When you think about a professional draft this time of year, you’re probably going to think about the NFL Draft, which is just one week away (obligatory plug for The Ten-Yard Line’s look at the latest NFL mock drafts).
The MLB Draft, by contrast, is still more than a month and a half away.
Then again, that seems sufficiently close to start thinking about how things might shake out. And this year, unlike last year, the Cubs have a first round pick again! Two of them, actually! The Cubs will pick 27th and 30th overall when the draft begins June 12, and Baseball America just unveiled a mock draft that goes through pick 30.
(An obligatory word about baseball mock drafts: because the variance in player evaluation is enormous in baseball (generally due to the distance from the big leagues, the mix of high school and college talent, and the huge draft pool), accurately predicting specific picks to specific teams at almost any point in the first round is challenging, to say the least. For the most part, the value of mock drafts for fans is in surfacing interesting names to follow, and potentially unearthing connections between teams and the types of players they value.)
You can check out the full BA mock for the names to be watching this draft season (including top three picks Louisville 1B/LHP Brendan McKay, California High School RHP Hunter Greene, and California High School IF/OF Royce Lewis), but the Cubs land the following two prospects:
27. Tanner Houck, RHP, Missouri
30. Nate Pearson, RHP, Central Florida JC
In recent years, the Cubs have eschewed first round pitchers in favor of positional talent, typically at the college level. But, in years past, the Cubs have been drafting at the top of the first round, where the hit rate on well-vetted college bats can be extremely high if you know what you’re doing. At the back of the first round, by contrast, most of the sure-thing college bats will be long gone, and the Cubs will be forced to take on more risk.
Thus, I can totally see them going with at least one pitcher in their top two picks, and college arms are generally safer than high school ones, even if some of the upside is capped.
That said, I’ve heard that this year’s draft is especially deep in high school pitching talent, so I think we should hold open the possibility, especially with two first rounders, that this is the year the Cubs finally pop a high school arm in the first round.
As for Houck, it’s possible you recognize him as a big-timer from a couple years ago, but his stock has slid, according to BA, because his mechanics and velocity have fallen off in the last year. That could make him a “buy low” opportunity for an organization adept at reclaiming pitchers, or it could just mean that he’s not going to get it back.
Pearson, says BA, is a velocity guy, who can hit the triple digits. Beyond that, I can’t say I know too much about him, but there is an old saw about not being able to teach velocity. That’s not entirely true, but guys who can naturally get it way up there do have something special that you can try to mold into an effective pitcher (while maintaining that plus-plus velocity).
Ah. Draft season. It’s basically here. I can’t wait for more mocks and draft rumors. It’s nice to see the Cubs back in the first round.