Haven’t been following along with our latest mock drafts? Let me bring you up to speed: In the absence of normal scouting opportunities, the Chicago Cubs, like most teams this year, were initially projected to focus on safer college prospects, like right-hander Tanner Burns.
But after a little more digging behind the scenes, the story has turned for Chicago. In their first draft under new scouting director Dan Kantrovitz, the Cubs are reportedly now shifting their focus to riskier, higher-upside players. And that theory holds true with our two newest mocks from Jim Callis (MLB.com) and Keith Law (The Athletic).
In an update to his last mock from a couple weeks back, Jim Callis has run into some atypical consistency – 13 of his first 17 projections are identical, the Cubs among them. Like last time, Callis has the Cubs taking high school catcher Tyler Soderstrom out of California.
As we’ve discussed, Soderstrom would be a great pick for the Cubs, who’ve been great at developing hitters for nearly a decade and have plenty of experience with catchers who can play other positions (Kyle Schwarber, Willson Contreras, Victor Caratini). And in a vacuum, I think selecting Soderstrom – a clear top-half of the first round talent – would be an excellent outcome for the Cubs.
However, as Brett has pointed out, there is a bit of a rub here. The Cubs have a pretty significant cache of young catchers already in the lowest levels of the minors – Ethan Hearn, Ronnier Quintero, and Brayan Altuve – who’ll need starts in an already contracting minor league system. And that’s to say nothing of top prospect Miguel Amaya, who just reached High-A last season. The Cubs will have to spread starts out thoughtfully throughout the year.
Normally, for a first-round, high school talent who can also move to a corner infield or outfield position like Soderstrom, you wouldn’t even consider the increasing crowd behind the low-minors plate, but this isn’t a normal year. Forty minor league teams are about to lose their affiliation and entire leagues will be wiped out. I just want us to keep that in mind, as the Cubs continue to be connected to this particularly young and inexperienced catcher.
For what it’s worth, Soderstrom may have been mocked to the Cubs twice, but he’s been mocked to the Giants twice by Baseball America, twice by The Athletic, once by ESPN, and once by FanGraphs. In other words, there’s a lot more smoke coming out of San Francisco.
Moving on …
In his first mock draft of the season, Keith Law was one of two draft gurus connecting the Cubs to Auburn righty Tanner Burns, but in his update, Burns has fallen completely out of the first round (the same goes for Kiley McDaniel, who had also previously mocked him to the Cubs). That’s quite a fall when there isn’t baseball happening.
In his place, Law has the Cubs taking high school outfielder Austin Hendrick out of Pennsylvania. According to Law, Hendricks has “some of the best power in the high school class this year,” which certainly matches up with the Cubs traditional draft M.O.
Not unlike Soderstrom, however, Hendrick has more heat elsewhere … in the Cubs division. He’s been mocked to the Cincinnati Reds twice by MLB.com, twice by Baseball America, once by ESPN, and once by FanGraphs.
Let’s check in on the composite mocks, before a very important, concluding thought.
Here’s each player projected to the Cubs from the mocks we’ve covered so far:
Jim Callis I: Tyler Soderstrom, C (high school)
Jim Callis II: Tyler Soderstrom, C (high school)
Baseball America I: Robert Hassell, OF (high school)
Baseball America II: Mick Abel, RHP (high school)
Kiley McDaniel I: Tanner Burns, RHP (Auburn)
Kiley McDaniel II: Garrett Mitchell, CF (UCLA)
Keith Law I: Tanner Burns, RHP (Auburn)
Keith Law II: Austin Hendrick, OF (high school)
FanGraphs: Cade Cavalli, RHP (Oklahoma)
And here’s the highest and lowest each of these six players were mocked in the first round across all four publications:
Tyler Soderstrom: 13th, 24th
Robert Hassell: 8th, 17th
Tanner Burns: 16th, un-picked
Garrett Mitchell: 11th, 21st
Cade Cavalli: 10th, 21st
Mick Abel: 12th, 23rd
Austin Hendrick: 8th, 16th
From what I can tell, the Padres, Reds, Giants and Cubs are all thought of as having interest in the same high school position players: Robert Hassell, Austin Hendrick, and Tyler Soderstrom.
However, there’s an important consideration here. According to scouts sourced by Baseball America, the 2020 class of college pitchers is exceptional: “I’d lean toward great,” one longtime scouting director said. “The depth and the amount of really good arms, I don’t know if I’ve seen one like this in my lifetime.”
And this is kind of perfect for a team picking oh, say, 16th … like the Chicago Cubs. If they have the nerve and patience, they’ll be able to wait back and take the sort of high upside high school player who would’ve never otherwise dropped this far in a normal year (both because of the scouting concerns we’ve discussed before *and* the volume of quality college arms). But if one of those 4-5 guys they really love aren’t there, that almost necessarily means they’ll end up with the sort of quality college pitcher not typically available in a normal year simply because there just happen to be more of them this season.
That’s not say you wouldn’t prefer to pick higher up, but this year, the difference between picking 8th and picking 16th might not be nearly as wide as you’d typically expect. And that’s great news.