This is not a good year for bats, but one guy in particular has stood out. Kris Bryant is way ahead of the field in the Division 1 home run race with 30 and some scouts will tell you he'll also be an above average hitter.
Kris Bryant is a 3B and there are mixed opinions as to whether he can stay there but if he doesn't, some believe he'll make a good RF'er because of his solid athleticism and strong arm.
The thing you'll notice if you watch Kris Bryant's swing is that he has a wide stance and a very short stride. The power is generated with his hips and weight transfer.
He's also a disciplined hitter who is willing to wait for his pitch. Power, OBP skills, solid athleticism...isn't that a great fit for the Cubs?
The answer is yes, but this year it's not that simple. Two pitchers have stood out from the pack. Both have ace potential. Both should be ready fairly quickly. I'm talking, of course, about Mark Appel and Jonathan Gray.
But here's what I think. I believe the Cubs strongly favor Appel. He more closely fits what they like in their pitchers. He's more athletic, his command is better, and he has the higher floor. He already has 3 plus pitches and his mental makeup is said to be off the charts. That is no knock on Gray, just that Appel seems to fit the Cubs preferred profile better.
The question then becomes -- what if the Astros take Appel?
I think this is where it gets fun to speculate.
Perhaps the gap between Gray and Bryant is closer than it is between either player and Appel. Might the Cubs change their strategy and go with the safer college bat over the pitcher who's long on stuff but shorter on track record?
It's a draft deep in college pitching and some interesting prep arms start to pop up after the first round as well. The Cubs should be able to get good pitchers over the next 3 rounds -- not nearly as polished and with much lower floors, but with high enough ceilings where a couple could be 2nd or 3rd starters. I talked about some of those college RHPs here and the LHPs here. We'll talk about the prep arms over the next few days.
If the Cubs do take Appel, then I still expect them to go with a pitcher in the 2nd round, but the 3rd round may have some interesting options for the Cubs in terms of bats. Many of those bats are at two positions of organizational need for the Cubs: 3B and catcher -- and as you'll see, there are a couple of players who could fit at either position.
Here are a few of them:
- Trey Michalczewski, (OK): One of my personal favorites. He's an athletic, switch-hitting 3B with solid tools across the board. He already has a good approach and should hit for average and power. He's a better player than the more hyped Oklahoma prep 3B Drew Ward, who is also on this list. Really like this kid. He has a chance to be an above average hitter with above average defense. I'll post a scouting report by Kevin later.
- Ryan McMahon, 3B (CA): Also a good QB, he's very athletic player with leadership skills who needs a lot of polish right now -- but the upside makes him very interesting. He has a strong commitment to USC, so signing him may be difficult here. A team that really likes him may need to take him earlier where they have more pool money to play with.
- Drew Ward, 3B, (OK): Comparisons to fellow Okie Michalczewski are inevitable and what Ward offers is superior power. He is less athletic, however, and he may actually end up at 1B. Some scouts would like to try him at catcher where his athletic limitations are mitigated and his strong arm would be an asset.
- Dustin Peterson, 3B (AZ): He's the younger brother of college 3B DJ Peterson, who should go in the middle of the first round. Dustin may be more advanced at the same stage. His strengths are quick hands and a fundamentally sound swing. Should hit for average and power. Wonder if one of the teams who miss out on older brother DJ may go for Peterson in the 2nd round, however.
- Travis Demerrite (GA): Athletic, quick twitch player who is a SS now but will move to 3B as a pro. Needs to work on approach, but could eventually have above average power. Not likely to get past 2nd round, though, and the Cubs may go pitcher and go with one of the top 3 or 4 guys on this list instead.
- Dom Nunez H.S. (CA): An athletic catcher (former SS) with solid tools across the board and the kind of intangibles scouts like in a catcher.
- Tyler O'Neill H.S. (BC): O'Neill is built like a mack truck. He's solidly build at 6'0, 215 lbs. and has great bat speed. He can hit a good fastball and hit it a long way. The problem is he doesn't really want to catch. He has the arm for 3B, but may not be quick enough for the infield.
- Andrew Knapp, U. of California: He's just switching to the position now, so he needs work but Knapp has the bloodlines. His father Mike caught professionally for 11 years. He's athletic and has taken a big leap as a hitter this year.
- Chris Okey, C, (FL): I think Okey is a bit of a sleeper in this group and my personal favorite. He project to be an above average hitter though power is question. Like last year's pick Albert Almora, Okey has a ton of experience for a high school player, having played with Team USA 3 times (in fact, he was a teammate of Almora's at one point). Still needs to work on catching skills but I think he has the natural ability and work ethic to stick there.
3-Round Draft Scenarios
So here are my three scenarios for the first 3 rounds, depending on what Houston does...
Scenario 1: If Houston does not take Appel:
- Mark Appel
- Best available player. I think Appel's high certainty factor gives them some leeway in terms of position, though they may not have the money to sign an overslot like Ryan Boldt. I think it gives them the opportunity to gamble on an arm like RHP Jason Hursh or LHP Dillon Overton.
- High school bat with my favorites being 3B Trey Michalczewski and C Chris Okey.
Scenarios 2 and 3: If Houston takes Appel
- Jonathan Gray
- Higher probability college pitcher such as RHPs Aaron Blair, Andrew Thurman or Alex Balog.
- Trey Michalczewski or Chris Okey
- Kris Bryant
- Best available college arm
- Best available pitcher -- likely a high school arm with upside.
Filed under: MLB Draft