Happy Draft Day!
I figured this is a good way to start the day. I've already done a first round mock recently and I'll be doing instant analysis on each pick, I'm figuring another mock might be information overload. I'll link some mocks as they come in. A significant change at the top in that I no longer think Colin Moran goes first. He's still a consideration but I think he's a fallback. I think it will be Jonathan Gray.
Just heard this (11:30): Cubs have a good feel for what it will take to sign Mark Appel and the thought right now is that it's more than Houston wants to pay.
Update: Now hearing that Appel money would be slightly under slot for Cubs, so 6-6.5M. Astros could easily beat that and still have money left over, but it depends on how much money they want to save for future rounds.
LIVE UPDATES: Mock Drafts and other news
- Update (8:55): Jim Callis came out with his final version of his mock draft and has the same top two as mine below. Interestingly, he says there is a rumor that the Cubs are closing in on a deal with RHP Mark Appel.
- Update (9:13): Our friends at Through the Fence Baseball has come out with their final mock and they have Gray-Appel as the 1-2 combo as well.
- Update (9:17): Our friends at Big League Futures also has their final mock out and they have the Cubs passing on Mark Appel and taking Kris Bryant. Sorry guys, that doesn't seem like it's going to happen with Callis' latest news. They may still take Bryant, but only if deal with Appel falls through or Astros decide to up the ante.
- Update (9:25): Another one of our favorites, Chris Crawford of MLB Draft Insider has their mock draft out and they are going with Appel and then Gray to the Cubs.
- Update (9:47): An interesting development tweeted by Peter Gammons as the Rockies are starting to lean toward top high school bat Dominic Smith instead of Kris Bryant. Huge development and Bryant could fall to Indians -- but no further than that. It doesn't really affect Cubs who will only consider Bryant if Appel is taken.
- Update (10:31): Rumors floating (h/t Northside Irish via Jim Callis) that Astros interested in LHP Sean Manaea which to me all but rules out anybody except for Jonathan Gray or Colin Moran at the top.
- Update (11:06): Peter Gammons tweet that the Astros will wait until 4 pm to decide and that they are down to Appel, Gray, and Moran.
- Update (11:08): In his latest mock draft, Keith Law has the Astros taking Mark Appel on the news that they were trying to negotiate with him last night. It's unclear whether that was written before the Jim Callis news that those negotiations weren't going as smoothly as hoped. At any rate, he has Jonathan Gray going to the Cubs.
- Update (11:21): Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com has Jonathan Gray going to the Astros and the Cubs going with Mark Appel. He said the Cubs are also contemplating Kris Bryant but that they won't switch from Appel, but does not say if they'd take Bryant if the Astros took Appel first.
- Update (11:55): Perfect Game's Patrick Ebert rolled out their mock and they have the Astros taking Gray and the Cubs taking Mark Appel. Interestingly, they feel that if the Cubs have their choice of the two, the Cubs will go with Jonathan Gray.
- Update (2:08): Another Mock Draft, this one from Scout.Com's Kiley McDaniel. This one goes through 3 different scenarios with Astros top pick. The Cubs get Mark Appel in two of them and Jonathan Gray in the other.
Cubs 1st Pick
I think Houston will go with Jonathan Gray, Oklahoma: Mark Appel is a possibility here but the Astros would like to get a deal done before the draft and that's just not Boras' style. Perhaps they'll try to negotiate a deal before the draft as they tried unsuccessfully last year but unless the Astros seriously up the ante, it's not going to be easy. Before the Adderall incident, scouts were split between Appel and Gray as to who was the best pitcher and I've heard the findings haven't really affected opinion all that much. Astros could potentially get a consensus player and a discount. It's a win-win considering their draft strategy.
- Cubs, Mark Appel, RHP: Stanford: Cubs will take Appel if he's there. He's the most complete pitcher in the draft with the highest floor, though his ceiling is not quite as high as Gray's. He has the ceiling of a #1 starter and some think he's ready to pitch in the big leagues now -- not that the Cubs will do that. He fits the Cubs profile best in every sense and he'd be the best player available in this situation.
- If the Astros take Appel, then I think the Cubs will take Kris Bryant now. It's a gut feeling and here's why...
- College bats are just better bets to make it and make an impact, as we discussed earlier in the day. Philosophically, Jason McLeod and the Cubs front office believe that all things being equal, you take the bat. They have also said, as many have pointed out here, that you can get pitching anywhere in the draft -- and history supports that.
- The Cubs seem more enamored with Mark Appel to me than the idea of a college pitcher in general. Compared with Appel, there's some risk with Gray, who lacks a track record and had some uncertainties raised because of his use of Adderall. Normally I don't think it's that big a deal and I don't think it's a huge deal for the Cubs from what I've heard, but it's not like Gray had established himself the way Appel did. I think it may affect him more than it would have affected Appel.
- Riding on that last note, Patrick Mooney published a piece just as I was writing this and he is saying that Bryant is in the mix as well. Here's an interesting quote, "The Mark Appels, the Colin Morans, the Kris Bryants, some of those names that you’ve heard, our scouts all have a history with those guys, dating back to the high school showcase circuit. So there’s comfort there in that we’ve watched the majority of these guys for the last four years.” Notice a name missing here? It may be a little thing but this pick is important to the Cubs and they're going to go with the guy they feel comfortable with and when it comes to the Cubs, that means a guy they have lots and lots of information on. To be fair, the Cubs did work hard compiling information on Gray all season as they had someone in attendance for every one of his starts, but it's interesting that those other 3 names were mentioned as players with whom the Cubs have a long history in light of how much the Cubs value information.
- The second interesting thing about that quote is the name that is included. And that is Colin Moran. Moran shares two important traits with Bryant:
- 1) He's a third baseman. The Cubs have said repeatedly that the 3B of the future is not necessarily in the organization right now. They have tried at different times to trade for young 3Bs such as Mike Olt, Nick Castellanos, and Lonnie Chisenhall while landing defensive stalwart Christian Villanueva.
- 2) He is a patient, disciplined hitter. There's no question that this is something the Cubs would like to fix in their organization and they're finding out just how difficult it is to transform aggressive hitters into selective ones, particularly at the majors and upper levels of the minors. I think on some level they realilze that they're going to have to bring in guys who already have the kind of approach that fits their philosophy.
- I think they'd also like to add power and Bryant has much more of it than Moran does right now. Moran has great size and should develop more power in time, but Bryant has it now. In fact, he probably has more present power than Moran will ever develop.
And since we're on the subject of Moran here are 2 reasons why the Cubs might like him better
- Some think Moran has the better chance to stick at 3B and that could be a factor because it adds value over a corner OF'er.
- Moran is also the more pure hitter -- a guy who walks a lot and does not strike out. He walked 60 times and struck out just 22 in 320 PAs. That's a Rony Torreyes-like 6.9% rate while also putting up an 18.75% walk rate. The walk rate for Moran is especially impressive when you consider he was part of a very good lineup, probably the best in college baseball. There is no pitching around him the way Bryant was sometimes pitched around at San Diego.
In the end, I do think the power potential wins out and they take Bryant over both Moran and Gray, but there are good reasons why all 3 are in the mix along with Appel.
Names to watch for with the Cubs 2nd Pick
Here's what I think. I think the Cubs will try and get power arms that they can mold this year. Shoot high and if you have a good fastball then the bullpen is still an option. I don't think the Cubs will pick arms like Kevin Ziomek or Brent Emmanuel only because they don't project much and will likely wind up as back of the rotation types if they start.
- Hunter Green, LHP, HS (KY): A projectable lefty that projects to 95 mph who shows an occasional good curve. I think there's a lot of upside here.
- Jason Hursh, RHP: Oklahoma State: One of the best arms in the draft, able to reach the high 90s but a slight build, unpolished secondaries, and TJ surgery on his resume will make him available in the second round.
- Matt Krook, LHP, HS (CA): Krook has had an uneven season but he has a great projectable frame and a fastball that sits 90-92 and touches 95.
- Andrew Mitchell, RHP, TCU: Mitchell can throw as hard as Hursh, but only when he comes out of the bullpen. As a starter, he's more in the 91-94 range but he also has a hard slider and a promising change.
- Hunter Harvey, RHP, HS (NC): Harvey has reached as high as 97 but his velo is inconsistent right now and secondaries are raw. Still, arms strength and bloodlines (son of Bryan Harvey) are there. Had some helium but seems to be falling again.
- Dillon Overton, Oklahoma, LHP: Once more highly regarded than Gray, a forearm strain and a drop in velocity has knocked him into the second round. He has reached 95 and works in the low 90s when he's healthy. He also features a hard slider. He's a rare power lefty when right.
- Cody Reed, LHP, NW Mississippi (CC): Reed has come out of nowhere and may lack the track record for a high 2nd round pick but he doesn't lack the stuff. He can bring it for a LHP (92-95 mph) and he has the potential for a plus curve.
- UPDATE: Chris Crawford tells me he thinks RHP Conner Jones is signable. Woohoo! I'd put him up there with Hunter Green as one of my second round arms. Good athlete with a heavy, low 90s two seamer and some room for projection.
- UPDATE 2: Southside B reminds me that Thomas Windle, LHP from Minnesota is also an intriguing possibility. Mixed opinions range from #2 starter to reliever. If the Cubs are among the former, then he becomes a possibility for them here as well. Windle has a low 90s heater that he drives down low into the strike zone -- a nice fit for Wrigley. He also has a slider which completely neutralizes LH hitters.
- UPDATE 3: I guess it should be said that Indiana State LHP Sean Manaea is an option, but I've got very mixed feelings on that kind of pick. Maybe I have Bobby Brownlie-itis but a former great arm who's free-falling because of injuries? It just makes me nervous.
If the Cubs play it more conservatively, they can look at more polished pitchers with solid fastballs but a slightly lower ceiling, i.e. mid-rotation types like Ryan Eades of LSU, Trevor Williams of ASU, Alex Balog of USF, Aaron Blair of Marshall, and Andrew Thurman of TCU.
A few of the names I hope are still on the board when the first day ends
These are all potential 3rd round picks on Friday.
- Trey Michaelewski, 3B, HS (OK): Kevin alerted me to this kid and he's rapidly become one of my favorites. Athletic with a good hit tool and power potential. He's the guy I want if Cubs go pitcher in the first round.
- Chris Okey, C, HS (FL): The Cubs are woefully short of catching prospects with starting potential and Okey would give them that kind of player. He may be the best backstop after the top 3 (Reese McGuire, Nick Ciuffo, and Jonathan Denney). Denney may fall to the 2nd round and become an option but Okey has a shot at being there in round 3. He's a solid athlete with a good bat, BA compares him to Jason Kendall.
- Jake Brentz, LHP, HS (MO): The hardest throwing LHP in the draft (some reports had him hitting 100 mph) but he's very raw. There's plenty of work to be done here but you can't teach arm strength. I think he's a decent risk at this point and the reward is intriguing.
- Ryan McMahon, 3B, HS (CA): Also athletic he's a good HS QB headed to USC, but also more raw than Michalewski. Has some power potential but I don't know if he'll be as good a hitter. There's a lot to work with here but he may have to be bought out of his commitment.
- Clinton Hollon, RHP HS (KY): Hollon was a first round prospect before the season started but elbow tendinitis ended that idea. Hollon can throw in the mid 90s and pairs it with a plus slider. He already has a head start on a change as well. He's a bright kid and a potential steal at this point.
It's worth noting that a couple of the guys mentioned in the second round section, notably Trevor Williams and Cody Reed, could easily slip into the 3rd round as well.
Next stop...the MLB Draft and some live blogging. Tomorrow we'll look at rounds 3-5.