At first glance, the Cubs two first rounders are as different as can be. On one hand you have a big RH power hitter who demolished college pitching and was far and away it's home run leader. On the other hand, you have a LHP who is not overpowering and relies more on his feel for the game.
But there is one thing both players have in common. They both have high floors and both are about a couple of years away from helping the big league team.
1st Round: Kris Bryant, 3B, San Diego
Yesterday we started getting rumblings that Kris Bryant was gaining ground in the Cubs war room. The belief here was that Mark Appel was their number one choice and the clear best player available. The Houston Astros apparently thought so as well, enough that they were willing to possibly sacrifice a bit of the bonus pool they had hoped to re-allocate for later draft picks.
The possibility that the Astros would take Appel started to become a reality late last night and we shifted gears in our draft primer yesterday to explore what the Cubs would do if Appel was taken.
Our conclusion was that given the uncertain track record of Jonathan Gray and the attrition of college pitchers in the pros, Bryant was the best selection. RH power isn't as rare as power front line starters, especially in the Cubs system, but Bryant gives the Cubs two things they desperately need: 1) A power hitter with plate discipline and 2) a bona fide future 3B prospect that could be ready as soon as late 2015.
But drafting #2 is not about need. It's about being the best player available and that is exactly what VP of Scouting Jason McLeod believes Bryant was. When asked why Braynt over Gray, McLeod responded,
"We felt the best player for the Cubs long term looking at those two players was Bryant."
Bryant immediately becomes one of the Cubs top 4 prospects and perhaps their best overall. He gives the Cubs a nice bookend to complement young 1B Anthony Rizzo.
Bryant's standout tool is power but he's not a one-tool guy. He has the athleticism and the plus arm to play 3B with the only obstacle being his tremendous size. The Cubs don't feel that will be a problem. He's an underrated hitter and some, like ESPN's Jim Bowden, rate him as an above average hitter -- a tool that will be exemplified by the kind of plate discipline and walk rates the Cubs are sorely lacking from top to bottom in their organization. But despite all the nice secondary tools, it's the 30-40 HR power that makes Bryant a potential all-star.
Here's a video from Bullpen Banter:
2nd Round: Rob Zastryzny, LHP, Missouri
With the Cubs 2nd round pick, they pulled a surprise by going with a college LHP but it wasn't Kevin Ziomek, Dillon Overton, or Thomas Windle. The Cubs passed up all those players to select the lesser known Rob Zastryzny of Missouri.
I was aware of Zastryzny but I missed him as a candidate for the Cubs because I believed they would go after a power arm. In some ways they did. According to Perfect Game's Kendall Rogers,
The Cubs take Missouri LHP Rob Zastryzny. That's a heck of a pick. He was incredible at the SEC tourney in front of scouts. Up to 95.
Cubs Den contributor Kevin Gallo said this about him,
Great pitchability. He will have an above-average FB and a plus change up. Johnson will help him with his CB. He is a project but could turn out to be something if he puts it together.
MLB.com described his fastball as 86-94 mph, able to subtract and add velocity as necessary. They also lauded his feel for pitching, command, and felt he had the chance to have 3 average pitches.
Baseball America had a similar appraisal of his fastball and called his change-up his best secondary pitch. They described him as having good control but needs to refine his command.
I was surprised and I had my mind set on another LHP -- the less polished but higher upside high school pitcher from Kentucky, Hunter Green. So at first I was a bit disappointed.
Having read some of the reports, especially the ones by Kevin and Kendall Rogers, I feel a bit better about it. The Cubs obviously wanted to be as sure as possible to get MLB help with their first two picks and Zastryzny's pitchability, control, and ability to change speeds gives him a chance to move through the system quickly. And perhaps his stuff can turn out to be better than advertised.