MLB Draft Notes: Talking it up and narrowing it down - My top 10 board for the Cubs

MLB Draft Notes: Talking it up and narrowing it down - My top 10 board for the Cubs

Lots of good draft stuff today...

Pre-draft Talk and Free Pizza

A reminder that we will be talking MLB Draft on Saturday, May 24th.  It will be at Pizza Serio in Chicago from 2 to 5 pm.  The format will be a little different for those of you who attended last time .  Don't worry, there will still be free food but in between (3-4 pm) there will be a formal Q&A session.  Guest panelists include...

  • Harry Pavilidis will be co-hosting, and there will be a panel with the usual BP suspects: Ken FunckMauricio Rubio from our Fantasy Staff (and Cubs Den, of course), and Jordan Gorosh from our Prospect Staff.
  • Bruce Miles (Cubs beat reporter for the Daily Herald since 1998)
  • Dayn Perry (CBS Sports/Eye on Baseball)
  • Sahadev Sharma (, Vine Line, and Bleacher Nation)
  • And me, John Arguello, (ChicagoNow/Cubs Den)

Here are the details from Baseball Prospectus.

Who is in and who is out on the draft

Sahadev Sharma has an interesting piece on the draft that adds some clarity.  The Cubs are out on Tyler Beede, something I was told as well a few days back, but I have still included him as an option because I had one holdout.   But even he is saying now that it won't happen.

He also rules out Kyle Freeland, no surprise there as I was told was a mid round pick with some teams thinking he may end up in the bullpen.

I was a little surprised at Brad Zimmer, who Sharma said is not under consideration.  I hadn't heard one way or the other on Zimmer specifically but the fact that he was a college hitter, lefty bat, and athletic made me think he fit the profile and would at least be under consideration.  But for a team to be sold on Zimmer, they must believe he can either play CF or develop power, and I have to presume the Cubs don't believe he can do one or both of those things, which lowers his ceiling significantly.  Because I don't have specific reason to believe the Cubs like Zimmer, I will defer to Sharma on this one and cross him off my board for now

Others out include FSU  RHP Luke Weaver (who may be more of a supplemental 1st or 2nd rounder these days) and hard-throwing Hartford LHP Sean Newcomb, who's iffy command and iffy competition make him a higher risk despite quality raw stuff.

As for who is in, it's the usual suspects:  Th obvious top 3 pitchers (Brady Aiken, Carlos Rodon, Tyler Kolek), SS Nick Gordon, and C, 3B, OF Alex Jackson -- and one surprise, hard-throwing but undersized LHP Brandon Finnegan.  He also says the Cubs are still in on productive LSU RHP Aaron Nola.

Sharma also does not rule out the best college hitter, corner OF Michael Conforto of Oregon State, or it's best power hitter, C/1B Kyle Schwarber of Indiana, though I am not crazy ab]out either player's defense.

I've been much higher on Gordon than Jackson, as you all know well by now, but Jackson continues to climb boards, as we will see in the next segment.  Still, I just can't shake the feeling the Cubs are blowing smoke when it comes to Jackson.  Finnegan's size, max effort, and shoulder soreness scares me and I think there are just too many risk factors at #4.  Nola is a sure thing but the upside isn't as high, but if they get him at underslot and go upside in the 2nd round, I can probably live with that.

Keith Law Mock: Rodon to Cubs

In what he calls a "dream scenario" for the Cubs, he has Carlos Rodon falling to #4 when the Marlins take Alex Jackson, with the Sox having a preference for Tyler Kolek. (ESPN Insider Only)

As for the Cubs, Law believes the Cubs love Brady Aiken and Rodon, like Kolek, and if they're all gone they will have to explore their options.  Those options go from the much-discussed to the more creative.

Law believes Alex Jackson, Michael Conforto, and Aaron Nola (among others that he does not mention)are still in the mix and the creative one here is a rumor that the Cubs will go completely off the board and select Kennesaw State C Max Pentecost and save a ton of money for later round picks.

Interesting thoughts, I know of at least one scout who believes there is a good chance that Rodon falls to the Cubs and the idea of going off the board with Nola (slightly), Conforto, or Pentecost and saving money for later is at least plausible, though it seems like a Plan C move to me right now.

Putting it altogether:  My board

The constant here between Sharma, Law, and my own info is that the Cubs will go with go with one of the top 3 pitchers if available.  That really shouldn't surprise anyone.

Nick Gordon appears to be the biggest possibility if the Cubs go upside, though Law doesn't mention him specifically.  Both Law and Sharma say that Alex Jackson is in play while I have reason to believe they might be blowing smoke there.  However, the possibility of Jackson certainly still exists.  There is no doubt he is the highest upside hitter in a draft in which the top 3 pitchers may not be around.

All three of us have brought up Aaron Nola and Michael Conforto as possibilities, though both Sharma and I see the latter as very unlikely, while Law doesn't specify as to likelihood.

Wildcards are the Finnegan and Pentecost scenarios, though I'm strangely more comfortable going with the Pentecost underslot scenario.  His ability to stick at catcher raises his floor and he looks like he will hit, though perhaps not for power.

Anyway, this is my first official board with 3 weeks remaining before the draft...

  1. Brady Aiken
  2. Carlos Rodon
  3. Tyler Kolek
  4. Nick Gordon
  5. Aaron Nola (if underslot)
  6. Alex Jackson
  7. Max Pentecost (if significant underslot)
  8. Brandon Finnegan
  9. Michael Conforto
  10. Kyle Schwarber

One thing we can read between the lines here is that the fact that Conforto, Schwarber, and even Pentecost are being considered (and Zimmer is not) indicates that the Cubs have a clear preference for safer, more established, more polished hitters this early in the draft.  That would seem to cast a little doubt on Gordon as far as I'm concerned.  There has been some doubt among some with regard to his hit tool,  though some believe he will hit in time.  I don't know enough about him to say how they feel about him as a hitter.  Jackson, on the other hand, clearly has the superior hit tool but there are doubts about him as well, most notably his ultimate defensive value.

The underslot scenario appeals to me more than in past years because there may not be a clear cut pick at #4 if the top 3 are gone, especially since there is so much high ceiling pitching talent available in the 2nd round, including the possibility that Jeff Hoffman (very unlikely) or Erick Fedde (more likely) are available in round two.  If the Cubs have any doubts about Gordon or Jackson, then I would prefer the Cubs take this route for this draft.



Filed under: 2014 MLB Draft



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  • I like the idea of going underslot at 4 if the big 3 are gone. That makes a lot of sense.

  • In reply to Ike03:

    I am starti[ng to feel that way as well.

  • The Hoffman injury has really put a downer on the draft talk for me. Two weeks ago the Cubs looked like they would be drafting their top pitching prospect and now it looks more like a prep bat.

    I prefer Gordon over Jackson, but Gordon's bat still scares me. But Dan Kirby told me he thinks Gordon could be a superstar and Chris Crawford said he liked Gordon more than he did Lindor in 2011, and they both know waaaay more than me on this stuff.

    I was just really hoping for a high upside arm, which is why I'm disappointed Beede and Hoffman are both out of the conversation.

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Would you preferred that the Cubs drafted Hoffman before his TJS?

  • I sure hope one of the top3 falls to the Cubs but I would not be all that upset if they took Nola (if underslot). I have seen him pitch a few times and he looks the part of a 3/4 guy in rotation. If he turned into a Mike Leake type that is a pretty decent value at #4. I am intrigued by Jackson but less so since he likely won't stay at catcher. I am leary of Gordon because of hit tool concerns. I am not feeling Finnegan or either of the college hitters.
    Thanks for the informative article!

  • In reply to Tide23:

    Thanks Tide. The idea of Nola has grown on me given the uncertainty in this draft due to the pitching injuries (Hoffman, Fedde) and the lack of a sure thing hitter. Never would have said this 2 months ago, but I wouldn't be terribly disappointed at all if the Cubs took Nola and then went for upside the next few rounds.

    Another thing about that low arm slot -- it's generally viewed as a negative, but pitchers with lower arm slots tend to have fewer arm issues.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Maybe Nola or Gordon (Could Gordon go under slot?) with an eye at a college pitcher like Imhof in the 2nd?

  • In reply to Cub Fan Dan:

    Gordon won't go underslot because the Twins love him at #5. Maybe Nola, but he won't go too far under. He will go top 10.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Even if the Twins love Gordon at #5 the slot difference is $4,621,200 at #4 vs. $3,851,000 at #5 = $770,200 which isn't peanuts. You could offer him 1/2 a million under slot, and still be 200K+ over the Twins. Not saying it will happen, but the slot difference definitely comes into play.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Gordon isn't hurting for money He won't be in a rush to sign. Plus the Twins can pay up to almost 4.2M. At the very least I find it hard to believe he will be highly motivated to sign early, which defeats the purpose.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    He's definitely not hurting for money, but I also heard with his dad as his agent, that he was just looking for a fair deal. I see your point though.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I take fair deal to mean slot deal.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    i told Moody a week ago the Cubs were on LSU campus the day after Hoffmas injury was announced , i told people dont be suprised if Cubs go Nola if big 3 gone

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    To be fair, the Cubs scout a lot of players -- including all 10 on my list and many more beyond that, and that is just for the first pick.

    However, given the way the draft has shaken down, I'd be fine with Nola if they can save a bit of money and then go higher ceiling in the second round.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    BP, in one of its semi-regular features, reports what scouts are saying on various players. One scout quoted in today's installment was talking about how Nola could/should be considered for 1.1, given all the other concerns that 1-3 have and how his stuff plays up given his tremendous control.

    It was literally the first time I was excited about Nola as a prospect, but I feel a bit like a windsock lately depending on the flavor of the week that is being touted.

  • In reply to JB88:

    Ha! It feels that way, which is why this is easily the most fun draft to cover since Theo got here. Nola makes some sense, you will get a big league starter and maybe you can save a little money.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Who is representing, err, I mean advising, Nola?

  • In reply to JB88:

    I don't know.

    Arm slot still scares me on Nola. You just don't see any starters that pitch that way.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I'd think it was more "fun" if the Cubs had the #3 pick.

  • In reply to TheThinBlueLine:

    Ha! Good point.

    This is more fun in the way a suspenseful mystery is fun. Let's just hope it has a good ending.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    maybe because Hoffman, maybe because Draft getting close but my guy told me since last week very increased Cubs presence and a few face to faces . My guy is in athletic dept at LSU , had been normal scouting of games from stands before that . Maybe due diligence maybe more no way for me to find out more .

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I would agree that they probably stepped it up on Nola of late. Would be interested to know if the big guns were there (If not Theo and Jed, then maybe Jason and Jaron?) -- that would really be telling.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Dont be surprised if Nola is the pick, make up is off the charts too, Catholic HS teammates love him , team guy , same make up as Almora . Just a winner who WILL BE if stays healthy , like all pitchers lol a 2-4 in rotation glue guy grinder who will just win . There is a reason i have been on this kid like i was month before the draft on Almora ifou remember . Cubs need winners and Nola is a winner

  • Let's hope one of the top three teams picking take a hitter instead of a pitcher allowing one of the top 3 pitchers to slide to us. It's not out of the question that the Marlins take a hitter given the depth of pitching throughout their organization.

  • In reply to Pepitone8:

    Law says they've spent more time scouting hitters.

  • Great article as always John, I just think if they are going to look for an under slot deal why wouldn't they just go with Hoffman. He shouldn't have nearly as much leverage as most Juniors ,and he still has the upside plus greater floor than most plus he would set us up for over slot deals later in the draft.

  • In reply to billisham:

    Hoffman is too much risk at #4. Lots of good high risk pitchers for 2nd round -- so you want to get a safe guy up top, You don't want to get stuck with a reliever draft.

  • Gordon can also pitch. Is that of any value here?

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Raises his floor a little.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    I think Aiken is out for sure and I don't see Kolek getting by the Marlins and the Sox. I think our one chance at a the big three is Rodon. My pick is Gordon. The scouts have been raving about his defense and we know he has a great arm. His added strength has improved his hit tool and his speed makes him a top of the order hitter which we desperately need. If he is considered better than Lindor, who is a stud, I want Gordon. Castro to 2B and Baez to 3B, if they all stay.

  • In reply to Bilbo161:

    Gordon can pitch like Junior Lake can pitch.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    No he has pitched in HS.

  • In reply to WickitCub:

    And he is pretty good at it too. Would have been drafted in an early round as a pitcher too

  • Great article as usual John, if Rondon falls to the Cubs, they will run to the podium. You can forget about the Whitesox taking him, as long as Reinsdorf still has a jihad against Boras. I will wound up being very pleased with the Cubs selection, I have complete faith

  • In reply to Steve Flores:

    Maybe this is a litmus test for Reinsdorf's, err, um MLB's new CBA and they take a Boras client this time.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    LOL, you are right John. This would be the litmus test for Mr. Reinsdorf.

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    Does he want to pitch?

  • In reply to Phil James:

    I think he'd do it, but teams really like hims as a SS right now.

  • I really like Conforto and don't understand why he doesn't get more love. If they truly value OBP…why not get the guy with the best OBP in college who’s also a vocal leader and spark plug? To me, if you had a lineup with Baez, Bryant and Soler in it don't you need at least one table setter? That's a lot of high strikeout rates in the lineup.

    And if he’s “one of the safest picks in the draft” why not draft him, too? The rebuild is so slow they can’t afford to mess up the #4 pick in the draft. Plus, as a college guy he’ll come faster and they need to get things turned around…yesterday!!!

  • In reply to Deacon:

    They might on an underslot, but he's a terrible fielder -- at least when I saw him about a year ago. Looked like a DH playing the OF.

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    I'm becoming a big fan of Gordon if the 3 pitchers are gone. Hearing that the Twins love him (assuming that isn't a smokescreen) only increases that since they very rarely make mistakes.

  • Assuming the top 3 are not there, I'd like to see the cubs go underslot with Hoffman at 4. Ideally a trade would have been made for a CB pick before the draft and we can really stack up with quality arms.

  • John -- you mention Nola as an underslot possibility, would Finnegan be underslot as well? I believe Finnegan and Nola are around the same spot in most mock drafts (with Nola going higher in some).

    If we get Finnegan and his potential upside (he appears to be a #2 upside, I think) with underslot signing, I'd prefer that to Nola.

  • In reply to springs:

    Possibly. Finnegan is higher risk but higher ceiling. For me it is too much risk on such a small, max effort pitcher

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    The under slot scenario makes a lot of sense.for the Cubs in my opinion. This is a very deep draft in terms of pitching. There will still be a lot of high upside arms available over the next 5 to 10 rounds. I like Nola's floor a lot in this scenario. I also like Conforto's and Pentecost's floor as well. All three should be available for well under slot, and all three would fill a need within the system.

  • One potential advantage of Nola is that he is (I believe) expected to be a fast mover. While he may have a #3 ceiling, the idea of him pitching at Wrigley by 2016, when the Cubs (hopefully) will be contending may well have value by allowing them to divert resources elsewhere.

  • In reply to CubsFanInNorway:

    Agreed. There is still a lot of value in a #3 that you control for 6 years.

  • I have wanted Cubs to draft Beede for a long time now, so this is a bit of a bummer for me, but I understand it. This quote from the BN piece is key...
    "it appears the Cubs were never too high on Beede, despite his hot start to the season. His lack of command, which was a major issue last summer, has popped up once again, with one source describing it as “borderline yips,” making his selection at four very unlikely."

    I wanted Beede for the Cubs because of the obvious reasons, i.e. his size, athleticism, projection, velocity, stuff (3 plus pitches), his connection to DJ, etc, etc. but that was all based on the hope that the Cubs believed they could "fix" whatever was causing Beede to go off track randomly and lose his release point and along with it his control.

    Based on that quote, if the Cubs believe that Beede's problem is the "yips", i.e. Rink Ankiel Disease" then they SHOULD pass on Beede. You don't take a guy unless you believe the organization can help him reach his projection.

  • Only thing I dislike about Nola is there isn't a great amount of upside but he is likely to contribute to the MLB team fairly quickly. I'm not sure who I prefer Jackson or Gordon. I've been a fan of Jackson's but Gordon at least hits left handed

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    In reply to Javier Bryant:

    Here is something to keep in mind. We were saying the same things about Wacha this time last year.

  • In reply to Michael Caldwell:

    yea except Nola also has a breaking ball , Wacha still doesn't , granted he has a tick or two on the FB on Nola

  • Sorry if this was Nola's mechanics raise any alarm bells? The picture I've seen makes it look like he's really thin with a 3/4 delivery.

  • In reply to Deacon:

    Yes -- and I would call that less than a 3/4 delivery.

  • If the Cubs do go underslot with the 4th pick then it would make it even more worth their while to get the #35 pick from the Rockies in a Samardzija trade...and the 35th picj also comes with $1,614,500 of slot money. Butler, 35th pick, and Herrera or McMahon for Samardzija, and a reliever. Boom, everybody gets what they want.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    I like your thinking Dawg , Nola and Butler would hit the show about the same time , plus the pick slot cash and Herrera a real ice bat . Plus still have the 2nd rd pick too

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I would be ecstatic if they did this, Cubs would have the 4th, 35th, and 45th picks in this very deep pitching draft. Also Theo/Jed would once again jump the deadline market early before other pitchers might come on the market. It would give the Rockies Shark's services for a few more starts as well, and since they got the 35th pick for free from the competitive balance lottery, they might feel like they are not giving up as much.

  • With Rodon's lack of command and Kolek's lack of secondaries, I have to think one of the top 3 teams will decide that there is enough questions with these guys that they would feel better about taking an underslot guy and spreading out the money through the draft rather than pinning their hopes to one of them. I feel comfortable that one of the top 3 pitchers will be available to the Cubs. If not, then the Cubs are going to be the team with the opportunity to go underslot and grab Nola. Either scenario is just fine with me.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Very possible.

  • In reply to mjvz:

    Do we expect prep pitchers to have secondaries? Seems like it be better if they didn't. Less chance of arm abuse.

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    I'm praying for Law's scenario, because otherwise I'm really torn.

    Really, I'm leaning toward Pentecost if it all goes awry, but the excitement disparity between Rodon and Pentecost is pretty ridiculous.

  • In reply to Giffmo:

    Ha! To say the least! But if they get Pentecost and say, Fedde, well, maybe that's not too bad.

  • I'm surprised their is not even a peep of Grant Holmes.

  • In reply to Ghost Dawg:

    Me too. Cubs have always said they'll only take prep pitcher if he is elite, they must think he's a good notch below Aiken and Kolek.

  • Assuming the top 3 pitchers are all gone, I'm extremely sold on Nola slightly underslot. If we were drafting at 6, I would be ecstatic about the possibility of Nola. So move up two spots and it's Nola+cash to get someone who shouldn't have dropped to our second pick (Fedde, etc.)? High floor, quick mover, plus command, plus pitchability, devastating change-up. To me it sounds eerily like Wacha with a 91-93 mph fastball rather than 96.

  • Since this is all fantasy at this point, how's about we stock up on strong LHP and go: 1.4 - Rodon, 2.4 - Imhof, 3.4 - Wetzler?

  • I'm late to the party today. Here is what I am wondering, should the Cubs look to play a hard line on the under slot at #4? For example, we draft Gordon, and offer significantly under slot for that pick. If he declines, then we have the #4 pick in the next draft and can spend way over slot with the rest of our picks. That would look like we would be getting two very high draft picks in 2015. Not sure what the class looks like, but it may be a good move.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    In your scenario if Gordon declines the Cubs would get the #5 pick in the 2015 draft. Therefore, they could have the #1 and #5 pick in 2015.

    If you do not sign your #1 pick you cannot use that money on other players in that draft.

    SideNote: Tyler Kolek brother is probably going to be available in 2015.

  • In reply to KC Cubs Fan:

    If they didn't sign their #4 pick, they lose the money for that slot.
    Keep hearing about drafting an underslot player to use the money later.
    Who are these players they could draft later and entice to sign? And why would they not be drafted higher anyway?

  • Guys like Hoffman, Fedde, or Manaea last year. Guys who would have been in the top 10 who have had surgery in the current season or missed time due to injury.

  • How do these scouts/experts know what the Cubs are thinking? Aren't Theo/Jed/Jason keeping their cards close enough to their vest?

  • In reply to John57:

    Cubs people aren't going to divulge what they don't want to divulge. Whatever you hear from Cubs people is strictly what they want you to hear. Not that it's false but they will only give you stuff that won't compromise their draft day plans.

    Industry chatter abounds and some of it is useful, some of it isn't but nothing happens in a vacuum here. People talk, people hear things -- or they notice a strong consistent presence from one team.

  • In reply to John57:

    Another thing to keep in mind is that, unlike in the NFL or NBA drafts, there's no trading until you get to the competitive balance picks.

    So being coy or putting out false information when you have an early pick isn't all that necessary, because teams can't move in front of you to grab they guy you wanted. And a team isn't going to hear the Cubs really like Alex Jackson and then say,"You know what? Let's pass on our guy and take the guy the Cubs like."

    Sure, there may be some small, small benefit to keep the teams behind you guessing, hoping they make a mistake with their pick. But the reality is these guys are scenario planning and have their boards set up in case guys get taken.

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    Not a fan of the under slot concept. I know the draft is deep in arms, but the most impact talent we'll see will be at #4.

    I'll mirror the majority here. Rooting for one of the arms to fall in our lap. If not, I'm hoping for Gordon. Jackson would be much more appealing if he would stick behind the plate or hit left handed.
    Hoffman still goes in the middle/late first round.
    But Fedde may very well be there. I'd happily gamble on that second round pick.

    Nola's scouting report reminds me of Sonny Grey. A safe bet, high floor guy. Grey surpassed early expectations. Could Nola do the same?
    He fits the timeline well. Especially if there's room to grow into a #2.

  • That's a good list, John. You know what? I really like Conforto. Granted, Four is a reach but there's also a decent chance that he has the best career on the list. For me, if you hit .400 for a career in the PAC-12, ACC, or SEC, which is at times close to AA in a lot of scouts' eyes, you're allowed to play a mediocre to sub par left field.

    Also a little surprised to hear that about Zimmer. I would have to assume the power is the hang up. Guys like DeJesus and Sweeney, even though they aren't the ideal prototypes, play CF in the big leagues just fine. I feel sure Zimmer could be solid average out there.

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    It will be depressing if the Cubs take a prep player because it doesn't affect the product on the field in the next three or four years and so many of those guys flame out. I would like to see a pick, especially a pitcher, who can help put a winner on the field by 2017.

    I agree that Rodon is the Cubs' dream scenario. Honestly, it's hard to get excited at this point about anybody outside those top three pitchers in terms of guys who have really high ceilings.

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