In 2010, the Cubs went on a meaningless winning streak at the end of the year that moved them up in the standings but down on the 2011 draft board to number 9. Although they got a player with star potential in Javier Baez, he comes with a lot of risk. This year the Cubs have a higher pick at #6, but the draft isn't as strong. In fact, there seems to be a consensus top 5 and then things get a little muddled.
The top 5
- Byron Buxton, OF, High School (GA): He's a 5 tool player with speed and arm at the forefront. He's the consensus top talent in the draft and the leading candidate to go first. There's little chance of him slipping to the Cubs unless something unexpected happens.
- Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford He's the best combination of stuff and polish in the draft, but gets hit a lot more than scouts like. He once was a certain bet for the top 2, but that is no longer the case.
- Mike Zunino, C, Florida: Maybe the safest pick in the draft. He'll stick at catcher and provide some power and discipline at the plate. He is very likely a top 3 pick at this point. The Mariners at #3 are said to like him a lot and it's unlikely he gets past them.
- Kyle Zimmer, RHP, U. of San Francisco: Has burst on the scene and has a fresh arm that has been clocked in the high 90s with good control. Hasn't been pitching long so he's a bit more raw.
- Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU: Throws in the high 90s consistently and has an advanced change-up. Breaking pitch needs improvement. Some are predicting he'll go to the Royals who are looking for pitching and will go with the best college arm available.
If any of these players drop to #6, it's a safe bet that the Cubs will nab them, but right now it looks like they'll go in the top 5 in some order. So who's left? In no particular order, here are a few names to keep your eye on...
- Carlos Correa, 3B, H.S., Puerto Rico: A big SS at 6'4" who will likely end up at 3B, which makes him somewhat similar to last year's pick, Javier Baez. He's an athletic, offensive player with power potential and a rocket arm. There's a chance he could sneak into the top 5 and Keith Law called him a dark horse to go #1. He's impressed in showcase events all year. He's a high ceiling guy and has one edge over Baez in that he's a good student. Even though the Cubs have multiple 3B in their system (Vitters, Lake, Baez), Correa may be too big a talent to pass up.
- Devin Marreo, SS, Arizona St.: He's a grinder with tools. He is a true SS who defends the position well. That alone makes him valuable but Marrero also has potential with the bat. He's aggressive but has good bat speed and the potential for extra base power, though he probably won't be a big HR hitter. Marrero also has good makeup and instincts for the game. He's had something of an off year and he's slipped a bit. Going into the season he looked like a sure top 5 pick and probably top 3 but right now it looks like he'll be available for the Cubs if they want to go the college bat route.
- Max Fried, LHP, H.S. (CA): Fried has an average to slightly above average fastball (89-92) but a great curveball that is a potental 70 on the 20-80 scouting scale. He also has a good feel for pitching and some room for projection. He's not a flame thrower like Gausman, Zimmer, or Appel are, but the curveball is a legit out pitch and he has potential for good command/control. Some think he could be as much as a #2 starter depending on how he matures and develops.
- Matt Smoral, LHP, H.S. (OH): Smoral is a different pitcher than Fried and some think he may have a higher ceiling. He's 6'8" and can get his fastball in the 93-94 mph range. He's out with a stress fracture but scouts got a pretty good feel for him and he'll still go pretty high in the draft. He has a college commitment to North Carolina.
- Richie Shaffer, 3B, Clemson: Shaffer gets some consideration because he is may be the best available college bat when the Cubs pick. He has perhaps the best bat speed in the draft and projects to have well above average power. Though, he's not a natural hitter, he's improved. He still may not hit for average but he does have good plate discipline. He has worked hard to be a solid defender at 3B.
- Alberto Almora, CF, H.S. (FL): Like Buxton, Almora's a five tool talent with defense being his standout tool. He's a plus runner. He has good instincts at the plate and should hit for average. Has more of a line drive oriented swing so not much power now, but there is the potential for power down the road. He's another big game player who could shoot up the charts with a great performance in the showcase events.
- Michael Wacha, RHP, Texas A&M: Average to above average stuff across the board but he is the most polished pitcher in the draft. Given that Epstein and Hoyer are looking for impact players more than guys who can move quickly, Wacha wouldn't seem to fit the profile of the kind of player the Cubs are looking for, but recent reports have him throwing a couple ticks faster (as high as 96 mph) than what I had from earlier reports. Combined with his control and plus plus change up, BA's Aaron Fitt called him a candidate for the top spot.
- Lucas Giolito, RHP, H.S. (CA): A real wild card in this draft, Giolito was once considered for the top pick overall. Unfortunately, Giolito suffered what has been called a "minor" elbow injury and should be healthy and pitching by the end of the baseball year. Giolito had the best high school arm in the draft prior to the injury, showing a plus plus fastball. If he can show that he's back and without any issues, he could creep back up the draft. The Cubs, who are looking for impact players, would have to be tempted to take him depending on how he looks and feels closer to draft time.
Right now it's difficult to say what direction the Cubs will go. If they want to go with high ceiling, potential impact players, they may go with Correa or even take a chance on Giolito at the 6th spot. It's also possible those two could go in the top 5, especially if Giolito proves to be 100% healthy. If they go the college route, then I don't see an arm worth taking at #6 unless either Gausman, Zimmer, or Appel are available. which is possible if one of the aforementioned players slips into the top 5.
The first draft of the Epstein/Hoyer/McLeod era should be an interesting one and the Cubs should land themselves a pretty good player, but right now it looks wide open as to whom that player will be.
Filed under: MLB Draft