This year’s MLB Draft is just 17 days away, as it kicks off on June 4. The Cubs have the 24th overall pick this year, which isn’t too shabby for a team that reached the NLCS last season. The Cubs’ first pick last year was 27th, and in 2016, it wasn’t until 104.
Although we might not go as crazy over mock drafts here at Bleacher Nation as we do over at our Bears sister-site, The Ten-Yard Line (the NFL draft is just a different animal, plus the Cubs haven’t had a top pick in a long time, while the Bears … frequently do), that doesn’t mean they matter to us any less.
So much of the Cubs’ core is built around players they’ve selected at the top of the draft (Javy Baez, Albert Almora, Kris Bryant, Kyle Schwarber, Ian Happ) that it’s hard to ignore the benefits of getting the picks just right.
We have four different mocks to look at today, so we’ll break this into sections and look at the Cubs-related bits. Then, if you’re hungry for more, you can click through and check out the rest of the data/scouting reports/predictions at each site.
With the 24th pick in the 2018 MLB draft, Jim Callis guesses that the Cubs wind up with a *record scratch* high school pitcher? Typically, the Cubs have laid their first round picks at the feet of polished, college position players (Bryant, Schwarber, Happ). And when they haven’t, they’ve gone with college arms (Brendon Little, Alex Lange). This year, however, Callis is guessing that the Cubs select high school right-hander Kumar Rocker with the 24th overall pick.
But just because this type of pick hasn’t been the front office’s M.O. in recent years doesn’t mean it won’t make sense in 2018. After all, finding high-end pitching prospects almost requires that you take them early, and frequently right out of high school. The Cubs could always use a little upside, even if its further away. And the most interesting thing about Rocker, specifically, is that a hamstring injury has allowed him to slip down some boards. In other words, if the Cubs rolled the dice on the righty, they might be getting a talent that probably shouldn’t have fallen so far.
In the FanGraphs mock draft, Longenhagen and McDaniel both send Rocker (that high school righty) to the Padres with the 38th overall pick, well after the Cubs make their pick at #24. According to the FanGraphs duo, college right-hander Jackson Kowar is the man for the Cubs in the first round of 2018, following a trend of college pitching, college pitching, and more college pitching (for what it’s worth, MLB.com had Kowar going four spots before the Cubs pick).
With that said, FanGraphs has also heard the Cubs might consider college right fielder Steele Walker for their first-round pick, though he’s currently mocked to the Indians at number 35 overall. [Brett: A dude named Steele? I’m sold.]
According to Keith Law, Rocker (No. 27, Nationals) and Kowar (Cardinals, No. 19) will both be taken off the board in the first round, but not by the Cubs. Instead, he sees them going with high school catcher Noah Naylor.
The Cubs haven’t taken a high school position player in the first round since selecting Albert Almora sixth overall back in 2012, so this would be a bit of divergence from that path. Then again, with so many young position player in the Majors already, it might make sense to get someone further away, who can be apart of the next, next wave of prospects.
According to Law, however, Naylor isn’t some super-upside play. In fact, he’s a pretty divisive prospect. Some believe won’t be taken in the first round at all, while others (like Law) think he might go inside the top 20. For what it’s worth, even those higher on Naylor, like Law, don’t seem to believe he’ll stick behind the plate long-term. Instead, it’s his bat and athleticism that’ll carry him. If you’re taking a high school bat, you’re not so much drafting for a particular position anyway.
According to Baseball America, Noah Naylor (18th, Royals) and Jackson Kowar (17th, Angels) will be gone before the Cubs pick and Kumar Rocker (33rd, Royals) will be passed on until later in the draft.
Instead, they see the Cubs going for college righty Logan Gilbert (but they add that if high school catcher Anthony Seigler is still available, he’ll be their pick). Since Seigler is their prioritized pick, you should know a little about him. First, MLB.com had Seigler going 33rd, FanGraphs had him going 30th, and ESPN had him going 29th.
And according to Baseball America, the switch-hitting Seigler has done a lot to raise his draft stock this spring, hitting the ball with authority and proving solid defense behind the plate. Seigler is expected to be the first true catcher off the board, as many teams plan to push Naylor directly to third base.
As for Gilbert, the college righty is certainly in line with the style of player the Cubs have targeted in recent drafts, particularly as he leads all Division I arms with 134 strikeouts this season (ahead of the draft’s projected No.1 overall pick, Casey Mize and No. overall 9 pick, Shane McClanahan). Not bad, eh?
So, who will it be: High school RHP Kumar Rocker, college RHP Jackson Kowar, high school C/INF Noah Naylor, college righty Logan Gilbert, or someone else?
For a little extra context, I’ve mapped out where each of those four players mocked to the Cubs are projected to go across all four publications (I always find it helps to see how high and low each guy is ranked across the board).
High School RHP Kumar Rocker
MLB.com: 24th, Cubs
FanGraphs: 38th, Padres
ESPN: 27th, Nationals
Baseball America: 33nd, Royals
College RHP Jackson Kowar
MLB.com: 20th, Twins
FanGraphs: 24thth, Cubs
ESPN: 19th, Cardinals
Baseball America: 17th, Angels
High School C/INF Noah Naylor
MLB.com: 16th, Rays
FanGraphs: 31st, Rays
ESPN: 24th, Cubs
Baseball America: 18th, Royals
College Pitcher Logan Gilbert
MLB.com: 14th, Mariners
FanGraphs: 17th, Angels
ESPN: 12th, Blue Jays
Baseball America: 24th, Cubs
When you look at it this way, Logan Gilbert seems like he may be the best overall player mocked to the Cubs (in terms of these mocks in the aggregate), while Kumar Rocker would be the greatest reach.
Which way do you think they should go?