-sign a guy who is expected to be VERY tough to sign, it’s better to take him later (if possible), so that if you can’t sign him, you don’t lose a huge chunk of your pool space.
With the Cubs done for the night, I’ll end the live updates here, and separately work up a Stinnett-specific piece.