So it's a day after the draft and I've had time to reflect on the Cubs picks, here are my thoughts now that everything has soaked in...
The Cubs appeared to have a 3-tier plan here and they executed extremely well. On the first day, they wanted to make as sure as possible that they added impact major league talent, so they specifically went for players who had both a high ceiling and a high floor. They wanted players with tools, polish, and mental makeup. That isn't easy to do, but the Cubs nailed it, nabbing two advanced high school prospects who still project with a lot of upside in CF Albert Almora and RHP Paul Blackburn. To reiterate something I said in the miCubs podcast on Tuesday, makeup ensures that a player will have a better chance of reaching his ceiling because that player will make the most of the tools he has. In the case of Almora and Blackburn, those tools are at the high end of the scale, so adding mental makeup to the equation gives them a better than average chance of translating tools into usable MLB level baseball skills. Almora, in fact, was considered the best combination of tools, polish and makeup in the draft.
In between they took a college arm in RHP Pierce Johnson who was power stuff in a mid 90s fastball and nasty slider. At worst he's a reliever on that alone, but Johnson also has a good change-up and solid command so some think he can be more than that, as much as a #2 starter, according to ESPN's Keith Law. His colleague Jason Churchill called the pick a potential "steal". With Johnson, it's all about staying healthy.
On the second day, the Cubs concentrated on pitching, specifically pitching with upside. They preferred pitchers who were more about projection than polish, but combined with the mental makeup to fulfill their potential. No where was this more evident that with RHP Duane Underwood, who has both the talent and the makeup to become another steal in the 2nd round. If you haven't seen it already check out this article on Underwood. He's hard not to like. The Cubs also took gambles on pitchers with talent and projectabilty, but had some big question marks, whether it was mechanics, health, or lack of polish and/or experience in pitchers like RHPs Ryan McNeil, Josh Conway, Trey Lang, as well as undersized lefty Anthony Prieto. The Cubs didn't go for a lot of guys who figured to be good pictures who figured to top out at AA in these rounds. They went upside or bust.
On the third day, the Cubs were looking at gambles. They went for high talent tough signs like RHP Blake Hickman, who can reach the mid 90s and CF Rhett Wiseman, a toolsy outfielder. Both OF'ers are intelligent with strong mental makeup...and both have strong commitments to good universities in Iowa and Vanderbilt, respectively. They also took gambles on raw, strong-armed projects like RHP Mike Hamman and 3B-RHP Damek Tomscha.
Was it sucessful? I think they nailed it. I'm hard pressed to find a pick I didn't like. I did like Kyle Twomey and Kieran Lovegrove for that 3rd round pick, but I don't know as much about O'Neill, so considering the immense information the Cubs have on all these players, I'll give them the benefit of the doubt.
I'm not the only person who feels this way, two of the industry's top draft experts liked it as well. Keith Law liked the Cubs draft and MLB's Jonathan Mayo called the Cubs one of the draft's winners. Law also said that Almora would be his top Cubs prospect...yes, even over Anthony Rizzo.
Here's the skinny version of the draft review...
Best Offensive Player:
High School: Alberto Almora, CF, who else?
College: Stephen Bruno, 2B-3B. Although 3B Derek Tomscha may be the better hitter, he'll probably wind up a pitcher if he signs. Neither is an impact player with the bat, though Bruno's defensive position, small stature (5'9") and surprising pop will tempt people to label him as another Dustin Pedroia. Pedroia, however, is a rare player.
Best Defensive Player
High School: Alberto Almora, CF
College: Carlos Escobar, C
College: Pierce Johnson, RHP
High School: Nick Blackburn, RHP, Duane Underwood (RHP)
College: Pierce Johnson, RHP. Could have been a mid first rounder if he'd stayed healthy all year. Josh Conway (4th), could have gone in round 2 if healthy
High School: Duane Underwood, RHP. Some of the best stuff in the draft, but inconsistency cost him. Boom or bust type.
Best Late Round Pick
College: RHP: Nathan Hamman (16th). All about projection. Coming off of shoulder injury. Needs to add weight and strength (6'3", 165 lbs) but has hit 95 mph when he's right.
HIgh School: CF Rhett Wiseman (25th). Great athleticism, intelligence, and makeup
College: 3B-RHP: Damek Tomscha. Community college guy who wants to hit but scouts like long term potential better on the mound. Has offer for Auburn where he will be allowed to do both.
High School: Rhett Wiseman and RHP Blake Hickman, both smart kids with high value for education. Late round money may not be enough.
Quickest to the Majors
College: Josh Conway has 2 plus pitches and may move quickly if he's a reliever. Pierce Johnson has the pitches and command to make it the quickest as a starter. Justin Amlung, RHP, Louisville has a lower ceiling than Johnson but also has the repertoire, command, and pitchability to make it quickly as a back end starter. Of the hitters, Stephen Bruno has a good bat and is versatile on defense, so he could make it quickly in a utility role.
High School: Albert Almora, easily, though Paul Blackburn may move the quickest of the pitchers.
As for signing all of these players the new deadline is July 13th, though I'm hearing from a source that the Cubs are close to signing a few mid-round picks already. Top pick Carlos Correa has already signed, as has 5th pick Kyle Zimmer, who was one pick ahead of Almora.