It’s here. Draft Day.
Well, the first, um, day of the draft. The three-day schedule doesn’t make for easy, buzzy intros.
As a matter of fact, that’s something of a metaphor for the MLB draft, itself. It’s just not easy to cover it in an easy, buzzy way. This isn’t the NFL draft where you already know so many of the players and you can’t wait to watch them trucking dudes for your favorite team on Sunday in the Fall. This isn’t the NBA draft where you already know so many of the players and you can’t wait to watch them turning your favorite team around next year.
If you’re lucky/nerdy, you might know 15 MLB draft prospects reasonable well. You may have even watched a few of them on the television for 10 minutes. You might see one or two of the guys selected through 40 rounds on the Cubs in a few years.
None of that means that the draft is not hugely important, of course. There’s a reason the Cubs’ front office refers to it as their Super Bowl. Future seasons are won and lost today, and the fun of following a prospect through the system – again, if you’re lucky/nerdy – begins tonight.
I’ll follow along with the picks tonight as they happen, and offer what discussion I can below, with a deeper dive on the Cubs’ two picks. I won’t pretend to be an expert on every pick, but we can certainly have some fun as the draft goes along, and I’ll offer up what analysis I can. I expect that you’ll hear from Luke at times, too. Which reminds me, follow him @ltblaize, me @bleachernation, Luis @lcm1986, and Michael @cerambam1060 on Twitter, because that tends to be where a lot of the conversation flows quickly.
Who will the Cubs select in the first round? Well, the mocks have been all over the place, though the names you tend to see most are UC 2B/OF Ian Happ, Missouri State righty Jon Harris, high school outfielder Trenton Clark, and Illinois lefty Tyler Jay. In the second round, the Cubs will select … a baseball player. That’s as far as anyone outside the draft room could go (and even in the draft room, there can’t be 100% certainty until the moment before the pick is announced).
Remember that, at this time last year, many folks thought Kyle Schwarber was a reach for the Cubs at number four. That’s not to say you can’t evaluate/question/debate whomever the Cubs select, but it’s context for how long your view must be on these things.
The Cubs pick at 9th overall and then again at 47 (which is actually only two spots later than their second rounder last year). Although the draft appears to be lacking in elite top 15 talent, it seems fairly typical thereafter – which is to say, there are quality players to be plucked from the ranks.
And, as always in the current CBA era: don’t sleep on the financial implications of the picks. If you don’t sign a guy, you lose the pool associated with his slot, which can wreck an entire draft. For that reason, you can see big-time prospects slip in the draft – and if you’ve saved some pool money early on, maybe you can take some of those guys later (see, e.g., the Cubs last year with their first day picks (Kyle Schwarber and Jake Stinnett) saving some green for use later on with guys like Carson Sands, Justin Steele and Dylan Cease).
All right. The pre-show starts on MLB Network and MLB.com at 5pm CT, and the draft kicks off at 6pm CT. Live updates to follow.
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Now the live part of this thing, as The Wife has taken the kids – God bless her – and I’m locked away in the office with my many screens ….
– A couple final, final mock drafts to check out here at the last minute: Keith Law (Cubs taking Tyler Jay, whom I’m watching on ESPN2 right now), and Kiley McDaniel (Cubs taking Jay, but like Clark, Benintendi, and Happ).
– There’s this rumor:
Source tells me that Daz Cameron is on top of the Tampa Bay #Rays board and a deal is being worked on.
— Christopher Crawford (@Crawford_MILB) June 8, 2015
That could actually impact the Cubs, because, if the Astros don’t think Cameron will reach them in the comp round, they might not go under slot with their early picks, both of which come before the Cubs at 9. The precise way this could affect the Cubs, of course, is not clear, because, well, very little is.
– From Passan on Aiken:
No shortage of Brady Aiken speculation. Teams I've heard tied to him: Cubs (unlikely at 8), Dodgers (maybe at 24), Rays (interesting at 13).
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) June 8, 2015
The number is wrong there, but the sentiment feels right: so hard for the Cubs to risk what might be their last top ten pick for a long time on a guy who might not return to high-end status. On the other hand, it’s almost impossible to see Aiken reaching the Cubs in the second round unless he’s got huge demands and a kinda-sorta pre-arranged deal. That’d be tough for the Cubs to pull off with a middle-of-the-pack bonus pool, though I suppose if they go waaaay under slot in the first, you can start dreaming.
– An annual favorite tradition: draft comps! I won’t name names, but a certain commentator compared Ashe Russell to Noah Syndergaard, apparently, because they look kind of similar – long, blond hair – and both throw hard. And then followed with an explanation of how their mechanics, delivery, and arm action are completely dissimilar. Okey dokey.
– Jon Heyman implying that Swanson to the D-Backs at 1:1 is not a sure thing:
hear d-backs consider vanderbilt ss dansby swanson the "safe" pick but also like lhp tyler jay, c tyler stephenson, others
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) June 8, 2015
While it may seem late to you for the D-Backs to not yet know for sure which player they will take, there are likely still feverish phone calls and negotiations taking place. Indeed, the rumor there could have been leaked to Heyman to try and get Swanson’s camp (Swanson, himself, is playing a game right now) to agree to a lower figure if he’s selected in 30 minutes.
– More last minute mocks, these two from Jim Callis and Jonathan Mayo at MLB.com. As they did earlier, they both still have the Cubs taking Happ. If Law and McDaniel are to be believed, that would make the Cubs very happy.
– Hey, MLB.com made the draft stream embeddable, so here it is, if you want to just watch it here:
– Buckle up:
We're 10 minutes away. One scout's assessment of @MLBDraft 1st round: "It's such a mess right now." Be ready for anything!
— John Manuel (@johnmanuelba) June 8, 2015
The Diamondbacks are on the clock …
1. Arizona Diamondbacks – Dansby Swanson. By the time the draft actually rolled around, this was one of the few things that looked pretty darn likely. Swanson is the best college positional player in the draft, and the Diamondbacks decided not to take any chances.
2. Houston Astros – Alex Bregman. Another fairly well-expected pick at this point. The LSU shortstop was right behind Swanson, also a college shortstop, among the college positional guys, so the pick makes sense. Could see the Astros taking a wilder swing three picks from now.
3. Colorado Rockies – Brendan Rodgers. The top high school player, and believed by many to be the top overall player in the draft. Since he’s a shortstop, the Tulowitzki rumors will pop back up. ( … from silly people … )
4. Texas Rangers – Dillon Tate. A mild surprise, though Tate is unquestionably the most talented arm in the draft. He just might not be a starter. Rangers had been connected to some of the top prep bats – Trenton Clark among them – which could leave one or more available to the Cubs, if they wanted to go that way. Some mocks suggested Cubs want Clark if he’s still around.
5. Houston Astros – Kyle Tucker. One of the best prep bats in the draft, and the brother of Preston Tucker, already with the Astros. Might they think that’ll help them sign him under slot? Combined with the fact that there was a chance he could slip out of the top 10 if the Astros didn’t take him?
Between pick musing and rumoring:
With Astros taking Tucker, that leaves Jay, Fulmer, Benintendi, Happ, and Clark all still on board. Cubs might take one of them. Or not. 🙂
— Brett Taylor (@BleacherNation) June 8, 2015
With the 6th pick, Twins will take Daz Cameron. Multiple sources.
— JJ Cooper (@jjcoop36) June 8, 2015
6. Minnesota Twins – Tyler Jay. Wonder if it was a last minute change, or if Cooper got bad info. The Cubs had been linked to Jay, who could move quickly, at 9 throughout draft season. I won’t pretend to know whether the Cubs definitely wanted him, but I sure did like the fit.
So, does Benintendi now go the Red Sox and Fulmer to the White Sox? If so, the Cubs’ options will mostly be what was expected to be there for them.
7. Boston Red Sox – Andrew Benintendi. This was as far as the SEC player of the year was expected to fall, and the Red Sox are likely very happy. Would’ve been nice to at least have him there as an option for the Cubs at 9.
8. Chicago White Sox – Carson Fulmer. Likely the second best righty in the draft, Fulmer’s been connected to the White Sox for a while, so I’m not surprised.
Other than Tucker going to the Astros at five, this is pretty much what you’d expect to be left for the Cubs at this point. Happ? Clark? A surprise like Aiken? Smart money says Happ, given the Cubs’ history, but Clark might have more upside. But the Mystery Box also looks enticing. Take the Mystery Box!
9. Chicago Cubs – Ian Happ. The switch-hitting second baseman/outfielder from the University of Cincinnati was connected to the Cubs quite a bit in recent days, and we’ll likely soon find out how high he was up on their board. As far as college bats in the draft go – just the bat – Happ is one of the best. And that’s what the Cubs do at the top of the draft these days. I don’t hate it. More on Happ coming soon. UPDATE: Here’s that more on Happ.
10. Philadelphia Phillies – Cornelius Randolph. A legit shortstop out of high school in Georgia who’s risen up a bit in the last few days.
11. Cincinnati Reds – Tyler Stephenson. A high school catcher out of Georgia, who’d been rumored all the way up at number one. The Reds rarely miss in the first round, so you can bet on this kid.
12. Miami Marlins – Josh Naylor. The late-rising Canadian high school masher. Perhaps word about being wary of the Marlins hasn’t reached The North.
13. Tampa Bay Rays – Garrett Whitley. A favorite of Luke’s, and a smart org like the Rays takes the northeastern high school bat. Lots of upside, lots of unknowns.
14. Atlanta Braves – Kolby Allard. A high school lefty who likely would have gone a lot higher if not for a stress reaction in his back this year.
15. Milwaukee Brewers – Trenton Clark. The Brewers get the other bat to which the Cubs were most realistically connected. The Cubs preferred the college guy, it seems. Wonder if finances will wind up playing into this at all – as in, could Cubs get Happ for slightly less than Clark would have cost there (if they were considering him), and maybe save some slot money for later?
16. New York Yankees – James Kaprielian. A safe college pitcher pick (if there is such a thing), which makes sense for the Yankees, given how much youthful upside they’ve locked in internationally and in the draft last year.
17. Cleveland Indians – Brady Aiken. There he goes, with the Indians taking the chance. Question now is how much it will cost to sign him, and whether the Indians are willing to go over slot, if necessary. If he comes back healthy, even an over slot deal is a ridiculous steal. Clearly, teams were concerned.
18. San Francisco Giants – Phil Bickford. A top ten pick who didn’t sign last year, and then fell in the draft this year for reasons that might have something to do with a reported positive drug test (marijuana) before the draft. Pundits had a terrible time trying to project where he’d go.
19. Pittsburgh Pirates – Kevin Newman. A college shortstop with a decent bat, beloved by Keith Law, but ranked in the low-20s by others.
20. Oakland A’s – Richie Martin. Another shortstop, which has been the order of the day. Fine by me. Keep taking shortstops, other teams. Leave the Cubs some pitching.
21. Kansas City Royals – Ashe Russell. A very nice high school pitching prospect with very questionable taste in fashion.
22. Detroit Tigers – Beau Burrows. I know nothing of Beau Burrows, except that he’s a high school righty from Texas, and that is definitely the name of a high school righty from Texas. Wonder if we’re going to now see a run on the upside high school arms. Maybe one of the better college arms will somehow slip all the way to the Cubs at 47 …
23. St. Louis Cardinals – Nick Plummer. A high school outfielder out of Michigan, you can probably mark Plummer down for his first MVP in 2017 or 18.
24. Los Angeles Dodgers – Walker Buehler. Man, the teams in this range are going to get some really nice college pitcher values. I know it wasn’t a great year for college pitchers, but still. Jon Harris, for example, is still on the board.
25. Baltimore Orioles – D.J. Stewart. A college outfielder out of Florida State.
26. Los Angeles Angels – Taylor Ward. A college catcher out of Fresno State. Yes, I typed these last two lines at the same time.
Compensation Round A
27. Colorado Rockies – Mike Nikorak. One of the better high school pitchers, and might be tight for the Rockies to sign both Rodgers and Nikorak (though they do have a lot of bonus money to play with). Could see them going under slot on a couple picks hereafter.
28. Atlanta Braves – Michael Soroka.
29. Toronto Blue Jays – Jon Harris. He finally goes off the board after being rumored as a possibility for the Cubs at nine. Probably a little disappointing for him, but a nice get for the Blue Jays.
30. New York Yankees – Kyle Holder. Another shortstop, this one out of San Diego with a solid glove. Gonna sunset the pick-by-pick commentary unless there’s something specifically notable.
31. San Francisco Giants – Chris Shaw, 1B, Boston College.
32. Pittsburgh Pirates – Ke’Bryan Hayes, 3B, Texas (HS). Lotta rumors about him popping up a lot higher than this.
33. Kansas City Royals – Nolan Watson, RHP, Indiana (HS).
34. Detroit Tigers – Christin Stewart, OF, Tennessee.
35. Los Angeles Dodgers – Kyle Funkhouser, RHP, Louisville. Looked like he was going to be a top five pick coming into this year, but fell quite a bit. Really hoped he’d keep falling so that the Cubs would have a shot at his name.
36. Baltimore Orioles – Ryan Mountcastle, SS, Florida (HS).
Competitive Balance A
37. Houston Astros – Daz Cameron. The rumors were true, and the Astros will use their huge bonus pool to lock down three top 10-ish prospects in a single draft.
38. Colorado Rockies – Tyler Nevin, 3B, California (HS). That’s Phil’s son.
39. St. Louis Cardinals – Jake Woodford, RHP, Florida (HS). The Cardinals are now competitively balanced. Thank God.
40. Milwaukee Brewers – Nathan Kirby, LHP, Virginia. He was a big timer last year, but fell off this season thanks to some command troubles.
41. Atlanta Braves – Austin Riley, 3B/RHP, Mississippi (HS).
42. Kansas City Royals – Triston McKenzie, RHP, Florida (HS).
43. Arizona Diamondbacks – Alex Young, LHP, TCU.
44. Colorado Rockies – Peter Lambert, RHP, California (HS).
45. Texas Rangers – Eric Jenkins, OF, North Carolina (HS).
46. Houston Astros – Thomas Eschelman, RHP, Cal State Fullerton.
47. Chicago Cubs – Donnie Dewees, OF, U. of North Florida. Another big-time college bat with silly numbers. Although it’s not a pitcher, this is another very Cub-like pick at this spot. Much more on Dewees coming soon. UPDATE: Here’s that more.
And, with the Cubs’ picks done for the day, I’m going to end the live blog. Much more on the Cubs’ top two picks tomorrow, and, of course, Day Two of the draft.