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Cubs MLB Draft Update: And then there were 4

Cubs MLB Draft Update: And then there were 4

Edited and updated: 1:00 PM

Kevin and I have talked about this draft on a regular basis and we are both still at sea when it comes to projecting the Cubs pick.  Carrie Muskat tweets that the Cubs are down to 4 players.

One thing we know for sure is that the Cubs will go with the best player available.  Patrick Mooney wondered if it might be a pitcher, but Epstein was quick to respond that it is about the BPA -- and the way the Cubs rate BPA isn't purely on ceiling, it is based on the player with the highest ceiling who has the best chance to make an impact.  In other words, floor plays a big role with the Cubs pick,

“Maybe (the Cubs will take a pitcher),” team president Theo Epstein said. “If he’s the best player with the best combination of upside and certainty. But he has to be the best bet.”

VP of Scouting and Development Jason McLeod said something similar when it comes to taking a pitcher -- and they certainly don't seem inclined to take a player just because he might be able to help this year.

“I don’t think so.  If the position player is the right guy, then we’re going to take him. It’s just a different draft because of some of the injuries. I think there are going to be some picks go off the board that maybe we wouldn’t have thought (would) happen. And someone’s going to probably be there that we didn’t think would be there for us. We’ll figure that out in the next two weeks.”

And that is what has made this draft interesting -- the injuries.  Brady Aiken and Mike Matuella were expected by some to go 1-2 in the draft.  Now it seems both will be hoping to slip into the first round.  McLeod did say the Cubs would talk about Aiken, but I am not convinced, simply because he is not the best bet with a reasonably high floor.

"Best bet" usually means college hitter but the best college bat, Alex Bregman, is not going to slip to the Cubs.  Neither is Dansby Swanson, a good fielding SS whose bat picked up this season.  Ian Happ is a great bat, perhaps the best college bat along with Bregman, but lack of defined position hurts him, but he should at least be available, which makes him more interesting.

That leaves late riser Andrew Benintendi and Mooney adds a new name to the mix: Donnie Dewees of the University of North Florida.  Here is what is interesting about Dewees --  according to Keith Law (subscription required), some scouts believe he is the most polished hitter in the draft and that Oakland believes he is a Brett Gardner type.  With the Cubs looking for a long term leadoff hitter, Dewees makes some sense.  That he hits LH doesn't hurt either.  One concern with Dewees is that he missed the 2014 season with a broken wrist but he has come back strong this season.

Benintendi also hits lefty and has more power than Dewees but the hit tool isn't quite as refined and he has only recently burst upon the scene.  Those two things make me a little less sure the Cubs will pick Benintendi despite some of the recent buzz.

Ian Happ may have the best pure college bat in the draft and has a high floor, which makes him an obvious candidate for the Cubs.  The question is where he plays.  I think the Cubs would prefer a guy who can at least possibly play CF but Happ is likely a LFer, where his power is short for the position.

Another polished college bat is SS Kevin Newman of Arizona but he is not a toolsy guy in any other respect.  There isn't much power, the defense is good enough to stick at SS, but he is probably not going to be plus there, and he is an average runner.  A nice little player, especially for a team lacking middle infielders, but he may not be the best fit for what the Cubs at this point.

High school arms are the very definition of risk, so I'd be surprised if the Cubs took one at #9, so I am going to rule out Mike Nikorak or any other prep pitcher, though we could see Cubs go that route in Round 2 and beyond as they have in the past.

If the Cubs take a pitcher, it will almost certainly be a college arm.  Dillon Tate won't be there and it is looking less and less likely that Carson Fullmer, whom the Cubs like, will be their either.  He may, in fact, be the top player on the Sox board at #8 barring a player falling to them unexpectedly.

University of Illinois LHP Tyler Jay is a local favorite but two things tell me the Cubs aren't going to pick him: 1) Lack of track record as a starter and 2) McLeod's statement that the Cubs are not looking for guys who might help this year, which Jay might be able to do out of the bullpen.

RHP John Harris of Missouri St. got some late buzz and some think he could go as high as 5 while others think he'll drop out of the top 10.  There's a good floor here and some projection left in his lean, 6'4" frame.  I don't think there is enough floor here.  There is work to do mechanically, the aforementioned projection and uncertainty that it brings, and he hasn't consistently fared well against top competition.

The Cubs have also been seen scouting UCLA RHP James Kaprielian, presumably as an underslot since there isn't a lot of upside.  I think of this as more due diligence than smoke because there really is no threat of anyone picking him in the top 8 anyway, so the Cubs could safely show their hand here.  He has the same kind of size as Harris but not as projectable -- but there is a higher floor, a better track record, and the possibility he signs underslot.

That leaves Walker Buehler packs a lot of ability into a small package and were it not for his size, might be considered the most well-rounded arm in this year's draft.  Durability questions will follow him until he proves it at the MLB level, much as they have with Carl Edwards.  But like Edwards, he has a nice, clean athletic delivery and he doesn't require max effort to generate mid 90s velocity.  At worst, he is a reliever, but given the athleticism, arm speed, polish, and command, I think he has a better shot to stick as a starter than most pitchers his size.  There is also the proven track record against top-flight competition.

If the Cubs go the high school route, it will be for a hitter and there are a few with established track records.  Garrett Whitley fits the profile of a potential CF'er with an advanced approach at the plate, but the hit tool isn't as pure as some of the others we will talk about here.  The track record isn't quite as long either.

One player with a long track record is Daz Cameron.  He is a potential all-star in CF and is very different at the plate as his father, who had a long swing, struck out a lot and hit for some power.  Cameron is more of a short-stroke, contact guy, with good level plane to his swing.  He should hit for average and perhaps some power, but probably not a 20 HR type.  I don't think Cameron makes it to the Cubs, but it wouldn't surprise me if he was on their list as a "just in case things fall the right way" guy.

Kyle Tucker is well established and has one of the sweetest LH strokes in the draft.  He is almost certainly going to play in a corner, though RF is in play because of his strong arm.  He is more of a line drive hitter with a patient approach, ala Billy McKinney, then he is a power guy at this point.

Trenton Clark can hit.  He has pretty much done that his whole life and I like the potential to hit for some power because his swing path involves some loft.  Some believe he can stick in CF despite slightly above average speed and if so, he will go top 10 somewhere,  maybe even top 5.  There is also the question if his unorthodox grip but the long track record of hitting -- including against top competition -- allays much of that concern.  He also has the grind it out approach the Cubs prefer.  He has a good instinct for hitting but he also has the bat speed to turn around good velo -- which, if you have followed me over the years, you know that is the first thing I look for.

That is my long list...but what about the short-list?  I am not sure I can narrow it down to 4 like the Cubs have.  I obviously don't have anywhere near the same information.  But here is my short list of players that I believe have a good chance to be available.

  • Walker Buehler, RHP, Vanderbilt
  • Trenton Clark, CF, HS (TX)
  • Donnie Dewees, CF, U of North Florida*
  • Andrew Benintendi, CF, Arkansas

Wildcards for each category...

  • HS Hitter: Daz Cameron, who could certainly fit that Cubs BPA definition quite nicely.  He may slide because of bonus demands and I think the Cubs might just kick the tires and get a feel for his signability if he does.
  • College Hitter: Ian Happ's floor makes him a potential surprise pick.  His ability to switch-hit appeals as well.  The problem is a log jam of LFers where Billy McKinney, Kyle Schwarber, and others have a shot to land.  And depth at a corner spot for a guy with no power may not have enough value if the Cubs decide to stick a veteran or one of their other prospects there ahead of him.  If I thought he had any chance to play in the middle of the field, I'd put him in the top 4, but that lack of defensive certainty lowers his floor just enough for me.
  • College Pitcher: James Kaprielian.  I think the Cubs can get a mid-rotation pitcher with a better floor than Harris plus more money to spend elsewhere.  I don't think they'd take him over Buehler if they went pitcher.
  • High School Pitcher: Mike Nikorak, though I am pretty much writing off he HS arm possibility in general for the first round.

*Dewees is a great underslot candidate as is Benintendi, so the Cubs could play those two off of each other and take the best deal with Dewees more likely to agree.  Benintendi is a draft eligible sophomore, so he has leverage -- and he projects to go higher than Dewees overall.

I also want to note that "chance to play CF" is greater at Wrigley than it might be for other parks, which could factor in the decision to choose hit tool over pure CF skills.  None of these players are as sure a bet to stick in CF as Whitley or Cameron, but at Wrigley they may play just fine.

Filed under: 2015 MLB Draft

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  • You don't believe Aiken will fall to #9 or do you think that he will slip past & go late 1st round/early 2nd?

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I think everyone is scared of Aikens medicals and unless they can spend some time reviewing that with the medical staff (and IDK if it's being shared with the MLB) then they view him as too risky for a high pick.

    Sucks for Aiken. He's losing a lot of $$$ over this. Also sucks because it may exonerate HOU somewhat with the way they handled his signing after taking him #1 overall.

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    May exonerate Houston? What more exoneration would you need. they saw a potential medical problem, made what in retrospect was a reasonable adjustment, and when refused, were proved to be right.

    Houston was extremely stupid when they made commitments to Nix that they could not fulfil. But their dealings with Aiken were above board and appropriate.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    No, they handled the whole thing wrong. They went over and re-negged on the deals with Aiken and another.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    I still give Aiken an outside shot. I believe it's a long shot, but this a draft of ceilings and big bombs.

  • In reply to KGallo:

    Ok. Do you think he might slip even further...? Maybe to Cubs 2nd pick or he gets picked well before that?

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    He doesn't make it out of the 1st round

  • I’ve been fortunate enough to see Dewees a handful of times this spring @ UNF. Both officiating and as a fan. He's not the type to jump out at you "getting off the bus" as in your description of Eloy Jiminez in the Minors recap. He just strikes me as gamer or grinder type. I never saw anything that screamed top ten pick to me, like was so obvious with Rodgers each time I saw him. But what do I know? He just seems like one of those kids where his sum total is greater than the parts. I say that because none of the tools stood out to me. He is fast, that is his best tool. But I didn't see an incredibly strong or accurate arm. But it was good enough. They bounced him around between CF & RF. Not sure if scouts think he'll stick at CF.

    He kind of reminds me of Brett Jackson. Except B-Jax is better, bigger, stronger, more athletic, etc... I say that, knowing they're nothing alike. Except that neither possessed a tool that jumped out at you, but the sum total looked like it'd play at the next level. Still, I never even thought of him as a 1st rounder, much less a top ten pick. But our FO knows a lot more than I do so...

  • In reply to HoosierDaddy:

    I'd also add that I don't think the wrist is an issue as he fared quite well in the Cape immediately afterwards and then this Spring as well so he obviously fully recovered.

  • You said three things I agree with after studying the video on the players. 1) I like Tate the best but he won't be there meaning I really love Beuhler. I see him as a starter and has 3 plus pitches--easy mid 90's gas, wicked slider, and nasty diving change. He mechanics are athletic and repeatable. Love his lower half/upper half separation created making the ball jump out of his hand. 2) Benintendi is in play and I would point out he was the HS Player of the Year so I think his track record is very good. I see him as a Lenny Dykstra with more power. Dewees concerns me just from a competitive standpoint. I think of him like Rickie Weeks who never fulfilled the hitting prowess projected coming from a small college. 3) Cameron vs. Whitley is a no contest. I would no way take Whitley. I hate his swing. And the video shows lazy flys to RF and a lot of ground outs to SS. Where is his production? Cameron looks and swings like a ballplayer which we would expect given his pedigree. I see a little loft in his swing and would be excited if he was there at 9 just to give our FO players to have a good discussion about.

    Lastly I have a weird feeling Aiken may be the guy. I think when they review their scores from last year, he may be too good to pass.

    Great article John!!!

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    In reply to rbrucato:

    I agree with pretty much everything you just said, including the Benintendi-Dykstra comp. I thought the same thing, Dykstra with more power. Same kind of explosive player.

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    Or do you think that a lot of this is smoke screen and now that they have such young team already starting, that its time to maybe take a chance on one of these injured pictures that are good. Could you tell a bit about how its suspected these guys will come back? Are they all just a total loss??

  • This is sort of weird... I see 1 of Hoosier's replies on the right hand side of my screen under "recent comments" on the home page, but when I come here to respond, it's not here yet... But anyway, I understand they need to look at the medicals. But John doesn't even have him listed as 1 of the possible picks. And then I re-read the article & I see that he has him slipping in at least round 1. But I still wonder if he may even slip farther, maybe to the Cubs 2nd pick....

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    The Dodgers will take him.

  • In reply to Milk Stout:

    Kevin is more optimistic that Aiken is on the radar than I am. I think they just had to say something vague because it was directly addressed.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    Id take Daz Cameron, if he could promise me hed bring his dads record for making playoff teams with him. Whatever else one could say about Mike Cameron, he always seemed to play on winners.

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    9th pick in the second and giddy up. Might be a good value pick. What are the chances of that in your opinion?

  • In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    Would be great, but somebody snatches him no later than supplemental, imo

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    In reply to John Arguello:

    Indeed very likely. I can dream. Cameron and Aiken 1/2 would be an unlikely scenario, but MY dream scenario.

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    In reply to Johnny Hatelak:

    That pitcher from University of Illinois got be there and a home state kid St.louis does that a lot

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    I remember John wrote an article right after Aiken had his TJ surgery, and the article was talking about how Aiken could come back stronger with his new UCL. Is that possibility no longer the case because most mocks have Aiken in the late first round?

  • In reply to gas34:

    I think there are just too many concerns about the anatomy of his elbow. If it were a normal elbow, I'd say yes, but too many unknowns.

  • Great stuff, as always. Curious, why wasn't Ian Happ included? Based on everything I've read, seems like the type of guy Cubs would have some interest in.

  • In reply to Juiceboxjerry:

    Thank you. Total oversight. He was in my notes and in fact is one of my favorite college bats. Added him in.

  • A name not mentioned is high school catcher Tyler Stephenson. I have read that he is quickly rising up the boards. Any chance at all the Cubs pick him?

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    In reply to TD40:

    I haven't seen him connected with the Cubs at all, but if it were me -- I'd have more interest in him than some of those HS OF's (Whitley, Clark etc) that I've seen Cubs connected with.

  • Draft a hitter then overspend on their 2-5 picks on pitchers
    unless another good hitter is there. Also overspend in the
    international market

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    In reply to emartinezjr:

    I am confident they will make a splash on the international market. In some ways I consider that similar to the draft a couple years later. This would be a draft we could be looking at Jiminez and Torrez. We basically got 2 extra first round picks.

  • Yeesh, I missed a few things from my notes. Updated now. Mostly typos but biggest omission was Ian Happ.

  • Are any of these guys Scott Boras clients? If so, I'd like to shy away. We have enough of those. Also, is Buehler a TOR type? Unless there is a TOR available at 9, I think they go bat with the pick.

  • In reply to Holy Cattle:

    Probably more of a 2. Maybe an Oswalt type.

  • Who are some realistic pitchers that could drop to us in the second round ala guys like Ashe Russell that I could do some research on.

  • Drafting Happ would possibly make Alcantara a more viable trading option. Happ , a switch hitter, has played 2nd, 3rd, RF, And LF.

  • In reply to Chicago Aces:

    I don't think he can play IF at the MLB level, maybe not even the minor league level.

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    My guess is that one of the four is an insane good fortune pick -- like Aiken was on their list last year. That would probably be Bregman (if things work out absolutely perfectly it's conceivable he could drop). Similarly 2 are probably the guys they want to fall and a fourth that's a "Well, if all our top choices are gone."

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    In reply to Mike Moody:

    One other point: Schwarber came absolutely out of nowhere last year and, if we hadn't had Kevin with some inside knowledge on this, we probably would have bought into the "Cubs are watching every Appel and Gray start" talk 2 years ago. I wouldn't be surprised if the guy they're targeting is someone who hasn't even been mentioned yet. That's not a shot at John or Kevin, just praise for how well this front office covers its tracks.

  • In reply to Mike Moody:

    I am sure they have something up their sleeve. The fact they haven't been connected with Buehler or Happ makes you wonder -- those are two guys who fit their high floor criteria. At the same time, they aren't always tricky. We all knew it was going to be Almora in 2012 and by this time two years ago everyone knew about Bryant too. Schwarber was the curveball and even then we had an inkling they were scouting him along with Conforto. I just wasn't convinced he was the guy. In fact, I thought Conforto was more likely just because he had more OF experience and a similar bat...so I missed on that one because I didn't think Schwarber had a shot at sticking at C.

  • John, I know you are very good at your job and are excellent at reading these guys on what they are actually thinking and potential moves they will make, but the four name listed give me no excitement. Maybe Buehler, a little, but he has durability concerns in my opinion. I know their strategy has worked in the past but those 4 names are way to safe. In other words, I think their floors are high but their ceiling too low. I hope someone slides or they are a little bit more bold and find some guts like they did with the Schwarber pick last year.

  • In reply to cub since 89′:

    Ian Happ is this year's Schwarber pick as far as I am concerned. The Cubs don't want exciting. If they did, they would not have taken Almora, Bryant (who nevertheless has turned out to be exciting in his way), and Schwarber. THey were all safe picks without a lot of flash or hype.

  • In reply to John Arguello:

    I called Happ as the Cubs pick a few months ago, I am thinking its a strong possibility but I have been getting spidey sense its Aiken the last week.

  • In reply to Bryan Craven:

    I'd be surprised if it is Aiken, but they loved him last year and if they are at all confident with his arm health, then who knows? It's a lot more risk than usual for them, though. Happ can hit and has a high floor with the bat, so that is always possible with the Cubs.

  • In reply to cub since 89′:

    My limited understanding is that it is not a very exciting draft class in general and also have to figure they are picking a lot later than they have the past few years.

  • In reply to Gunther Dabynsky:

    This is also very true.

  • In reply to Gunther Dabynsky:

    That may well be the case. Probably why they are connected to so many names. If Tucker drops ( big IF) I wouldn't think twice, other than that I'll defer to their expertise and wait a year or two to criticize the pick. It's been Nikorak for me all the way. Possibly the best prep arm with big athletic physic. Nolan Ryan, Max Scherzer type. Why again is that a risky pick?

  • In reply to cub since 89′:

    IMO, after watching multiple videos, his breaking ball is average. He just doesn't spin it that well. There quite a few pitchers ahead of him.

  • In reply to cub since 89′:

    The farther down you pick, the less exciting the prospects are. You can't expect, in a typical year, that the # 9 pick is as exciting as the #2 or even # 4 pick.

  • In reply to DaveP:

    Good point I guess, but I thought Almora was a pretty exciting pick at #6 and we passed on Giolito and Addison Russell that year. Almora is a hard noised guy who will be in the big leagues some day but I think the other two guys will have bigger impacts. What is kinda cool these days is we can just punch a name in YouTube and get a feel for what type of player these kids might be like in the future. I typed in some older guys and found no high school footage. So, in a sense, this stuff is all very new to us fans and compelling and exciting. Honestly this is the first draft where I have studied all the guys Baseball America puts out and monitored them through the year. I can see why John and Kevin and some of the other guys posting find it so addictive. It's fun.

  • You doesn't have to call me Johnson you can just call me Jay.

  • My gut feeling - which has absolutely no value - is Benintendi is the guy.

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    In reply to cubbies4eva:

    If they can get him I wouldn't be surprised. I wouldn't be surprised to see him as an underslot too. It seems like I have read he has a decent floor. He hits for power, draws walks, bats LH and may be able to play a premium position.

  • Did see that Epstein was down in Alton , IL. To see 6'7" LHP Bryan Hudson recently. According to Keith Law this kid has the best curve ball of any of the high school pitchers out there. Maybe a second round name to watch.

  • In reply to Chicago Aces:

    He is not a 1st round guy. Most likely a 3 to 6 rounder.

  • If they draft a HS player with their 1-5 picks they must sign them.
    This will be the last year they draft this high and we must make
    all the top picks count

  • for all who hate Castro hitting cleanup - he has been moved to the 5 spot today

    Fowler is hitting Cleanup! :D

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    In reply to CubfanInUT:

    Wow madden has been listening to me. Although I really would prefer Montero in the cleanup spot against non lefty starters, but this was my back up plan.

    This is exciting news

    Whose leading off ? Coghlan ?

  • In reply to Jim Odirakallumkal:

    yessir

  • This the year to move player around and see what works best

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    i think he is just shaking things up to try and spark the offense a little

  • In reply to CubfanInUT:

    I think he is trying to get Cog's bat going. No longer early and maybe leading off can get him out of the .200 range.

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    he has been hittin the ball well - just some bad luck

  • In reply to KJRyno:

    Since 5/17 Coghlan has slashed .296/.367/.667 so I thinks it's more about riding the hot streak and trying to sneak in an extra PA or two...

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    It's about beating Scherzer today. Get the lead early and hold on for dear life.

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    Yeah I'm really hoping Cameron slides. Seems to fit the profile to perfection. This Dewees kid intrigues me. Thanks for the insight on the kid. I like the Cubs philosophy with draft picks. Especially arms. Superb draft coverage man. Doing work as usual. That's not blowing sunshine up your hoo ha either. You're the goods my friend. You are truly a student of the game with love for it to match. I respect that.

  • I have a feeling the Cubs will pick Benintendi.

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