A Somewhat Cubs-Centric Mock Top 10 MLB Draft

With the NFL holding their first round in the draft tonight, I thought it might be time to start looking ahead to the MLB Draft.  My intention was to do a mock draft of the entire first round, but the draft is so much more fluid at the top this year that I wound up spending too much time on the top 3 picks.  The only thing I could say for certain is that 2 of those 3 picks will almost certainly be Brian Buxton and Mike Zunino.  So rather than rush through the bottom of the draft just to get this done, I decided to give you my top 10 along with the hand-wringing thought process I had on each pick, both from the drafting team's perspective and on what I think the Cubs might be thinking along the way.

1. Houston Astros

Mike Zunino, C, Florida

I fully intended to have the Astros take a pitcher here but unlike last season, there isn't a guy who I think is worthy of the number one pick.  RHP Mark Appel should have been that guy, but he continues to perplex by getting hit more than he should.  There are now questions as to whether he can be a true #1 starter in the big leagues.  I think the Astros will go with a college player here.  They need help quickly and while Brian Buxton may be the most talented player in the draft, he comes with some risk, as he is a bit raw and hasn't really faced top high school competition.  Zunino is the safe pick.  He's one of the better hitters in the draft, showing a good approach at the plate and good power potential -- and he plays a premium position on top of it.  True catchers who can be middle of the order hitters are rare, and in the end I think the Astros will surprise a bit and go with the best bet.  RHP Kevin Gausman would be an interesting pick here as well.

Cubs:  Zunino fits the profile of what the Cubs want in their position players but there's almost zero chance he falls to them.  If he somehow gets past the Mariners at #3, you can cross your fingers, but if you happen to own a farm, I wouldn't suggest betting on it.  Zunino is as good a combination of high ceiling/safe pick as you'll find in this draft.

2. Minnesota Twins

Byron Buxton, OF, H.S. (Georgia)

The Twins always seem to find themselves with an athletic CF'er in the first round of the draft (Torii Hunter, Denard Span, Ben Revere) and Buxton is the best talent in the draft.  I think they'll take whoever the Astros don't take between Zunino and Buxton, so they're in a pretty nice position to get a good player.  Zunino would be a great choice to allow Mauer to finish his career at another position, ala Craig Biggio, but they won't be disappointed to get the highest ceiling player in the draft.  Some think that Buxton is a better player than the highly touted Bubba Starling, thinking he has the same kind of athleticism but a better chance to hit.

Cubs: Buxton isn't falling to the Cubs but despite the presence of top prospect Brett Jackson, the Cubs would love to have had the chance to draft him.  You take the best talent.  You cannot predict with 100% certainty which prospects will make a big impact and which won't, and if Buxton and Jackson were to both reach their potential, the Cubs would find a place for both of them.

3. Seattle Mariners

Carlos Correa, SS-3B, H.S. (Puerto Rico)

Surprise!  Mariners surprised us by taking the more polished Danny Hultzen before talents such as Trevor Bauer, Anthony Rendon, and Dylan Bundy.  Appel is the pitcher with the most polish this year followed by Michael Wacha of Texas A&M, but I don't think they'll go the same route this year.  Their pitching looks like it's going to be pretty solid with Hultzen, Taijuan Walker, and James Paxton as the top 3 prospects in their system (plus Felix Hernandez if they re-sign him).  Not that it would prevent them from taking another arm, but the Mariners trade of Michael Pineda for the potential big bat of Jesus Montero showed how much the Mariners are looking for impact on offense.  The Mariners do have a decent 3B prospect in AA in Francisco Martinez, but Correa has a small chance to stick at SS, where he'd be a potential impact bat.  If not, he has the athleticism, arm, and bat to play just about anywhere on the field.  A more conventional pick here would be a big arm such as Kevin Gausman or Kyle Zimmer, a couple of guys with the potential to replace Felix Hernandez as a #1 guy if he should be traded or leave as a free agent, but I think their #1 prospect Walker has the much better chance of filling that role.

Cubs: Correa can't help but make you think of Javier Baez, another big bat with a slight chance of sticking at SS but will probably move to another position as a pro.  Wherever Baez plays, his bat should carry him and the same may be true of Correa.  I think the Cubs would strongly consider Correa if he were available at #6 and the pitchers they liked were all taken.  They need pitching, but they'll take the top talent regardless of position and sort things out later.

4. Baltimore Orioles

Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU

Gausman has been rising up the draft boards as the guy with the best college arm in the draft.  He could even go #1. I'm not so sure about that, but I don't think he'll slide past the 4th pick.  The one question mark is his breaking pitch, which is substandard right now.  Keith Law of ESPN suggested he may junk the curve as a pro and learn a slider.  That makes him somewhat of a work in progress, but the arm is simply too good to pass up.  Surprisingly, Gausman already has a nice change-up, so he's advanced in that respect.  It's the breaking ball and command that will dictate how fast he moves and what role he ends up playing in the big leagues.  The Orioles would be generating a lot of buzz with phenom Dylan Bundy and the hard-throwing Gausman as a potential 1-2 punch in their rotation.  On that front, if Lucas Giolito is healthy, this is the first place I can see him possibly going if the med reports are encouraging and  he's throwing well prior to draft time.  This is especially true if Gausman is gone by this point.

Cubs:  The Cubs desperately need potential impact arms like Kevin Gausman.  He once looked like a lock to last until the 6th pick, now it looks like he's a lock not to drop past Kansas City at #5.

5. Kansas City Royals

Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford

Appel has the best combination of stuff and polish in the draft.  He has 3 pitches and good command, although he leaves his offspeed up in the zone too much and gets hit harder than he should.  He's still 5-1 with a 2.88 ERA, however, so it's not like he's getting lit up.  He's allowed just 55 hits in 72 innings while striking out 71, nearly a batter per inning.  Still, scouts think he should be doing more with what he has. He should be dominating at the college level.  It's that incongruity between talent and performance that may cause Appel to slip in this draft.  The Royals have a choice between Appel and Zimmer, with Appel being the more advanced pitcher and Zimmer having the better, fresher arm.  A wildcard in this scenario is Michael Wacha, who may be as polished as Appel, but has had the better year.  Wacha is 5-0 with a 2.48 ERA.

Cubs: Appel could fall to the Cubs, especially if the Royals go for Zimmer or Wacha instead.  While Appel's star may have fallen just a bit, he'd still be the Cubs best starting pitching prospect.  Easily.

6. Chicago Cubs

Kyle Zimmer, RHP, U. of San Francisco

Despite some reported loss in velocity of late, I think the Cubs would be thrilled if Zimmer fell this far.  The earliest reports had Zimmer topping out at 98 mph.  I've seen told recently that his velocity was 91-93 by one source and Kendall Rogers of Perfect Game said he was recently clocked at 93-97 mph.  If the latter is true, Zimmer would be a great pick here considering he has such a fresh arm and surprisingly good command for a pitcher with his limited experience.  I have a full report on Zimmer here, including a tip by one of our readers (Kevin) who saw Jed Hoyer scouting the 6'4" right-hander.  Subsequent reports had Theo Epstein scouting him as well.  Zimmer would be the kind of potential impact pitcher the Cubs desperately need in their organization.  Other possibilities are RHP Michael Wacha, SS-3B Carlos Correa, H.S LHP Max Fried, and H.S. CF Alberto Almora.  Almora is the real darkhorse here.  Then, of course, there's the Lucas Giolito scenario.  With the new CBA, t's not as likely that potential impact high school players will go pro if they aren't selected early. There are no overslot signing bonuses, so the Cubs may just go with a top high school talent and get college players later.

7. San Diego Padres

Alberto Almora, CF, H.S. (Puerto Rico)

The Padres do have Cameron Maybin, who is signed through 2016 with a team option for 2017.  Almora should be ready by then.  Maybin is a rising star, although he's struggled this season, and he's signed to a team friendly deal, but one of two things will happen.  Either he will become a star and the Padres won't be able to afford him beyond 2017 -- or he won't.  If he doesn't, then he becomes replaceable with a less expensive rookie.  Almora is a true CF with a good feel for hitting and power potential.  He's a good fit in spacious Petco Park defensively.  He and top RF prospect Rhymer Lyriano could make 2/3 of a very good young OF a few years down the road.

Cubs: The Cubs aren't about to tell me what their draft plans are, but my Cubbie-senses are tingling that Almora is on their radar.  He just fits the profile of the kind of player both Sr. VP of Scouting and Director of Amateur Scouting Tim Wilken like in a player.  He's athletic, he plays a premium position and he has a nice swing with an advanced feel for hitting.

8. Pittsburgh Pirates

Deven Marrero, SS, Arizona State

A few weeks ago, there was little chance of Marrero sliding past the Pirates, who are seemingly always looking for a SS.  Now that's not a safe bet.  In fact, it may take a late hot streak by Marrero to ensure that the Pirates still take him.  Marrero is the best true SS in the draft and up until this year, he showed good bat potential.  As of a couple of days ago, Marrero was hitting in the .280s at the college level.  The hitting tools and mental makeup is there, so it's puzzling to say the least.  I'm going to predict that Marrero rights the ship and finishes strong, putting him in play here at the 8th pick.  If he doesn't, he could continue sliding deeper into the first round.  I'll go with Michael Wacha or Max Fried here as fallback picks.

Cubs: With some fans obsessing about every Castro error, Marrero is the one guy in this draft who's truly good enough defensively to move Castro to 3B in the near future.  His poor season, however, practically ensures that the Cubs won't be pulling the trigger at #6.  They have bigger needs right now, the first of which is impact talent and Marrero looks more like a solid regular at a premium position than an all-star at this point

9. Florida Marlins

Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M

The Marlins were looking for pitching this season and picked up veterans Carlos Zambrano and Mark Beuhrle, but those are likely short term solutions.  Once the Marlins stadium money runs out they won't be able to make the free agent binges like they did this past offseason.  Michael Wacha is a polished arm with a good fastball that has improved since last season.  Some reports have him touching the mid 90s now.  He also has an advanced change-up and a good feel for pitching.  He needs to improve his breaking pitch, which limits his upside right now, but Wacha is good enough in all other areas that he's a pretty solid bet to make the majors fairly quickly.

Cubs: Wacha may be an option for the Cubs at #6 if Gausman, Appel, and Zimmer are all of the board.  The lack of a good breaking pitch, however, makes me wonder about his ceiling.  The Cubs have quite a few guys who fit into the category of "if everything goes right then maybe he's a #3 starter."  I think they need more than that with the 6th pick.

10. Colorado Rockies

Max Fried, LHP, H.S. (California)

Fried started garnering attention as Giolito's teammate at Harvard-Westlake High School.  Fried is a different kind of pitcher than Giolito.  He has an above average fastball but it's his great curveball and feel for pitching that's his bread and butter.  He's  good value at this point in the draft.  Some think Fried has enough stuff and feel that he could be as much as a #2 pitcher.  That may be a bit optimistic, but at the #10 pick in a relatively weak draft class, that's a chance well worth taking.  Duke RHP Marcus Stroman looms here as well, but his height (5'9") may scare some teams off.  There's no question he has good enough stuff, however.

Cubs: Fried is a possibility at #6 for the Cubs.  He has the kind of mental makeup and advanced feel that Tim Wilken really likes even if his stuff isn't quite on par with the top pitchers in this draft.  I think he becomes a possibility if the top 3 college arms are off the board.

I have a vague idea of how I'd complete this mock draft, but I'll save that for another time.  The names mentioned in this article are the ones Cubs fans should be keeping an eye on...for now.  There will be updates, so any late-risers will be included in those editions.





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  • I seen a good amount of those players. I have talked to Padres Scouts I think Fried will be their pick if he is there. I think it will be really hard to figure out who is going to pick who this year. But I from everything I have hear talking to scouts Buxton will go 1st.

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    I could see Fried at #7. He's the kind of guy that's going to draw some mixed opinion. Everybody likes him, but some teams see a higher ceiling, as I alluded to in the piece.

  • I cant see Giolito not being taken in the top 10. I think a team will take the chance . I have to tell ya , If He is there at 6 I take him every time . After that Almora . That kid is going to be special and it wont take him long . He is very advanced . Baseball IQ off the charts and solid tools accross the board . Of course I am assuming Zunino , Buxton and Gausman are taken . by the time the Cubs pick . Appel I wouldnt touch with a 10 foot pole. The pitch counts and wear on his arm are criminal. Dusty Bakerish at Stanford.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    If his meds are positive and he throws well before the draft, Giolito will go top 10. In fact, I speculated he could go as high as #4.

    That is a concern with Appel, as it is with all Stanford pitchers, but I think there's enough of them who've succeeded to allay some of those fears.

  • I will go out on a limb and say the Cubs pull a surprise and go with high school pitcher Lance McCullers if Gausman is not available. Has insane numbers this year, 97 mph fastball RHP.

  • In reply to Cliffy46405:

    I know you're a big McCullers fan. I can't say specifically what the Cubs think, but most teams project him as a reliever. For the Cubs to take him 6th, they have to be very, very sure he'll be a starter down the line.

  • Nice mock up, John. What day is the draft?

  • In reply to lokeey:

    Thanks lokeey. First day of the draft is June 4th. The entire draft goes from June 4-6.

  • If McCullers is the Cubs pick I will officially for the first time with zeal boo the new management team. He Has no real 3rd pitch . Command issues . Perfect reliever type with work on command. Maybe a closer down the line but at 6 i want more than a maybe closer. I want a top of the rotation type or impact position player that wont take long to see the show. Almora , Zunino ect .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    My impression was that scouts were satisfied with his 3 pitches and the concerns are more about his delivery.

    Personally, I'd be surprised if he cracks the top 10, but I do think he'll go in the first round.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Completely agree on McCullers.
    Assuming Buxton and Zunino are gone, I'm hoping for Giolito if he turns out healthy. Rumors are he might not pitch this year, and if that's the case, I pass.
    Next on the list would be Gausman, but I think he's ahead of Appel and Zimmer now.
    Third for me would be Correa. Keith Law just said in his chat Correa's bat is better than Baez's, but would also be a 3B down the line.

  • In reply to Norm:

    I'd pass on Giolito as well if he doesn't throw before the draft. At that point he's too big a risk at #6.

    I really like Correa as well. I know some will be disappointed if they don't draft a pitcher, but when you lack talent like the Cubs, you take the best available guy.

  • They have to sign their first 3 picks (6-60) and their 2nd pick.
    I have a question about the "best athlete" approach. If that
    were true then a slow pitcher would never be picked before an
    athletic everyday player.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Hey E, I was referring to best talent or best player, not best athlete. Athleticism plays a big role in how talented the player is, but there are a lot of other factors, as I'm sure you know.

    As a side note, you also like your pitchers to be athletic, it makes a difference when it comes to things like command and delivery.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Your right, I just don't like "best athlete available" being
    misused. All things being equal, they never are, I would
    always take an everyday player over a pitcher

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Agreed. If you have two players with the same exact grade (with need being equal as well), then you take the everyday player.

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    If by some miracle Gausman is still there when the Cubs pick. He is probably the guy, but I could see this front office taking a flier on Giolito. I could also see Zimmer being the guy if he is still there. After all, the Cubs have probably scouted Zimmer as much as anyone. McCleod, Hoyer and even Epstein have all seen him in person. I was also told, in regards to Zimmers low radar gun readings, that those numbers may have actually been reported to the media by Cubs' scouts, and they may not be entirely truthful. I think given this front offices's desire to keep their intentions in the dark that they aren't beyond deliberately putting out misinformation on a player that interests them.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Agreed Gausman is probably the guy if he's there, but seems like he's got some helium right now.

    I'm sure all kinds of games go on. Not as easy to do as it was in the past, but there are still a lot of teams that skimp on scouting that could get burned. The good scouting teams will do their own research, though.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I can't buy that...every other team at the top has scouts seeing him as well, not to mention scouts who aren't affiliated with any team, like the Law's, Goldstein's, Mayo's, etc...

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    Is there any real chance that Beck or McCullers drops to the Cubs' supplemental picks?

  • In reply to Anthony Turowski:

    There's a chance on both. I do think someone will gamble on McCullers arm late in the first round.

  • Love the mock draft John, I agree with your pick. It's either going to be a college pitcher like Zimmer or a HS outfielder. Epstein and CO have never been afraid of raw talent

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Thanks. There may be a good HS player or two available with Correa and Almora possibilities.

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    If Giolito doesn't pitch this year, how far does he fall?

  • In reply to Kevin Heckman:

    I think if he doesn't throw, he doesn't get picked high enough and he's going to UCLA. The new CBA won't allow the Cubs to pick him in the supplemental and offer a big overslot bonus.

  • Hey John:

    I live in SF, and Zimmer has a 3pm start time today, so I'm heading over to the hilltop to watch. I'll report back, maybe even with pictures!

  • In reply to MarkOlberding:

    Awesome! Let me know what you think.

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