I can’t tell you precisely how far out we are from the 2022 MLB Draft, what with an unset Collective Bargaining Agreement and all, but I can tell you that we are roughly two months out from the first amateur seasons getting underway. That means we’ll soon see the top draft-eligible prospects in the country getting their final seasons underway, and the pre-season rankings will be scrutinized and adjusted further. Thus, I like to track the preseason draft lists, especially given that the Chicago Cubs are picking so high this time around (pick seven).
That and more from the Cubs prospecting world …
• The MLB Pipeline crew unveiled their top draft prospects list for next year’s draft, and it’s another take that is very heavy on the bats up top. You can see the write-up here, and the full list here, with a top ten that looks like this:
1. Druw Jones, OF, Wesleyan HS (Ga.)
2. Termarr Johnson, 2B, Mays HS (Ga.)
3. Elijah Green, OF, IMG Academy (Fla.)
4. Jacob Berry, 3B, Louisiana State
5. Brooks Lee, SS, Cal Poly
6. Jace Jung, 2B, Texas Tech
7. Brock Jones, OF, Stanford
8. Chase DeLauter, OF, James Madison
9. Dylan Lesko, RHP, Buford HS (Ga.)
10. Gavin Cross, OF, Virginia Tech
• The top nine names there are the ones I’ve seen most often in the top ten of these lists, in varying orders. The lists will change dramatically as we get another amateur season in the books, but for now, it’s nice to see that the top tier roughly reaches the Cubs’ spot in the first round. Given how these things tend to fall, the Cubs are highly likely to have someone in the top three or four on their draft board available when pick seven comes.
• The guy down at number 100 is going to catch everyone’s eye, simply when they see his position listing: “BHP.” Yes, that’s right. Florida high schooler Jurrangelo Cijntje pitches from both sides. There’s a long, long way to go between pitching from both sides in your junior year of high school to actually being a professional ambidextrous pitcher, but that would be fun to follow. Pat Venditte wasn’t actually all that successful in the big leagues, but it was definitely fun to see him do his thing.
• Meanwhile, Baseball America’s top 50 high school draft prospects, specifically, is right here so you can get a little deeper dive on the prep prospects.
• Apropos of the latest FanGraphs Cubs prospect rankings, where you really saw a lack of internally-signed-and-developed international prospects, I couldn’t help but notice that the Cubs’ pitching in the Dominican Summer League doesn’t dominate the advanced statistical leaderboards (five Cubs pitching prospects are in the top 100 in ERA, but none of them are in the top 50 in FIP). We also just haven’t really heard much about any of the Cubs’ DSL pitching prospects outside of Oliver Roque, who won some organizational honors for his strong year.
• Not much better on the positional side (just four in the top 100 in wRC+ (Pedro Ramirez, Wally Soto, Cristian Hernandez, and Moises Ballesteros)). To be VERY CLEAR, statistical performance in the DSL is not necessarily the most useful metric for evaluating prospect performance for a lot of reasons, but, all else equal, you’d like to see the Cubs doing well there both from a scouting perspective AND a statistical perspective. It’s not like really good in-game numbers are a bad sign. I’d call this a reinforcement of an existing concern: the Cubs may not have done very well internationally, overall, during the Epstein/Hoyer era, and if things have improved markedly over the last couple years (there’s obviously a ton of lag), we’d really need to start seeing it show up in 2022 and 2023.
• Great read here at FanGraphs on Cubs pitching prospect Caleb Kilian, one of the most dramatic risers in prospect rankings from, say, June until now. A couple things discussed in there are the significant improvements in his curveball late in the year (we saw some of the fruits of that in the AFL, when he was striking guys out left and right with a newer spiked grip), and the improvements to his primary fastball – it’s a sinker that has gone from being a two-seamer to more of a one-seamer. That sounds weird, but it’s an increasingly-discussed variation on the pitch, which can generate more movement for some pitchers thanks to its seam-shifted wake properties.
• I’m going to preach temperance until we see Kilian do it at Triple-A to open the year, but it’s certainly fair to say that the version of himself that he was showing in Arizona – 95 to 97 mph with both fastballs, a great cutter, the nasty new curveball, and great command – had the look of a mid-rotation big league starter. It was really something. If he’s showing that same stuff in April, the Cubs will probably be very quickly figuring out how to give him an extended look in the big league rotation. If he needs more time, that is fine, too, of course. I just think it’s fair to say that he’s really put himself on the map for not just 2022, but the first half of 2022.
• Some visual HYPE for Cubs infield prospect James Triantos, who is on the verge of going from second round steal THIS year all the way onto some late top 100 consideration lists:
— James Triantos (@JamesTriantos) December 14, 2021
More of James Triantos destroying baseballs pic.twitter.com/vwJtdhikqo
— RushingBaseball (@RushingBaseball) December 15, 2021
• Speaking of Triantos (4th), Northside Bound looks at the top 20 Cubs prospects under age 20, and you really do see it confirmed that the strongest part of the Cubs’ system – for reasons good and less good – is heavily concentrated among the youngest players:
Cubs’ Top 20 Prospects Under 20 Show Some Incredible Depth https://t.co/Uv4sG3iBpU
— North Side Bound (@NSideBound) December 16, 2021