With the 32nd pick in the 2013 MLB Draft, the New York Yankees selected a 21-year-old Fresno State outfielder by the name of Aaron Judge. Here in 2017, Judge leads all of Major League Baseball with 17 home runs and – with Mike Trout’s injury – is considered to be the early front runner for the AL MVP award.
Why do I bring this up?
Well, after not being able to draft a single player in the top 100 picks last season, the Chicago Cubs have not one, but TWO top 30 draft picks this year (and a second rounder that comes before pick 100, too). Those early ones may come at the end of the first round – #27 and #30 – but, clearly, there’s still plenty of talent to be found there.
Cubs President of Baseball Operations Theo Epstein recently spoke about the upcoming draft and what the Cubs might do in the first round (Chicago Tribune), so we’re going to dig into that now. And, in conjunction, we’ll take a look at prospect guru Jonathan Mayo’s latest mock (MLB.com) to see if we can learn just who the Cubs might end up with.
- Actually, that’s where we’ll start. According to Mayo’s mock, the Chicago Cubs are going to go in a slightly different direction with their first overall pick in the 2017 draft: a high school shortstop. After going with college bats (quite successfully, I might add) with their last three first-round picks, the Cubs might decide to go with a higher ceiling player who’s, perhaps, further away from the Majors this time around. Specifically, Mayo projects high schooler Nick Allen to the Cubs and suggests that they have a particular affinity for the San Diego native.
- Going with a position player with their first overall pick isn’t much of a surprise for the Cubs, but his age/level might be. Still, it’s not as if the Cubs *need* a fast-mover. While you’d obviously love for all of your prospect to shoot through the minors, the Cubs might not mind if a high schooler like Allen takes his time and develops fully, but slowly, so that he can be a part of the next wave of prospects to emerge. Allen, for whatever it’s worth, is just a year and five months younger than Eloy Jimenez, and has been connected to the Cubs several times before.
- If you’d like to know more about Allen (and dream on that truly amazing defense up the middle) check out this video from MLB.com:
- With their second first-round pick (compensation for losing Dexter Fowler to the St. Louis Cardinals), the Cubs are projected to take high school pitcher Sam Carlson. I have to admit, I’d be pretty shocked to see the Cubs not take a college player with one of their first two picks (and that goes double for a pitcher), but this front office is not always predictable.
- According to John Sickels of Minor League Ball, Carlson’s fastball has been improving in velocity over the past two years, with some reports that it’s even peaked at 96-97 MPH. As far as secondary pitches go, Carlson has a change-up and slider that both flash “plus” at times, but could still use some work. And interestingly, Sickels couldn’t come up with many weaknesses, when describing Carlson’s overall outlook. That doesn’t mean he’s a sure-thing, of course, but if the Cubs did target a high school pitcher, you can bet he’d be one of the “safer” ones.
- As far as which way the Cubs might actually end up going this June, Epstein was expectedly silent. He did mention that they have several options for both spots, but admitted he’s wondering what the Toronto Blue Jays and Texas Rangers (the two teams between the Cubs’ two picks) are planning for themselves.
- Mark Gonzales seemed to imply that the Cubs may try to go under-slot with their first pick, so that they can swing for the fences later in the draft (like they did with Kyle Schwarber-Dylan Cease in 2014), but that’s obviously quite difficult to predict. In fact, Epstein said that “If you know your two guys are going to be there, you’re probably aren’t necessarily on the right two guys.”
We are inching ever closer to the draft, but misinformation is the name of the game this time of the year – and the Cubs front office has shown a particularly strong ability to keep things quiet in the past. So the best we can do for now is try to determine who the best player available will be at the end of the first round and then dig in when the Cubs make their pick.