A couple of weeks ago, we covered BA's top 100 H.S. list, but when it comes to the Cubs first pick, the #2 pick overall, BA's top 100 college list may be more relevant. Well, at least the top 3 players on it.
And there's a change in that top 3.
LHP Sean Manaea of Indiana State has vaulted past Ryan Stanek and is now the #2 prospect behind Mark Appel. A 4th pitcher, Jonathan Crawford, ranks #5 on the list and is considered a fast riser, though right now he's expected to be picked after 3 or 4 position players: Georgia high schoolers Austin Meadows and Clint Frazier, North Carolina 3B Colin Moran, considered the best pure hitter in the draft, and perhaps 1B-OF Kris Bryant, who may have the best power.
It seems certain that when the draft rolls around the Cubs will have their pick of two of these pitchers, perhaps all 4 if the Astros opt for one of the two star Georgia high school outfielders instead.
Though Appel has maintained his position as the top college player, and likely the best player overall, it's unlikely Houston will take him with the first pick. Houston had the opportunity last year and passed when Appel reportedly would not accept a pre-arranged deal. As often happens in that case, Appel dropped as teams feared they wouldn't be able to sign the big RHP. He was eventually picked at #8 by the Pittsburgh Pirates, but did not sign.
As for Manaea, Aaron Fitt said in his chat that he reminds him of a young Chris Sale. Manaea pitches with a mid to upper 90s fastball and,a pretty good change-up. If the slider comes around, he looks like a 3 pitch guy with at least two plus pitches. Jonathan Mayo of mlb.com thinks Manaea's slider, which may be more of a hard slurve, is an effective pitch, but he does have concerns with Manaea's pitchability. I think that's interesting because that is high on former amateur scouting director Tim Wilken's list. It remains to be seen if Jason McLeod feels the same way or how much influence Wilken has if either or both agree with Mayo's assessment on pitchability.
Not everyone thinks Manaea is the #2 guy. Mayo has Ryan Stanek in the 2nd spot and Manaea down at #5. Mayo believes Stanek to be the more polished pitcher and great stuff, includinga mid 90s fastball and a plus slider. However, our man at the scene Kevin Gallo said that Manaea made huge strides at the Cape Cod League and that he has already looked a lot more polished. There are also some concerns with Stanek, including his command and delivery, enough so that some scouts believe he could end up being a reliever.
Beyond the first round
If you want to see who might be available in the 2nd round, that's a little hard to gauge, but there are a slew of college pitchers who may be available by the time the Cubs pick, which should come earlier than last year's pick because their figures to be less comp picks. One interesting name that might be available is former McLeod first round pick, RHP Karsten Whitson. Whitson was the #9 pick overall in 2010 but did not sign. His stock has since dropped because of arm troubles and a loss of velocity.
If they've soured on Whitson or he isn't available, there should be plenty of college pitching to choose from. After Whitson, 20 of the next 23 best college players are pitchers. That group includes a trio of LHPs, an area the Cubs could be looking to shore up in their system. The first is Trevor Williams, a big pitcher with a mid 90s fastball and full repertoire, yet doesn't miss enough bats for scouts' taste. Another LHP in that range, Kevin Ziomek, impressed at the Cape Cod League with a good change and solid command to go with an average fastball. My favorite LHP, however, may be Tom Windle (Minnesota). He's the complete package, 93-94 mph fastball, slider, change, good control and good pitchability.
You've heard me say that this is a weak draft, and it is, but it is not weak in college pitching and though there are no elite high school pitchers like Dylan Bundy or Lucas Giolito, there is some depth in the high school ranks as well. High school catchers are also a deep crop. Those are three big areas of need for the Cubs and the areas where the draft is weak: 2B, SS, and CF, are positions of strength in the Cubs organization. So while this draft may not be a particularly strong one, it could play right into Jason McLeod's hands.
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