With two picks in the first round this year – after none until the third round last year – the 2017 MLB Draft figures to be a much more engaging affair for Chicago Cubs fans this time around.
For that reason, I find myself far more geeked about the draft (June 12-14) than I have been in a couple years (maybe even more so than 2015, when the Cubs picked 9th overall and landed Ian Happ). The Cubs will be picking at numbers 27 and 30, and with two first rounders – even late first rounders – the team’s bonus pool will be about $7.1 million, three times larger than it was in 2016, and just about middle-of-the-pack in baseball (again, despite their natural first round pick coming at the very end of the round). The Cubs will have a whole lot more flexibility to get creative in this draft.
(Before discussing specifics, I’ll give you the same parenthetical caveat I did when we talked about BA’s last mock draft: 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.)
BA’s third installment of the mock draft has the Cubs going with a couple prep standouts at 27 and 30: Louisiana high school “pitchability” righty Blayne Enlow, and fast-rising New York high school outfielder Quentin Holmes. It would obviously be a change of pace for the college-hitter-focused Cubs of recent first round picks, but at the back of the round, and with two picks, some higher risk/higher reward swings might be in order. The Cubs would also like to see Missouri righty Tanner Houck or UCLA righty Griffin Canning fall to them, according to BA.
MLB.com’s first mock draft gives the Cubs California high school infielder Nick Allen (to whom BA also mentioned the Cubs have been connected), and State College of Florida lefty Brendon Little at 30. Allen is an undersized middle infielder who has been watched as a potential first rounder for over a year now, and most think he’ll be able to stick at shortstop long-term. Check out the diving play and the strong arm in this clip:
The Minor League Ball mock draft sends the Cubs an “advanced” college righty in South Carolina’s Wil Crowe, and less-polished Central Florida junior college lefty Nate Pearson. The latter is a 97-100 mph power arm in need of work, while the former would be more of a fast-mover type. In either case, it would be a boost to the Cubs’ relative lack of pitching in the farm system (although we know that the Cubs will not be drafting based on need).
Of the six possible picks, there are four pitchers and two position players. There are three prep players and three college players. There are two righties and two lefties. There’s an infielder and an outfielder. You get the gist of how complex mocking at the back of the first round can be. But, as you review the mocks, you do start to see a lot of the same names coalescing around the same rough areas of the first round, which can give you a sense of guys who might last to Pick X, or guys who almost certainly will not.
As far as the positional stuff goes: the further back you get in the first round, the more likely you are to be facing choices where your scouting group collective likes a couple guys, and it’s a very close decision, and then positional considerations – in terms of overall organizational strengths and weaknesses – could plausibly factor into the discussion. But I still don’t think we’re going to see the Cubs ever attacking the first round with a “we need to get pitching” mindset.
We’re well under a month until the draft begins on June 12. It’s gonna be a really fun one.