The draft is in June and the amateur baseball season hasn't started yet, but we have a pretty good idea of the kinds of names that may be available for the Cubs with the #6 pick. It'll be interesting to see what direction the Cubs will go in the first round. Sr. Scouting VP Jason McLeod is much more likely to take a college player than Tim Wilken, who has traditionally favored higher ceiling players. With such a high pick the Cubs can look to either shore up their pitching or get a good everyday prospect at a premium position. It's too early to speculate who will get picked where, so a mock draft will come after the season starts and the picture begins to clear up.
In the meantime, here's 9 names (in alphabetical order) to keep an eye on, plus a few extras who may put themselves in the picture with great seasons...
Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
The consensus top pitcher in the draft, it's unlikely he slides down to the Cubs. His numbers haven't been great but he's everything scouts look for in a pitcher. He has a big frame at 6'5", 200 lbs. with good arm action and a low effort delivery that generates excellent velocity. His fastball sits in the mid 90s and tops out at 98. He shows a second plus pitch as a slider and his changeup already shows promise. He has front line starter potential.
Byron Buxton, CF, Apple County, GA (HS)
A fast riser, Buxton is this draft's top 5 tool player but he may interest the Cubs if they believe in his hit tool. He makes solid contact and figures to hit for more power once he fills out his 6'1, 175 lbs. frame. He has the speed and range to stay in CF which makes him that much more valuable. His arm is good enough where he'd be drafted as a pitcher if he chose that route. There's some mixed opinion, but also a lot to like about Buxton. There's a possibility he won't be there by the time the Cubs take their turn.
Carlos Correa, SS, Puerto Rican Baseball Academy
Correa is already 6'3", 195 lbs and you have to wonder if he'll outgrow SS. He's a good fielder with a rocket arm. His offense is projectable as well. He has good bat speed and the ability to make consistent contact. Correa has a lot of potential but like most high schoolers, he's not a finished product. Any team that picks Correa has to feel confident that either he sticks at SS or his bat can develop to carry 3B if he needs to switch. He's an intriguing talent.
Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
Gausman may have the best velocity of any collegiate pitcher, able to peak at 99 mph with a clean delivery. His other pitches are not as advanced as potential #1 overall pick Appel, so it's likely Gausman may slide a bit. If he makes more progress with his secondary pitches, the Cubs may be tempted to pick him at #6 if he's available. He has the raw arm to be a front line starter, but it'll be his secondary stuff and feel for pitching that will ultimately determine if he reaches that potential.
Lucas Giolito, RHP, Harvard-Westlake, CA (HS)
The 3rd pitcher on this list who can hit the high 90s with a nice, easy delivery, Giolito has tremendous size at 6'6", 240 lbs along with the stuff to be the first high school RHP to get selected first overall. He's surprisingly advanced for his age when it comes to secondary pitches as he already throws a curveball, slider, and change to go with his tremendous heat. His command and control, however, isn't nearly as advanced and if teams want to go the safer route, it's possible he could fall to the Cubs. His ceiling would be a legit #1 starter.
Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State
Unlike Correa, the 6'1", 180 lbs Marrero is a sure bet to stay at SS and that makes him a very likely top 10 pick and probably near the top if he has has a good season. His greatest appeal to the Cubs would be that he's a superb, polished defender with a good arm. He has the skills to bump Starlin Castro to 3B. At the plate, he's a solid hitter, possibly good enough to hit around .300, but his swing is not going to generate home run power.
Lance McCullers, RHP, Tampa Jesuit, FL (HS)
Big fastball, but some think he's destined for the bullpen. If the Cubs envision him as a starter, his repertoire (high 90s fastball, hard curve, and emerging change) and command are certainly good enough to justify their lofty draft position. In fact, he was once considered a candidate for the #1 pick overall and still could be if he convinces scouts he has the durability to start long term. Aside from this talents on the mound, the 6'2", 195 lbs McCullers also gets high marks for his athleticism, instincts, character, work ethic and competitiveness. Of course, it's his talent and ability to stay as a starter that will be the key factor, but those extras certainly can't hurt.
Trey Williams, 3B Valencia, CA (HS)
Williams has tremendous bat speed and projects to hit for both average and power in the big leagues. He's also a good defender who's very likely to stick at 3B. It sounds a bit to me like last year's pick, Javier Baez, so it's up for debate as to whether the Cubs would consider Williams. His bat, by most accounts the best in this year's draft, may be too good to resist, however. The Cubs are looking to accumulate assets and talent, so if they think he's the best player available, they could well pull the trigger and sort out the position issue later.
Mike Zunino, C, Florida
Like Marrero, Zunino would appeal to the Cubs in that he projects to be a plus defender at the MLB level. He is skilled both at moving behind the plate and throwing baserunners out. He's more than just a catch and throw guy, however. At the plate he shows plus power potential and good plate discipline, though he doesn't make a lot of contact and probably won't hit for a high average (how many catchers do?). But with his defensive skills, patience, and power it's easy to envision him being an above average major league catcher overall. That makes him easily worthy of a top 10 pick.
Chris Beck, RHP, Georgia Southern: Solid repertoire, can reach mid 90s. A cut below the other pitchers on this list.
Victor Roache, 1B-OF, Georgia Southern: Big time power is his tool but all around skills may not warrant 6th pick.
Max Fried, LHP, Harvard-Westlake, CA (HS): The top lefty available, should get plenty of attention with Giolito as teammate.
Nick Williams, OF, Galveston, TX (HS): Superb athlete whose hit tool lags behind. If he hits this summer, will be a top pick.