This is going to be a draft heavy few days and our major league stuff will focus on the game previews and recaps while we will still do the minor league recaps for prospect fans.
But onwards with the draft news, which keeps pouring in...
There has been increased speculation that the Astros may indeed take Mark Appel after all, which would leave the Cubs with a tougher choice than what many of us expected just a few days ago. Previously it was close to a slam dunk that they would take Gray, but now the chances that the Cubs opt for Bryant have increased to some degree.
Today ESPN's Jim Bowden wrote that the Astros should take Kris Bryant and stated his reason as the reliability of college bats. We've often linked a study by the blog Puckett's Pond that asserted the same thing. You can look up the exact figures at this link, but the gist is that college hitters are 10% more likely to make the majors, 12% more likely to make it within 3 years, and 3X as likely to be a player with a career WAR of 20 or more.
Bowden's analysis is much more anecdotal, but the point is the same.
As part of our last piece, we linked some pieces and took some polls. 2 out of every 3 readers would not take Manaea if he's there 2nd round, but the other poll was closer so we'll continue it here. But first we'll talk a bit more about what the pros and cons are if the Astros take Mark Appel.
We can start with 100 reasons, as in the mph on his fastball. Power pitchers of this caliber are rare, especially so in the Cubs system. In fact, Gray would easily be the Cubs top pitching prospect if the Cubs were to select him.
The ability to obtain elite level pitching through means other than the draft is becoming increasingly difficult. It's a simple case of supply vs. demand. Opportunities to obtain young, ace level pitchers are becoming increasingly scarce, whether that's through free agency or trades. That makes the acquisition of such pitchers extremely expensive in terms of dollars and/or players.
Gray has front line stuff. The consensus is that his fastball rates an 80 on the scouting scale and that his slider is at least a 70. That's two plus-plus pitches. He also currently has an average change-up and average command, with obvious room to grow in both those areas. The upside is huge.
There is also the money factor. Gray is rumored to be willing to take less money than the other top 3 picks and this helps mitigate the risk somewhat by allowing the Cubs to spread that money over more potential impact talents in the later rounds. What they lose in terms of higher risk can be made up for to some degree by selecting a tough sign or two that slips, a safety in numbers approach much like the Astros took last year.
There is some risk here. The most recent concern has been his use of Adderall but that doesn't seem to concern scouts much, at least not publicly. I agree too that it probably had little to do with his pure stuff and ability. However...
There's also the concern over Gray's physical conditioning, which was lacking before this season. Could his weight loss have to do with his use of Adderall -- and if so, can he maintain his physical conditioning without it?
It's an important question because Gray's better conditioning resulted in better stamina and the ability to maintain high 90s velocity late into games. It's that ability to maintain velocity which helped cement his status as a starting pitcher and a potential ace-level starter.
The Adderall also is thought to improve mental focus and energy, both of which can also help Gray, especially late in games.
It should also be noted that there was always the question of track record with Gray. He was considered a late first round pick before the season started and this year he has vaulted up the charts to a potential top 2 pick. Considering the risk of taking any pitcher, that risk is increased without a solid track record, such as the one that exists with the draft's other top college arm, Mark Appel.
Kris Bryant has his own "80" tool, and that is power. It's his standout tool but by no means his only one. Bryant is a solid athlete with a good arm who has improved his defense at 3B. Even if he doesn't stick there, he could be a very good corner outfielder.
But the bat is the reason you take Bryant. Not only does he have 30-40 HR potential, but he's a very patient hitter -- a trait that is sorely lacking in the Cubs organization. Given the front offices desire to increase the plate discipline in the system from top to bottom, Bryant is a nice fit without being a "need" reach. He's a legit top 3 pick.
And while we talk about how rare top power pitchers are in baseball, we can say something similar about the scarcity of RH power hitters in the game. The Cubs have such prospects in their system, most notably Jorge Soler and Javier Baez, but Bryant increases the odds that the Cubs will eventually graduate a middle of the order power hitter to the majors to complement the LH hitting Anthony Rizzo. And if they wind up with 2 or 3 such hitters, will anybody really complain? At the very least it gives them tremendous assets with which to make trades.
There is also the track record of college hitters succeeding and having an impact in the majors, which as noted earlier, is much more reliable than college pitching, especially when it comes to high impact level.
For what it's worth and just to show you that Kevin isn't the only one with a man crush, Bowden gushes over Bryant in his scouting report. He grades him as a 70 power hitter and a slightly above average hitter at 55. He has no questions about his bat speed, saying he has turned around 95-97 mphs, which if true, negates many of the concern about the level of competition. He calls him an elite level talent who is the complete package and a better hitter at the same stage than his own all-star 3B pick of a few years back, Ryan Zimmerman. He also believes he can stay at 3B and has room to improve. His report is very similar to Kevin's.
While most seem to think Bryant has the skills to stay at 3B, he's a big kid and there's always the concern that he'll outgrow the position as he continues to mature physically. This is similar to a concern I've heard from Jim Callis of BA. Callis feels, as we do, that if he does need to move, that is somewhat mitigated by his solid athleticism and his ability to play a quality outfield if needed. He probably won't need to move to 1B, at least not until later in his career.
There are always mixed opinions on his hit tool. Most think he'll have an average hit tool, which is to say he'll hit around .270. Others, such as Keith Law, grade him lower, a 45 on the 20-80 scale and thinks he could dip into the .250s or even .240s. To be fair, Law is the only one I've seen with this low a grade on his hit tool, but it needs to be mentioned as an opinion that counters the consensus.
Filed under: MLB Draft