Co-written with Kevin Gallo, BigLeagueFutures.net and Cubs Den contributor
The importance of the MLB Draft and the Cubs rebuilding process
Evaluating draft prospects has become a year long process in the MLB and we plan on keeping up here as much as possible. We'll combine first hand scouting evaluations, reports from professional scouts, as well as opinions from some of our favorite blogs and national media sources to give you the most, original yet well-rounded information on the Cubs draft process. By the time the June comes around, we hope you're familiar with many of the names, if you're not already.
Despite the changes brought on by the new CBA, the Cubs emphasis on the draft is going to be a huge key in their long term rebuilding process. The improvements at the MLB level this offseason lend some encouragement for the short term, but how well the Cubs do bringing in amateur talent will speak much louder when it comes to sustaining success over the long haul.
We've talked much about the first round pick, the 2nd overall selection, and the importance of landing an impact talent. The second pick, which which will be in the 40s, has the value of what in recent years would've been the equivalent of a high supplemental first rounder. The Cubs are said to highly value this pick as well and all indications are they plan to keep it.
An early forecast on upper round draft philosophy
It's hard enough to predict what the first pick will be right now --even at such a high pick as #2 overall. There are the consensus favorites and that likely won't change a great deal by draft time, but we can be certain there will be some shuffling, perhaps even at the very top of the draft.
Complicating matters is that the first pick will likely affect what the Cubs do with the ensuing picks. If the BPA is once again determined to be a position player, there's a strong possibility the Cubs will once again look to load up on pitchers over the next few rounds. If they can land a college pitcher who is near-ready with the top pick, as many expect, it gives them some flexibility to look more closely at other positions as the draft unfolds. One of those positions happens to be one in which the Cubs lack strong organizational depth: Catcher.
The current state of the Cubs catching depth
Right now, the Cubs are counting heavily on Welington Castillo. The Cubs have some catching prospects behind him, but they are more of the contact-hitting, catch and throw types. What they have are essentially polished, but limited ceiling players like Chadd Krist and Rafael Lopez, both of whom project as backups, but no young Cubs catcher ranks among their top 30 prospects overall. If there is a player who can break from that pack, I believe it's the athletic Wilson Contreras, but he's much more projection than productivity at this point. He's still in the interesting stage and certainly nobody the Cubs are counting on long term at this early stage of development.
2nd and 3rd Round Catching Prospects
At this point it should be clear that the catching position is very much on the table with an early round pick. As it stands today, no catcher is worthy of the 2nd overall pick, so if the Cubs look to add a potential impact backstop, it's more likely they'll address it with one of their next few picks. Adding to that probability is that while most think the 2013 draft is relatively thin, it is deep in catchers, particularly at the prep level.
Here are a few of our favorite prep catchers who we think could be available with the 2nd or 3rd round pick...
- Chris Okey is a a great defensive catcher who is mechanically sound and can control the running can with a POP of 1.8. He shows a line drive swing that generates above average bat speed. He shows pull power and gap power to the opposite field. He isn't the biggest in this group at 6'0, 175 but makes up for it with good athleticism and reportedly keeps himself in tremendous shape. Good mental makeup guy as well. Okey hit .324 for Team USA and is committed to Clemson.
- Nick Cuiffo show good skills behind the plate, with good hands and good blocking abilities. He has a classic catcher's build (6'1, 200 lbs) and a LH bat with good power potential (with the potential to hit around 25 HR). Ciuffo also shows a solid hit tool. He posseses a plus arm and can consistently hit around 1.8 pop, making him a great asset against the run game. He is one of the top prospects in this very deep crop of prep catchers. Committed to South Carolina.
- Brian Navarreto is the most athletic catcher in the class but is also the least likely of this group to stay behind the plate because of his size and relative lack of polish defensively. Navarreto is already 6'4, 220 and is going to get bigger, but that being said, he shows good handsbehind the plate with above average arm strength. He sometimes shows a quick release with some times around 1.80 POP. He has quick hands and shows above average raw power and speed. There's a possibility he may move to the OF at the next level.
- Jeremy Martinez was the most heralded of the catchers early on but he has dropped off a little bit. Defensively he is excellent behind the plate. His POP is a little bit behind the others at around a 1.95 but the arm strength is there. He shows power at times but has yet to live up to the potential people saw in him his sophomore year. There are some concerns about his conditioning. Some scouts thought he was a little soft but the work ethic, mental makeup and intangibles are all grade as plus, so there's every expectation he can regain his old form. That potential is still there, it may just take a little more time than what was first thought. Committed to USC.
Filed under: MLB Draft