LIVE: Day Two of the 2021 MLB Draft, Rounds Two Through Ten (UPDATE: Plenty of Upside, Plenty of Risk)

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LIVE: Day Two of the 2021 MLB Draft, Rounds Two Through Ten (UPDATE: Plenty of Upside, Plenty of Risk)

Chicago Cubs

While most of your attention will be directed toward the Cubs’ first round pick, college lefty Jordan Wicks (and for good reason), it’s important not to sleep on the Cubs’ picks in rounds two through ten today. Not only are talented big leaguers players often selected beyond the first round in MLB, the Cubs have had some really interesting second round picks over the years.

Last season, for example, the Cubs took a flame throwing left-handed reliever, Burl Carraway, in the second round, which was one of the more interesting second round picks in recent memory given his position and skillset. In 2019, the Cubs took Chase Strumpf, who’s now their No. 9 overall prospect and already in Double-A Tennessee. And, of course, in 2018, the Cubs selected their top overall prospect Brennen Davis, who is flying up prospect ranking boards and was just named the Future’s Game MVP yesterday.

And it’s not just second rounders, of course. In 2014, Justin Steele was taken in the fifth round and Dylan Cease was selected in the sixth round. In 2017, Keegan Thompson was taken in the third round. In 2018, Cole Roederer (2C) and Kohl Franklin (Rd. 6) were taken after round two. And in 2020, the Cubs took Jordan Nwogu (Rd. 3) and Luke Little (Rd. 4).

My point here is simply that even for an organization that has *not* been lauded for their post-first-round draft history over the last decade, there has been plenty of interesting, useful, talented players selected beyond round one. And that’s what we’re hoping for today.

Broadcast Info:

When: 12:00 CT.
Where: Rounds 2-10 will be broadcast on MLB Network and streamed on MLB.com

Cubs Total Bonus Pool: $6,779,400 (that’s the 7th lowest in MLB and roughly $3.1M will be allotted for their first-round pick, Jordan Wicks). Recall, the bonus pool is made up of the slots attached to each pick through round ten. The Cubs typically spend up to 5% over their total pool (the most you can spend without costing yourself a future draft pick).

Cubs Picks:

1. Jordan Wicks, LHP, Kansas State
2. James Triantos Jr., SS/3B, James Madison HS
3. Drew Gray, LHP, IMG Academy HS
4. Christian Franklin, CF, Arkansas University
5. Liam Spence, SS, Tennessee
6. Riley Martin, LHP, Quincy University
7. Parker Chavers, CF, Coastal Carolina
8. Casey Opitz, C, Arkansas University
9. Chase Watkins, LHP, Oregon State University
10. Peter Matt, OF, Duke

I will update this post as each of the Cubs picks are announced with whatever information I can find quickly.

Round 2 (Pick 56): James Triantos Jr., 3B, James Madison High School

With their second pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Cubs went with an 18-year-old right-handed high school infielder. He was announced by the Cubs as a third baseman, but played shortstop in high school. You can choose to look at that as a lack of confidence in his glove at short, which may be partly true, but to me that better indicates a long-term belief in his bat. After the pick was announced, Jonathan Mayo said the power wasn’t quite there yet (not a surprise for a high school shortstop), but lauded the contact skills (FanGraphs points out how absurd the contact was right here) and even dropped an Alex Bregman comp, which is not something you should start dreaming about, but I wanted to let you know.

Triantos was ranked No. 78 according to MLB.com, but Baseball America had him at No. 59 and FanGraphs had him at No. 46, complimenting his “silly” amount of contact last season.

Interestingly, Baseball America labels him as an “extreme(ly)” risky pick, which actually tracks a bit with the Cubs approach under Dan Kantrovitz (higher upside players tend to be riskier). Part of that risk, no doubt, is the relative lack of scouting on high school players because of the pandemic.

Oh, and, hey, he can touch 96 MPH on the mound, even though he’s going to be a position player.

Round 3 (Pick 93): Drew Gray, LHP, High School (more coming)

With the 3rd pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Chicago Cubs have selected left-handed high school senior Drew Gray. From what I can tell, this is a bit of a reach pick, in terms of pure projection over current abilities. MLB.com had Gray ranked 179th, Baseball America had him at 129th, but he’s beyond 200 for most other boards I’ve seen out there. This is, however, another upside play for the Cubs.

Not only is Gray very young (so all the lack of scouting notes again apply), but he also spent time as a outfielder, which limited his exposure as a starter. When he was on the mound, he mixed a low-90s fastball (which touches 94 MPH) with a slider and a curveball (though he is apparently developing a changeup, as well).

He is another “extreme” risk pick, according to Baseball America, which continues to be the M.O under Dan Kantrovitz. Indeed, MLB.com did say that he has “tremendous upside,” even though it comes with a lot of risk. Other notes I’ve picked up across the board: He’s got high quality spin rates, but struggled with command.

Round 4 (Pick 123): Christian Franklin, OF, University of Arkansas

With their fourth pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Cubs went with a highly ranked college center fielder, Christian Franklin. MLB.com had him all the way up at No. 52 and FanGraphs had him as a top-50 draft prospect.

Despite average speed, Franklin is considered above average in center field with an above average arm (remember: Albert Almora Jr. didn’t have great speed, but was a high quality defensive center fielder). He also has good power and also draws compliments for his patience at the plate. There is swing and miss to his game, but it’s hard not to adore this write-up from The Athletic:

Franklin has huge power and could be a 60 defender in center, but his swing is wildly inconsistent and he doesn’t use his legs well at the plate, part of why he’s always had trouble making contact.

There’s also this:

And this:

Round 5 (Pick 154): Liam Spence, SS, University of Tennessee

The Cubs made a really interesting pick in the fifth round of the draft. Spence is a patient, contact-oriented player, who also happens to be a shortstop, which is great, but he’s also already 23-years-old. That’s probably why he isn’t ranked among the top-250 on any of the common draft boards out there.

I’m sure there is plenty to like about Spence, but I’d be wrong not to point out that as an older senior, he should be an easier sign which could allow the Cubs to save money and go big elsewhere in the draft.

Here’s a mini-thread from Bryan:

Round 6 (Pick 184): Riley Martin, LHP, Quincy University

With their sixth pick in the draft, the Cubs are going with another college senior who should be an easy sign. After a quick google search (there’s not a ton out there on him), it looks like Martin has struck out 152 batters in 78.2 IP this season, which … wow.

Round 7 (Pick 214): Parker Chavers, OF, Coastal Carolina

Although Parker Chavers is another older draft pick for the Cubs (fifth year senior) he’s actually a highly rated prospect who was expected to go within the top-5 rounds last season. Unfortunately, a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder kept him off the field and affected his status. That’s certainly still a concern, but he remains a highly rated prospect: 160th this season according to MLB Pipeline, who had this to say …

Chavers generates at least solid raw power with a quick left-handed swing and the strength in his compact frame, and he’s not swinging for the fences as much as he did in the past. He used to let his stroke get too uphill and pull-oriented, but now he’s making more consistent hard contact …. Chavers is doing a better job of using his plus speed to steal and take extra bases. He’s still honing his instincts in center field but should be able to remain there as a pro. Though his arm earns average to solid grades, it remains a concern because he had labrum surgery in high school.

Chavers also earns high marks as a plus-plus runner, and I love guys who’ve performed well in the challenging Cape Cod League. There’s always risk in the later rounds – especially for guys with significant injury history – but I’m willing to bet he’s got more upside than a typical 23-year-old (in a few weeks) outfielder.

Round 8 (Pick 244): Casey Opitz, C, University of Arkansas

With their 8th pick in the 2021 MLB Draft, the Cubs have selected a switch-hitting catcher out of the University of Arkansas. Casey Opitz is a borderline top-250 draft prospect, who was actually first drafted as a high schooler by the Indians in the 17th round of the 2017 draft. Although his offensive ceiling remains limited, he seems to grade out as a solid receiver and with a plus arm due to “extremely accurate throws.”

For example:

I’ll remind you that catchers often develop offensively later than any other position, so perhaps there’s still some remaining upside there.

Round 9 (Pick 274): Chase Watkins, LHP, Oregon State

Another left-handed college pitcher for the Cubs in round 9, but this one, Chase Watkins, is a reliever. Or, at least, he has been here recently. Some scouts believe in his ability to start, but his low-90s fastball and hammer curve combo might work better out of the ‘pen. His long-term role will likely depend on the development of his slider and changeup. If he can’t get at least one of those up to big league readiness, a future in the bullpen is likely where he ends up. We’ve seen Dan Kantrovitz take pure relievers in the draft before, so this isn’t completely out of left field.

Round 10 (Pick 304): Peter Matt, OF, Duke

With their final pick (of the day), the Chicago Cubs have selected Duke outfielder Peter Matt, and it sounds like he’s a hitter:

[Peter Matt] Appeared and started in 54 of Duke’s 55 games primarily in right field and as the designated hitter … ranked third on the team in batting average (.297) and hits (65) and second in home runs (15) … led the Blue Devils and finished sixth in the ACC with 15 stolen bases … became the first player in Duke history to tally 15+ home runs and 15+ stolen bases in a single season … his 15 home runs ranked eighth in the ACC and tied for seventh all-time by a Blue Devil in a single season.

And that does it for Day Two of the Draft. We’ll be back at you with more draft coverage tomorrow.



Author: Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami covers the Chicago Cubs, Bears, and Bulls at Bleacher Nation. You can find him on Twitter @Michael_Cerami