Absent any last minute surprises, the first round of the 2020 MLB Draft will kick off tonight at 6:00 pm, with Spencer Tolkerson becoming the first ever college first baseman taken with the No. 1 overall pick. And then, 14 picks later, the Chicago Cubs will go on the clock.
We’ve covered over a dozen mock drafts so far, and although there’s been plenty of variance throughout, a few names have risen to the top – speedy UCLA outfielder Garrett Mitchell chief among them. And even setting him aside, the Cubs have seemingly had a type this mock draft season, with high-upside (with risk) position players taking the day at No. 16. And although that’s precisely where things will start with our four final mocks of the season, there has been some significant last-day movement to address.
Callis Pick: Garrett Mitchell, OF, UCLA
Mayo’s Pick: Austin Hendrick, OF, high school
Jim Callis initially had the Cubs taking high school catcher Tyler Soderstrom, but he’s starting to seem like a virtual lock to go before the Cubs go on the clock (likely to the Giants at No. 13 overall). Meanwhile, Jonathan Mayo had previously pegged Mitchell as the Cubs pick.
Since then, Callis has adopted Mitchell at No. 16, while Mayo likely would have done the same, if he hadn’t projected him to be taken one pick earlier (Phillies). In any case, Hendrick is another guy oft-mocked to the Cubs, fitting the mold of young, high-upside high school position player.
Collazo’s Pick: Austin Hendrick, OF, high school
Baseball America also projects Austin Hendrick to the Cubs at No. 16 (in case you’re wondering, this leaves Garrett Mitchell for the Red Sox one pick later).
So once again, we’re wading in the same waters, though, I think it’s important to see everything BA has to say – not only on the first pick, but what might happen thereafter:
This could be close to the floor for Austin Hendrick, who gets mentioned throughout the teens and has plenty of ties at the Reds at 12. If he doesn’t make it, we could see the Cubs being interested in Crochet’s upside. We’ve also heard they might be digging on Wells, and if they could get him for an underslot deal here, that would make a lot of sense considering their history and success with lefthanded bats. We think they could be interested in Mitchell if none of these other names are on the board. Watch out for East Carolina first baseman Alec Burleson with the Cubs in a later-round selection.
Seeing as our own Cubs prospect guru, Bryan, singled out this mock on Twitter, I want you to internalize his message:
Some serious Cubs intel in the mock draft 8.0 @BaseballAmerica. Rumors on an underslot back-up plan, a connection to a college 1B in middle rounds, as well as connections to 3 names we’ve heard plenty about. I won’t spoil for now – but it sounds as sourced as anything I’ve read.
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) June 10, 2020
But this is where things get really interesting.
While Jonathan Mayo, Jim Callis, Carlos Collazo, and Eric Longenhagen deserve all the credit in the world for their ability to mock an MLB draft, Keith Law and Kiley McDaniel seem to go the extra mile in sourcing rumors for many of their projected picks.
No one gets everything 100% correct – and indeed, following different approaches is actually a very good way to get the clearest overall picture – but let’s just say I take their projections seriously … especially when two brand new names – out of the collegiate level, no less – enter the fray on the day of the draft. That seems to happen for the Cubs in recent years …
Pick: Nick Loftin, SS, Baylor
Unsurprisingly, McDaniel reported the Cubs eyes for Garrett Mitchell early, but he’s now placing his final bet – the one we’ll all remember on a brand new name: Nick Loftin, a shortstop out of Baylor. And it’s not just that, he’s got a whole cast of new characters on the Cubs board just before things kick off:
Nick Loftin, SS, Baylor: The Cubs are also leaning college but are more open-minded, though they see some Nico Hoerner in Loftin. [Garrett] Crochet would be the pick if he makes it this far, Bailey could be in the mix here and the Cubs like Jordan Walker, but he probably goes between their picks.
And he’s not alone in bringing out the new names!
Pick: Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State
Another new name. Another college middle infielder. And another explanation that introduces even more intrigue to the broader story:
16. Chicago Cubs: Justin Foscue, 2B, Mississippi State
I was told [Reid] Detmers wouldn’t get past the Cubs, and if he’s gone, they might go with Foscue. They’re also one of the teams most linked to [Mick] Abel. It’s worth noting that the Cubs haven’t taken a high school pitcher in the first round since 2005 (Mark Pawelek), and haven’t taken any high school player in the first round since 2012 (Albert Almora), but they’ve changed scouting directors this year and appear to have a new approach to the draft.
Law is referring to Louisville left-hander Reid Detmers, whom he believes will be taken 8th overall by the Giants, before introducing the brand new name, Justin Foscue. He does point out the potential opening for high school players this year under Dan Kantrovitz, but still. What a zoo of surprising new names.
Or is it?
New scouting director or not, we probably shouldn’t be surprised by last-minute shuffling in projected Cubs picks. It’s kind of their M.O. in recent drafts to pluck college players seemingly out of nowhere. Nico Hoerner wasn’t really on anyone’s radar as a first rounder a couple years ago, but has risen very quickly through the ranks. Ryan Jensen was taken well ahead of where he was expected to go last year, too. Even Kyle Schwarber wasn’t expected to be taken until the middle of the first round when the Cubs pounced on him with the 4th overall pick. And there was the time the Cubs took Kris Bryant out of col … ah, well, not that one. But you get the point.
Whether this is an acknowledgement of that strategy, a rumor about the Cubs’ willingness to go underslot if their guy isn’t there, or just a last minute smoke screen, we can’t tell. And that’s half the fun on draft day.