MLB Draft Update: With pitcher injury concerns, will Cubs take familiar route?

MLB Draft Update: With pitcher injury concerns, will Cubs take familiar route?

Another Top 10 pitching prospect went down and this time it was one of our favorite sleepers here -- Nevada RHP Erick Fedde.

While it is doubtful the Cubs would have picked Fedde this high, he was a fast riser this season and is the second big name pitcher to undergo TJ surgery.

I can't say that I'm all that surprised.  The same scout who told me he was worried about Jeff Hoffman also expressed concerns about Fedde's delivery -- and they are not the only ones.

You have Carlos Rodon, who has taken on a big workload for his entire collegiate career and had some high pitch counts recently.  LHP Brandon Finnegan reportedly had some shoulder soreness, though there doesn't seem to be a great deal of concern there.  And you always have to worry about prep pitchers who throw so hard early in their amateur career, such as Tyler Kolek.

The Cubs are suddenly sitting in a very interesting position.  The consensus top 3 players are pitchers: Roden, Kolek, and Brady Aiken.  The Cubs have the 4th pick. We do know they'll take the Best Player Available.

"You're buying careers, you're not buying seasons," Hoyer said in distinguishing the philosophies of major league baseball and the NFL. "You want to find the guy whose career you're going to feel very good about. It doesn't mean you have certain things you look for, like certain fits.

"When you start drafting for need in baseball, given the fact these players aren't going to be here for a few years, you can make a lot of mistakes."

But is that BPA at #4 going to be a pitcher? If one of the top 3 fall to the Cubs, I think they still have to take that chance unless there is some hard evidence for concern.

The Cubs may well get a crack at the best position player in the draft and then, for the 3rd straight year, attack pitching with volume.  It makes sense that with the sudden increase in risk when it comes to pitchers, that you may be best off stocking up on pitchers and safeguard for injury attrition rather than make a major "all your eggs in one pitching basket" investment at such a premium pick -- especially if you don't believe that top of the rotation guy isn't going to be there.

All pitchers expected to be available at #4 have their shortcomings.  Finnegan is shorter than you would like.  There just aren't a lot of 5'11" pitchers who have had long careers as starters in the modern era. Beede has the size, stuff, and athleticism you want, but command is the concern  Nola is also not particularly big and lacks the ceiling of the previous, but he's a safe bet to be a #4, maybe a #3 -- but can't you get a pitcher with that kind of upside later in the draft?  Is it worth a 4th pick?  Grant Holmes is also intriguing but the Cubs have said for them to pick a prep pitcher this high, he has to be a "once in a generation talent".  Does the consensus 3rd best prep arm in the draft fit that description?  I doubt it, though there are some teams out there that like him better than Kolek.  He is definitely the most well-rounded.

There is plenty of talent available in the 2nd round.  It's loaded with high ceiling pitching talent.  We listed 5 college arms and 5 high school pitchers who could interest the Cubs in the 2nd round and the draft is deep enough where the Cubs can once again focus heavily on pitchers in rounds 2-10.

If you're not going to get a shot at a pitcher you think can be a top of the rotation starter at #4, maybe the best route is to stock up later as they have the previous two years.  By all means if the BPA is a pitcher, take him -- but there is absolutely no reason for the Cubs to reach for a pitcher with that kind of premium pick.

For me, the BPA outside of the top 3 is prep SS Nick Gordon (4th overall on Keith Law's list).  Alex Jackson may also fit that description for many teams, including the Cubs.  He wouldn't be my choice but an argument could be made that he has the best bat speed and best overall position player in the draft.

A couple hitters who may interest the Cubs in the college ranks are Bradley Zimmer (ranked 5th overall by Law) and Michael Conforto.  We've talked about Zimmer as an all-around, athletic player with a good chance to stick in CF.  If there is a concern, it's that his in-game power lags behind his batting practice power.  If the Cubs can think he can bridge that gap, then he's an interesting alternative to Gordon given the Cubs preference for college bats.  Conforto is a great pure hitter and a safe to do so as a pro, but the fact that he is a leftfielder only puts a lot of burden on that bat -- and he may not have the big power you like at that position.

If it were me, I'd go Nick Gordon at #4 and go for a pitcher like one of the pitchers on the lists linked above.  I'd also be thrilled to get Luke Weaver in the 2nd round if he lasts that long.  I liked Weaver when I got to see him pitch for Team USA and one scout compares him to Tim Hudson because of his slighter build, stuff, and athleticism.

Filed under: 2014 MLB Draft


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  • I agree with you on taking the high upside high school position player. If the top 3 stays the same it makes more sense to go with a high upside bat than to take a pitcher with subpar command (Beede) or with limited upside (Nola)
    I don't follow highschool baseball so not as familiar with Gordon and Jackson but trust the cubs scouting to choose the guy they think is best.
    Thanks for the article

  • In reply to Tide23:

    I think that's the way to go at this point-- some good arms will be available after the first round.

  • Apparently there is no Kris Bryant out there, so 'the boys' will probably look for a high floor position player on a number one pick.

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    What happened to Trea Turner?
    Seemed like there was a lot of talk about him over the winter, but now he seems to have dropped off the map.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    Still a first rounder but doubts about the bat and he is not a lock to stay at SS.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Thanks John.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    but...but...but! What of or about this review from I get to see a lot of him from here in Raleigh NC

  • My guess is they go position player, whether that be Gordon or Jackson. Also, didn't the Cubs draft Zimmer out of high school? I know that was the previous regime, but still interesting.

  • I think Gordon is a nice option, I think someone on twitter said he is over Lindor at this point in their careers so that is high praise...he is also that middle of the diamond type player the FO likes. He will not be sexy and avg fans (and all of the local media) will be up in arms he does not pitch but in the long run he could have huge value.

    I was wondering, would you (John) pass on Rodon over concerns and cost, or would you pick him if there at 4?

  • In reply to DoubleM:

    Not John, but you pick Rodon at 4 if he is there. He is a legit TOR and Lefty. I don't think there is much of a chance the Cubs would pass on him if he were there. If any of the top 3 pitchers are there I doubt the Cubs pass

  • In reply to DoubleM:

    I like Gordon, but I would not pass Rodon up at 4.

  • This draft is starting to worry me. It's the only thing I look forward to anymore as a Cubs fan. It seems to be the worst year possible for the Cubs to have the 4th pick. Maybe I don't know enough about Gordon, but him or Jackson just don't excite me like Almora and Bryant did prior to the draft. I hope they have a shot at one of the top 3 pitchers, but that seems less likely as we get closer to the draft.

  • Nice article. John! Very well reasoned out and it makes total sense as these pitchers keep dropping out with TJ issues.

    My pick at #4 would be Brady Aiken (LHP), but I seriously doubt he will still be there at #4.

    Nick Gordon sounds intriguing for sure, tho I don't know a lot about him. Maybe the next Mike Trout is out there waiting for us somewhere.

  • In reply to DetroitCubFan:

    Thanks - and I like the fact that there are so many good pitchers who are expected to be available in the 2nd to 4th rounds -- and even beyond that.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John: I went back and reviewed that previous article on the 5 college/5 high school arms. Missing from that list is a 6'6" 230 pound senior from Baldwinsville(NY) High School named Scott Blewett. Blewett is listed anywhere from the top 30-top 60 in many of the respected baseball publications-and caught scouts attention after his national showcase performance this past summer. I had the opportunity to see him in person last week, and came away impressed. This kid flat out looks the part of a big league pitcher-and scouts from all over the country flocked to the game to see him pitch. He reportedly hit as high as 94 with his fastball-have you heard much about him from your scout contacts? He's a fellow upstate NYer-so not in the spotlight year-round like a Holmes or Kopech, but this kid could surprise.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    John: I went back and reviewed that article regarding the 5 college/5 high school arms. What about Scott Blewett from Baldwinsville High School right here in Upstate NY? 6'6" 230 pounder who caught scouts attention over the summer. He has been listed anywhere from top 30-60 in several prospect rankings with a fastball that has hit 94 mph. I had a chance to watch him pitch last week-this kid has the poise and presence of a major league pitcher-scouts flocked to the game from as far as California to watch him pitch 5 innings of 2 hit ball. Have you received any feedback on Blewett from your scouting contacts?

  • I would say that if the top 3 arms go in the top 3 picks and the Cubs are stuck in a no-man's-land situation at #4, this might be a good opportunity to forget about the "but is he good enough for the 1.4 pick?" question and take someone who they can sign well below slot value to be able to spread the savings around to sign high-upside pitching in volume in the later rounds.

  • In reply to MKE cubs:

    I just read an article on ( -- sub. required) that essentially said same thing. He mentioned a tier of 15 or so players that could lump together and the Cubs could choose their favorite and offer him below slot. Article also mentions still a chance Hoffman goes at #4 and White Sox being "tough to peg" and GM Hahn was at Beede's last start. I will be curious to see how it all plays out.

  • John, obviously a complete guess, but do you have any idea how much it would cost if we did select Gordon at 1.4. I think i remember reading in one of your articles he said he is willing to sign underslot.

  • One plus for Nick Gordon is that he could convert to pitcher if his bat fails to play in pro ball. He's not worthy of being selected 1-4 as a pitcher, but it's an argument in his favor if the alternative is Jackson.

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    I have a great idea, we should raft the BPA regardless of position only with the intention of trading him for Jose Fernandez when the Marlins have the fire sale after their 3rd World Series Championship.

    I want one of the big 3 pitchers but I would happily settle with Gordon. I just do not think it is possible to trade prospects for prospects. Texas was not able to do it with Profar and the only example I can think of was Rizzo for Cashner. With the Rizzo trade it was clearly an example of a FO going after "their" guy but I think that is the exception. Please let me know what you guys think.

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    F*cking White Sox sweep.

  • Well, there's still a chance Fedde and Hoffman get picked early, just not early in the first round, maybe late first or early second round, like Manaea or something...

    So, there's a chance Luke Weaver falls into the 2nd round... I like Nick Gordon for the first round, but I wouldn't be surprised if the Cubs picked Alex Jackson either... Even if he's projected to move to 1B... They can keep him as a catcher for as long as possible and eventually he could become a trade chip... Depending on the catching situation by then.

    This is one of the most uncertain and bizarre draft classes I've seen recently... In 2012, it was no surprise that the Cubs picked Almora, they were linked to Almora, Correa and Max Fried... In 2013, almost everybody knew that the Cubs would pick between Gray, Appel and Bryant... So, between Gray and Bryant and considering Gray had some minor issues with a pill he was taking, Bryant came as no surprise.

    But this year, I just have no idea...

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    In reply to Caps:

    For some reason, for the last month or so I've had the creeping suspicion that it will be Aiken.

  • In reply to Mike Partipilo:

    That's if he even makes it to the Cubs lol... With all these guys going down...

  • In reply to Caps:

    I think Hoffman will. Not sure about Fedde.

  • Over 500 pitchers have had Tommy John surgery.

    You basically have to assume now that your are going to lose every pitcher for two years at some point in their career. You need one year to recover from the surgery and one year to get back to form.

    The Blue Jays have the # 9 and #11 pick in the first round.
    If I'm them I consider taking Hoffman with the #11 pick.

  • The history of HS pitchers is poor. Recently over 70% of Rule 4 draftees are from college. ML teams are following the Moneyball philosophy. I looked back at the 2009 draft when 7 HS pitchers were chosen in the first round, the highest number in history. Only 1 of those is currently in the bigs and he is a very marginal reliever.

    Think about it. When a HS coach gets a high end pitcher, its almost a certainty he'll be overworked. Pitch counts in the 150 are common. Add in occasional relief appearances and you have an accident waiting to happen.

    The Cubs would do well to draft a collegian, preferably a pitcher who grades to be at least a #2 starter. If we want young prospects our best chances are in the international arena.

  • In reply to tharr:

    In 2009 I see Wheeler, Turner, Miller, and Skaggs. Tanner Scheppers and Aaron Crowe may have been come out of high school too. So by my math that's more than one "marginal" reliever currently in the bigs

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    Even though I really want one of those top three pitchers, it wouldn't be the end of the world to get the best bat in the draft. I like Jackson's power, track record, and possible chance to stick at catcher but I like Gordon's lefty bat, speed, and backup option as a pitcher. My personal preference is Jackson but I'd be happy with Gordon as well. Great article

  • Aaron Nola threw a complete game 4 hit shutout today. 9 Ks, retired the first 15 batters in order.

  • Sometimes you have to start looking at results, and Nola has that. He's a 3 or 4?? Why? He has dominated like no other pitcher the past 2 years in college. Whoever gets him after the cubs could be a steak. If he has another couple of starts like today, I hope the cubs start to think about taking him.

  • In reply to DeuceBaseman:

    You make a great point DueceBase. I have heard the concerns surrounding Nola's arm slot, durability and ceiling-but all the guy seems to do is go out every Friday night and win. He has succeeded in arguably the most talented and intense conference in the country. Do I think the Cubs take him at # 4? No, but some team will grab him 5-7 and he probably ends up being the type of guy Hoyer describes in the above article.

  • In reply to Upstate NY Cubs Fan:

    I think the question on Nola is how much can he still improve from where he is at. Another way to put that is, how projectable is he? If scouts believe he can add a two ticks to his FB while maintaining his command of it, or improve one of his secondaries, then he might be more than a 3/4.

    But the mere fact that he is performing well against good college hitters doesn't mean a whole lot. Most, if not all of those guys will never be big leaguers. Scouts are left trying to figure out how good he will likely be against major league quality hitters. That is far from an exact science and they can certainly be wrong, but if they don't see a lot of projection/potential improvement in his game, that may explain why is ceiling is pegged at 3 right now with a floor of a 4 or 5.

  • Great stuff, John! I've become a huge Matt Imhof fan after seeing a nice little chunk of his work this year. He's going to win games in the big leagues.

  • How things can change in a short period of time. About a month ago, I was confident that the Cubs worst-case scenario was picking between Hoffman and Beede at #4; with Derek Johnson's ties to Beede and Vandy being the deal breaker. Then Hoffman goes down, and Beede had the chance to solidify his status at the top of the draft-on national television this past Thursday no less. Although Beede gave up only one run, he walked six and didn't look like a top 5 overall pick-even being out pitched by the young kid from Florida. I was really pulling for him on what may ultimately be looked back upon as the defining moment of him solidifying his draft stock(in the wrong direction). I am hoping either Aiken, Kolek or Rodon are still available at #4, the byproduct of one of the top 3 throwing the national viewers a curve on June 5. I am wondering if Rodon's less than outstanding season; coupled with some high pitch counts and the presence of Scott Boras-might allow him to drop to the Cubs if the Astros/Marlins go with Aiken/Kolek-and the Sox want no part of the dark agent. Just haven't warmed to the thought of Jackson or Gordon after months of excitement about so much top level SP talent at the top of this draft...

  • I would be pleased with either Jackson or Gordon as well. Jackson, the Cubs will just keep piling on the power bats and Gordon is left handed, top of the order guy which the organization doesn't have much of. Like John mentioned, he could always be traded for pitching like Didi Gregorius was

  • The Cubs could very well have the #1 or #2 pick in the 2015 draft at this point. Take the best position player and attack pitching with volume, then hopefully take a top pitcher in 2015

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    Cubs future:
    Rizzo 1-4, K
    Castro 1-3, BB
    Olt 0-3, 2K
    Baez 0-4, 3K
    Bryant 2-5, HR, BB, 2K
    Soler 1-5, 2K
    Almora 1-4, 2K

    Overall: .214 average, 40% K rate

    All things considered the rebuild has had better nights.

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    unfortunately worse ones too

    What happened to Almora? He is still not hitting but now he is striking out more.

    I am worried about Baez as well. His team in Iowa is playing against failed uber-prospect Jeremy Hermedia. Let's hope Javy does better.

  • In reply to Daniel Rosenberg:

    Certainly reasons for concern at the moment. But for me, these two guys are just dudes that are two years too young for their leagues facing a level of competition they've never seen before that have each missed some time in this young season due to minor injuries (and in the case of Almora rained out games as well). If they're still struggling like this a month from now, I'll be concerned.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    Bruno, Bryant & Andreoli will be ready for promotions soon.
    I like the following corresponding moves: Alcantera to CHI & Valbuena back to super utility, Jackson gone, Vitters to CHI (we need to move or release Barney & Schierholtz). I know it may be a few weeks but I hope these moves are coming.

    I have always liked Bruno when you hit .362 each of your 1st 2 years then after return from injuries you hit .180, to now be at .320 with the .420 OBP he can flat out hit. Kris Bryant leads AA in most offensive categories, I think he is ready to be challenged again and play some outfield (maybe if he is in Iowa he might rub off on Baez and get him going as well).

  • In reply to bleachercreature:

    Alcantara and Vitters are not ready now. Vitters may never be ready.

  • John, how good are Beedes mechanics? Does he just need to tweek his delivery a bit or is it a reach at #4?

  • In reply to CubsBuck22:

    He's athletic and his mechanics are better to me than Hoffman's were. Might be a bit of a reach at this point-- but not if you think the command is fixable.

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    In reply to CubsBuck22:

    I'm not John, but I did stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night. Seriously though, and I think John and Mike Moody, who has personally seen a lot of Beede, will agree that mechanics aren't Beede's problem. He doesn't always maintain his release point, and that is what ultimately costs him command. His problems seem more mental to me.

    I'm very conflicted about this first round pick. I could see going with Gordon in the first round. He rates going in the top 5. Then you have the bloodlines. He hits left-handed, which is a need. He plays SS, which means he can be moved anywhere, as long as he hits, and finally, that arm is a cannon. If he doesn't hit, he could be moved to the mound, but I can't help but think about Verlander when I think of Beede.

    Justin Verlander was flat out dominant his first two years at Old Dominion. Then he sort of fell off his Junior season. It wasn't a bad year, but it didn't rise to what scouts were expecting, given his first two seasons. A lot of people were down on him. Detroit took him anyways, and the rest is history.

    There is no doubt that Beede has disappointed this season, but there also is no reason to think that upside is no longer there. Stuff is stuff, and he has it. He is also, like Verlander, sound mechanically. To me, Beede represents the high ceiling/high floor combo that the Cubs want, and unlike Rodon, his arm doesn't have near the miles. At worst, he is a 3, and he could well end up a 1.

    There is something else to be said for Beede. This front office knows him. He grew up in their back yard in Massachusetts, and he was the 21st overall pick in 2011 by the Blue Jays. They also have Derek Johnson's inside knowledge of him. This is a front office that puts a lot of weight in how well they personally know a player. That may lead them to pull the trigger on him anyways.

  • "At worst, he is a 3, and he could well end up a 1."

    I agree with you on the ceiling, but if he can't maintain his release point and walks 6 batters a start, like last time out, his floor is that he won't ever make the majors.

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