Cubs Draft Preview: Talking with Draft Expert Dan Kirby (2nd Round Names To Watch)

Cubs Draft Preview: Talking with Draft Expert Dan Kirby (2nd Round Names To Watch)

The 2014 MLB draft is quickly approaching for the Chicago Cubs. Some have even called it the current epitome of a World Series or even the Cubs "Super Bowl", considering the organization's concentrated state of stockpiling talent.

I figured it was the right time to check in with my favorite source for amateur prospects in Dan Kirby. Kirby, a self proclaimed draft and Cubs junkie, writes for Through The Fences Baseball and is a must follow on Twitter (@danmkirby). Simply superb, comprehensive draft coverage.

There really are only 5 to 6 names most mention as possibilities when it comes to the number four overall pick the Cubs hold. There still is much unpredictability when it comes to this June 5 draft, however, most agree that highly-touted pitchers Carlos Rodon and Brady Aiken will both be off the board when it comes time for the Cubs to make their selection.

That leaves us with who Kirby feels the Cubs will snag at 4.

Nick Gordon, SS, Olympia HS (FL)

Gordon is one of the best players in this class and has been rising all year due to his ability to stick at shortstop, advanced approach at the plate and developing power from the left side. Being represented by his dad — former closer Tom Gordon. Over 30 games, Gordon hit .506/.613/.874 with 10 doubles, six home runs and 19 stolen bases. He drew 18 walks and struck out just three times.

You can find so much more neck-breaking draft coverage and the complete latest mocks from Kirby here.

Now that that has been settled, Kirby was gracious enough to outline 10 more possibilities for the Cubs second pick at number 45 here for us.

Who you got Dan?

DK: First off, I want to say that this draft is going to be very interesting. From everything I read and hear, a lot of strategy is going to come into play and some high upside players are going to slide into the second round. Also, since the college bats are pretty scarce this year, teams may reach for them early, leaving more prep arms to slide down.

With the Cubs having the 45th pick, I decided to look at some possible targets for them. I took into consideration the types of players the FO seems to like as far as high upside, high character, as well as some safer picks. With exactly a week to go, here are ten names to keep an eye on for the second round:

Jakson Reetz, C/OF, Norris HS (NE)

An outstanding athlete, Reetz can play almost anywhere on the field, including the mound, where he can hit the low-90s with his fastball. He has all the tools to stick behind the plate but his athleticism and offensive upside might make him better suited for a corner outfield spot. At 6’-1” and 190 pounds, he has good speed (6.9/60) and his above-average bat speed projects to a high-average hitter with good power. Theo and Co. love players like Reetz who are versatile and have high baseball IQ’s. Over 25 games, he is hitting .552/.711/1.172 with 13 doubles, seven home runs, 11 stolen bases and 25 walks to just six strikeouts. He is committed to Nebraska and has strong family ties to the university.

Chase Vallot, C, St. Thomas More HS (LA)

The Cubs lack depth at catcher in their organization, and even though you don’t draft for need, Vallot could be the BPA at this point if he is still around. I watched him crank balls out of Wrigley last summer at the Under Armour AA Game and was impressed with his tremendous power. While there are still some question marks regarding him being able to stick behind the plate, his plus arm and power would play well in a corner outfield spot and he is athletic enough to hold his own. The 6’0”, 205 pound right-hander hit .550/.656/1.107 over 36 games with 14 doubles, 13 home runs and 62 RBI over 36 games, leading his team to a state championship. Committed to Mississippi State.

J.J. Schwarz, C, Palm Beach Gardens HS (FL)

Like Vallot, Schwarz would also fill a need for the Cubs. He also has a better shot at sticking behind the plate as he is a better receiver, though his arm isn’t quite as strong as Vallot’s. The 6’-1”, 190 pound right-hander has above-average bat speed and a mature approach at the plate. He should hit for a high average and his power is still developing but most feel he should have at least average power at the next level. A high-character kid with bloodlines -- his dad Jeff is a former Major Leaguer and current Minor League pitching coach for the Marlins -- Schwarz is an alumnus of Team USA Baseball and was a key player in helping the US win the gold last summer, leading the team in RBI with nine while hitting .429/.452/.536. Committed to Florida.

Cameron Varga, RHP, Cincinnati Hills HS (OH)

I’ll start by saying I don’t think Varga will still be around here. However, many have him ranked in this range and I would do a Courtney Hawkins back flip if the Cubs landed him here. At 6’-4” and 200 pounds, the right-hander has a great pitcher’s body and is a terrific athlete with a fresh arm, as he was a shortstop to start his high school career. With a fastball that sits 91-95 mph, one of the best curveballs in his class — an upper-70s knee buckler that he has great command of, and a rapidly developing change-up. He has been one of the most dominant prep pitchers this spring. Of the 153 outs he has recorded, a ridiculous 83-percent have come via strikeout. He has tossed four no-hitters this season and has 127 K/5 BB over 51 innings, allowing just one run on 12 hits. He is one of the older players in his class as he will be almost 20 come draft day, which means he doesn’t have the projection others have. Having said that, his fresh arm, rapid progress and present stuff shouldn’t make that a red flag. Committed to North Carolina.

Garrett Fulenchek, RHP, Howe HS (TX)

One of my newest draft crushes, Fulenchek is a 6’-4”, 190 pound power arm from Texas -- where else? He has been getting rave reviews for his mechanics, control and stuff. He features a plus sinker that sits 91-94 mph and both his slider and change-up that show a lot of potential. The Cubs have been in Texas scouting Tyler Kolek this year. Hopefully, they took a trip over to check out Fulenchek. Due to his size, stuff and upside, he has TOR stuff. Committed to Dallas Baptist.

Jake Stinnett, RHP, Maryland

Stinnett has been dominating this year and the senior should be a safe pick as a MOR starter at the next level. As a senior, the Cubs could also save some money here on an under-slot deal. At 6’-4” and 215 pounds, the right-hander can touch 95 mph and sits 90-93, and he adds a slider and change-up — both quality offerings. He has been able to maintain velocity deep into games and he has great control of his stuff. He also has a fresh arm as he split time as a spot starter/reliever as a sophomore and played mostly third base as a freshman. Through 15 starts, he has a 2.60 ERA, 0.95 WHIP and 123 K/26 BB over 104 innings, holding opponents to a .191 BAA.

Forrest Wall, 2B, Orangewood Christian HS (FL)

Another kid who probably won’t be around here but this draft is going to be weird so who knows. Wall is a freak athlete with plus speed, a great approach and excellent bat speed. The one knock on him is his arm strength, but he shows enough to stick at second base. At 6’-1” and 180 pounds, the right-hander should hit for a high average, steal a ton of bases and hit for at least average power. Over 18 games this year, he hit .531/.634/.877 with 12 extra-base hits and was a perfect 26-for-26 in stolen base attempts. He also drew 19 walks to just six strikeouts. Committed to North Carolina.

Luke Weaver, RHP, Florida State

Weaver would be a safer pick here as he projects to no worse than a back end starter at the next level. The 6’-2”, 175 pound right-hander shows two above-average offerings in a low-90s fastball that can touch 97 mph and a low-80s deceptive change-up, showing above-average command of both. His lack of a true third pitch causes some concerns, as does his size. He does show a curve/slider but it needs some work and the refinement of his breaking stuff will go a long way in determining his role. Through 15 starts, he has a 2.66 ERA, 1.04 WHIP and 81 K/22 BB over 101.1 innings.

Jordan Luplow, OF, Fresno State

Luplow has been rising all season as he has shown all the tools to be a stud at the next level. At 6’-1” and 195 pounds, the right-hander is a terrific athlete with great bat speed, a strong arm and good power potential. Through 57 games, he is hitting .377/.475/.609 with 21 doubles, nine home runs, 10 stolen bases and has drawn 36 walks to just 22 strikeouts. He has made great strides in his approach this year after drawing 23 BB/76 K over his first two years. His arm, speed and power potential make him a perfect right field candidate.

Michael Kopech, RHP, Mount Pleasant HS (TX)

Yet another Texan with a canon arm, Kopech can touch 98 mph with his fastball and adds one of the better sliders in his class, as Alex Jackson, who struck out on three consecutive ones at the Under Armour Game, can attest. His change-up is still developing but looks like a quality offering and the 6’-3”, 195 pound right-hander is aggressive on the mound, attacking hitters on both sides of the plate. Over 64 innings this year, he had 129 K/18 BB and allowed just 25 hits. He has been one of my favorites since last summer and he worked hard on his mechanics over the last season to become one of the best arms in a class loaded with them. Committed to Arizona.

Stay on top of the Cubs draft with both us and Dan as the big day for the Cubs orginization approaches.


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  • I still want a college pitcher here to build up that depth. I would be ok with a HS pitcher with TOR potential. I would like to see a college catcher between rounds 3-5. Some great value there for that position

  • In reply to Gator:

    I really want the Cubs to take the best available college arm at this point. I like that they've attacked pitching with volume in the last two drafts, and they can still do that this year but I also think it's time to land an impact arm who is close to being ready to contribute.

  • I think they go with Nick Gordon at #4. If the Cubs get Weaver in the 2nd round that would be what I call a win

  • In reply to Javier Bryant:

    Yes, in fact I just updated Kirby's latest pick for the Cubs at 4. His last mock had Beede but that wasn't the latest info, sorry.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    No need to apologize. I was just stating my opinion. It's going to be an interesting draft. My guess is Aiken or Rodon go to to Houston and Miami could end up taking Jackson. Do the Sox take Rodon even with him being represented by Boras? Just one week until we find out!

  • Jon Heyman ‏@JonHeymanCBS 2m
    #astros considering rodon and aiken for No. 1 pick. but might they pull a gordon surprise? #MLBdraft

    Gordon might not be an option at 1.4?

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    That may suck for the Cubs.

  • In reply to Tom Loxas:

    Have to think it's a leverage ploy to have that story get out, especially the part about Rodon's bonus demands. It would be a total shock to see Gordon at 1.1. But if we could then get the Marlins to take Jackson...

  • In reply to North Side Irish:

    Yeah, its going to get funky.

  • Why would it suck for the Cubs if the Astros took Gordon at 1? That would be the best thing ever. That would mean they would be able to select one of the big 3 pitchers at 4. And if the Marlins or Sox take Jackson, then we could get Rodon or Aiken!

  • In reply to DeuceBaseman:

    Only if that is their guy.

  • fb_avatar

    I don't think any of those pitchers are must-have players for the Cubs, except Aiken. With all the hype over the past year there has been more fizzle than sizzle and some of the workloads that these pitchers have had is scary.

    It seems to me this Front Office has a plan, which we have seen every year, to take an offensive prospect in Round 1. They could have taken Jonathan Gray last year but took Bryant instead. In hindsight no one is complaining but on the boards where Tom wrote last year the masses were generally upset that the Cubs passed on Gray.

    In 2012 they took Almora over Max Fried, Mark Appel, Lucas Giolito and Michael Wacha. This is a front office that values offense in the first round.

    Unless Aiken slides to #4 - and he won't, I expect the Cubs to take an offensive player. My hope is for Jackson. I think the statement that the "Cubs must take a pitcher" goes against the M.O. and organizational doctrine as stated over and over and over by Epstien/Hoyer/McLeod etc.

    I will say if Rodon is available at #4 he might be tough to pass up. But I still think the Cubs are locked in on an offensive player uless Aiken slides to #4, especially since there is an abundance of pitching available within the first 450 eligible draftees as compared to potential major league potential offense.

  • In reply to Michael Canter:

    Agred, my heart is hardly set on a pitcher.

  • This may seem an odd question, but anyone know how old these guys are when they start learning/throwing secondary pitches. Curveballs, etc. My son went to the NTIS Team USA experience in Cary this year for 11U and almost every pitcher there was spinning curves up there. My son was FB/CH only. I was surprised. Team USA guys said in their symposium that curves at 11U are perfectly fine, as long as mechanics of the pitch are sound. It's the workload that gets kids hurt. Thoughts?

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Jweav14:

    There are competing schools of thought out there, but I think a lot of it comes down to coaching and how hard the kids throw. If a kid can really burn it in there at that shorter distance, he doesn't need to develop secondary pitches. And if he can develop a change to go with it, that's enough to get him by for a long time. You look at pitches like the splitter or cutter, and you've got guys who can pitch for a long time with very little issue.

    There's been some research into the "inverted W" arm angle, which is thought to have contributed to injuries to Prior and Strasburg, and you've got the statistic that 45 Tommy John cases already this year, as opposed to 25 last year. It seems to be a combination of both workload and velocity.

    Velocity has increased over time and the ligaments in the elbow simply aren't meant to handle the torque that comes from throwing so many pitches with such force. Any pitch, if thrown incorrectly, can result in damage.

    I'm far from an expert though. In fact, I'm not really even a novice.

  • In reply to Evan Altman:

    I would want my kid to only throw FB, CU until at least HS, but that's me.

  • fb_avatar

    If Theo takes a High School Shortstop, I will definitely question his timeline. And the need for the Cubs is a Starting Pitcher with a college pitcher.

  • In reply to Edward Kensik:

    Thing is when you are drafting this high you take best career available. Not fit, best career.

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