There is another area in which the Cubs and Sox are competing but it is off the field -- the MLB Draft. The Sox have the edge, picking 3rd while the Cubs pick 4th. And that edge just became a little bigger now that a major injury has occured.
Projected top 5 pick and top of the rotation talent Jeff Hoffman will have Tommy John surgery.
To be honest, I spoke to a veteran scout who called this one a couple months ago. He didn't like his delivery and called Hoffman "an injury waiting to happen" -- and if you've noticed me leaning toward Tyler Beede for the 4th pick, that is a major reason why. I have tremendous confidence in this particular scout.
That leaves 4 top pitchers at the top of the draft: Beede, LHP Carlos Rodon, and prep arms Tyler Kolek and LHP Brady Aiken.
The word I'm hearing is that the Sox are leaning college arm and really liked Hoffman, but that is off the table now.
So what now?
Well, there's still Beede and some think Carlos Rodon will fall, particularly if the Astros don't take him first. The Marlins are thought to be enamored with Tyler Kolek.
One potential issue for the White Sox is that their long term nemesis, Scott Boras, represents Rodon. In the past, you could have bet the farm that they would have passed, but the environment is different now. Picks have slotted amounts and the White Sox could try and squeeze Boras with the added leverage. You could also view this as an opportunity for the Sox to try and renew their relationship with Boras by negotiating in earnest -- and to be prepared to offer the full-slot plus the overage.
But the Sox have other interests. They could go with high school slugger Alex Jackson, who fits their offensive philosophy well. The fact that Jackson may be able to play 3B has to have added appeal for them. Jackson, however, is expected to use Boras as an advisor.
They could also be creative and take Aaron Nola, who many view as a sure thing, sign him for under slot and use the money to select some of the high end talent that will be available in the second round. Nola lacks the upside of Rodon and Beede, but he is polished and will reach the majors quickly -- and that is always a consideration with the White Sox, who are looking for a quick turnaround rather than a longer rebuilding process.
As for the Cubs, I suspect they'll be waiting to see which one (or two) of the top 4 pitchers become available to them. Boras is not an issue as the Cubs have picked a Boras client in the first round the last two years (Albert Almora and Kris Bryant). They're also known to like Beede and with Hoffman off the table, there is no longer the question of who they like better.
And while the Cubs have always preferred college players when possible, they have been scouting both Aiken and Kolek extensively in recent weeks, so we should not be surprised if they go the high school route for the second time in two years. Both pitchers are more than worthy of the #4 pick and have high enough floors in addition to their TOR ceiling to make the Cubs comfortable investing such a high pick.
A couple of wildcards for both teams are rising SS Nick Gordon, who is beginning to dispel fears about his hit tool and is the kind of middle of the field athlete both teams like and Erick Fedde, who has arguably had the best year of all the top starters other than Nola (8-2, 1.76 ERA, 21 walks/82 strikeouts in 76.2 innings) -- and has the arm and projectability to match the top 4. I suspect teams at the top will begin to look a lot harder at the tall, lanky RHP from UNLV. Fedde would also be a candidate for a below slot deal.
One thing is certain, an uncertain draft just got a bit more foggy and both the Sox and the Cubs are under the gun to get this pick right.
Filed under: 2014 MLB Draft