There’s been so much that has happened around the MLB Draft since we last checked in, as this year’s later-than-ever draft date (finally starting THIS Sunday!) has provided some fun late intrigue. We had the College World Series, a draft combine and a Draft League. We have new mocks coming out everyday it seems: Baseball America, Prospects Live, FanGraphs, MLB Pipeline.
As I looked back at the two previews I’ve written so far for the draft, we’ve touched on 33 names, many of whom I still believe are heavily in the mix at pick 21. However, there are 10 more names that I believe Cubs fans should be familiar with, and here’s the thing: they are all either high school hitters or college pitchers. Given the way the draft board is looking this year, and layering in the Cubs’ biases, I believe the Cubs pick is likeliest to come from one of these two demographics. There are college hitters and even high school pitchers the Cubs like, and if available to them, could certainly snag. But I think we’ve previously hit on those names (you can see the guys we’ve already touched on at the end of this post).
Here are 10 more with enough helium that you should have them on your radar …
Two Guys I Should Have Already Brought Up
Harry Ford, C, North Cobb HS; Ryan Cusick, RHP, Wake Forest.
Early in the draft season, I didn’t think it real likely either of these guys would be around when the Cubs picked. Ford had early spring helium, going from a common guy mocked to the Cubs to somebody mentioned with top 10 potential. Recent mocks have Ford sliding into the teens, so there do seem to be possible scenarios where he makes it to 21. Ford is an ultra-athletic high school catcher (plus-to-better runner, plus arm) that you could definitely imagine at second base or center field if the bat ends up well ahead of the defense.
Cusick is a stuff-first college pitcher with more success lighting up radar guns than posting low ERAs. The Wake Forest program he comes from is new-age and advanced in pitching development, and the 6-foot-6 Cusick saw his fastball blossom into a triple digits offering while in Winston-Salem. I think he’s a reliever in the end due to fringy control and secondaries, but a team with belief in their pitching infrastructure will be tantalized by the starter ceiling here.
Two Who Have Flown From Round 2 Guys to Pre-Cubs Guys
Will Bednar, RHP, Mississippi State; Lonnie White, OF, Malvern Prep.
If you watched any of the College World Series than you surely know Bednar, who was this year’s CWS Most Outstanding Player after throwing seven no-hit innings in the deciding game of the championship. Bednar was my pick in the Prospects Live Mock Draft, but given what he did in Omaha, I now think he’s gone before the Cubs selection.
It’s hard not to get enamored of Bednar when you watch him pitch: he’s completely unafraid in attacking hitters and pitches with emotion and a chip on his shoulder. He’s a strike-thrower with a mid 90s fastball that shows two good secondaries. This guy is going to fly through the minor leagues.
The ace of each staff faced off in this winner-take-all game
And Will Bednar out-pitched Kumar Rocker!
6.0 IP, 0 H, 0 ER, 4 K pic.twitter.com/nvt4ahmzQq
— Farm To Fame (@FarmToFame_) July 1, 2021
While Will Taylor is the prep outfielder most connected to the Cubs, I think I prefer Lonnie White if Dan Kantrovitz wants to bet on molding another toolsy teenage bat. Like Ed Howard, White is a cold-weather state guy (Pennsylvania) who popped on the summer showcase circuit, and like Taylor, you’d be buying White out of a wide receiver commitment. If Taylor’s weakness is power projection, White’s is contact projection, so there’s a pick-your-poison situation here.
Three I’ve Heard Attached To Other Teams That Make Theoretical Sense
Jay Allen, OF, Carroll Catholic; Ky Bush, LHP, St. Mary’s; Matt Mikulski, LHP, Fordham.
We’ll stick on toolsy outfielders here and jump to Allen, another three-sport athlete with a future in center field. Allen is a bit less eye-popping than the aforementioned duo, but he’s said to have fans near the end of the first round. There’s an Almora-ness to the profile here that leaves me with some mixed feelings.
The two small-college lefties here intrigue me when you think about the draft as one big puzzle: snag someone below-slot in round one and you can take a risk on snagging your best scout’s favorite prep prospect in the middle rounds. This would be especially true with Mikulski, a senior who has never been drafted before. After rebuilding his arm action, Mikulski was the most dominant pitcher in the northeast this year and touched the upper 90s with his fastball. Tools and signability are an intriguing combination.
Bush was mentioned by FanGraphs as a guy with some late momentum, and it’s not hard to see why: 6-foot-6 frame that showed mid-90s velocity by the end of the season. After battling control problems in junior college, Bush walked just 19 in 78 innings this year. A team that believes in the guy from his best outings this year could definitely make the cash that Bush is the best lefty in the draft.
Got a couple questions on @MelissaLockard's second pick last night, St. Mary's LHP Ky Bush. Stellar pick. Rising.
Here's three 94-95 mph seeds, three wicked hammers, and three string-splitting changeups. Also throws a firm slider. 6-7 frame w/fluidity and balance. Kid is real. pic.twitter.com/ygDDlj5lja
— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) June 26, 2021
Three Personal Cheeseballs
Andrew Abbott, LHP, Virginia; James Triantos, IF, Madison HS; Wes Kath, IF, Desert Mountain HS.
I might make the case that Abbott is the best lefty, myself. A protege of Billy Wagner, Abbott is himself a short lefty who derives a lot of success with high fastballs. Abbott became the guy during the college postseason that I was most enamored with, where you could see the life on his fastball even when in the low-90s (and he’s had stretches well higher than that) just based on opposing hitters’ swings. I think the breaking ball is a plus offering and even on the Omaha stage he showed a willingness to throw a solid-enough changeup. I like the athleticism, the sign ability, the projection and the current stuff. He might be more Round 2 than Round 1, but either way, I’d love him to end up a Cub.
While I could make the Triantos case, he was first pitched to me by Greg Zumach at Ivy Futures, who “selected” Triantos in the first round in his new 10-round Cubs mock. It’s an awesome undertaking that really highlights how dialed in Greg is to this year’s class, so I’ll just ask that you read his Triantos reasoning rather than mine. Lastly, I’m a big fan of Wes Kath, the infielder from the Scottsdale area. I think this is a swing that produces easy power when introduced to pro instruction and high performance. The Cubs did well their last time spending a high pick on a high schooler from the Greater Phoenix area, so I’m going to be happy to trust whatever area scout Steve McFarland thinks of Kath.
Everything about Wes Kath screams pro bat. pic.twitter.com/tQwaYn1Ww9
— Joe Doyle (@JoeDoyleMiLB) May 19, 2021
And here’s your list of guys we’ve already talked about: