Recently, The Athletic’s Keith Law pegged the Cubs to select South Carolina high school outfielder Will Taylor in his first mock draft, doing so because, “(T)he Cubs have been strongly linked to him.” As I said at the time, that’s a really notable bit from Law, who very rarely reports rumors like that – doing so only when it’s pretty darn strong.
Well, adding a bit more smoke to that fire (to the extent you can have fire about an MLB Draft pick in the 20s), Jim Callis dropped his latest mock today, and guess who he’s got going to the Cubs at number 21?
21. Cubs: Will Taylor, OF, Dutch Fork HS (Irmo, S.C.)
The Cubs are considering every demographic – high school bats (Taylor, Colson Montgomery) and arms (Solometo), college hitters (Florida outfielder Jud Fabian) and pitchers (McGreevy).
There will always be a lot of variability in possible picks outside the top 10, so it likewise always stands out to me when the Cubs are paired with a particular name more than once even when picking outside the top 10. Taylor sounds like an extreme athlete, where the upside is as extreme as the risk.
More on Taylor from MLB Pipeline, which currently has him ranked as the 27th best draft prospect:
An argument can be made that baseball is Taylor’s third-best sport – and he’s still talented enough on the diamond to go in the top three rounds in the 2021 Draft. He accounted for 32 touchdowns while quarterbacking Dutch Fork HS (Irmo, S.C.) to the South Carolina 5-A state title last fall and is committed to play slot receiver (as well as the outfield) for Clemson if he doesn’t turn pro. He also won state wrestling championships in the 152-pound weight class as a freshman and the 160-pound class as a sophomore.
Taylor is more advanced than the typical multisport athlete who hasn’t devoted himself to baseball full-time and could get significantly better once he does. He has a loose right-handed swing and made consistent contact on the showcase circuit this summer, displaying the ability to make in-game adjustments against quality competition. The biggest question is how much impact he’ll have at the plate, though he does have some wiry strength and should develop into at least a 15-homer threat with more pop possible if he adds some loft to his stroke.
Taylor’s best tool is his speed, which produces plus to top-of-the-scale run times from home to first. He plays with an aggressive mindset, wreaking havoc on the bases and covering lots of ground in center field. Though he’s a high school quarterback, his arm grades as fringy to average, though that’s enough to remain in center.
The upside in multi-sport high school prospects is really substantial, not only for the implied athleticism but for the pop you might get when they full commit to baseball for the first time. The risk, of course, is that the hitting just doesn’t come – it is hard, after all.
As noted previously, Taylor went 25th to the A’s in BA’s most recent mock: “Taylor hit well last summer and has added more strength early this spring, though power is still perhaps the one question mark in his game. He can run, throw, hit and field and he’s been tagged in the back of the first round frequently of late, though his multi-sport commitment to Clemson could complicate things.”
The Cubs’ draft, of course, is now led by Dan Kantrovitz, formerly of the A’s. Time was, you’d never even dream of connecting the Cubs to a high-risk high school bat in the first round. But they took a chance on the upside of prep shortstop Ed Howard last year, and with Kantrovitz running his second draft with the Cubs, I certainly wouldn’t rule out them doing it again. Hence the variety of amateur players – and types – to whom the Cubs have been connected.
Notably, Bryan has actually talked about all of the players Callis mentions in connection to the Cubs:
I discussed four of the five names Jim Callis connected to the Cubs in his latest mock draft in our last Draft Preview piece at Bleacher Nation. And the fifth, Colson Montgomery, we’d discussed in the previous preview (which is linked in the piece).https://t.co/DESlVe0vKS
— Cubs Prospects – Bryan Smith (@cubprospects) June 10, 2021