The Cubs not only have the 6th pick in the draft, they also have a couple of supplemental picks. They were awarded the 43rd and 56th picks for losing Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena as free agents. They also have the 68th pick, which comes early in the second round.
I've been looking at some of the names expected to be there and the pitching looks more interesting to me. There aren't really any sure things, but there are some projectable, high-ceiling types that the Cubs may gamble on. As we've stated many times, the Cubs need impact players and because of that, we may see them gamble on guys with upside rather than go with safer picks who don't project as more than bottom of the rotation guys or relief pitchers. For that reason, this list is mostly high school pitchers as they are much more likely to make a long term impact than college pitchers -- though they are less likely to make majors to begin with.
There are a lot of names and for simplicity's sake, I've decided to go with players who weren't taken in the first round of Baseball America's most recent mock draft.
Here's a list of some intriguing pitchers that may fit that criteria in no particular order...
- Hunter Virant, LHP, H.S. (CA): Virant is a long, loose limbed projectable lefty, who's relatively new to pitching. The positive side to that is a fresh arm, and although he's relatively inexperienced, he already shows a feel for 3 pitches. He pitches in the high 80s, though he has hit 93 and may project for more velocity down the road. The bad side of his not having pitched much is that some think he'll be a tough sign as he may go to UCLA to gain experience and improve his draft stock.
- Paul Blackburn, RHP, H.S. (CA): Blackburn is a bit more polished than Virant, but he does have some projectablity left. He stands 6'2", 180 lbs. and is athletic with a clean delivery. He throws low 90s now but occasionally hits 94 mph. It's possible he may add a tick or two to that fastball, but what you're looking at with Blackburn is a good all-around pitcher who has a good feel for pitching and the potential for above average stuff, command, and control. Might be a bit safer than some of the others, but he does have upside too.
- Kyle Twomey, LHP, H.S. (CA): Another tall (6'3"), loose-limbed lefty with plenty of projection left. He's 87-91 mph on his fastball now but it figures to get better. Moreover, he throws from a 3/4 delivery with some deception and movement. His next best pitch is his change and he shows the potential for a good curve, though it lacks consistency right now. Twomey has good makeup so he's a good bet to keep getting better.
- Pat Light, RHP, Monmouth: Light is the first college player on this list, but at 6'6" and 200 lbs., still has a little room to put on weight and gain strength. As it is, he can already touch 96 mph but usually works more in the low 90s. He has a slider and change, both of which can look good at times but lack consistency. One thing that will attract him to the Cubs front office is that he throws strikes. A good mix of college experience and projectability.
- Onelkis Garcia, LHP, Cuba: Garcia has taken up residency in Los Angeles and is eligible for the 2012 draft. I'm listing him here because the Cubs had shown interest in the past, but at 22 and a filled out 6'2", 220 lbs. frame, he is very close to what he's going to be -- which is a LH power pitcher. He can reach 93 mph and complements it with a power curve. Where Garcia still has room to improve is in terms of a change-up, if he does, he can be a starter. If not, he can reach the big leagues quickly as a reliever. A big worry with Garcia is his agent's reported demands of a multi-million dollar contract, so that could be a big turnoff to teams and they may not take him until later in the draft.
- Duane Underwood, RHP, H.S. (GA): Underwood is a bit of an enigma. He hasn't had a great year, but the 6'2, 185 lbs has reached 97 mph recently -- but he's also been clocked throwing in the high 80s. He also shows good feel for a slow curve and a change-up. He's an athletic pitcher, which is something that scouts look for, as it gives them a chance to repeat deliveries and give them good command. One concern is that he seems to struggle with men on base. After the Volstad experience, that might make some Cubs fans shudder a bit. Scouts are really divided on him, some think he could creep into the first round, some think he'll drop into the 2nd.
- Alex Wood, LHP, Georgia: Another college am, Wood has an odd delivery but has good velocity on his fastball (up to 96 mph) and a change which looks to be an above average pitch. Despite the unusual delivery, he consistently throws strikes. What he lacks is a breaking ball and at this stage you have to wonder if he'll develop a good one. He's also had TJ surgery, so along with the other flaws, there's some risk here, but good velocity, command and a nice change give him some upside too.
- Chris Beck, RHP, Georgia Southern: Beck was once considered a good bet for the upper half of the first round but he's been off this spring. It's not so much the numbers, which are still good, but his fastball has gone from 95-96 mph down to the high 80s/low 90s range. When on, he also flashed a tremendous cutter, a slider, and an advanced change-up. Some think it has to do with his mechanics, so if the Cubs think the drop in velocity is fixable and not due to some unknown injury, they could take a chance in the supplemental round and see if they can't land themselves a second top 15 type talent.
- J.O. Berrios, RHP, H.S. (PR): We know the Cubs were in Puerto Rico scouting Carlos Correa, but it's possible a pitcher there may have caught their eye as well. Berrios doesn't have great size at 6'1, 180 lbs., but he's athletic and throws in the 93-95 mph range, though some say he can reach the high 90s. He also shows a slider with good bite and a promising change. Like Correa, Berrios is picking up momentum heading into the draft and the Cubs best chance to draft him may end up being with their first supplemental pick -- if he lasts that long.
- Kieran Lovegrove, RHP, H.S. (CA): There's lots of divided opinion on Lovegrove, but there's no doubting his raw stuff, the best of which is a nasty slider. He doesn't always sustain his velocity, which can be as high as the 92-94 mph range, so there are questions about his durability. Part of that may be due to his funky delivery. He's long, lean, and projectable, so he could get stronger and be more consistent with his great stuff. The talent is there and if he gains strength/durability and you have the right development people to tweak his delivery, you could have yourself a steal down the road.
- Walker Weickel, RHP, H.S. (FL): Weickel is a bit like another prospect the Cubs like, CF Albert Almora, in that he has quite a bit of USA Baseball experience. Physically he's a tall kid, about 6'6" and has room to put on some weight. He also has the type of pitchability that Tim Wilken likes. His velocity was down this year after previously sitting in the low 90s. The plus side to that is if he had maintained that velocity, there was a good chance he wouldn't be available to the Cubs in the supplemental round. If the Cubs feel that the drop is due to mechanical, and not physical, reasons, they may have interest in this high ceiling, highly projectable arm.
- Ty Buttrey, RHP, H.S. (NC): Buttrey may go as high as the first round as he has a great pitcher's build at 6'5", 205 lbs and the fastball (up to 96 mph) to go with it. He mixes in a knuckle-curve, ala ex-Cub Burt Hooten. He's another guy with some drop in his velocity and it may cause him to slide in the supplemental area.
This is by no means an exhaustive list. These are just some of the guys I've found interesting through research and some conversations. My guess is the Cubs aren't going to go for low-upside, polished college players this early in the draft. They're going to roll the dice and see if they can't find themselves a couple of impact players with at least 2 of their first 4 picks.
Filed under: MLB Draft