Well, here's the pick we're all most interested in. The Cubs are up. The votes are in on Kansas City's pick and readers have voted on Kyle Zimmer as the selection.
This is where we now stand on the draft:
- Astros: Byron Buxton, OF, HS (GA)
- Twins: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
- Mariners: Mike Zunino, C, Florida
- Orioles: Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
- Royals Kyle Zimmer, RHP, USF
The Cubs will have an interesting decision to make. We've talked a lot about high school bats Carlos Correa (PR) and Alberto Almora (FL). Correa may have the higher ceiling, especially when you're talking about his bat. He's a SS but he's a big kid already at 6'4". It' s possible he could be a big, Cal Ripken/Troy Tulowitzki type SS. If he gets bigger, he may have to move to 3B.
Correa is a good balanced hitter with excellent bat speed. He also has some loft to his swing, which bodes well for his ability to hit for power down the road. His speed is above average, but as noted, he will likely get bigger and he may lose a step or two. He has a powerful arm that can play anywhere on the field. He's one of the younger talents in this draft, but he's an intelligent, mature kid who works hard. The Cubs picked another SS with excellent bat speed (who may also move to 3B) last year in Javier Baez, but the Cubs aren't in a place to worry about positional need. Their main need is impact players. If they feel like Correa is best available player and the kind of impact bat the team nees, they'll take him and sort out defensive positions later. Both Baez and Correa are athletic enough to move around the diamond if need be.
Alberto Almora has played for Team USA 6 times (tying AJ Hinch's record), so he has unusual experience for a high school kid. Amora is considered a "grinder with tools". That's not a slight. That's something you could probably also say about our own Brett Jackson (or mega prospect Mike Trout, for that matter). Almora shows 4 tools right now with the ability to stick in CF. He could develop the 5th tool, power, as he fills out, but right now he's more of a line drive hitter with very good bat speed. He's a high energy player but one who is smooth and makes it look easy. Most consider him a safer pick than Correa, although his upside isn't quite as high. That is not to say Almora isn't a very talented player in his own right, however. He's definitely worthy of this pick. It will depend on whether the Cubs prefer a talented player with more upside or a talented player who has the better odds of making it.
As far as college arms goes, the top 3 are gone at this point, which leaves Texas A&M RHP Michael Wacha and Duke RHP Marcus Stroman. Wacha is the most polished arm in the draft while Stroman may have some of the best pure stuff in this draft. It's probably too high for either at this point considering Wacha's limited upside and Stroman's height (5'9") lead some to believe he'll end up in the bullpen, ala Tom Gordon.
If the Cubs go with a pitcher, I think it's more likely they go after high school kid with upside such as Lucas Giolito or even Lance McCullers, who is once again climbing the draft boards. Giolito's status depends on his health and how much information the Cubs brass can get on him. If they feel comfortable that the injury is minor, it'll be tempting to draft the guy who most think has the best raw stuff in the class -- good enough to have been the #1 pick overall. He has the talent to be a true #1 starter with a mid 90s fastball that has touched 100, a plus-plus curve, and a good change-up for a high school kid. He also has the work ethic and mental makeup to match. Giolito is the ultimate risk-reward pick in this draft. He may have the best upside of any player in this class.
Lance McCullers was also once considered a possible #1 overall pick but scouts began to wonder if he could stay at starter. At one point he seemed to drop all the way out of the first round. He's on his way up again and is now considered a potential top 10 pick. The high school numbers are off the charts, but it's his pitchability that will ultimately decide his fate. He has a mid 90s fastball that has touched 100 and a plus-plus slider. He has a feel for a change but as a high schooler doesn't really need it. Despite the improvement this season, most scouts believe he's a relief pitcher -- but it'll take just one team to believe he's a starter for him to go this high. Whether one of those teams is the Cubs remains to be seen. McLeod will probably lean on Wilken a bit on this one, since Wilken historically has been a good judge of that mysterious "pitchability" factor.
LHP Max Fried is a guy the Cubs have looked at and he definitely seems to have the pitchability the Cubs prefer in a starter. He has one of the better breaking balls in the draft, a curveball that shows plus-plus potential and a decent change. Fried doesn't throw as hard as most of the guys we talked about here. Although he can hit mid 90s, he sits more in the 91-92 mph range. Fried has a long, lean, projectable frame, however, and it's possible he does add a tick or two to that fastball. If he doesn't, it's still plenty good considering his complete skillset. The fact that he's the best LHP in the draft also helps his cause.
There are a few guys to consider adding to replace Zimmer on the list of 8. One is David Dahl, a high school OF'er, but he seems like a slightly lesser version of Almora, so it's difficult to imagine the Cubs would take him. Another high school OF'er, Courtney Hawkins, isn't ranked as highly either, but he has prodigious power potential, which at least separates him a bit from Almora -- but in that situation, I'd rather go with Correa who's the better overall player and shows good power potential himself -- with the ability to play a more premium defensive position. An intriguing college power bat is 3B Richie Shaffer (Clemson) If scouts universally thought Shaffer could stick at 3B, he'd probably rate higher than he does. He's a good hitter for both average and power. Some think he'll move to 1B, which lessens his value, while others think his strong arm makes him a candidate for RF. I'll go with Shaffer since the list lacks a college bat. but he'd be a reach at #6, in my opinion.
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