Finally! Even though it’s technically day two of the 2016 MLB Draft, it certainly feels like day one for the Chicago Cubs.
Indeed, Rounds One and Two went off yesterday, but the Cubs did not have a pick in either round, due to the signings of Jason Heyward and John Lackey (and the re-singing of Dexter Fowler). By contrast, the St. Louis Cardinals made four picks, yesterday, and it could have been five if they had gotten luckier in the Competitive Balance lottery.
But the Cubs do pick today. In fact, they’ll pick eight times, as Rounds Three through Ten go off, beginning at 12pm CT (1pm ET). Unlike yesterday’s open thread and discussion post, today’s will be regularly updated as the Cubs make their picks until about 5:00 pm CT. Although the Cubs haven’t participated yet, there hasn’t been a lack of draft coverage around these parts. So if you’re looking for some background on the draft, the rules, the Cubs strategy, etc. look no further:
- 2016 MLB Draft Primer: The Schedule, The Coverage, The Order
- 2016 MLB Draft Primer: Bonus Pools, Slot Values, Penalties, Etc.
- Cubs Draft Notes: Limited Pool Allotment, The Search for Pitching, Much More
- For the Chicago Cubs, the Draft Really Kicks Off Today – Here’s What you Need to Know
That last bullet there – from Luke – is particularly useful and has just about everything you might want to know in advance of the day. The Cubs focus has traditionally been pitcher-heavy in Rounds Three through Ten in the past (and, for the most part, they’ve indicated that today will be no different), but they will always fall back on taking the best available player. Check out Luke’s article for some loose guesses on who they might target today.
You can follow along with the Cubs picks below (with my immediate reactions/links/scouting/etc.), or you can track the 2016 MLB Draft yourself on MLB.com, at Baseball America or by following @MLBDraftTracker on Twitter.
Okay, let’s do this.
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3rd Round (104): Tom Hatch, RHP, Oklahoma State (College)
With their first pick in the 2016 MLB Draft, the Cubs ultimately went with a pitcher, as expected. Hatch is a medium sized (6’1″ 200 lbs) right handed starting pitcher out of Oklahoma State University. Not unlike Dylan Cease, Hatch had been considered a top talent with a lot of upside, but a fair amount of risk, too.
He missed all of 2015 with a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his elbow (the injury that requires Tommy John Surgery), but didn’t ultimately need/have surgery. He sits 91-94 MPH with his fastball, but can max it out at 96 MPH and pairs it with an above average slider. He was ranked as the 178th best prospect by BA heading into the draft, but he is seen as a relatively safe pick as a pitcher to reach the majors as a back of the rotation type or middle reliever.
Earlier this season, Hatch threw three consecutive shutouts and was named the Big 12 Conference Pitcher of the year. For the Cubs, a polished college pitcher is a nice selection. Although he may not have the upside of some of the other names on the board, he may be able to move more quickly through the minors.
At Baseball America, Teddy Cahill has a comprehensive write-up on Hatch. We’ll have more on him in the coming days/weeks. Carrie Muskat has more on him here at Cubs.com.
4th Round (134): Tyson Miller, RHP, California Baptist University
With their fourth round pick, the Cubs dipped right back into the college pitching pool with right hander Tyson Miller. Miller is a pretty tall righty – 6’4″ 195 lbs – out of California Baptist University. According to MLB.com, Miller has plenty of projection thanks to his tall frame and 93 MPH fastball (which has the potential to increase in velocity). In addition to the fastball, Miller uses a “decent” slider and an “average” changeup.
Here’s some slow motion of his pitching mechanics for you nerds out there:
Ranked as the 197th best prospect by Baseball America entering the draft, Miller, 20, is known as more of a ground ball pitcher, as opposed to an overpowering type, despite a fastball that has reach 96 MPH at times. For the Cubs, this is another nice pick. Although Miller isn’t the type of guy who’s future ceiling is drool-worthy, he’s another potentially quick riser. So it’s two pitchers off the bat for the Cubs (both out of college) just as we expected.
Wayne Cavadi has some additional information on Miller from back in February here at NCAA.com, including the fact that Miller was named the PacWest Preseason Pitcher of the Year for 2016.
5th Round (164): Bailey Clark, RHP, Duke University
Well what do ya know? The Cubs took another right handed college pitcher with their fifth round pick in the 2016 MLB Draft. They said they’d be focusing on pitching and they tend to skew older in the drafts in general so this is all to be expected. Clark is another big right hander – 6’4″ 220 lbs – out of college who was a bit more well thought of at the beginning of the season than he is now.
According to MLB.com, Clark’s fastball regularly works in the mid-90s, but is capable of reaching 99 MPH when called upon. He pairs his fastball with, you guessed it, an overpowering slider that has been slowly improving. Despite the good “stuff,” though, scouts are apparently worried about the level of effort in every pitch and aren’t thrilled about his arm action/delivery. With his natural talent/abilities, though, professional coaching may go a long way.
Coming into the draft, Clark was ranked as the 132nd best prospect by Baseball America and was very well thought of after a hot start to the season. But early season command issues forced Clark out of the rotation and into the Duke bullpen. So, you can file Clark under has a lot of upside, but needs a lot of work. Baseball America suggests he may return to Duke to improve his stock, before trying again next year. We’ll see if the Cubs can change his mind and harness that potential. He’ll have a shot to stick in the rotation, I’m sure, but with that fastball and a good slider, it’ll be tempting to fast track him to the big leagues as a two pitch reliever.
6th Round (194): Chad Hockin, RHP, Cal State Fullerton
Well, you can’t say the Cubs didn’t warn us. With their fourth pick in the sixth round of the 2016 MLB Draft, the Cubs selected their fourth straight big, right handed college pitcher. Chad Hockin, 6’4″, 210 lbs, is a big kid out of Cal State and is expected to enter the organization as a reliever. Once again, like the three pitchers prior, Hockin features an above average fastball that reaches 97 MPH and a slider that touches 89 MPH. Hockin uses both pitches to throw strikes, but is capable of expanding the zone with command of both pitches, as well.
Coming into the draft, Hockin was ranked as the 104th best prospect in the draft by Baseball America. BA claims that Hockin has some of the “nastiest stuff of any college closer this side of Louisville’s 100-MPH throwing Zack Burdi.” Which is obviously quite the compliment, as Burdi went to the White Sox in the first round of the draft – 26th overall. The biggest remaining question mark for Hockin will be his durability. He missed some time earlier this season (while also having some elbow tenderness), and hasn’t quite reached 100 IP over his three collegiate seasons. Still, as a true back end relief prospect, Hockin looks pretty great.
7th Round (224): Michael Cruz, C, Bethune-Cookman University
Hey! The Cubs selected a non-pitcher, their first in the draft! Michael Cruz is a lefty college catcher out of Puerto Rico, who is playing at Bethune-Cookman University. There isn’t a ton of immediate information available on Cruz, but he is listed at 5’11”, 210 lbs. I’ll continue to update this post as I find more information on him.
In 2015, Cruz batted .442 as a sophomore, adding 10 home runs and 45 RBI for the season, in addition to two stolen bases. He trained at the Puerto Rico baseball Academy and played two seasons at Clarendon College, before transfering to Bethune-Cookman University. Earlier this season, he was selected as the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference Player of the Week, as well as the Louisville Slugger National Player of the Week as a catcher.
In 200 at-bats this season, Cruz has slashed .325/.461/.604 with far more walks (38) than strikeouts (25). With that large OBP and an ISO of .280, it’s not hard to see how this is a guy the Cubs would target – a big, polished college bat that gets on base and hits for power, even if the frame doesn’t necessarily inspire athleticism. (Sounds like Kyle Schwarber, but I didn’t say that).
8th Round (254): Stephen Ridings, RHP, Haverford College
Me in the 7th Round: Oh cool! The Cubs took a position player, maybe they’re done with the college righties.
Cubs in the 8th Round: Nope.
Indeed, with their sixth pick in the 8th round of the 2016 MLB Draft, the Cubs went back to the well of big right handed college pitchers, with Stephen Ridings. And I’m not using the word “big,” loosely – Ridings is listed at 6’8″ 220 lbs. You can watch Ridings pitch against John Hopkins, below:
In 2016, Ridings has kept a 2.62 ERA over 11 starts for Haverford. In addition to a huge, easily projectable frame, Ridings likely attracted the Cubs in part because of the 87 strike outs to just 37 walks over 65.1 innings pitched. According to Baseball America, Ridings features a 90-92 MPH fastball with a diving slider and a changeup with good, late movement.
9th Round (284): Duncan Robinson, RHP, Dartmouth
Another right handed college pitcher for the Cubs. This time it’s righty Duncan Robinson in the 9th round of the 2016 MLB Draft. Robinson isn’t quite as Stephen Ridings, the Cubs 6’8″ 8th round pick, but he’s right behind him, listed as 6’6″, 220 lbs. The Cubs very clearly had a model here, as just about every single pitcher taken fits almost exactly the same mold.
Robinson is a senior at Dartmouth college, where he’s pitched primarily as a starter. In 11 starts this season, Robinson has a 3.28 ERA with 73 strike outs to just 7 walks over 68.2 IP. He was also the consensus Ivy League Preseason Pitcher of the Year and has an 8-2 record with a 1.30 ERA over 62.1 innings in regular-season conference play. You can watch an interview with Robinson here at Dartmouth’s website.
10th Round (314): Dakota Mekkes, RHP, Michigan State University
Well what do ya know, the Cubs selected another really big, right handed collegiate pitcher. Mekkes is listed at 6’7″ 250 pounds and has been pitching out of the bullpen in Michigan State. He doesn’t have the velocity of some of the other pitchers on the board, routinely working around 90-93 MPH, but Jim Callis indicated that his lower arm slot gives him a big advantage and some serious effective velocity.
And it must, because heading into the draft, Mekkes was listed as the 205th best prospect by Baseball America. His 15 strikeouts per nine innings were by far the most in Division I baseball this year and he’s doing it almost entirely on the strength of that fastball. In addition to his fastball, Mekkes uses a slider that rates out as fringe-average to average and an infrequently used, but equally average change-up that is said to fade late.
Although Mekkes works out of the bullpen, that comes with a pretty big and telling asterisk. Interestingly, Mekkes has frequently been used as a multi-inning reliever. In fact, he worked three or more innings five times this season, including six shutout innings in an extra-inning win against Maryland. If the Cubs continue to use him in this manner, it could be one of the first times they drafted someone as a super utility pitcher. Could be interesting.
So that wraps up the Cubs draft day and boy are my fingers burning. With eight picks coming in Rounds Three through Ten, the Cubs selected one lefty catcher and seven tall right handed collegiate pitchers. On Friday, the Cubs had a type and they stuck with it big time. Almost every tall, right handed collegiate pitcher also features a plus fastball (either in terms of velocity or effectiveness) and a slider that grades out as a average or better.
There are a few clearly starting candidates and a few pitchers that would be better served as relievers. In the coming days, weeks and months, we’ll take closer looks at each and every player the Cubs took today, as I’m sure their stats will soon be rolling across our screens. And that wraps up the 2016 MLB Draft Day Two coverage.
Hopefully the Cubs get a win tonight, so we can enjoy the weekend! I’m out!