Chicago Cubs 2016 NL Central Championship Gear

2015 mlb draftDay Two of the draft under this Collective Bargaining Agreement has turned into a day of two phases. In phase one, starting with the third round and extending into the sixth or seventh round for most teams, is the part of the day when teams are looking for the best talent they can find. Players who would be first rounders if not for injury concerns, players with impressive tools but significant flaws, players with lots of potential but needing a lot of baseball polish, those are the kinds of players who are drafted in the first part of Day Two.

In the second phase teams are looking for the most talented bargains. The goal here is not simply to find players who can be signed at a discount (thus saving slot money to be spent elsewhere), but to find players who can be signed at a discount and are still legitimate prospects. That can be a tricky proposition. The discount players tend to be college seniors who lack leverage, but the really good college players tend to be drafted before they make it to their senior year. There are always exceptions, but not as many as you may think.

Since Day Two naturally falls into two parts, let’s take a look at the Cubs’ additions in each part.  But first … you have read Brett’s Day 2 article, complete with his first impressions of all the picks, right?  Ok, good.  We can move on.

Day Two: Phase One

The first thing that jumps out is that there are only three players in this first group for the Cubs. In previous years the Cubs have been one of the last teams to switch to drafting college seniors who are likely to sign for less than slot, but this year they drafted nothing but seniors from the sixth round on.

The players taken in Part One are pretty good choices. Two of them, Bryan Hudson (3rd round) and Ryan Kellogg (5th round) are very tall left handed starters. Tall pitchers, the thinking goes, have an advantage because their pitches arrive at the plate on a steeper path. That makes the ball harder to pick up and harder to square up for the batter. Height is not a requirement to be a successful pitcher, but it certainly helps.

Particularly when that height comes in a 6’8″ (Hudson) or 6’6″ (Kellogg) package. Pitches can be taught; height can’t. The only way to get it is to draft it, so the Cubs did.

The Cubs got two pretty interesting pitchers with this pair. Hudson needs to add some muscle, and with it most likely some velocity, but he already has the makings of two decent pitches. Once he adds a little more velocity with some extra muscle and improves his changeup, he has the raw materials to emerge as a quality mid-rotation starter one day. It will probably not be a fast process, though. It may be 2017 before Hudson emerges into a full season league, and 2019 or so before he reaches Double A and we can get a good look at how he measures up.

The other towering lefty, Kellogg, could move considerably faster. Kellogg has good control of his stuff, and while he doesn’t get a ton of strikeouts, he doesn’t give up many hard hit balls, either. Provided he can keep the ball on the ground, that isn’t a bad formula for a back of the rotation pitcher. Kellogg is probably advanced enough to move quickly into Eugene (provided that loaded club will have room for him – no sure bet), and he could even arrive in South Bend by the end of the summer. Look for him to start next season in full season A ball after which he will probably move as quickly as his success will let him. If everything breaks right Williams could be competing for the Cubs fifth starter job in 2018 or so.

In between their tall draftees the Cubs took an outfielder who is most definitely not tall. At 5’8″, D.J. Wilson could be the smallest player the Cubs draft this year. A left-handed hitting outfielder, Wilson has all the tools to be a center fielder and (possibly) a pretty good one. It sounds like he could hit for a pretty good average, but unfortunately he will need to. Right now Wilson shows virtually no power, and I doubt he will ever develop much potency in the slugging department. His game, and his chance at success, will rely on his ability to get on base so he can let his plus speed do some damage.

Wilson is a Vanderbilt commit, and those guys can be hard to sign. The Cubs must really like what the see to draft him here, and they must also be fairly confident they can get a deal done. If he does sign, he may not make it out of the Arizona Rookie League this summer (that is normal for a high school position player). After that his ability to recognize and square up pitches will probably dictate how fast he is able to climb.

I can see Wilson becoming a league average lead-off hitting center fielder one day, but I think it will be a few years before we know how likely that future is. First, though, the Cubs need to sign him.

Day Two: Phase Two

Starting in the sixth round the Cubs took nothing but college seniors the rest of the day. The first three were right handed pitchers, then a left handed pitcher, and finally a left handed hitting shortstop (or is he?).

The most interesting guy of the bunch to me is the sixth round choice: side-arm hurler Dave Berg. Berg was a reliever in college, and a very good one at that. His draft stock was probably hurt by the fact that he does not appear to have much potential as a starter. He pitched in a tough conference, though, and he got outs. Lots of outs. He dominated enough that we’re going to be tempted to think he can help the Chicago Cubs out this fall.

That is highly unlikely. The absolute best case I can imagine has him emerging as a mid-season call up candidate next season, and even that is amazingly fast for a sixth round pick. Regardless of his timetable, the upside is that of a quality relief pitcher. I like this pick a lot.

Seventh rounder Craig Brooks, a right handed starter, put up silly good numbers in 2015, but given that I have no idea what caliber of competition he was facing (probably not really high), all his 158 Ks over 99 innings tell me is that he is consistently pitching in and near the strike zone. I will be interested to see what he can do, particularly once he reaches South Bend, but I’m not expecting the super high K rate to continue.

The next two pitchers, LHP Preston Morrison and RHP Tyler Peitzmeier, look to me like fairly typical senior signs. They are college pitchers who had success, but who lack the stuff that could separate them as very good professional prospects. Then again, this time last year I would have said the same about Ryan Williams and he is already starting for the Double A Tennessee Smokies (and doing a nice job of it).

And then we have the tenth rounder, shortstop Vimael Machin.

First, watch this home run. That was a well hit ball, but what stands out to me is Machin himself. He is a fairly broad, well muscled guy. He does not look like your typical college shortstop.

And, perhaps, that’s because he used to be a catcher. There is another video for one Vimael Machin, but this one is for a high schooler coming out of Puerto Rico in 2011. As a catcher. Unless there are two guys named Vimael Machin who play baseball and hit left handed out there, this pick just got a lot more interesting.

Machin was drafted in the 29th round in 2011 as a catcher by the San Diego Padres. The Padres at that time had as their Scouting Director Jaron Madison. Madison now runs the Cubs’ farm system.

Given that history, I wonder if the Cubs drafted Machin with the idea of moving him back behind the plate. His future in the farm system would still depend to a great degree on his bat (and I do not have a great deal of information about that bat), but the idea of drafting a catcher who is athletic enough to move to shortstop while in college is certainly interesting. If the Cubs are going to convert Machin, we should find out by the time he hits the Instructional League this fall.

Looking Ahead: Day Three

As Brett pointed out yesterday, it looks like the Cubs have saved enough money to make a run at a few tough sign in the early rounds today. Unless they know they are going to need quite a bit extra to sign Dewees or Hudson or Wilson, I suspect the Cubs are targeting at least one tough sign in today’s session. If they are, that pick will likely come in the eleventh round.

But don’t stop paying attention in the eleventh. There is still plenty of talent to be found in the late rounds of the draft. Last year the Cubs landed Chesny Young and Jeremy Null in the fourteenth and fifteenth respectively, and the year before they found Cael Brockmeyer in the sixteenth. There are prospects to be had in Day Three, and the Cubs have had some success finding them.

The Cubs are not likely to target any particular positions today, but in general terms I think we can look for them to continue their draft patterns. Look for pitchers who throw strikes, avoid walks, get ground balls, and are really tall. In hitters they will look for guys who understand the strike zone, work deep counts, take walks, and are athletic enough to handle multiple positions or can play behind the plate (or both). It may look like their hitters are slanted disproportionately towards one position or another, but that isn’t a problem. The Cubs are already well stocked in prospects in the low minors at any position you care to name. Fielding a team will not be a problem.

Finding enough innings and at bats to go around? I’m glad that is someone else’s problem.

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