It boggles my mind that the 2015 MLB Draft is now less than two weeks away and only now able to really dig into some draft-related items. Thankfully, Luke’s been all over it for weeks, but usually, long before now, I’ve become overwhelmed by interest in the draft, and I can’t help myself but write several times weekly about the latest.
The draft is hugely important. It deserves more attention than I’ve given it around here this year. My apologies.
Not that I’m without excuses. The Cubs’ competitive play this year has sapped so much focus that otherwise would have been spent looking at anything and everything except the big league team, as has been the case the last, say, four years. I doubt anyone’s complaining about that.
Then you’ve got the fact that the Cubs are picking 9th, which is still relatively high, but not quite high enough to easily narrow down the discussion to an easily digestible handful of names to keep up with throughout the amateur season. We could, and did, do that the last few years. This season, until the last two weeks or so, you’d have been crazy to say you knew for sure which two or three players the Cubs were keying in on, since I’d bet you a shiny nickel that the Cubs, themselves, didn’t yet know before that time.
And finally, there’s the pool of talent, itself, in this year’s draft. Depending on whom you ask, the strength of this crop, especially at the top, is weaker than usual. That makes it even harder to key in on what’s going to be relevant with respect to the Cubs, specifically.
That said, we’re so close to the draft now. We’ve got to talk about it, and take a look at some of the information out there about the Cubs’ plans and who might be there for their pick.
- Baseball America is already in its third iteration this month, and they’ve got the Cubs taking righty Jon Harris out of Missouri State. Harris ranks 25th in the draft to BA, which underscores how difficult it is to peg how things will shake out after the first handful of picks. He’s described as a big righty with a fastball that sits 91-93mph and can touch 95, and with secondaries that could be plus. He misses a lot of bats, but he also battles control issues. Last mock, BA had the Cubs taking Arkansas sophomore center fielder Andrew Benintendi, who’s been killing it this year, but doesn’t have a long track record of this kind of success.
- MLB Pipeline has Harris 10th in its rankings, by the way.
- More on Benintendi here from Jim Callis, who ties the Cubs, among other teams, to the outfielder.
- Fast-rising lefty Tyler Jay out of Illinois, Vanderbilt shortstop Dansby Swanson, and high school shortstop Brendan Rodgers are the top three picks, according to BA’s mock.
- Kiley McDaniel’s latest mock at FanGraphs has the same three going at the top (though in a slightly different order), and has the Cubs taking prep outfielder Daz Cameron, who was expected to be a top three pick at this time last year, but he’s fallen down just a bit. McDaniel suggests that Cubs would prefer Jay, Benintendi, Vanderbilt righty Carson Fulmer, or prep outfielder Kyle Tucker if they slip that far. Then again, McDaniel also leaves Harris and Cincinnati second baseman Ian Happ open as possibilities for the Cubs. It’s wide open.
- Keith Law’s mock has the Cubs tabbing high school outfielder Trenton Clark with their pick. Clark is a Team USA guy, and is one of the best high school bats in the draft. Each of BA’s and FanGraphs’ mocks have Clark going 12th to the Marlins. Law attaches the Cubs to many of the other names discussed above, further underscoring how difficult it is to peg down their preference right now. (Indeed, you have to remember, when you’re not picking in the top few, the possibilities for what can happen are numerous, and the Cubs will have to be nimble. Sure, it’s easy enough to have a board 9 deep and just pick the top guy, but there are financial considerations, too, depending on which team takes whichever other guys, and maybe you like this guy for $2.5 million, but this guy even more for $2 million … but only if you can get the high school righty to say he’ll agree to sign for $1.5 million if you take him in the 5th round … it’s complicated, yo.)
- Several of the top arms in the class have been injured and have already had surgery, including Brady Aiken, the top overall pick last year. He was number 1 on the Cubs’ board, so we’ll see if he’s still up there now that they may have a chance at an injured version at number 9 this year. Patrick Mooney spoke with Cubs Amateur Scouting Director Matt Dorey about just that. It would be tough to use that top pick – perhaps the Cubs’ last top 10 pick for a very long time – on a dice roll. But, hey, maybe the Cubs can coordinate their first and second round picks like the Royals did a couple years ago, picking up a guy they really like who would otherwise been in the 20 to 30 range, signing him under slot, and then taking the big-time, but injured, pitcher in the next round and signing him over slot. There’s quite a bit of risk there, of course, but it’s a chance – plausible in a draft like this – to wind up with two elite talents instead of just one.
- Cubs VP of Scouting and Player Development Jason McLeod suggested this week that the Cubs are down to about four players whom they believe will be available when they pick at 9, by the way. Whatever player they do pick, you can be sure it’ll follow the same script they’ve followed since 2012: best player available without regard to “need.”