Look for the minor league recap tomorrow morning as I received some interesting info, both from public and private sources that I wanted to share.
In what looks like a 3 player draft with 3 potential top of the rotation arms, the Cubs are in an interesting spot. There are a number of scenarios that could play out here.
Scenario #1: A top 3 pitcher drops to the Cubs:
If Alex Jackson or Nick Gordon goes in the first 3 picks, which is not out of the question, it means the Cubs will get one of the top 3 arms, Either Tyler Kolek or Carlos Rodon is possible. One scout has been insisting for a while now that Rodon will be available for the Cubs at #4 while another isn't as confident but sees the scenario as plausible.
In this scenario, the Cubs will almost certainly take the pitcher that falls to them.
Scenario #2: The BPA after the top 3 -- it may not be who you think...
This is the best player available scenario with all 3 pitchers gone and every indication I have gotten is that the Cubs believe that player is Nick Gordon. Our recent poll suggested that fans prefer Alex Jackson but my information suggests the Cubs may like Nick Gordon better. It makes sense philosophically as he is the better athlete and a middle of the field player, who has enough bat to move to 2B or CF if necessary. Most importantly he has an excellent chance of staying at SS, where his offense is a potential asset from the left side. Even in the worst case scenario, he can be a hard-throwing bullpen arm. He has a better floor than Jackson or any other high school position player in this draft. He's the guy if they go upside/BPA outside of the top 3 arms.
Scenario #3: The underslot deal:
This is really gaining traction because there really isn't a clear cut guy outside the top 3, especially for the Cubs, who prefer high floor/lower risk collegiate players -- particularly hitters.
The problem is that this is not a good year for college hitters. The best all-around player, Bradley Zimmer, may be a tweener. The best hitter, Max Conforto, is a LF'er only and may not develop the power for the position. The best power hitter, Kyle Schwarber, will likely end up at 1B.
The fast riser right now is Kennesaw catcher Max Pentecost and he is looking like he'll go top 10. In fact, no less than Theo Epstein went to see him today, per Jim Callis while Jed Hoyer, Jason McLeod, and Jaron Madison apparently went out to see him a couple of weeks ago according to Kiley McDaniel of Scout.com. Obviously they had a positive report to have sent Theo out to see him.
Both VPs & the SD in 2 weeks ago. 6th on my board RT @jimcallisMLB Max Pentecost keeps rising; Cubs prez Theo Epstein checked him out today.
Now this is interesting. He checks a lot of boxes for this front office:
- Premium, middle of the field position? Check. Pentecost figures to stick at catcher and be a solid defender.
- Good athlete? Check. He's quick for a catcher, both on the bases and behind the plate, where he has a quick release and moves well to block pitches.
- College hitter? Check.
- Good hit tool? Check, Pentecost grades out as an above average hitter with average power. He is ending the season on a 36 game (as of this writing") hitting streak and is batting .426/.479/.634 with 8 HRs.
- Good approach? Check. Pentecost has a patient, disciplined approach, walking in nearly 9% of his PAs and the ability to take the ball to RF.
I like his swing. He's pretty quiet up there with a smooth line drive swing, generating good bat speed. He transfers his weight well though he doesn't have that explosion when he rotates, which is why he'll probably hit for solid average but be an average power hitter. One scout I talked to liked the swing but felt he dragged his back foot a little. If there is another drawback, it's the quality of competition he has faced, though he has played well when matched up against bigger schools.
Pentecost doesn't have Gordon's upside but he is a safer bet and like Gordon plays a premium position. One key if the Cubs are close between the two is that Pentecost plays a position of need in the organization. You don't draft for need, but if you take the high floor and the high probability into account with the fact that he already shows the kind of approach and hit tool the front office likes, his position may be enough to help tip the scales.
What is additionally appealing about this scenario is that Pentecost may sign for well underslot, giving the Cubs a lot of pool money to work with later in the draft. You play to the strengths of the draft and after the big 3, the strength of the draft is the sheer volume of high ceiling power arms that will be available in the second round.
Here are 10 that I like...
- Jake Bukauskus is a first round talent who will drop because of a strong commitment to Virginia. He was in the 96-100 mph range, grading out with a potentially better fastball than Tyler Kolek. Keith Law has him at a 75 and Kolek at a 70.
- Sean Reid-Foley is a good all-around pitcher who has a #3 ceiling if he develops his change-up.
- Justus Sheffield isn't a fireballer but he is solid to good across the board with the potential for very good command and great pitchability.
- Dylan Cease impressed me at the UA game because of his tremendous arm speed that generated some of the best velocity that day. He has hit as high as 97 with the potential for a plus curveball. Command is an issue.
- Michael Kopesch is another guy who really impressed me at the UA game. Excellent size and prjectability with the potential for a plus-plus fastball and a plus curve. Mechanics need work so he may drop.
- Matt Imhof is a lefty with tremendous size at 6'5, 220, a plus FB and a plus slider. Command needs work.
- David Peterson is another big LH pitcher (6'6") who projects well, though his stuff is average at best right now. Has potential for a plus fastball.
- Luke Weaver is a Tim Hudson type who can hit 97 despite his slender 6'2" frame and has a very good feel for pitching. One scout I talked to him preferred him over Aaron Nola. Should move quickly.
- Cameron Varga generated some buzz this summer. Ideal pitching frame and a FB with plus potential and two other above average to plus pitches (curve, change).
- Kodi Medeiros is another southpaw with a plus fastball that he generates from a smaller 6'0", 170 lbs but his best pitch is a wipeout slider that may be the best one from the left side in this draft (Ron Guidry, anyone?). Like Nola, a concern is an unusually low arm slot but potentially has plus stuff across the board with good feel and solid command.
- There are more, of course, and we'll be ready with info no matter who the Cubs draft in the 2nd round.
I think the Cubs still prefer one of the top 3 arms but if one is not available, the vibe I'm getting is the choice may come down to Nick Gordon vs, Max Pentecost on a significant underslot deal.
One more reminder to join us at Pizza Serio in Chicago on Saturday from 2 to 5 pm where Baseball Prospectus will treat everyone to free pizza and have a Q and A session on the draft. I will be on that panel along with some sharp baseball minds.
Should be fun.
Filed under: 2014 MLB Draft