I have had a good night of sleep and have had time to think this over. The Cubs surprised us by going with 2 potential underslots in Kyle Schwarber and Jake Stinnett.
But should we really have been surprised?
Maybe underslot is the wrong word here. Maybe the right word is undervalued. The draft gets caught up in certain players and certain types of players at the top. We become obsessed with ceilings and finding the next Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper.
But the draft can be about value too. Last year while everyone fawned over Mark Appel and Jon Gray and their potential to be classic power pitching aces, the Cubs focused on Kris Bryant, who for awhile somehow managed to quietly mash HRs seemingly everyday at the University of San Diego. Appel has struggled while Gray has been inconsistent, nobody doubts who would be the first pick in the draft if there was to be a do-over.
But guys slip through all the time because they don't fit the mold. Why draft a guy with a below average slider high? Why draft a high school kid from a cold weather state who doesn't play year round? Why draft a big-bodied kid who can mash but hasn't taken to catching? Why take a college senior with underdeveloped secondaries?
This year the focus was on 3 more power pitchers: Brady Aiken, Tyler Kolek, and Carlos Rodon. And while Kyle Schwarber may not become a superstar on the level of Michael Wacha and Mike Trout, who is to say he won't be a star in his own right? Both Trout and Wacha slipped into the 20s because they didn't fit the mold. It seems crazy to think now that each wasn't rated as the best player in their class. It seems crazy now that teams passed on them to take high ceiling guys like Donovan Tate or Tyler Matzek (2009) or Courtney Hawkins and yes, Mark Appel again (2012).
In a world where guys go according to rankings based on what players "should" be, maybe Kyle Schwarber should have gone in the 20s. But maybe the Cubs just cut through the nonsense and ignored the mold -- and just picked the best player available, and in so doing capitalize on what might be a draft inefficiency -- instead of getting the guy with the best tools and widest range of skills, maybe you should just get the best baseball player. The Cardinals seem to have caught on to that -- they did it with Wacha and now they ignored the rankings and picked Luke Weaver, whom some thought might slip into the 3rd round, and picked him at #27 overall. One scout told me he thought Weaver had top 10 talent.
Get the best ballplayer. Now that is a novel idea, isn't it?
It extends to the second round as well where the Cubs picked a kid with great size (6'4", 215 lbs), a great fastball (mid 90s, touches 97), plus to plus-plus command, and success at the collegiate level. So why not the first round? Well, again, he doesn't fit the mold. Jake Stinnett is a college senior whose slider is average and has never really had to throw a change-up. He lacks experience as a pitcher. But the low miles (new to pitching, started as a closer) could be seen as an advantage in an era where pitchers break down like used up Edsels.
And as Derek Johnson told us a while back, get me an athletic guy who can throw and we can teach him skills. Stinnett can already locate his fastball with precision and though the slider is average, he can locate that as well.
Don Olsen, who is a former scout with oodles of experience, tweeted to me early today about Stinnett. Here is what he had to say,
Stinnett is a great choice. He must hone that last pitch, but command and vigor in his game should push him quickly. At worst he could provide value in the bullpen next season...floor is 4A and swing, but I could see 3-5 rotation w/ developed break. Depth on break and change are both average at best, but can spot fastball. Good 3-5 type in NL. Solid pick.
Mike Ferrin of SiriusXM MLB Network Radio -- and a very knowledgeable baseball mind - chimed in as well,
I think there’s a number 3 ceiling there. I like the breaking ball command. Change needs lots of work. Hasn’t needed it. Low miles is a great point. Full time pitcher for 2 years only. Lots of people see conversion, even at college level, and instantly think reliever.
That last line is a great way to end this piece - people see a certain type and instantly cast him in a certain role. It is where mistakes are made as sometimes organizations get caught up on what players should be and forget about the guys who are already good ballplayers who still have room to grow.
Let's not think of this as underslot, though that will be a nice benefit to all of this as the draft unfolds. This was about getting players that were vastly undervalued because they didn't fit a certain mold. Players like Michael Wacha and Mike Trout have rewarded their teams for being clever enough to see through the old stereotypes.
This year the Cubs felt the 2nd best player in the draft was Kyle Schwarber, and they weren't about to let him slide into the 20's where he "belonged" just so they could take somebody else's version of what great player should look like. They weren't about to let another team take Schwarber later and look like the geniuses.
Filed under: 2014 MLB Draft