More mocks! Give me all the mocks! I’m not even kidding. When the Cubs have a high pick, I will read every mock draft I can get my hands on. There are FIVE to get into today, with just two days to go before the first and second rounds …
- Baseball America’s final official mock draft has that familiar group of seven going in the first seven picks, and with Cam Collier the one still on the board for the Cubs, that’s whom they select:
I would be surprised if Johnson makes it past this spot, but he also has plenty of potential landing spots before here. It sounds like Collier’s most likely homes among the top 10 picks are No. 4 to Pittsburgh, No. 7 to the Cubs or No. 8 to the Twins. Those have been the most aggressively linked to the juco 17-year-old.
If both Collier and Johnson are off the board, my assumption is the Cubs take whoever falls to them or grab Jacob Berry.
- Bonus dart throws for later picks from BA? California HS OF Henry Bolte, and Illinois HS LHP Noah Schultz (who is reported to be a tough/expensive sign).
- Something stray to point out about the BA mock, and broader implications: college shortstop Zach Neto goes 18th, with a slot value of just under $3.6 million. Neto is offered by many as the Cubs’ back-up plan at seven if their preferred target isn’t there and/or if they like Neto just about as much as the “top seven” player still on the board. In that situation, the Cubs would be signing Neto under slot so they could target a pricey pick that fell (for example, a Schultz type). Thus, it’s useful to know just how under slot Neto might go – because that’s how much bonus pool space you’d have available to use on another pick. If this is his floor, then, and the Cubs’ slot at seven is $5.7 million, it seems they could go a pretty healthy chunk under slot. And with an extra, say, $1.5 million to use on later picks, it’s very conceivable that they could grab another “first round” talent. So, it’s a bit like trading back – think of it like swapping the 7 for the 15 and the 30. Maybe it’s worth it, maybe it’s not. Depends on how the chips fall in front of the Cubs.
- Kiley McDaniel’s third mock at ESPN has Jacob Berry sliding into the top five picks, which means the Cubs have two of the “top seven” options available to them in Elijah Green and Brooks Lee, with the Cubs going Green: “As you may have noticed, Green makes some level of sense and is in the mix for almost all of the teams before this. He has possibly the highest upside of any draft prospect that I’ve ever seen but also some worrisome miss rates in showcase play. It’s a big gap between floor and ceiling and if he gets past this pick, I think the most likely landing spot is over slot to the Mets at the No. 11 pick which is about as far as he could fall.”
- McDaniel mentions Zach Neto and Connor Prielipp as under-slot options for the Cubs, who he hears are hoping for Cam Collier or Termarr Johnson. They aren’t still on the board, so he goes with Green based on too-much-upside-to-pass-up. (That’s how I’d feel too if the board fell this way. I’m still dubious that Green is ACTUALLY going to slide, but if he’s there at seven, I hope the Cubs give it serious consideration. Rare superstar upside.)
- If Green starts to slide and reaches the Cubs, something to keep in mind: there are rumors that Green’s bonus demand is substantial, which could be about sliding to the Mets at 11, where they could offer him a huge bonus since they also have the 14th overall pick. So if the Cubs take Green, they may have to change how aggressive they are (in terms of cost) in the second and third rounds, and maybe not be able to take many over-slot types in rounds 11 through 20.
- Bonus from McDaniel? He has a scoop on a second round target: “I think they’d like to get Carson Whisenhunt at their second pick.” That sounds awfully specific. If the name is familiar, it’s because he was looking like a top pitching prospect in this draft coming into the season … before he was suspended for the year for PEDs. He said the positive test came from a supplement he bought at a nutrition store. He apparently looked good in the Cape Cod League after his college season was over. Among his comps? Jordan Wicks, whom the Cubs drafted in the first round last year (and who just got the bump to Double-A!). Whisenhunt is generally ranked as a back-of-the-first-round type, so he might cost a little more than slot to sign if he actually makes it to the Cubs’ second round pick.
- Another stray note you detect in McDaniel’s mock: Neto is viewed by many as a much better talent than where he’s ending up in a lot of mocks (McDaniel ranks him 12th in the class, but he isn’t picked until 16). I mention that because the updated FanGraphs draft prospect rankings have Neto at FIVE(!), ranked ahead of Kevin Parada, Cam Collier, and Elijah Green, among many others. As I’ve said, it’s not entirely possible that the Cubs (or some other team) has fallen in love with Neto’s production and metrics, and isn’t deterred by the level of competition he faced. The way I see him discussed out there the last few weeks … it just has the feel of a guy who winds up picked much earlier than the mocks had him, and maybe even by a team no one thought was in on him. I’ve seen this play before.
- The final mock from Prospects Live also has Green sliding (Jacob Berry goes to the Marlins at six), but this time Termarr Johnson is still on the board for the Cubs, and it’s hard to see them not taking him if he’s there: “Johnson slides to pick seven in this mock, though he fits higher than this at pick four to Pittsburgh as well. We’ve heard from numerous sources the Pirates prefer Collier to Johnson, so that’s the route we’re taking here.”
- Once again, we hear about the back-up plan for the Cubs from Prospects Live: “If things go haywire and neither [Johnson nor Collier] is available, Campbell shortstop Zach Neto is well-liked by the Cubs as well. Also worth monitoring, according to some in the industry, if the ‘right player’ isn’t available to the Cubs here, they may look to cut a pretty significant under-slot deal and proceed with a quantity-over-quality (at least by industry-board standards) approach the rest of the way.” If the Cubs really like Neto, then that’s fine by me. But as I’ve said, since there is a top tier of seven prospects and the Cubs pick seven, at least ONE of those guys is guaranteed to be on the board for the Cubs. So, going this route means the Cubs just don’t like that guy – whoever it winds up being – that much more than Neto (or Prielipp). If the savings are big enough, and if the confidence is strong enough that they can get preferred “first round” targets in the second and/or later, then I wouldn’t hate it.
- And the final mock from CBS is a bit different than others, with Kevin Parada the guy who slides. But the Cubs go with Brooks Lee, whom CBS ranks as the second best prospect in the draft, behind only Druw Jones. I don’t have a good feel for how the Cubs rate Lee, who seems to have really polarizing views out there. Some have him among the two or three best in the draft, and some have him as the last guy in that group of top seven.
- Lastly, I want to share Northside Bound’s final mock, because Greg Zumach has always had a good read on the Cubs’ draft approach. He has them going with Zach Neto, mostly because, in his view, they see him as the best pick there, rather than a mere slot savings mechanism. The Cubs pass on both Elijah Green and Brooks Lee in favor of Neto: “Anyone doubting Zach Neto should take a look at his excellent production (in college and on the Cape in limited sample), batted ball data, defensive projection, and his makeup. He checks a number of boxes on all those fronts. For this reason he’s the selection in this mock, though I don’t believe the Cubs are locked into any players entering Sunday. The relative slot savings from this selection would allow the Cubs to aggressively add surrounding talent in subsequent rounds. Though he may come as an underslot, Neto is well worth the selection independently.”
- A parting thought: imagine you were picking at seven, and you had Green and Neto there on the board for you. Your models give Green a 20% chance of being a SUPER star, and an 80% chance of completely busting out. Meanwhile, you’ve got Neto as a 50% chance of being an above-average regular, a 30% chance of being a bench contributor, and a 20% chance of being a total bust. I think reasonable minds could disagree on which of those guys should be drafted first, totally setting aside the bonus demands. The point there is not the specific numbers (I haven’t the foggiest how these guys are ACTUALLY evaluated by the various teams on these terms), but instead just thinking about how difficult it can be to choose among players, even when you recognize one has the superstar ability and the other does not.