With Day Two of the 2018 MLB Draft in the books, I want to talk about what the Cubs have done so far, but I’m going to reverse normal practice here. I’m going to look ahead to Day Three first.
What To Expect Today
Performers. Tools are the watchword for the draft on Day One and early on Day Two, but by the time Day Three rolls around the Cubs tend to take guys who simply play good baseball regardless of what their tool grades might be. Anyone who got the job done on the mound, at the plate, or in the field, particularly if they played for a college team (of any size or level), is a candidate to be taken by the Cubs on Day Three.
That’s not to say tools aren’t important. But baseball history, not to mention every farm system, is littered with guys who had great tools and never turned into effective baseball players. Sometimes you need guys who are just good at baseball, even if the “why” is hard to pin down.
That ongoing trend tends to make me think we’re looking at the wrong things when we look at the tool grades we’re used to. I also wonder what indicators the Cubs are looking at in their draft room. My guess is they aren’t as concerned with who has a hit tool over 50 on Baseball America or FanGraphs as we are. But that’s speculation for a different day.
The Cubs are still missing some key pieces of their annual draft bouquet. They haven’t picked up a catcher yet, or a very tall pitcher (6’4″ is borderline I think). Or a left-handed pitcher. They’ve only taken one shortstop as well. Look for all of that to change by the end of today.
We should also expect today to produce some legitimate prospects. Some familiar prospect names drafted on Day Three in recent years (round number after the name):
From 2017: Rollie Lacy (11), Austin Upshaw (13)
From 2016: Michael Rucker (11), Wyatt Short (13), Zack Short (17), Matt Swarmer (19), Connor Myers (27), Tyler Peyton (29)
From 2015: Matt Rose (11 – traded for Jose Quintana), Casey Bloomquist (17), Ian Rice (29)
From 2104: Kevonte Mitchell (13), Chesny Young (14), Jason Vosler (16), Brad Markey (19), Zach Hedges (26)
And if we go back still further, Trevor Clifton (2013), David Bote (2012), Dillon Maples (2011), and Justin Bour (2009) would headline the list.
Based on that list, we should definitely keep a close eye on the Cubs pick in the elventh round. And we definitely shouldn’t overlook the players drafted today simply because they don’t get a lot of national attention.
Concerning Day Two
First off, if you haven’t already, read through Brett’s comments from yesterday.
It looks like the Cubs are really trying to find guys who were undervalued and/or overlooked by other teams due to lack of playing time. After taking two high school bats who missed time due to injury on Day One, they opened Day Two with Jimmy Herron, an outfielder who reportedly needs arm surgery. Outfielder D.J. Artis (7th) reportedly missed time last season with a hamstring problem, and Luke Reynolds (10th) missed two seasons trying to transfer schools.
And on the pitching side, Ethan Roberts (4th) was a small closer for a smaller school tucked away in Nashville, next door to a baseball powerhouse. Zach Mort (8th) also pitched for a smaller school near a baseball powerhouse, and, like Roberts, pitched very well. Derek Casey (9th) missed time in college due to arm surgery, and while he did pitch for a major baseball program, odds are good he wasn’t the primary pitcher scouts were wanting to see. Not with Daniel Lynch on that team.
I don’t know how much higher any of those players would have gone had they had more of a spotlight on them, but I can see the benefit in looking for gems that were missed by the other teams. In the case of Artis and Roberts in particular, I am looking forward to seeing what they can do in professional ball.
I think the thing that stood out most for me yesterday was the narratives. Every baseball draft is filled with stories, but there seemed to be several really good ones yesterday.
Take Ethan Roberts. A closer all season, in an elimination game against nationally ranked Ole Miss, he takes the start and pitches seven shutout innings to keep Tennessee Tech alive. They win the next game, win the Regional, and advance to the Super Regional for the first time.
To put that in context, imagine the Cubs asking Brandon Morrow to start Game 6 of the NLCS with the Cubs trailing in the series, and then watching Morrow carry a shutout into the eighth. We’d be talking about that peformance for decades. Shrink the stage a bit, and that’s exactly what Roberts did. If your mind isn’t blown, you need more coffee.
Or how about Derek Casey? He could have been a Cub out of high school and chose to go to college instead. Four years later, he still gets to be a Cub.
You know how infrequently this front office drafts high school pitchers early in the draft. What are the odds that they would have been so high on Casey that were willing to draft him early out of high school, and then still landed him after his college career? I can’t think of any cases that really compare to this one. Not in the Cubs’ universe, anyway.
And then there is D.J. Artis. Sure, he’s small. So he goes into a deep crouch at the plate to make himself smaller and his strikezone a harder target to hit. This is the sort of thing we read about in baseball fiction; now there’s a guy in the Cubs’ system who used that tactic (and a very good eye) to post an OBP of .532. I’m very much looking forward to his debut at home with Eugene; Eugene has one of the best streaming video rigs in the minors.
Maybe it is the storylines, or maybe it is the fact that the Cubs are back to drafting bats early again, or maybe it is the amount of potential and unknown factors with this group of players, but I genuinely can’t wait to see these guys sign and start playing for teams where we can get some video on them. I am really intrigued by this bunch. I don’t know if they’ll pan out or not, but I’m looking forward to finding out.