The MLB Draft is now just two and a half weeks away – finally, we’re getting kinda sorta close! – and the Chicago Cubs will be drafting higher than they have since 2014. This is a very, very important year to really get things right.
Some of the latest draft-related bits to get into today …
- The latest mock from Kiley McDaniel at ESPN has Cam Collier snagged by the Pirates at pick four, which seems an increasing possibility. For the Cubs, Brooks Lee falls, which I’m sure they’d be thrilled to jump on, even if missing on Collier. Still, McDaniel says he believes the Cubs would prefer Collier or Termarr Johnson make it to their pick. Just might not happen.
- Shortstop Zach Neto and lefty Connor Prielipp come in for mentions from McDaniel, both of whom we’ve heard about before, and who might be the Cubs’ option if (1) their preferred two or three targets don’t make it to seven, (2) the Cubs view the difference between those two and others still available as pretty small, and (3) the Cubs can get a significant underslot deal done while knowing SPECIFICALLY which player they can use the savings on in a later round (i.e., a mid-to-late first round type the Cubs want, but who has a high price tag and will slide for that reason; in the bonus pool system, this is almost like trading back).
- If it sounds like we’re starting to hear a lot of the same names and philosophies surrounding the Cubs’ pick, it could be because that’s where their head is at. Sahadev Sharma wrote in a recent mailbag that the Cubs would likely be very happy if any of Termarr Johnson, Kevin Parada, or Brooks Lee fall to them at seven, but Cam Collier might be the guy the Cubs are really targeting. Again, it’s something we’ve heard before, and that’s probably because it has some legs. It makes you wonder if the Cubs are just hoping one of those four are still on the board for them at seven, and if not, that’s where the alternative strategies might kick in. (That would suggest the Cubs aren’t super into Jacob Berry or Jace Jung or even a super high-upside prep bat like Elijah Green, if he were to fall (which he very likely won’t).)
- Baseball America released an updated top 500, which is definitely worth perusing if you’re a draft nerd. The only change near the top of the draft is improved standing for Cam Collier, who now ranks 8th behind, in reverse order, Jacob Berry, Kevin Parada, Elijah Green, Termarr Johnson, Jackson Holliday, Brooks Lee, and Druw Jones.
- Speaking of Collier, he is holding his own in the wood-bat Cape Cod league, despite being just 17:
- Baseball America has named Ivan Melendez the College Player of the Year after his historic offensive season at Texas. The first baseman hit a ridiculous .387/.508/.863 with 32 homers, probably the best offensive season in college since they switched to the BBCOR bats a decade ago. It was a better offensive year than Kris Bryant’s absurd junior season at San Diego.
- So you might be wondering: why aren’t we hearing about this guy in the first round, if he’s the best-producing college hitter since Kris Bryant? Or even better than that? Well, there are at least a couple reasons. For one, Melendez is first-base-only. He can probably stick there well enough, but when you’re talking about a first round pick, it’s a huge risk to take a pure first baseman, because it limits the possible future paths and puts enormous pressure on the bat. Which brings me to the other thing – the BA scouting reports suggests that Melendez can be attacked by heat inside, and breaking stuff low and away (the traditional attack against sluggers). It’s possible that scouts just don’t project him as well at the next level, against much better pitching, as compared to what he’s been able to do in college. Taken together, that’s why college bats like Parada and Berry are mocked near the top of the first round.
- All that said, Melendez ranks as the 51st prospect in that new top 500, so he’s certainly going to get consideration in the early rounds of the draft. Historically, it feels like guys “like” Melendez go in the second round. Certainly would be fun to follow in the Cubs’ system just for the heck of it …