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Cubs Draft Prep: College Pitchers Emerge as Strength of 2020 Draft

Chicago Cubs

The 2020 MLB Draft has begun to come into focus recently, and since the Cubs pick in the first round at 16, their highest spot in five years, we can have a little more fun considering specific players as possibilities for the Cubs in the first round.

College pitching has emerged as a real strength in this draft (especially relative to last year’s class), with this weekend the most dominant one yet:

[Brett: Holy crap. That is all.]

Brand new Scouting Director Dan Kantrovitz has a history of selecting pitchers with his first selection, and has some good history with first-round college pitchers, be it Michael Wacha, Marco Gonzales, A.J. Puk, or Luke Weaver.

I’ve been doing my best to catch some early outings from the NCAA’s best college pitchers, and given their success this weekend, wanted to introduce some of the names that Cubs scouts surely have been focusing on recently.

The Two Who Will Be Gone Long Before Cubs Pick

This college class has at least two pitchers that stand out as surefire top 10 picks: Emerson Hancock from Georgia and Asa Lacy from Texas A&M.

Hancock is a scout’s dream: prototypical starter’s frame, big-time velocity, and trust in three secondaries. It’s a testament to his prospect states that he’s mentioned in the mix of the number one pick, considering Spencer Torkelson at Arizona State is one of the NCAA’s best power hitters of all-time.

Asa Lacy is a big 6-foot-4 lefty with a Jake Arrieta body type and a mid 90s fastball that hitters have no chance against. He faced another likely top 10 pick in New Mexico State’s Nick Gonzales on Friday, and in the first at-bat, struck him out with three fastballs. It’s one of those pitches that hitters will still struggle with even when it’s right down the middle. Lacy backs it up with a nasty sweeping slider, and adds an average curveball.

https://twitter.com/11point7/status/1236089029277429767?s=20

But don’t get your hopes up: neither is making it to pick 16.

The Inevitable Injuries Reshaping the Draft Board

The biggest news in college baseball last week was that preseason All-American and projected top 15 pick J.T. Ginn had Tommy John surgery. The Mississippi State Bulldog had an 105-to-19 K/BB ratio as a freshman in 2019, and after receiving a medical redshirt will retain three years of remaining college eligibility (and the leverage that goes with it in bonus demands).

I watched Ginn’s lone start in 2020, and while it wasn’t the cleanest of outings, he was my favorite prospect of the 10 or so top college pitchers I’ve watched. Ginn’s a real plus athlete with great sink on a mid 90s two-seam fastball that he tunnels a plus change-up with. The slider has graded well in the past, but I’d need to see more to be truly convinced.

It remains to be seen what Ginn’s bonus ask will be now, and whether any team will consider him at that number. I’d certainly advise anyone to do their due diligence, because he’s a special talent.

The other injured arm to watch is Tennessee Volunteer southpaw Garrett Crochet. Tennessee coaches kept Crochet on the sidelines for their first three weekends of games, citing extreme caution with a bout of shoulder soreness. Crochet made his season debut on Saturday, striking out six in 3.1 scoreless innings (I watched: he looked great). The 6-foot-5 lefty has reportedly touched 100 mph in the past, and so he’ll absolutely be a Cubs consideration … if the medicals hold up.

The Group Projected To Be Drafted Around Pick 16

As it concerns the Cubs, I think there are about a half-dozen college pitchers who have been deemed near consensus first-round talents from the national outlets. I’ve made an effort to watch nearly all of them, and I’ll order them below in Baseball America‘s pre-season ranking of them:

  • Carmen Mlodzinski, RHP, South Carolina. A breakout from the Cape Cod League last summer, Mlodzinski is a unique prospect, boasting a sinker and cutter as his two best pitches. The sinker is thrown in the 91-96 mph range, with extreme arm side run. The cutter starts on the same plane, but dives glove side at 86-91 mph. Mlodzinski mixes in a four-seam fastball, a slurvy breaking ball and a change-up. It’s certainly a starting pitcher toolkit.
  • Reid Detmers, LHP, Louisville. The Cubs have taken a Cardinals pitcher in the draft each of the last two years in Riley Thompson and Michael McAvene, and there’s no doubt they’ll be interested in Detmers. A big and strong lefty, Detmers is in the low 90s that touched the mid 90s, and mixes in the nation’s best curveball and an average (but improving) slider. Plus, he got the Pitching Ninja treatment after his 15(!) strikeout evening on Friday. You’re gonna want him for this curveball alone:

  • Tanner Burns, RHP, Auburn. When Burns’ Auburn carer ends, he’ll go down as one of the more prolific pitchers in Tigers history, which is saying a lot. Burns is short at an even six feet, but his thick lower half and workload history assuage concerns that he can’t hold up. Burns can really spin a breaking ball, with an overhand curveball and slider that both flash plus. I wonder a bit about his upside as a prospect, with little projection left and a fastball that didn’t blow me away.
  • Cole Wilcox, RHP, Georgia. Wilcox has reportedly moved up draft boards since the preseason, and I absolutely understand why. Wilcox is listed at 6-foot-5 and 230 pounds, and oddly, I still think he has muscle to add. The sophomore was 94-97 on the ESPN gun when I watched him, but has been around 100 plenty in the past. He’s really commanded the pitch this spring (32 strikeouts versus 2 walks), and his two-seamer has a heaviness that will make for a lot of groundballs. Wilcox flashes a real good mid 80s slider, and I liked the look of a change-up he flashed. The question is going to be whether he’s seen as a starter or reliever.
  • C.J. Van Eyk, RHP, Florida State. Great name. Van Eyk is the one in this section I have yet to watch, and that’s because he seems to have the highest variance of where he could get selected (I’ve seen him projected as high as 10 and as low as 50). Van Eyk is praised for his maturity on the mound, where it seems his upside might not match some of his peers. I’ll report back.

The Guys With Helium To Keep An Eye On

I’ll leave you with three names that are moving up draft boards quickly, and who knows, perhaps could rise all the way up to the Cubs selection.

In the Midwest, the best college pitcher is certainly Minnesota’s Max Meyer. At just six-feet tall, Meyer has all-world velocity, touching 100 mph with his fastball and 90 mph with his slider. I’ve yet to watch a full Meyer start (kind of hoping to venture to see him in Champaign or Iowa City this spring), but the highlights are eye opening:

How about these totals for Duke right-hander Bryce Jarvis’ last three outings: 23 IP, 7 H, 1 R, 1 BB, 36 K. What?!? Included in there is a perfect game against Cornell, and one-hit ball over seven innings against Florida State. Jarvis is a plus athlete with a low 90s fastball and a lot of spin; we’ll see how high in the draft scouts will consider him.

Florida’s Tommy Mace had a lackluster 4.84 ERA and 7.0 K/9 in his first two seasons, but scouts were intrigued by his lanky 6-foot-6 frame and a good four-pitch mix. Now the Friday Night ace for the number one team in the country, Mace has started to put that potential into reality in his first four starts this season. I’ve seen a bit of Mace, and I love the plane his fastball rides as well as a tight slider that hitters struggle to square up.

The draft won’t be a huge focus of mine this spring, but we’ll try to add write ups of the college hitters and high schoolers the Cubs might select as things come more into focus. I just couldn’t help, after this weekend, to write up the pitchers now.



Author: Bryan Smith

Bryan Smith is a Minor League Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @cubprospects.