With the Chicago Cubs drafting higher this year than they have in eight years, I’ll be paying a lot more attention to mock drafts. That’s less because they are predictive of the players a team will actually take – the baseball draft is notoriously difficult on that front – and more because (1) mocks are good for putting possible target players on your radar before those seasons begin, and (2) mock drafts are fun. When you get to envision a relatively small pool of players being there for “your” team, it makes the draft prep a lot more enjoyable.
To that end, Prospects Live has released their first mock draft of the season, and at pick seven, the Cubs are taking the top pitcher in the draft:
7. Chicago Cubs
Dylan Lesko, Right-Handed Pitcher, Buford
The Cubs are an impossibly difficult club to predict. On one hand, Carter Hawkins helped build a long competitive run in Cleveland through the prep ranks. He jumped for Daniel Espino back in 2019, and Lesko could be Chicago’s first crown jewel in that same bucket. On the other, if the Cubs do land a nine-figure star this offseason, their competitive window is obviously much more in the immediacy than it is in a long rebuild. The Cubs’ system is certainly light, so any number of players make sense here. Our guess is Lesko in this circumstance, but you’d have to imagine the Cubs would think long and hard about guys like Brooks Lee, Daniel Susac, Jacob Berry and others still on the board depending on where they view themselves in 2023 and 2024.
I don’t know that timelines will play too much into the Cubs’ choice here – even if they decide they must be highly competitive in 2023/24, you can’t guarantee you’re finding a contributor in the 2022 draft no matter who you take. And even if you go with a high school arm like Lesko, it’s just as conceivable he could wind up a trade piece that puts some deal over the top at midseason.
As for the player, though, it’s been clear through the first set of rankings and mocks that high schooler Dylan Lesko is considered the top pitching prospect in a draft that is thinner on college arms at the top (they don’t start going off the board in this mock until pick 13). This is actually the second initial mock to send Lesko to the Cubs, with Jim Callis having done so in late December.
Lesko was the first junior to win the Gatorade national player of the year award, and who knows how his senior year will change his standing. By the time he’s finished, it’s possible he’ll have moved up and out of the Cubs’ range (or fallen off). For now, though, you don’t hate thinking about the Cubs taking a big swing on the pitcher with the most upside in the draft. Or at least I don’t hate it. In early January, anyway. Ask me again in June and July.