MLB Draft Update: Mocks have Cubs tabbing Jonathan Gray

MLB Draft Update: Mocks have Cubs tabbing Jonathan Gray

The draft is less than a month away now and things are really coming into focus at the top of the draft.  The top 3 players, barring any surprise signability type picks, are Stanford RHP Mark Appel, Oklahoma RHP Jonathan Gray, and U. of San Diego 3B-OF Kris Bryant.

The industry says the Cubs are locked into taking a pitcher -- whichever one the Astros don't take-- and I've been hearing the same thing.  The word is that the Cubs prefer Appel but will take Gray if he's gone. However, the Cubs are insisting to some that this is not necessarily the case.

Of course, it's hard to know what is fact and what is fiction as the draft nears.  One thing we do know is that Cubs scouts have attended every start by Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray this spring.

And as one AL Scouting Director said according to Baseball America,

 “There’s a severe difference between those two and everyone else.”

The alternative would be Kris Bryant, who has some all-around skills but really has one tool -- power -- that stands out.  That choice seems very unlikely right now.  In the event that the Cubs do select Bryant, I'd expect them to stock up on pitching in subsequent rounds -- but they may end up doing that no matter who they pick first.

Mock Drafts

Here are how a few  experts see the draft.  Law's is not a mock draft.  He usually does his 2-3 weeks before the draft so that should be coming soon.  He did release a top 100, however, and Jonathan Gray is in the 2nd spot.  Baseball America, however, had Gray #1 and Appel #2 in their top 100.

Good year to have a top 2 pick, it seems.

  • mock draft (free)
  • Jim Callis mock draft (subscription required)
  • Baseball America top 100 (subscription required)
  • Keith Law's top 100 (subscription required)

Friday Night Performances

  • Unfortunately, Cubs fans with ESPN U did not get a chance to see Jonathan Gray.  He will get the start on Saturday and it will not be televised.
  • Mark Appel did pitch and he struggled a bit,  lasting just 5 innings and allowing 6 runs (5 earned) on 7 hits.  He also had some uncharacteristic command issues, walking 5 hitters and striking out 4.   He threw 103 pitches in all.
  • Kris Bryant went 2 for 5 and hit his 26th HR of the year.  He's now hitting .335/.506/.855.  Bryant is looking more and more like a lock to go in the top 3 and maybe even as a signability #1 pick to Houston, but Bryant signed on with hard line agent Scott Boras, so that may well end any chance that Houston will pick Bryant.  He's a good bet to go 3rd to the Rockies, however.
  • UNC's Colin Moran is really coming on strong late in the year and is now a top 5 candidate for the draft.  He hit his 13th HR of the year and walked twice.  He's hitting .387/.512/.651.  He very likely won't be the Cubs pick, but he's a pretty safe college bat who could go top 5 if teams think he can stay at 3B.
  • LHP Sean Manaea is no longer in the running for the top two but he's still a top 5 candidate if he's healthy.   Reports had him in the 85-87 mph range in the 4th inning in his last start.  This start he put up good numbers: 7IP, 3 H, 1 ER, 1 BB, 11 Ks -- but that was against Alcorn State.

Second round

  • An interesting player who may suddenly be available in round 2 is Minnesota high school OF'er Ryan Boldt.  Boldt was projected to go as high as the middle of the first round but an injury has him sliding to right around the Cubs range in round 2.  Of course, there's a catch.  Boldt may now just choose to go to college and improve his stock -- but if the Cubs can save enough money with their first pick, then maybe they can make Boldt an overslot offer he can't refuse.
  • The three top catchers are now firmly in the first round and there's no catcher worth taking after those three with the 41st pick.
  • Pitching may be the best value in round 2.  The college crop is deep and that depth may also help push down some higher level high school pitching to the Cubs.  There should be a pretty good prep lefty available to the Cubs in that range.  Law has pitchers like Robert Kaminsky, Matt Krook, Cody Reed, Jacob Brentz, Blake Taylor, Garrett Williams, Hunter Green, and even Ian Clarkin in that range.  Some have Clarkin as a mid first round talent, including Baseball America.  BA also has Robert Kaminsky in the first round and Hunter Green going toward the end of first round/early supplemental.  Whatever the case, it seems very likely that at least one of these arms will be available to the Cubs and we'll go over prep lefties in a second update later this weekend.

Filed under: MLB Draft


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  • Pitching is the way to go in at least the first 2 rounds.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    That's where the best players may be anyway -- but Boldt would be intriguing if he's still there and he's signable. I could easily see Houston picking him though if the makes it that far.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Boldt is one of my personal favorite. John do you have my scouting report on him?

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I do have it and I may post in my second update this weekend.

  • So when Appel stinks it up, he gives up 2 earned runs in 6.2 innings?... I'll take that! If the Baseball Gods want us to have Gray instead, i'm okay with that too.

    The Thought of Bryant hitting @ Coors Field is scary....

    Having your choice or Manaea or Moran is not a bad consolation prize for missing out on the big three....

    Thanks for the updates John!

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Messed that up. Copied the wrong stats. He actually gave up 5 runs and walked 5 in 5 innings. Maybe his worst outing this year. Gray goes tonight.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Yeah that a little uglier, isn't it? lol...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    Re Manaea: Jim Callis at BA wrote that if Manaea continues to slip, he may opt to go back to school, a la Appel.
    I believe Manaea has been fighting a hip injury and hasn't dominated this season.

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    In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    Manaea is one of those guys: in earlier years, he would have slipped to the teens or twenties and still gotten a huge signing bonus. If he recovers from injuries and becomes the guy that dominated the Cape Cod league last summer, he would have been pointed to as proof that talent comes from later in the baseball draft. As it is, he'll go back to school and if he recovers he'll pull an Appel and disappear in the first five picks. Just an example of how the new CBA has changed what we know about the draft.

  • In reply to StillMissKennyHubbs:

    I just read that too. I suppose all things considered, going back and finishing your degree with the chance at being a top 5 pick next year isn't the end of the world for him.

  • Great stuff as always, John. I am getting excited for the draft. It looks like the Cubs could get a couple of real impact arms.
    I know that rumors are suggesting that if the Cubs are able to draft Appel he could by with the team as early as 2014, what is the ETA on Gray? Could he be up in 2014, or is he still a few years away?
    As much as I like Appel, all the wear and tear on his arm have me worried.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Gray could be up as early as late 2014 but I would think 2015 is more likely.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Thanks a lot. I appreciate it.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Thanks. They've been keeping Appel's pitch count down more this year. And remember they pitch just once a week at most. There's more time to recover. There are also pitchers that are getting used a lot more than Appel this year, and one of them, Braden Shipley, is a projected top 10 pick.

    I don't see it as a concern, frankly. I'd limit his innings if he signed here then start him at AA and monitor his pitch count closely.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Sounds like a great approach. I appreciate the clarification. How far apart are Gray and Appel actually? I know you said something about this a few weeks ago, but I don't recall the differences between the two.

  • In reply to supercapo:

    Appel has the more advanced change and the better feel for pitching. His command is slightly better but Gray not far behind at all. I also like Appel's athleticism. It'll help him repeat his delivery and have more consistent command (as well as field his position).

    That said, Gray has two potential plus-plus pitches that can cover up any imperfections. As long as he has good command, all he needs is an average change-up to be an ace.

    Hard to go wrong with either pitcher.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    The reasons you just stated are why I like Gray more then Appel. Appel is more of a finished product then Gray and I can't wait to see what Gray looks like when he truly learns to pitch.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    We think similarly but one place where we are a bit different is in our optimism for a player reaching his ceiling. You say "when" he learns. I say "if". The thing is that Appel is already doing the things Gray hopes to do in the next couple of years. There's that certainty with Appel because he's already doing it. If Gray learns to throw a change as well as Appel, if he develops the same feel for pitching, if he develops the same command -- then he'll be the better pitcher because of his fastball and slider combo.

    But they're all if's to me. They're not something I can count on the way I can with Appel.

    And it's not like Appel doesn't have plus stuff across the board either. I'd say they both have ace potential, so it's not like Gray has a significantly higher a ceiling, but I think Appel's floor is much higher. The way I look at it, I wouldn't risk a little bit of ceiling to sacrifice a lot of floor.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    That said, I think they can both be aces -- butthey may go about it a different way.

    Appel is Ali while Gray is Frazier.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Here is what I am looking at is the fastball. The movement at that velocity is so rare. His floor is a closer (Which I thinking is a long shot because of his ability to maintain is Velo of around 100 into the late innings) but his high could be the best pitcher in MLB. I think Appel is more likely to it is floor then Gray, which is a #4. His stuff flatness out the higher is velo gets. That extra gear in the FB could hurt him more the help him, because it flatness out and a MLB hitter will tee off on that.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Appel sits in the mid 90s and he locates it well. His command is more precise- he doesn't need to reach for something extra. If you can locate 94-95 consistently that's better to me than him trying to hit the upper 90s -- which he can also do. As for movement, I really don't see much difference between Appel and Gray -- and I'm not sure Appel doesn't have better movement, actually -- the difference is Gray throws harder so whatever movement he gets is a bonus -- but I really don't see a whole lot of movement on video, though I haven't seen either live. Overall, I give the edge to Gray on the fastball and the slider. I give everything else to Appel.

    And if a guy who throws mid 90s and 3 plus pitches with plus command is a #4 than that is one heck of a pitching staff. Who's #1? Sandy Koufax? At any rate, everything I've heard is his floor is a #3 --and he can probably be that without improving at all. And that's a better floor than a closer.

    I think the difference in their ceilings are small but the difference in their floors is what makes me prefer Appel.

    There's always someone people are trying to put above Appel, for someone better to come along -- first it was Stanek, then Manaea, now it's Gray. Meanwhile, Appel has been at that level consistently for 2 years now and continues to be ranked at the top by most.

  • My guess everything is determined by who the Astros pick. If they pick the Cubs preferred pitcher the Cubs may go with Bryant and go pitcher heavy the rest of the draft like John said. If they take Appel or Gray (my personal favorite pitcher) watch for HS Position players like Trey Michalczewski 3B, Riley Unroe SS and Chris Okey C in the 3rd round. They may consider Ryan McMahon 3B or a pitcher in the 2nd round.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Thanks for the info. I like Okey as a 3rd round pick. That would work out nicely. A lot of good catchers and it would be good to get one in this draft -- even if it doesn't look like one is going to happen in the first 2 rounds. The Michalczewski kid looks interesting too.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I will have a report on Michalczewki as soon as I get the video from my business partner.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    I think is was your report last week I hear about Unroe. Sound like an awesome pick in the third. Bickford sounded enticing as well but may have to take him in round two.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I have seen Bickford in person I would be Shocked if he makes it to the 2nd round. Unroe is a player I have only seen on video but has a ton of upside very athletic player.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I would be shocked if Bickford makes it to round 2.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    He's a guy that's been intriguing to me lately.

  • Another name in the 2nd round is Ryan McMahon.

  • I have a question. When a team is unable to sign a draft pick, like Appel last year, they get that pick again next year. Is that only for first round picks, or does it include supplemental, competitive balance, or even 2nd round too?

  • In reply to Bill:

    Fist ten picks only.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Gotcha. Thanks!

  • In reply to Bill:

    Only first round picks.

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    Mick Gillespie has the scoop: Garza starting for the Smokies today. 75 pitch limit.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Awesome. Definitely going to tune in.

  • Manaea only at 85-87? Wow wasn't he around 94-95 last year?

  • In reply to fsufrenzy911:

    Yes but he's been in the low 90s this year, sometimes touching 94 or so. Last start he was well below 90 by the 4th inning.

  • what happened to jeremy martinez? last year he was considered a top 10 pick in mock drafts, now I dont see him in the conversation with the top catchers in this draft.

  • In reply to Joshnk24:

    If he gets picked up before the 4th round I would be surprised. He was more media hype then scouting report.

  • Appel got lit up last night.

  • I love draft time. It's like Christmas, except you get the chance to look at the presents early and figure out which ones you really want. So exciting!

  • Anyone know what's going on w the Oklahoma Oklahoma State game? Is it in a rain delay? It's on ESPN U right now, and was excited to catch a bit of Grey seeing as I've never seen him pitch before, but looks like that ain't happening.

  • In reply to Jamato:

    They're on at 1:30 CT, I believe but it's not on ESPN U today.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Another schedule I saw says 2:00 CT.

  • In reply to Jamato:

    OU/OSU will be boadcast on FSN or affiliates (like Fox Sports Southwest) at 2:00pm Central.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jamato:

    For anybody who happens to have FCS Central, the OU game is on there. The game just got under way.

  • This draft, will decide how good Theo and his boys are. If the Cubs fail in this draft, which they better not, then all is wasted. It is all about "pitching" for the future of the Cubs.

    I really hope Rickett's just dump Wrigley and go for a new stadium.

    Cubs need to have a leadoff hitter......we won with Derneir in 1984....and Walton in 1989......and Lofton was good in 2003.

  • In reply to CubsTalk:

    The thing is there are two consensus top players in the draft -- both pitchers and they don't get to choose. They're going to get whoever is left. No matter who they pick, I don't think there's a team out there that would have picked differently.

    As for later rounds, maybe it says a little about them. It's kind of weak draft and they won't necessarily get the guys they want most. It's the top pick that is going to define this draft for them.

  • So...If the Astros are afraid of Boras, might they pick Gray first?

  • In reply to bruno14:

    If they want to avoid him, they have to. I don't know if they're so much afraid as they just don't want protracted negotiations that prevent them from signing overslots later.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks - I didn't mean anything by "afraid" beyond that they might wish to avoid dealing with him, as mentioned in the post.

  • fb_avatar

    How far off is Kris Bryant as far as talent goes from being a #1 choice? I mean the slot allotment between a #1 slot (Houston) and a #3 slot (Colorado) is huge! Could we once again see Houston work out a deal before the draft in where they offer Bryant about $5.9 million or about $300K more than a #3 slot so he could be drafted at #1. This saves Houston a boatload of money to sign picks above slot latter on in the draft.

    Is there a player dead set on going to college that could change his mind if more money was offered to him to sign with Houston in rounds 2 - 5?

    Then this leads the Cubs in a unique position to have their choice of either of the obvious top choices. It's a choice that will be 2nd guessed for the career of these 2 pitchers. More stuff for the fans to grumble about..... lol

    So much fun this time of year......

  • thanks for the info john, these are my favorite types of posts.

    a few thoughts. i like appel over gray, longer track record, higher floor, but really this is nitpicking im excited to have either in our system and future rotation.

    i have always liked the idea of grabbing a hs catcher in this draft, but if one of the big 3 (denney, mcguire, cuiffo) doesnt slip to the cubs 2nd pick, and they probably wont, then id rather wait until the later rounds to grab one. the catching crop in next years draft is looking pretty good, its more college heavy, but there is some talent there at the hs level as well.

    a couple guys i like in the later rounds are nick petree of missouri state and dillon overton of oklahoma. petree just really knows what hes doing on the mound, he was profiled a little bit in a recent article on BA. he could be one of those guys who dominates because he wins the mental game, even though his stuff doesnt go over 91 mph. overton's stock has dropped since the beginning of the year and i think he could be a possible later round steal at this point. he still has some projection left and he is southpaw.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Overton is hurt with elbow strain.

  • In reply to jshmoran:

    Thanks Josh. I think those guys are good pitchers but wondering if the Cubs will go high school arms.

  • If I would rank the top 3 it would go Gray, Bryant then Appel. I see Gray as a floor a Ogando type pitcher with a chance of being a top 2 pitcher in baseball. Bryant I see as a Longeria or Rolen type at 3B with less injuries. I see Appel turning into a Garza type pitcher.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to KGallo:

    What I love about this draft is that some scouts think Appel is the best talent available and some think it's Gray. That suggests to me that we're going to do just fine with either one.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Just hope it's not a reprise of the Manning vs. Leaf situation. Though it seems both pitchers have good makeup, so I don't think either will self-destruct the way Leaf did.

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to John Arguello:

    That's scary to think about. I'm going to not.

    Here's a happier thought: I'm currently guessing we end up with the #3 pick in 2014. If Manaea decides to return for his senior season and regains his form when healthy, means we'll get a pick of at least one of Rodon, Beede, and Manaea to add to Gray.

  • I'm gonna guess that the Astros will have already negotiated with their pick by the time draft day rolls around, which I think stinks. It gives them an unfair advantage that no other team can enjoy. They did it last year with Correa, and that set up their entire draft strategy. I wouldn't mind sometime in the future MLB instituting a lottery system with the bottom 5 or 10 teams and have them pick for the draft order, similar to what the NBA does. This would hopefully stop teams from tanking to get the #1 pick. I'd also love to see that lottery drawing happen immediately prior to the draft. This would reward teams with the strongest scouting departments and would also make the draft a lot more compelling for the average fan to watch.

  • John,
    I see Appel not getting much better then he is and he is a #3 or 4 right now. He is going to be a #2. There isn't much more room for him to get better, where Gray still as some room to grow. Gray and Appel are pretty close now.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Don't agree. I think people see that Appel is polished and they equate that with low ceiling.

    I've heard the same ceiling bit about Stanek and Manaea -- why you wouldn't want the guy who has ceiling and already has polish is beyond me.

    The definition of a #1 starter is 2 plus pitches, and 3rd solid MLB average pitch, plus-plus command and plus makeup. That is what Appel has -- or at least very close to. I'd say he has plus command, so the only upside he needs is to improve that a bit to be a #1 starter. He's just so much closer to being a #1

    A #4 starter is a guy with avg velocity and command of 2 avg MLB pitches, plus a 3rd pitch to fall back on. It's pretty safe to say Appel is beyond that.

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