MLB Draft Series: Who will the Cubs pick?

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:

  1. Astros: Byron Buxton, OF,  HS (GA)
  2. Twins: Mark Appel, RHP, Stanford
  3. Mariners: Mike Zunino, C, Florida
  4. Orioles: Kevin Gausman, RHP, LSU
  5. 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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    I chose Correa, but I still think there is a 50/50 chance one of the big three college arms is still there. It's hard for me to imagine the Cubs risking this pick on Giolito unless they're 100% sure on his health. Also, there will still be some arms with upside available with the 43rd, 56th and 68th overall picks.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I know you're a huge fan of Gausman, so I'm guessing he'd get your vote if he were still there. I was actually thinking about doing two polls here, this one and one where you could pick any guy you wanted. Maybe I'll do the latter at another time.

    I'm really intrigued by the early tally and the close race between Correa and Giolito...and a little surprised Almora is so low.

    I'm going to leave this one open longer than the others and see how things change

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I think Almora is so low because we just don't hear about him as often as we've heard about Correa.
    I chose Giolito, but I think the Cubs take Almora.

  • In reply to Norm:

    That could well be. He is a bit of a late riser, so not as much time to get to know him as much as Giolito and Correa.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    I'm a fan of Gausman because I think he has the most upside of any pitcher in this draft not named Giolito, but he doesn't have Giolto's question marks. However, of the big three college pitchers, the only one I'm really down on is Appel. He simply doesn't dominate for a guy with his kind of stuff at that level, and then you have how Coach Marquess has abused him. If it were me making the decision and Zimmer and Gausman were gone, I'd be hesitant to take Appel. I might still take Correa, and with all three of them and Buxton gone, I' definitely taking Correa.

    Correa was on MLB Radio the other day with Grant Paulsen. He was in his own element, and he seemed very mature. I'm also impressed that, not only does he have the talent, but he is also a straight A student. He also seemed to understand his place in the history Puerto Rican baseball and what it would mean if he made it and did well.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    You're not the only one in that boat. Gausman may have the best arm in the draft except for a healthy Giolito. It's hard to imagine him slipping. It's possible, but someone has to take Correa early and teams have to prefer Zimmer and Appel over Gausman.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Well, if Zimmer slipped past the first five, I'd have no qualms about taking him. He's got good genes, and there isn't a lot of miles on that arm. He pitched a total of 21 innings between high school and his freshman year in college, and Coach Giarratano has taken care not to abuse him.

    Gausman can locate the 4-seam (mid to upper 90's) and the 2-seam (low to mid 90's) anywhere he likes, and he uses them in the correct situations. Then, when you throw his change-up in there, he is just devestating because college hitters don't see change-ups like that. He doesn't need breaking stuff right now, except to show occasionally. If he can develop the curve and the slider to just average, he will be a top of the rotation starter. If not, he is Trevor Hoffman with better heat.

  • Either the top SS or OF. Use the 2 suppl. picks for pitchers.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    I'm all for best available, though I think that will be Correa or Almora, depending on your philosophy...but also depends on what teams think of Giolito and his health.

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    Hopefully the Cubs don't pick a player because of position. They should go for the best available period. Like you said John we need impact players. Personally, we need hall of famers!

  • In reply to Danny Guerra:

    Exactly. Cubs main need isn't any one position -- it's talent. Period.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    True, but Correa is probably even with Almora at this point, and he fills a position of need. One thing the Cubs aren't short on is outfielders.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    I look at Correa as the higher ceiling player, but Almora makes up for it with other factors we've talked about here. It's close. Raw talent I'd go Correa, when it comes to specific baseball related skills, I may lean Almora. It's close either way.

    I'm sure the Cubs have a preference between the two and will take that player. It's too hard to project who will make it and what position they'll play. If they draft Correa and he makes it at 3rd, then it could be Baez in the OF eventually...either way you may "gain" an OF'er.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Well, that's kinda the point. Shortstops are generally the best athletes on a team, and as long as they hit, the Cubs will find a place foe them to play. My guess is that, between Correa and Baez, it will be Beat that moves.

  • If the draft does indeed shake out in this way and all 3 of the top college pitchers are gone then this will indeed be an interesting and tough choice. I am a big proponent of going with the bpa so i would probably lean towards correa due to the ceiling i guess, i am too wary of high school power pitchers w/ arm problems to go with giolito at this point, although if he checks out completely healthy and the arms problems dont reoccur he probably has the highest ceiling of all.#6 is to high for mccullers unless, as john noted, you really believe he is a long term starter which i am not sure of. In this scenario i would take Correa although in reality i am hoping gausman or zimmer fall on june 4th

  • In reply to Andrew13:

    I think that's pretty sound. It looks like whoever falls, there will be some good players available.

  • I believe it will be either Correa or Almora. Both are high celing guys and ( IMO) are the best players at their pick. Unlike the previous regime , I can't see Epstein/Hoyer "reaching" for a player.

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    I don't think they'll reach either, but maybe worth noting that Padres took Spangenberg 10th when some thought he might fall into the late first round. It has worked out well for them so far, though.

  • I have to say I really like McCullers and I'm not surprised he's climbing back up the boards. Expecting a HS pitcher who throws mid 90's to have an advanced change-up is not realistic. He does have a very nice breaking ball and will miss bats. His velocity is consistently strong. He doesn't repeat well yet, but I don't think he has a problematic delivery, either.

    It may not be likely we'll get him. On the other hand, this Cubs FO is not the kind of group that is going to go with a consensus pick--they'll just go with whomever they like the best. It will be a lot of fun to see who we take.

  • In reply to SVAZCUB:

    I agree. Last year, as I mentioned in the previous comment, McLeod took a guy at #10 whom many thought could fall into the late first round.

    I'm not taking anything for granted.

  • I picked Giolito, but with the caveat that the Cubs are 100% satisfied with his health. There just aren't many times you can pick a potential #1 starter. Otherwise, I'd go with Almora. Sounds like he's got skills and a great make-up.

  • In reply to Pura Vida:

    I'd say that's pretty sound as well. Giolito is always the wildcard. I think the choice between Correa and Almora, if it's there, will be interesting. This pick will tell us a little about how the Cubs value players.

  • And Rizzo just blasted his 15th


  • In reply to johnnywest333:

    He's still developing right?

  • In reply to johnnywest333:

    That's what Hoyer says, anyway. Rizzo was killing the ball last year at AAA too, but it didn't translate. I don't think the Cubs FO want to take for granted that he's ready. He's hit AAA pitching before. He'l be up soon, though.

  • Thanks John, anyways I'll take Almora or Giolito

  • In reply to johnnywest333:

    Good choices, I think. I hope.

    Eagerly looking forward to Rizzo. It seems like time is slowing down as we get closer to June.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Hey John one more thing, Rizzo made a comment this morning about wanting to try out Shortstop? That could open up a whole can of rumors and speculation. Whats your take on that?

  • In reply to johnnywest333:

    I have to think he was joking there. He's too big and not quick enough. Too much ground to cover and his range would be terrible, and he throws LH, which is awkward from that side of the infield. To top it off, SS is the one spot on the Cubs that's set for the next few years.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    It's his way of saying he'll do anything to get that promotion.

  • Like you said yesterday, I wish we could just fast forward to July. I sure hope Bjax does something with that strike out ratio before then. He has been doing a lot better lately right?

  • I read a few days ago that theo and crew have really put a lot of work into this draft. It made me wonder if they would actually draft giolito, a guy who really hasen't done anything in a couple months, when theyve been scouting players who have been playing and put so much work in. Then i started thinking what if giolito really wows them when he throws in front of scouts. If they take him, it will be quite a splash in their first draft.

  • In reply to Arod773:

    That's a good point. I also wonder about how Giolito's agent controlling info might put McLeod and company at a disadvantage that they may not feel comfortable with. I think they'll only consider Giolito if they are satisfied with the amount of info they get on him, especially those meds.

  • i took Almora , TheoHoyer cannot afford to miss on thier first pick , Almora is as close to a sure thing in this draft as there is. He is Brett Jackson without the swing and miss in his game . Jackson might have a shade more power potential . Almora will be a perenial .290 20 90 20 guy with great makeup , leadership and defense. Gotta take him if the draft shakes out like the pols here forecast . I think Almora will be one of the top players regardless of position in this draft .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I do like the combination of upside and safety with Almora as well. He also young, but yet has tons of experience. Very rare combinations there!

  • I'm with you Bryan. I like Almora for the same reasons you've stated. Correa would be my next choice should Almora go earlier. Get some pitching in the 2 supplemental picks and the 2nd round.

  • In reply to Moonlight:

    I'll probably write about some supplemental guys down the road a bit and talk about some of the arms that might be available.

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    I took Alberto Almora i just think that he is a safe pick here with tremendous upside, and i don't know how you beat that,

  • In reply to Larry:

    It's a nice combo platter.

  • Almora just reminds me of a certain Boston OF Theo drafted that turned out ok , Guy with tools, makeup, and a grinder . Have to think Theo is looking really hard at him .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    Could be. He's not as fast as Ellsbury but may have better defensive tools. Interesting comparison.

  • I picked Giolito based on the #1 starter potential and also assuming he is healthy. Exactly what kind of health issues are we talking about? I have faith that team Epstein will draft the best available prospect regardless of position but a #1 starter sounds nice.

  • In reply to Larry H:

    Elbow injury but it is said to be minor and didn't require surgery, although that doesn't mean he won't need it at a later date. That being said, elbow surgery a lot easier to deal with than shoulder surgery.

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    John, have you considered an article on who might be realistically available to the Cubs at, 43, 56 and 68 overall. Baseball America has their Top 200 Rankings with scouting report out online.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    Oh yes. I'm trying to figure out how I'll tone it down. It's almost impossible to project those picks -- although it could get easier now that it will go more in order of talent than in the psat.

  • I just tend to lean to taking positional players at the top of the draft , not many sure thing arms like Strasburg out there , Very high % of arms never come close to thier projections and the Cubs absolutely cannot afford to miss on this pick . I take a bat here at 6 . Almora is the safest with high ceiling .

  • There's some merit to that. College hitters actually safest in terms of a) who will make it and b) who will become impact players.

    Problem is that there's no top college hitters this year. You have Richie Shaffer, and earlier you had Victor Roache - but he had a bad "Cliff Floyd" type wrist break. Neither is worth the 6th pick, certainly not Roache at this point.

    That being said, Almora is more polished than most HS hitters and may be as close to a "college" hitter you'll find in his draft. Maybe he's the guy.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    True enough, neither Schaffer nor Roache is worth the sixth overall pick, but if either one of those guys was still around when the Cubs pick again at 43 overall, they probably wouldn't get past the Team Theo.

  • The Cubs should opt to be different. They seem to be cultivating a team of future shortstops, therefore, drafting another shortstop would make perfect sense for them.

  • In reply to gposner:

    Cynicism aside, you always draft a SS if they're the best available player 1) because they're the best available player and 2) they're usually the best athletes on the team at the amateur level and the most capable of switching to just about any position.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Exactly, which is why I take Carlos Correa under the scenario proposed in the article.

  • Gotta go with Gioloto hands down. We need a star! Even if he ends up needed TJ surgery, he is young enough where he'll have plenty of time to get to the show by 21-23.

  • In reply to Puma0821:

    Giolito scares me a little bit because of injury and he's probably the toughest sign. I don't think he signs if he drops out of the top 10...hopefully he'll still sign if he drops out of the top 5.

    If he's healthy and he'll sign, hard to think of a reason to look past him.

  • Hey John and Tom, great website. Long time reader and I really enjoy the minor league recaps you guys do! Anyway, I love Giolito but I don't think we pick him because his financial demands will probably start at $4 million and maybe higher. He doesn't mind attending UCLA if his family doesn't get what they deem fair value for him. The only way we'd be able to afford Giolito is if we took cash from our other slots in the lower rounds to add to the $3.25 million we have for the first pick. I suppose we could do that, but I'd rather just take Almora or Correa then.

    Btw, my personal preference is Gausman. I think the guy will become the best pitcher from this draft unless Giolito lives up to the hype and doesn't get derailed by injuries.

    I voted for A. Almora who is getting very little love from voters...

  • In reply to I miss Ron Santo:

    Thanks Santo!

    I'm a little surprised at the lack of love for Almora myself. I thought it would be a 3 way competition in the poll.

    The Giolito signability issue worries me a little as well. He may take his chances and see if he can be the #1 pick in 3 years UCLA.

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